Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She and co-author of the children’s devotional book, Rise Up: Shining in Virtue. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Find her at her blog, Living With Lady Philosophy.
Tears rolled down my face as I rocked with laughter at the final performance of the premiere run of Catholic Young Adults: The Musical in St. Paul, Minnesota, in November. It was too real. It was too much. And how I did relate.
Onstage the actresses sung out the woes of natural fertility methods used by Catholics. Their words were brilliant and perfect. I wondered if any other musical had ever boldly discussed cervixes, mucous, and the longing disappointment of infertility. When the plot swung over to the male side of the stage, the hilarity continued as a married character told a single man the right way to ask out a Catholic lady: Take her to Mass. Then go out to dine afterward (so you can keep your fast). While there, sit in a crowded pew, and if you are smooth you will manage to hold her hand at the Our Father.
The plot touched on so many aspects of the lives of Catholic young adults today, beginning with the well-known fear we have all grown up with: parish closing. There was the married couple struggling with unexplained infertility, showing accurately the strain it puts on their marriage. Then there was the classic example of a dating couple torn apart by vocational discernment, with all the concern of being the one to interfere with another’s call to serve the Church.
Another character alienated himself from all women he attempted to date because of his untactful expression of his zeal for Latin and the traditional elements of the Church. Then there was the young lady caught up in continual discernment, never pausing long enough to wait for her call to religious life or to marriage. Another character ignored all form of discernment, seeking her own way until God gave a clear unexpected call. Honorary mention is the older adult who continues to come to the young adult events. All of these themes were presented with sensitivity, truthfulness and ease, as the audience laughed their way through the musical. We laughed because it was so accurate to our experience.
The Catholic young adults behind Catholic Young Adults: The Musical are essentially awesome, as the opening number proclaimed of all “CYAs.” With script and lyrics by a priest, Father Kyle Kowalczyk, and music by a monk, Brother John-Marmion Villa, BSC, this first production of Missed the Boat Theatre is filled to the brim with the Catholic Young Adult experience. It tells of the desire of the millennial generation to be acknowledged and have an impact on the Church and of the universal, timeless Catholic experience of discernment and vocation, while showing the difficulty of living in a vocation already chosen.
While it is written about CYAs, there is something for every Catholic adult, young or old to relate to in this musical. The very fact of being Catholic means that we have all discerned something. We know the struggle of determining what is right and living out our faith in a world hostile to even the idea that there are universal truths.
Being Catholic makes us examine every aspect of our lives. Director Mary Schaffer, in her “Director’s Note” in the playbill, quoted from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh when the Catholic Sebastian Flyte explains to his friend Charles Ryder that Catholics are not just like other people. Sebastian explains, “Everything they think important is different from other people. They try to hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time.”
This is at the center of the musical: because we are Catholic our lives have to be examined as Catholic lives. Because we are Catholic, we cannot comfortably do anything, make any decision without thinking about what God wants first.
We are Catholics conflicted over the right thing to do when our desires lead us one way and our well-formed consciences the other. We are Catholics who feel God’s call over and above our what we think will make us happy. We are Catholics who make a plan and God laughs and shows us his. We are Catholics who make a mistake and come to Him for mercy. We are Catholics who have to surrender our desires to circumstances we cannot control.
While CYA: The Musical helps Catholics to lighten up about all the things we find so important, it addresses serious moral issues with orthodoxy, but realistically. It does not hesitate to blare out the truth, but with sensitivity. It does not back down from the right thing to do while showing us how to find humor in the hardships of our lives. It gives a real view of living as Catholics. It is not an easy life, but it is worth it.
To learn about potential future performances and the upcoming release of the soundtrack, click on over to Missed the Boat Theatre. Perhaps the show will be brought locally to you soon by some awesome Catholic Young Adults. I, for one, am proud to call myself one. Essentially, we’re awesome.