From Gawky Innocence to Dirty Dancing. A School Finally Cracks Down.

Back in High School I was a very gawky teenager. I was 6 feet tall and 130 lbs. I was so thin you could not see me from sideways on except for the fact that my kneecaps and elbows stuck out. I was terribly shy around girls and considered the possibility of a date to a school dance quite remote.

But school dances up through about 10th grade were strange too. Most of the guys would stand on one side of the room and most of the girls on the other. Occasional furtive glances and giggles predominated and only a few of the guys were brave enough to ask a girl to dance. It was more common to see the girls out on the floor dancing in groups  and the guys hanging tuff and looking cool on the side. It was a silly really but there was a kind of innocence. To be sure some of the kids in early High School were sexually active but most just said they were.

In 11th Grade came the prom and I actually summoned the courage to ask a girl as my date. She was blind enough to agree. But I remember the proms and how elegant they were. I wore a tux and she an elegant dress. I felt grown up for the first time, a young man with his lady. I was still gawky but I was learning for the first time the rituals of courtship. I may have had some unchaste thoughts but I knew my limits and the rules of the dance protected us both. A well chaperoned dance can help young people take the next and proper steps in courtship but guidance is critical. That was the early – mid 1970s for me.

Twenty years later I was in attendance at a middle school dance at a presumably Catholic School. I had been away in Seminary and it had been a dozen years or more since I had seen a school dance. I was shocked at the difference. Not only were the youngsters not on the margins being shy and furtive, they were emphatically out on the floor. They were not dancing as couples but in a large tangle of young people bumping and grinding in horribly immodest ways. Many of them were simulating sexual activity right out on the floor. Even more shocking, the adult “chaperons” were standing meekly on the side sipping punch and allowing this to go on. I went to one and inquired  who was in charge and the woman seemed quite surprised at my shock at the dirty dancing.  “Oh they’re just having fun,” she said.

I’d had enough. I went out on the floor and started pulling apart the most egregious violators and told them to cut it out to go over and sit on the side until I spoke to them. I then huddled the “chaperons” and explained that this sort of behavior had to stop and I needed their help. I told. A few of them made weak attempts to stop the gyrating teens but most just stood there. Finally I was off to the DJ to turn the music off and with his microphone in my hand I lectured the youngsters (and apparently a many of the not so young) on modesty.  To the girls I spoke to them of their dignity as daughters of God and that they ought to demand respect from the boys. I to the boys I preached respect for the girls I warned them all that God was watching.

It was really the adults who angered me that night in the early 90s. We were letting our children down by not teaching them boundaries, self-respect or mutual respect. Kids who have newly explosive hormones rushing through their veins need guidance and clear rules. They need kind but firm adults who can help them to understand and master  the powerful forces unleashed within them. As you may imagine I had many tense but productive meetings with the adults who were youth leaders in the months to follow.

In the video to follow is a very good interview I saw on Fox News today. Shannon Breen interviews Betsy Hart, author of “It Takes a Parent.” In a very good move more and more schools are cracking down on “Dirty Dancing”and spelling out very clearly what the teenagers may not do. It is long overdue and I well hope it will widely multiply to every school district. Hopefully most of our Catholic Schools have dealt with this phenomenon long ago (as my school did back in the early 1990s).

A dance should be a time when young people learn the delicate art of courtship. When they learn to be close physically but in a way that is respectful. Dances should teach young men to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies. Sadly, this has been untrue for years. Loud music, dark rooms, chaotic strobe lights and poor dress codes have all given way to increased immodesty and unchaste bumping and grinding. Children deserve better than to be sexualized and uninstructed in basic modesty and reverence. Enjoy this interview and pray that common sense parenting and mentoring will once again catch on.

Raising Boys

I recently read an article in First Things by Sally Thomas entitled: The Killer Instinct. The article ponders the modern aversion to the male psyche. Young boys are full of zealous energy, full of spit and vinegar, and have a a proclivity to rough and even violent play. Many modern parents and educators seem troubled by this and often attempt to soften boys, make them behave more like girls. Sadly there is even an attempt by some to diagnosis typically rough-house and energetic boys as having ADHD and they are put on medicines to suppress what is in the end a normal male energy. I do not deny that there can be a true ADHD diagnosis in some cases, but it may also be a symptom of an increasingly feminized culture that finds normal male behavior to be violent and a diagnosable “disorder.”  What I have said here may here may be “controversial” but in the finest male tradition, remember, we can always “spar” in the comments section!

I’d like to present excerpts of the article here and then add some of m own comments in red. You can read the whole article by clicking on the title above.

The default mode of many parents is to be as alarmed by [the] proclivity in their sons [to shoot and stab at things and be aggressive]…..An obvious fascination with shooting things might seem like one of those warning signals we all read about…It used to be that parents waited for Johnny to start torturing the cat before they worried. My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat.  A friend of mine told me that he and his wife had decided not to give their boys guns for toys. What they discovered was that without the toy everything became a gun: sticks, brooms, scissors, their fingers. In the end, they “made peace” with the fact that boys love guns and swords and stopped worrying about latent tendencies to violence. Somehow it was in a boy’s nature and they couldn’t “nurture” it  away.

As a toddler, one of my sons liked to stand behind his baby sister’s chair and pull her head back as far as it would go, to watch it spring up again like a punching bag on its stem….and then she screamed….From my son’s point of view, it was altogether a gratifying exercise. My intervention was always swift and decisive…I implored my son, “Don’t be rough. Be gentle.” …I am struck, now, by the strangeness of what I said to him. We don’t tell someone struggling with lust simply not to want sex; we don’t tell a glutton that his problem will be solved if he stops being hungry. Yet, I might as well have said, “Stop being a boy.”…. What I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil. It’s a mistake for parents to presume that a fascination with the idea of blowing something away is, in itself, a disgusting habit, like nose-picking, that can and should be eradicated. The problem is not that the boy’s hand itches for a sword. The problem lies in not telling him what [the sword and itch] are for, that they are for something. If I had told my aggressive little son not, “Be gentle,” but, rather, “Protect your sister,” I might, I think, have had the right end of the stick.(This is a very brilliant insight. It is essential that we not try to destroy the innate gifts that God gives us in order to “control” them. We must learn to harness them and sublimate them so that they achieve the end to which they are intended).

Anne Roche Muggeridge, who reared four boys in the 1970s and 1980s, observes that 

 prevailing society now thoroughly regards young men as social invalids. . . . The fashion in education for the past three decades has been to try to make boys more like girls: to forbid them their toy guns and rough play, to engage them in exercises of “cooperation and sharing,” …to denounce any boyish roughness as “aggressive” and “sexist.” 

Muggeridge writes of a visit to a doctor who urged on her a prescription for Ritalin, saying that a child as constantly active as her two-year-old son must be disturbed. “He’s not disturbed,” she responded. “He’s disturbing.” It is to realize, as Anne Roche Muggeridge did while watching her sons take turns throwing each other into a brick wall, that what you have in your house is not a human like you but a human unlike you. In short, as Muggeridge puts it, you are bringing up an “alien.”  Yes, it has been very frustrating to be a man in the modern age let alone have to grow up under the tutelage of social scientists and education bureaucrats who scorn and suspect your very nature. Boys are aggressive. That is natural and good. They must be taught to master it and focus the energy of their aggression on the right object, but they should not be scorned for who and what they are. Such scorning has become for too many a sense that they are socially “enlightened.” It is time to see this attitude as a the type of bigotry and sexism that it too often is. To many women (and some feminized men)  a boy in his raw state may in fact seem like an alien, but even aliens deserve respect  🙂

[There is an] initiation rite, devised and performed by our parish’s young priest twice a year in the church. This rite involves a series of solemn vows to be “a man of the Church,” “a man of prayer,” and so forth. It includes induction into the Order of the Brown Scapular, the bestowing of a decidedly manly red-and-black knot rosary, and the awarding of a red sash. What the boys look forward to, though, with much teasing of soon-to-be inductees about sharpened blades and close shaves…is the moment when a new boy kneels before Father and is whacked smartly on each shoulder with a large, impressive, and thoroughly real sword.  Great idea. I’m going to work in my parish about initiating something like this.

These Holy Crusaders are, after all, ordinary boys—sweaty and goofy and physical. For them to take the Cross seriously requires something like a sword. For them to take the sword, knowing what it’s for, requires the Cross. …A boy’s natural drive to stab and shoot and smash can be shaped, in his imagination, to the image of sacrifice, of laying down his life for his friends. In the meantime, this is the key to what brings these boys to church. It’s not their mothers’ church or their sisters’ church; it is theirs, to serve and defend. Yes, yes! Amen. Greater love hath no man that to lay down his life for his friends. Christian manhood needs to be rediscovered in some segments of the Church. Too many men stay away from Church because it seems feminine to them. Sermons about duty, courage and fighting the good fight have given way to a steady diet of compassion, kindness, being nice, getting along, self actualizing and,  did I mention being nice? These are not wrong virtues but they must be balanced by virtues that call us to stand up and speak out with courage, accepting our duties and fighting the good fight of faith, if necessary unto death. Men respond to the call when it is given in a way that respects their manhood. Balance is needed in the preaching and teaching of the Church and it seems that in recent decades we may have lost this in many settings, IMHO. If you think I’m crazy, remember this is a conversation. Hit the comment button and have it.

Sally Thomas, a contributing writer for FIRST THINGS, is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Here’s a video summoning boys unto manhood:


Reaching Young Adults – Some Recent and Fascinating Findings

It is usually thought by most Catholics that the Evangelical “mega Churches” have lots of young adults and that many of our Catholic young adults have gone there. There is, no doubt, a great absence of young adults in most Catholic Parishes. There seems to be a quite literal and physical generation gap, the “gap” being the empty spaces in the Church that young adults would occupy. However, Eric Sammons at his blog The Divine Life  (excellent Blog – Check it out!) has called attention to a very interesting article that reveals that absent young adults is a very common problem in Evangelical Churches too. The article appears in the Broken Arrow Ledger entitled “Where have the Young People Gone?” The article also reveals some Churches where young adults are increasing in number and you may be surprised where. Here are some excerpts along with my comments in RED

 Two-thirds of young adults who have grown up in evangelical churches are leaving, according to Ham and Beemer. [Authors of a forthcoming book “Already Gone,” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard]…Information in the book is based on data collected from 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20-to-29-year-olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis but have since left them behind…..This is no small survey. Most major surveys feature much smaller sampling groups

“They (young people) have written church off as a moralistic bad guy that wants to keep them from enjoying their life…. I had this attitude when I was young too. My “lack of belief” was not a “studied atheism” but rather a more angry agnosticism. I didn’t like being told what to do. And I allowed what I wanted to do to be the basis of what I would accept. I don’t suppose that every yound adult goes through this phase but many do. In the Archdiocese we have certain forums like Theology on Tap where we try to engage young adults on important moral issues and demonstrate the credibility and sensibility of Catholic teaching. But, it is a long discussion to be had over many years. But if only we can keep them in the discussion, we may win some of them back.

Young people no longer believe in Genesis, which is the basis for Christianity, Garland said. They question everything from creation to the divinity of Christ, and for that he credits laws that require the evolution theory be taught in public school classrooms and ban instruction on Biblical creation. As I pointed out yesterday in my Blog Post I don’t think it is necessarily that they don’t believe but rather that we have failedto set the Biblical narrative forth in a compelling way because, in many cases we have stripped the plot of it’s central conflict which is the terrible reality of sin and the consequent need to be saved. I don’t think it is difficult to demonstrate to young adults that sin is a very serious matter. They have seen friends die from drug overdoes and drunk driving accidents. They know of the reality of STDs and the shallowness of most modern “substitutes” for marriage. They have experienced hurts and betrayals.  They are aware of violence, poverty and injustice. I think we just have to get in the game and show them how the Scriptures and the doctrine of Original Sin go a long way toward explaining the broken down nature of the this fallen world. Our teaching is sensible if we focus in on the main problem of sin and disorder, the “problem of evil.”  Without this Genesis and the whole Biblical narrative seems but a quaint and fanciful story that does not connect. And with no concept of the problem of sin and the great drama of their lives, young adults see no relevance to salvation, the necessity of prayer and sacraments. They just disconnect.

There is an exception, however. Traditional churches that are liturgical churches and smaller evangelical churches seem to be retaining their twenty-something members in greater numbers than larger and mega-churches…..Now you’d think the Catholic Church would fall into this category. But to some extent we are not reaping this harvest because most of our liturgies lack the flavor of tradition. More on this in a moment. [Rev John] Wilke said the only church he knows of that is experiencing growth in the 20-to-29-year old age group is the Greek Orthodox Church.“The Greek Orthodox Church is a liturgical church. Kids want to return to something different from what they get from the world. If we want to reach these kids again, we are going to have to return to what the early church was doing. We need to raise the bar,” he said…..There is sort of a strange rebound in some of the ancient liturgies, such as Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian. What we would call the emerging church is something that is very appealing to that age group. Places that have a sense of order, mystery and transcendence are very appealing….I have experienced a lot of this in my discussion with some young adults who do not find the current liturgical experience of most Catholic Parishes satisfying. Many of them are turning up at the Traditional Latin Mass at I St Mary’s and other locations. I say Mass the Traditional Latin Mass once a month at St. Mary’s and find a growing and  vigorous group of young adults there. For the last several years, more than half my weddings come from the Latin Mass group. Most of these young adults were dissatisfied with liturgies in their local parish which they found trendy and ephemeral. Remember, the 1960s folk music is a long time ago to them! Folk singing seems dated to many (not all) young adults. Many are discovering the riches of traditional worship that were dropped in the 1970s. Now I want to say that I do not think that the majority of young adults are asking for the Latin Mass. But what IS observable is that one area of the Church that is attracting and retaining young adults is the Traditional Latin Mass. Also, at a neighboring Parish, St. Peters on Capitol Hill,  there are many young adults that turn out for Eucharistic adoration. My data is anecdotal only, but there seems to be a consistent message that many young adults are looking for more traditional forms, they are increasingly attracted by a presentation of the faith that is substantial and serious. This is also evident in the recent trend in vocations to the priesthood and religious life wherein most of the young adults who answer the call are far more traditional than they were 20 to 30 years ago. They prefer traditional forms and insist on orthodoxy. [W]here entertainment is the approach to worship. It doesn’t really satisfy. I think there is a richness in the ancient traditions that speaks at levels where contemporary music fails….[Rev. Shelby Scott agrees]: traditional liturgies and such things as incense and mystery – has become something of a strength and intrigue for the younger generation,” he said.

The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church,…cited one of Luther’s writings as something for church leaders to consider: “A faith that costs nothing and demands nothing is worth nothing.” “I think that is where the church is today. I get too many things in the mail from churches that say, ‘Come just the way you are, you don’t have to change,’” Wilke said. “While God loves you where you are, he expects you to change. We don’t put the fear of God in our churches, we don’t have that respect. We’ve made Jesus our homeboy. He’s not our homeboy, he’s our Saviour.”…Rev Scott agrees….that Christian worship is going through a significant change. He believes young people are looking for a doctrine that requires more of them than just showing up at church. Here too my own experience bears this out. While it is true that many young adults may still be in the “I don’t want to be told what to do” mode. I think it is also true that many young adults also move to a stage when that begins to abate and they are looking for meaning and answers. Further, I am convinced that most of the rebellious,  deep down inside,  are glad that some one is challenging them. Somewhere under all the layers they want to know the truth even if they are not ready to fully embrace it. When I was a teenager I was well aware when I was being patronized and I usually respected adults less who humored me and tried to “relate” to me. Frankly they looked silly try to be like a teenager. Young adults too, I suspect, know when we are watering things down in an attempt to be popular. A faith that is integral and properly demanding command more resepct in the end. We will not be taken seriously by young adults unless we ARE serious. Trendy and cheesy gimmicks will backfire in the end unless there is a serious and reasonably demanding faith that is expressed.


The following video was an PBS special I taped on the Latin Mass. Among the topics discussed is the appeal that many young adults find with it.


Mr. Darbeckiglamen

A few months ago, I invited a friend to go see a new romance/drama that had just come out in theaters. It had gotten good reviews, and I thought we’d make a girls night of it. To my surprise, her response was “No thanks, I don’t see movies like that anymore.”

I was curious what she meant. “Well ya know how people say chick flicks are like porn for women? So I don’t go anymore. It’s unhealthy for me cause it creates unrealistic expectations about guys.”

I was really impressed with her commitment!

It made me think of a comment that “Some Guy in CA” had written in response to Msgr. Pope’s blog Marriage Can Wait. He wrote:

I think the main problem is that most women (including faithful Catholics) have extremely excessive expectations of what they expect from their “suitor”. If the initiative that he takes falls anywhere short of the kind of nonsense they see on TV and read in magazines, then it is not happening…There are certain types of good, orthodox, faithful, single Catholic girls that I meet that I find attractive but have learned at this point to not bother with because I can sense that they have this unhealthy view of romantic relationships. Guys: just don’t bother with those particular gals. It is up to them to fix themselves.

Wow, I can definitely see where he’s coming from! Honestly in my mind I’m probably looking for some combination of Mr. Darcy (wisdom and real estate), David Beckham (athleticism and edge), Enrique Iglesias (he’s Latin and he sings), and the-holiest-man-on-the-planet-who’s-not-celibate (whoever he is).

Mea culpa, gentlemen. What I do is exactly what I accuse guys of doing with regards to porn. With porn, guys can customize their experience with whatever woman they want in whatever scenario they want. With chick flick-supported fantasies, I get to imagine falling in love with the star soccer player after hearing him sing with his band during a party at his Georgian estate after which he escorts me home (instead of to his bedroom) confessing his deep love and respect for me as a sister in Christ.

But Laura, Mr. Darbeckiglamen doesn’t exist!

So I should probably get real and:
1) pray for purity of heart and mind
2) follow my friend’s example and not watch chick flicks
3) stop comparing the men I meet to Mr. Darbeckiglamen
4) encourage all men in their realistic pursuit of realistic women

Lost in a World Without Courtship

In today’s Washington post Michael Gerson wrote a piece entitled “Lost in a World Without Courtship”. I would like to put excerpts here with my own comments in RED. You can read the full article HERE.

 By Michael Gerson, Wednesday, September 16, 2009, The WASHINGTON POST

There is a segment of society for whom traditional familyvalues are increasingly irrelevant, and for whom spring-break sexual liberationism is increasingly costly: men and women in their 20s. Interesting. He describes them as disaffected with the “casual sex” culture but not ncessarily convinced to return to more traditional family values. Here too is another sign that we as a Church have  not presented God’s plan for sex and marriage in a compelling manner. OR even more significantly, we have not communicated with many young people AT ALL. Our world view may not even be on their radar.

This is the period of life in which society’s most important social commitments take shape — commitments that produce stability, happiness and children. But the facts of life for 20-somethings are challenging. Puberty — mainly because of improved health — comes steadily sooner. Sexual activity kicks off earlier. But the average age at which people marry has grown later; it is now about 26 for women, 28 for men. Yes, I have noticed this quite clearly. When I was first ordained 20 years ago most of the couples I prepared for marriage were in their early 20s. Now they are in their early 30s. Also the number of weddings I celebrate has dimished by more than half.

This opens a hormone-filled gap — a decade and more of likely sexual activity before marriage. And for those in that gap, there is little helpful guidance from the broader culture. Notice here again the author makes no mention of the Church as offering helpful guidance to young adults. I do not observe this by way of a judgement of him. Rather, here again is more proof that we are not on the radar of most young people and to the extent we are, if our author is right, we have no compelling message or vision to offer young adults. Actually we do, but we have not communicated it well. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, argues that the “courtship narrative” in the past was clear: dating, engagement, marriage, children. This narrative has been disrupted without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a “relational wasteland.” I remain struck at how many young people tell me this same thing. In this “communication age” it seems harder and harder for young people to meet on a meaningful level.

The casual sex promoted in advertising and entertainment often leads, in the real world of fragile hearts and STDs, to emotional and physical wreckage. But it doesn’t seem realistic to expect most men and women to delay sex until marriage at 26 or 28. Such virtue is both admirable and possible — but it can hardly be a general social expectation. So religious institutions, for example, often avoid this thorny topic, content to live with silence, hypocrisy and active singles groups.  Alot of hard truth here. It is difficult to remain sexually abstinent all  those years. However, I am not quite as pessimistic. I have been faithfully celibate since ordination and even before. However, I’ll admit that I am helped by the expectations upon me and by the fact that I do not date and am never alone with women. This is not usually the case with young adults. It is also true and sad that many clergy and religious leaders avoid talking frankly about sex before marriage. Growing up in high school and college, I never had a priest, deacon or catechist say a word to me about sex before marriage. As a priest, I have tried to remedy this terrible silence by speaking frankly and clearly that the Scriptures and Church teach that pre-marital sex is a serious sin. I am not unaware that young people have a difficult time fully living this and counsel them to be serious about chastity but to seek God’s mercy if they fall. But under no circumstances should they ever thing that pre-marital sex is “no big deal.” It is and infractions should be brought to confession. Gerson’s point about silence of the Church is however tragically the case for too many young people. We need to be clear, encouraging and helpful as well as understanding of the difficulty young adults face.

In the absence of a courtship narrative, young people have evolved a casual, ad hoc version of their own: cohabitation. From 1960 to 2007, the number of Americans cohabiting increased fourteenfold. For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage. About 40 percent of children will now spend some of their childhood in a cohabiting union.Yes, as usual it is the children who suffer. I often grieve for children today who have to live with such confusing circumstances: mom here dad there, they have since split and are now with other partners; a mess and a terrible burden for children.

How is this working out? Not very well. Relationships defined by lower levels of commitment are, not unexpectedly, more likely to break up. Three-quarters of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents split up by the time they turn 16, compared with about one-third of children born to married parents…..

So apart from the counsel of cold showers or “let the good times roll,” is there any good advice for those traversing the relational wilderness? …

First, while it may not be realistic to maintain the connection between marriage and sex, it remains essential to maintain the connection between marriage and childbearing. Marriage is the most effective institution to bind two parents for a long period in the common enterprise of raising a child — particularly encouraging fathers to invest time and attention in the lives of their children. And the fatherless are some of the most disadvantaged, betrayed people in our society, prone to delinquency, poverty and academic failure. Cohabitation is no place for children.  Amen! Just the point I have been trying to make in previous blog posts here. Marriage is fundamentally about children and what is best for them. We have to change our thinking today that so overemphasizes the emotional well being of the spouses (or co-habiting adults) and get back to being sober about the effect that this has on children. They deserve better. Marriage is meant to be a stable, lasting union where a man and woman cling to each other because that is what is best for children. God does not make arbitrary rules. He establishes them for good reason.

Second, the age of first marriage is important to marital survival and happiness. Teen marriage is generally a bad idea, with much higher rates of divorce….But people who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages — perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards. The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s.  Early 20s is still early for many young people. We take a long time to grow up in our culture. But I think mid 20s is reasonable.

Third, having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment….Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce.

[Bottom Line is]….Delaying marriage creates moral, emotional and practical complications…..The answer, even in the relational wasteland, is responsibility, commitment and sacrifice for the sake of children. There we go again, CHILDREN, responsibility and commitment for their sake. We have to be more serious and realize that my lfe isn’t merely about me and what makes me happy.

Who’s holding the umbrella?

Listening to Rihanna’s newest single “Umbrella” I can’t help but ask why her man isn’t holding the umbrella.

Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella

When I voiced this question to my roommate, she told me that there is a song with a similar theme in the 1948 film “Easter Parade”.

I’m just a fella
A fella with an umbrella
Looking for a girl who saved her love for a rainy day.

Notice the gender swap.

Now, obviously both women and men are capable of holding umbrellas. But philosophically, for which sex is umbrella-holder a more appropriate role? If Adam and Eve were walking in the garden in the quiet of the evening, would Adam have held the umbrella or Eve?

This might seem like a silly question but I’m curious: Women, would you rather hold the umbrella or have it held over you? Men, would you rather hold the umbrella or have it held over you?

A Pilgrim’s Progress – The World Youth Day Experience

wyd01Today I welcome our guest blogger Alice Culbreth, Director of Christian Formation at St. Peter Church in Waldorf, to share her WYD experience.

Rome. Toronto. Cologne. Sydney. It’s hard to believe that I’m starting to prepare for my (and our parish’s) 5th World Youth Day Pilgrimage (to Madrid, Spain in 2011).  After  Rome in 2000, I really wanted to believe myself when I said “never again”:).  It is, by all worldly, physical and even emotional standards, a difficult journey to undertake.  While the spiritual benefits are amazing, far-reaching and life-changing, could any pilgrimage top the mountain-top experience of being in Rome during the new millennium and jubilee year?  Was it possible to embrace my faith at any deeper level then when I walked into St. Peter’s Basilica through the Jubilee Door for the very first time or kneeled at the tomb of the one whom Jesus handed the Keys of the Kingdom to?   And even if my spiritual life was nourished and nurtured beyond expectations , would it be worth the hardships endured?

Almost 10 years and 4 World Youth Days later, I answer with a resounding “YES”. Whatever struggles, sacrifices and significant occurrences of sleep deprivation have been offered up in prayerful humility, I would do it all again. While there have been many lessons learned along the way, I wouldn’t change the dynamics of these incredible walks with the Lord. I have been witness to emerging vocations, friendships formed beyond the language barrier, deepened prayer lives, embracing of the sacramental life of the Church, defining moments when our youth have come to the recognition that not only is it “cool to be Catholic”, but an honor and privilege as well.  What a blessing
it has been for me to be part of this!

I am so honored to have been called to help guide this young Church in their formation and lead them to friendship with Jesus Christ.  Being part of World Youth Day over the years has inspired me tremendously as I have seen the hope of our faith in the faces and shared prayers of these young people.  Being part of their enthusiasm, deep faith and commitment to the Gospel recharges my own spiritual batteries and reaffirms my own commitment to ministry in the Church.  If I had time (and the space in this blog, LOL) I would write about each one of these journeys and share the experience with  you! But this needs to ‘come to an end’ at least for now.

We’re just about two years away from Madrid in 2011 and on behalf of the Office of Youth Ministry, your parish is invited to join us on this exciting spiritual adventure. The office is already accepting deposits and we’re incredibly enthusiastic about the amount of time we will have to do fundraising before the actual trip. The pilgrimage begins in Fatima, Portugal and ends in Lourdes, France, with many stops at holy sites and shrines in cities throughout Spain.  If you’re interested in learning more about this opportunity, contact the Office of Youth Ministry at 202-281-2466.  Additionally, if you would like a team of adults/youth who have lived the WYD experience to come and talk to your parish about the why and how of participating, let the office know when you call.

Praying that you will continue to be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit in your
lives, hearts and ministries.

Grace and Peace,
Alice Culbreth
Director of Christian Formation
St. Peter Church – Waldorf

What Young Adults Want– Relevant Homilies

Preacher2Yesterday, I was on the phone call with a young adult leader discussing topics for an upcoming lecture series, when he made the following comment:

“There are so many topics that the media talks about all the time, but those topics aren’t preached from the pulpit. So we’d want to hear about those.”

Yikes! Are Sunday homilies so disconnected from modern life? I would hope not, but this young adult makes me think that the answer is yes.

As an example of what he’s referring to, I went to a popular news website and browsed for some topics.

End of Life issues
Cruelty to animals
Prayer in public places
Financial hardship
Same-sex marriage
Climate change
War in Afghanistan
Just wages

It’s true – I can only remember one homily in the recent past that addressed one of these topics.

What can parishioners do to support relevant homilies? First, love your priests and deacons in Christian friendship. Secondly, give them feedback about their homilies and suggest topics that you feel are more relevant to modern life.

Here are two encouraging excerpts from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

29. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.

65. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.