Monday, September 27, 2010

Stretching out Adolescence

Cultural critics complain that we are extending adolescence far past any age in the history of mankind, that many adolescents do not take on the mantle of adulthood until far into their 20s in America. If it is true in secular culture, it is even more the case in the Church. Last weekend there was a "spiritual awakening" retreat for the college kids at our parish. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not attend. I did, however, see pictures from the event which made me wonder how well we are preparing the generation which may be called upon to defend Christianity from the onslaught of Islam.

By all accounts, everyone had a good--even great--time. So what's the problem? Am I some kind of Scrooge who can't stand it that someone, somewhere is happy? Nope. The problem is not having a recreational, take-a-break-from-the-stress-of-school retreat. The problem is dousing it with a few prayers and Scripture readings, maybe a short homily with clever tropes about the three phases of water and the Trinity--and billing it as something seriously spiritual. We are feeding college students milk (and diluted milk at that) when they should be chewing on meat. How many of those students could even list the seven sacraments, the ten commandments and the four last things? Yet even more appalling than how few students could correctly list the answers is the knowledge that these same kids are very active in their parish and haven't been taught these basic things. The sense one has in talking to some of them is that they see their faith as a kind of sports team: "I belong to the Catholic team. My team is really wonderful--it's full of great people and I'm so happy to be on the Catholic team."

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