A Message from your Pastor
May 18-19, 2013
This weekend we are celebrating confirmation with our eighth graders. We should be overjoyed for them as they receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are invited to live their faith in a deeper, more public way. If any group needs the power of the Holy Spirit, it is our young people who are growing up in a culture that is less Christian every year. They are surrounded by other young people who do not believe and do not practice their faith.
In 2005 the National Study of Youth and Religion was conducted. It was the most ambitious study of American teenagers and religion ever conducted. They gave extensive interviews to more than 3,300 American teenagers. The study involves a longitudinal aspect for 2,500 of them, so more data should continue to flow from this study. Let me share with you some of the highlights that have been published so you can see why our young parishioners need the Holy Spirit now more than ever:
Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise do not give it any thought. According to Christian Smith who was the principal investigator of the study, most teenagers tend to view God as either a butler or a therapist- someone who meets their needs when summoned or who listens nonjudgmentally and helps youth feel good about themselves. Teenagers, therefore, are not hostile toward religion, but the reality is that with this kind of God they also do not care about religion very much. They do not care about it enough to fight over it. They also see no need to get involved since their view of God does not demand anything of them.
Most teenagers mirror their parent’s religious faith. Parents matter most when it comes to the religious formation of their children. I can vouch for this with a recent conversation I had with a young man who did not want to be confirmed because he did not believe in God. When I asked him about how frequently his family came to church, he said they did not attend. His parents were upset that he did not believe, but they had done nothing to share their faith with him in doing even the simplest of tasks like coming to church on Sunday. The good news, however, is that if parents do share their faith with their children, then the children overwhelmingly accept it and practice it.
Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world. Smith said that “the vast majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices, and its meaning or place in their lives.” The patterns were consistent across denominational lines, and Smith says this was not a result of an incapacity to think and speak well. Rather, it happened because no one had taught them how to talk about their faith or provided opportunities for them to practice using a faith vocabulary.
A minority of American teenagers say religious faith is important and that it makes a difference in their lives. These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers. One of the amazing things that have come out of studies on religious practice in recent years is that those who attend church regularly have a much higher education than those who do not attend, are much happier in life, and have a much more stable family life. Religion has direct benefits for adults and teenagers. Teenagers who practice their faith are engaged in less risky behavior than their peers and have a positive outlook on life.
Many teenagers enact and espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religions – an outlook the researchers called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. In this view religion helps people feel nice, feel good and leaves God in the background. This god does not need to be worshipped because he or she exists only to benefit me and makes no demands on me. This god always supports our decisions and stays out of our way.
Obviously, some of these things will prove to be a great threat to our young people and their relationship with God. Receiving the Holy Spirit at Confirmation will help them to confront the watered down faith of their peers. The fruit of living our faith is holiness not niceness. The Gospel calls followers of Christ to transform the world into the Kingdom of God, not to help build the kingdom of man. Our young people are invited at Confirmation into a passion for God which will conform them into the likeness of Jesus Christ who came into our world to save it. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit – courage, fear of the Lord, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, piety, and right judgment – they will be to be the heroic disciples of Jesus that God has called them to be.
As you congratulate them today, be sure to remind them that we need young people who will truly live the Gospel; that you now will expect that of them. We need more saints! C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity, if false is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Each note appears in the Weekly Bulletin
Saint Columbkille Parish Home
200 East 6th Street
Papillion, Nebraska 68046
Saturday, May 18, 2013 07:53 AM