Friday, February 27, 2015
Understanding the Paradoxes of Life
Where are all the college students? A priest begins his article in a diocesan bulletin with this lament. He remembers working with the youth back in the last years of the 70s and the early years of the 80s: busy giving retreats, workshops and going to the different colleges for Masses and involved in many programs for the students. From those years we have many who are now ministering in the Church and are leaders in society. What happened?
Except for a few parishes the college students are no longer seen in the parochial communities. At one time there was even talk of having a parish just for the youth of the diocese. Those days have past. He wants the Church to consider work with the youth as a primary concern. They are the future of the Church and of society.
However, we have those who do not see the young people alienated from the church but rather looking for spirituality outside of the parish setting. Many college students prefer to associate with their fellow students in a college environment, in Catholic prayer groups, student groups, diocesan programs located where they are.
Students in the West have shown signs of alienation from the Church which is not as pronounced in Korea. The culture is still very protective, and traditional morality still influences much of society. Just recently, the courts decriminalized adultery. We are not dealing with young people that have opted for the ways of the West. The students are acquainted with the West but many accept the traditional ways; a youth subculture,however, does exist.
Many are searching for a mature spirituality. Pope Francis in his talk to the 6000 young Catholics from 23 nations last year warned about the "spiritual cancer" of materialism from the affluent countries. "We see signs of an idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives." Korea has shown signs of needing a different spirituality from the one received. There is an emptiness and despair that shows in the number of suicides and as a world leader in cosmetic surgery.
When the newly baptized are asked why they have become Catholics the majority answer to find peace. It is true that a mature faith life will bring great joy and peace but it is not the response desired: a guarantee we are not prepared to walk in the way of Jesus, but to satisfy our needs. Peace and happiness are the results, the consequences, a by-product of the life we live, and not the aim of our life.
Explaining this is far from easy. Ignoring the search for authenticity: the true, good and beautiful and expect peace and happiness is not going to do it. The search for spirituality is a sign that this is understood even though unconsciously. Emptiness is experienced and with the young and old alike the stress on the paradoxes of Christianity, which they also have in their own religious heritage, is a need in our educational programs.