10 January 2010

Faith isn’t Easy

One of the hardest things about leaving the university environment has been leaving the amazing Catholic community. In Saskatoon, there were so many people my age who found the faith journey to be an exciting one; one they wanted to share with others. I have many fond memories of debates about obscure parts of the faith, or discussions of the saints and martyrs occurring in coffee shops and restaurants all over Saskatoon. I have yet to find those opportunities here.

Looking back, I never truly appreciated the blessing of that strong community. While living in the world, sharing the gospel message just by how you live, can be invigorating, I miss the opportunity to recharge with other faithful Catholics.

I'm trying to find that sense of community here, but it's hard. And I know it takes time. One thing I've done is get involved in my parish. Specifically, I've volunteered with the youth ministry. My parish has a full-time youth minister, but he needs help with the program. For the most part it's been a great experience- I meet other people in the parish, and have an opportunity to share my faith; to have some of those discussions and debates I miss so much.

The parish uses the Lifeteen program. Before coming to the parish, I'd never been involved with Lifeteen- I've heard things about it, both good and bad, but never had the opportunity to evaluate the program for myself. There are some parts of it that I don't like, but mostly for aesthetic reasons. For example, it focuses on Praise and Worship music. I have no problem with P&W on its own, but I detest it when it becomes part of mass. The music at mass, in my opinion, should be reverent. Mass is not a rock concert. It should be something different from what we experience in the world. Don't get me wrong- I enjoy rock and pop music (I have to admit to knowing all the words to the Black-Eyed Peas latest song, and Nickelback is playing on the iPod right now) but not at mass. And I think it's wrong to assume we need use the music Teens like to get them to come to mass- Jesus should be enough!

But other than that, I've so far found the Lifeteen program to be orthodox and theologically sound.

Until last night.

It was the first event since before Christmas. The theme was being normal and still being Catholic. Basically, the premise was that you can be of the world and still practice your faith; that you can achieve that balance. I don't have a problem with the premise- we can live in the world and still be Catholic. And the video was really good- it talked about the Saints and the lives they lead. It was reminding the youth that we are all called to be saints, which is great.

The thing that concerned me was the emphasis on being "normal." The message I got was that it's easy to live in the world and still be Catholic.

I can't disagree more with that.

It's not easy to live in the world and be Catholic. We are called to live a radically different life than the one society says is normal. Christ didn't lead a normal life- He lived the life his father wanted. People hated Him for it. They crucified Him for it!

Life isn't easy, and it seems disingenuous to tell teenagers that faith is easy. The Christian (and especially the Catholic) faith is ridiculed and mocked everywhere. I challenge you to turn you TV onto a channel other than EWTN for 5 minutes and not find Christians portrayed as backwards or bigots.

So why were we telling the youth members of our parish that you can be normal and still be Catholic? If we truly follow Christ, we will never be "normal" in the way the world expects. We will always stand out and often it will seem like we stand alone.

It was almost as though we don't want to scare the kids away, but isn't it far better to lay out the challenges they will face so they know what they are signing up for? When Christ told His followers to "eat my flesh and drink my blood" He didn't tell them it was just a symbol when they were disgusted and left Him. How can we do anything less for the youth in our parishes?

These are teens in high school- some of them will be heading out to University in a few months. And take it from me; university is an even more difficult place to practice your faith than high school is.

Isn't honesty the best policy? Shouldn't the message have been faith isn't easy? Shouldn't we tell the youth that people will laugh at you, ridicule you and persecute you? And then shouldn't we say that the faith journey is the most amazing journey you can ever take and all the ridicule and persecution is worth it, because the reward is literally priceless?

Wouldn't that be the better message? Because these kids aren't stupid- they deal with the temptations and diametrically opposed viewpoints of the world every day. They know it's not easy. Wouldn't we reach more if we acknowledged that, and then gave them the tools to negotiate the world with? So why do we persist in lying to them?

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