The presenter was missing a huge piece of the puzzle, and I realized that even though he has young adult children, since they hadn't fallen away from the Church he didn't realize what was going on in the real world.
I knew in that moment that an insight that had come to me earlier this week was being brought to fruition, and I had to speak up on behalf of all those who are still lost. I know them, because I was one of them.
We are many, and many of the current models used to reach young adults simply don't work because they assume somewhat regular attendance at Mass, if at all. And those models also assume a hands-on approach. Not evangalizing through revealing Christ, but evangelizing through finding slave labor for various causes.
I raised my hand and explained that I still fit into the "Young Adult" category, then proceeded, in answer to the presenter's question, to explain my experience. I didn't go into detail. In fact, there was only the briefest of outlines in my head as I explained my involvement in high school, going to a Catholic college and falling away. I explained my family moved out of town and I moved into another city to begin my life as an adult...and had nowhere to go. My entire perception of what it meant to be Catholic meant "doing stuff." And if I couldn't "do stuff" as I was used to, how could I be Catholic?
I stated very clearly that I would go to Mass on occasion, to one parish or another, looking for home, but not knowing what it meant to be Catholic. I didn't know my faith. I said that the young adults out there don't know their faith, either. They're floating around, maybe like I was, thinking that being Catholic meant "doing stuff", and while that's important, it's not our focus or reason for being. It's not a way to find Home, where we belong.
When I had begun speaking, I didn't mean for it to turn into a testimony. I wanted to give insight into the fact that the models don't work because floaters aren't around to come into the realm that belongs to the current modes of evangelization. The speaker actually didn't really look very happy with what I was saying, although he seemed to listen attentively. I was grateful when a young woman behind me affirmed my experience as hers had been similar in some ways, and then, later another woman had even more to say.
All of that happened near the end of the session, and I turned and made eye contact with the last woman, mouthing "Thank you" to her own profound words. She understood so clearly what the speaker did not seem to want to understand.
I didn't get into "issues" such as why it was so hard to find a parish; I didn't discuss the problems with theology and liturgical abuse which I could not have articulated from that time in my life. I don't think I could give a short explanation as to why architecture, theology, and body postures during the consecration matters so much, and why departures from norms I didn't even know EXISTED drove me away from countless parishes. I let those issues be; there may be another time and place in another large event that will force me to bring that up and tie it up in its own little giftbox for those who don't want to receive it.
Where are the young adults?
It wasn't. I don't think I ever returned. He was nice enough, but even now, looking back, it wasn't about what I thought I had to offer; that entire encounter was about what I needed from Christ, and that was the recognition that I even existed.
How do any of us reach out to that need, especially when it's presented to us in such a hidden manner? I don't blame the priest for not knowing. After all, it took me a long time to figure out what it was I really needed at that time.
But there's a key in what came out of my mouth on the day I spoke up, something I'd never even considered, something maybe we all have to remember, no matter our role in life.
That day, I stated very publicly, there in that full room, that I didn't come back to the Church because there was stuff to do, but because I was seeking God. It wasn't until I could clearly look for Him that I could find my way Home. Because if it's not about God, it's about nothing at all.
After I had spoken, I actually felt somewhat ashamed, realizing that I'd gone off topic and I'd let my mouth run too much. My typical scourge. After the two others had spoken up, though, I felt better, and one person, afterwards, approached me and thanked me for speaking out. I was still apologetic; I hadn't intended to give a testimony. I felt it was inappropriate for the venue. She thought not, and that perhaps the Holy Spirit had a hand in my words.
I can only hope so. I know that He did for me.
Recently I was pondering an old blog post of mine from some time ago, which lead to another. I've been frustrated on so many levels, struggling in so many ways. In encountering these posts, I realized therein was the message I needed: Let God Love You.
It's not about me. It's about God. It's about what God has done. It's about how God uses us, especially when we least expect it. It's about being still, not worrying about the next moment or next plan, and just allowing God to take charge. He is faithful. Where is our happiness? In God.
The second, related post to that one was a reminder to let God work. He has a plan, He knows what He is doing. He's in charge. He intends for us all to become Saints, if only we'd be willing to follow His plan.