Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What are we "winning" them with?

Tim Drake over at the National Catholic Register had the chance to interview revert to the faith Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Great interview - read it!

Below is an excerpt from the interview. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the most popular methods of Youth Ministry today - not only in the church but in Christianity itself. And I'll also be the first to admit that I'm not sure I have any better ideas.

You were born into a Catholic family. When did you leave the Catholic Church?

I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1960. My mother, Elizabeth, also born in Brooklyn, is Italian-American. My father, Harold Beckwith, was born in Connecticut. I’m the eldest of their four children. In the mid-1960s we moved to Las Vegas, Nev., where my father worked as an accountant and internal auditor at a number of hotels. In the late 1970s, both he and mother founded Sweets of Las Vegas, a candy business that had two retail stores in the area.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was part of the first generation of Catholics who would have no memory of the Church prior to Vatican II. This also meant that I grew up, and attended Catholic schools, during a time in which well-meaning Catholic leaders were testing all sorts of innovations in the Church, many of which were deleterious to the proper formation of young people.

On the other hand, there were some very important renewal movements in the Church at the time.

The Catholic Charismatic Movement had a profound impact on me.

During my middle school years, while attending Maranatha House, a Jesus People church in downtown Vegas, I also frequented a Catholic Charismatic Bible study. Some of the folks at that Bible study were instrumental in bringing to my parents’ parish three Dominican priests who offered a week-long evening seminar on the Bible and the Christian life. I attended that seminar and was very much taken by the Dominicans’ erudition and deep spirituality, and the love of Jesus that was evident in the way they conducted themselves.

But I was also impressed with the personal warmth and commitment to Scripture that I found among charismatic Protestants with whom I had interacted at Maranatha House.

Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I believe that the Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions.

For someone like me, who was interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the “folk Mass” with cute nuns and hip priests playing “Kumbaya” with guitars, tambourines and harmonicas. And it was all badly done.

After all, we listened to the Byrds, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and we knew the Church just couldn’t compete with them.

But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

What I needed, and what many of us desired, were intelligent and winsome ambassadors for Christ who knew the intellectual basis for the Catholic faith, respected and understood the solemnity and theological truths behind the liturgy, and could explain the renewal movements in light of these.

I believe in the principle of, "You keep them with more of what you won them with." Now if what you are winning the youth with are things like love of theology, spirituality (legit stuff), scripture, service, sacraments, holiness, etc. - great. But if you are winning them with watered-down, cheezy, secular world knock-offs and immature, irresponsible, goofiness - forget it. I thought the following couple lines from the section above drove this point home:

But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

Are we as Catholics in any danger of drifting in this direction again? Is there too much emphasis on meeting the youth where they're at, and not enough on drawing them to where they should be? Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Amen! We are not serving our young parishioners, our older parishioners, or our Church well by catering to a secularized, "modern" version of worship. And while we're discussing secularization, is there any delicate way to ban low-rider jeans and bosom-crunching T-shirts from the Mass wardrobe of young Catholic women? It's bad enough that my corporate work place has become a gauntlet of temptation, but my church, too??? Is there no discipline or shame from the fathers?

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Whoa, it's like you crawled inside my mind here. I cringe everytime they announce free pizza at the end of a six pm Mass. I don't know either how to do it better, but the current system isn't exactly forming the "youth" in an all positive way (I went downstairs one night to ask if they could tone it down a bit during RCIA. I simply asked if they could be quieter while Fr. R is talking and they mocked me as I was walking away and sassed me to my face...what are they learning?...to believe that they are above any discipline, or to be obedient to Christ and Christ in others?).