Thursday, August 16, 2007


You know what the youth wants don’t you?

You know they are board at mass. Right? You know what they want. They want to jazz the whole thing up. They want modern music. Rock and Roll. Maybe visual aids like projected graphics and lighting effects. This is what kids want and if we don’t give it to them, they will vote with their feet.

This is what I remember being told I wanted when I was a kid (an age that is getting further and further behind me.) I always resented it. Not all kids fall into this mode – especially those who are taking faith seriously. Yes, some do want it - or think that they do - but not all "youth".

I had the most wonderful experience on the Feast of the Assumption. Some high school boys were serving for me. It was suggested to me that I keep mass shorter “because people don’t really want to be there on a Wednesday night.” So I thought I would acquiesce and do Eucharistic Prayer II, the shortest of them all and one I rarely use on such occassions. The young men protested. “Oh come on!” they said. “At least do Prayer III.” I finally gave in to the pressure at which point there was cheering and general mayhem.

I am further happy to report that this is not the first time this has happened. Several times I have had students that when I say I am doing Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) have said, “You are not skipping all the saints are you?”

Nor is this the only parish at which this has happened. It happened regularly at my last parish also. I’ve also seen it happen with other priests and their students.

I have several priest friends who have Eucharistic Adoration on a voluntary basis for their youth groups and report that after having it for a number of months during the school year having youth and eventually their parents there in the hundreds.

Why? I can’t say for sure, but I believe that it is because the mass and the Eucharist is not dummied down for fear of shooting over our kid’s heads. They are entrusted with our great and most complicated traditions, allowed to take ownership of them, and are supported and encouraged. Done right and well, we already do really cool stuff once we take advantage of it and one gets into and used to it.

A person who once taught music at our seminary said, “You don’t suck people into Church by doing bad liturgy.” We can’t suck kids in by copying what they are already getting “out there”, because out there will do their stuff far better than we can. But "out there" cannot do what we do as well.

We cannot trick anyone into our doors by imitating pop-culture. We also cannot copy culture and stand apart from it at the same time in any sustainable fashion. And if we try, what happens to these people when they are no longer youth and must attend a “mainstream” mass for which they are utterly unprepared and feel alienated from?

By definition novelty is not sustainable. If it were, it would not be novelty. And how long can the novelty sustain faith?


Brother Declan said...


You should also see all the young faces down at the IC Latin Mass on Sunday. And boys really love to serve the Old Mass. No need for guitars, videos or other attempts to poorly ape modern culture.

Odysseus said...

I read a comment in a magazine once about a theologian who saif that the Church missed its chance in the 60's. Kids were ready to go to jail in war protests and were just looking for something to commit to, to dedicate themselves to in a life or death fashion. Instead, many in the hierarchy just tried to "make it easy to be Catholic", when they should have challenged the youth, who would have responded to any challenge that demanded sacrifice.

Fr. V said...

Defund - funny how that gets written off however as being nastalgic for something they never had . . . *sigh* But love a rock and roll mass and everyone falls all over themselves saying, "See! So we should do more of this!" Well, not everyone - but you get the idea.

Rob - I think the same is true now to some extent - vocation promotions that seem to say, "You cna have a real life AND be a priest seem to fail while those that challenge a person to a life of commitment and sacrafice (under a strong bishop) seem to work.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying so hard not to echo the parenthesesd.., parenthesiz.. what you said. But it's an incredibly important attribute -- strength.

A live-wire, very connected, savvy friend with whom we attended many years of adult religious ed series' became a Deacon (permanent Deacon--his choice)-- not least of all with the urging of our former pastor. And with the urging of Mary, his Mother, whose Rosary he has prayed *ahem.. religiously. :-)

None of us who know and love Bob (who always blushed harder than I do but gave himself reason to!), could've anticipated his being so very serious and orthodox, most especially with the kids. Kids of all ages. He baptizes, he helps teach in R.E., he helps facilitate Confirmation students' last year, he also began and ran a program for people of all ages who are now readier for the sacrament of Confirmation than they were 5, 10, whatever years ago.

He knows all the altar servers, of course, as he knows all of us. We would flock to him if he led Adoration. I think I'll ask him about that.. but I have no doubt that he has jump-started many a vocation, simply by being true and loyal.

paramedicgirl said...

Very good points Father. There are too many adults who think they have to change the Mass into a youth attraction in order to get the kids to attend. The Mass has its own appeal, and one that is much higher than any novel adult intervention/innovation. I'm glad your kids see that.

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

An excellent post; thank you!

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Thank you!!!
Will you move to my diocese? We need you here!

Fr. V said...

Barb -

Not if you are anywhere south of Ohio. I can barely stand the summer heat here. I wouldn't make a very good missionary. But if you are north of here - if global warming is really happening, I may actually jump the lake.