I love when Pope Benedict speaks to young people. In a generation quite used to their elders being “out of touch” on so many issues, the man is a beautiful contradiction - oozing with substance and relevance. And substance and relevance are two things the youth are especially hungry for, but rarely find together.
Kids are smart. The Pope treats them like they’re smart. Kids are tired of gimmicks. He doesn’t waste his time with any. And when it comes to their faith, kids are capable of so much more than the mickey mouse religion we so often try to spoon feed them. And then we wonder why they grow up and lose their faith.
Amy Welborn recently identified 5 keys to youth ministry from Pope Benedict’s world youth day addresses. Here they are:
1) Teach them who they are
2) Continually hold up Christ as the answer
3) Are you seeking Christ? He gave us the Church so we can find Him
4) The Way of the Christian is the Way of the Cross
5) Go out to all nations
I recommend reading her commentary on each one, but my point is that what they amount to is real substance. Not out-dated dogma or pop-culture clichés. But real food for hungry souls. Kids eat that stuff up - once they’re listening. Adults do, too.
For all the efforts we make to reach and relate to young people, it can’t stop there. We focus so often on the reaching out. On the connection. On being perceived as relevant and attractive. And those can be very good things. But to what end? If the end is not the five points above, then we’re missing the point. We’re failing. And these keys don’t just apply to youth, of course. They apply to everyone.
When my first child was born I began to feel the weight of the responsibility that comes with shepherding the souls you love most in this world. I am constantly trying to think of ways to ensure that they turn out alright, keep their faith, are happy in life and make it to heaven. So often we forget that Jesus has already given us the way to do that. He gave us the Church. He gave us the Sacraments. He gave us Her wisdom. He gave us the fullness of truth.
Too often we assume that old things are irrelevant just because they’re old. And we forget that perhaps the reason such old things grew so old in the first place was because of how relevant they remain.
Too often we assume that old people are irrelevant just because they’re old. But on the other side of the planet, there’s an old man in the oldest church who is a stark reminder that the timeless wisdom of the Church is always timely.