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Monday, March 23, 2009

Youth Dying for Truth

I was like most youth when I "left" the Church. My formation had been horrid at best, I didn't know half or even a quarter of what I needed to know, and in reality, I was not equipped to face...well...reality.

So despite my very intense involvement in my home parish, I was lost when I went to college. I didn't go to Mass. I wanted to be cool and sleep in. And when I DID go to Mass, it followed a weird "Youth Mass" format that involved the priest inviting the students to circle around the altar during the consecration. I watched from a balcony with some friends, astonished, and yet, thinking the way my classmates in the front row leapt to their feet and circled the alter looked incredibly stupid, blocked the view for even we in the balcony, and that the entire thing seemed....wrong.

I was so put off that I went only one more time to a Sunday evening Mass in that particular place on campus, and the ONLY memory I have of it is from the balcony, watching the exact same characters leaping to circle the altar, while most of the students remained, kneeling silently.

My other memories of college Mass involved those from the chapel, where they always seemed to play the piped-in popular music of the day, the theme song of which was the secular song, "Hero" from some movie I never saw because it was both popular AND cheesy. To this day, I haven't seen the movie attached to that song and can't even remember what it is.

All I learned about Mass in college was that it was about us, that it was about popular culture, and I couldn't identify with it because it didn't come CLOSE to touching the very real issues I was dealing with in my life: divorce, death, suffering, the mental illness of a parent, the occult...etc. All I got was affirmation of false choices; I wasn't EVER shown WHY we go to Mass, WHO Jesus was and remains, or WHY it was necessary to go to Mass. Because it was all about us as teens and college students, I never learned anything objective about theology or Christ.

As it was, Mass was no different than any other part of my life. So I didn't go. There was no point.

That said, I went forward to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, even though I was in a state of mortal sin, and I could not understand my tears, my repentance, my inability to remain aloof. Because He was there, and in spite of all that was wrong, all I did wrong...He saw and He knew...and He called.

I graduated college, and reconnected with college friends when I moved to the Cities. A friend, an even more marginal a Catholic than I, wanted to go to the Basilica Youth Group in St. Paul, and I think she did go, but it never worked out for me. In fact, I've completely lost touch with her. But I remember a sense of disconnection we both shared. We were on the fringes, as we'd always been, not knowing how to really become involved.

At the time, I didn't have a parish. I was seeking God, calling myself "Catholic" but really wandering around going to Mass at different places, giving my heart to the things of this world. New Age, was all the same to me.

I kind of felt like the Church didn't want me. When I DID go to Mass, I felt like a fraud, a stranger, someone Jesus would never want to know.

And I have to admit..I've never totally shaken that "feeling".

For years, I went online, searching out different parishes,  seeking a connection, a group I could join. But all of them seemed so much like the cookie-cutter "good kids" I knew in college who lived so "perfectly", did great things, were so intelligent and connected. They were the ones with perfect lives, scholarships, and the ones present at the Masses that didn't seem right, somehow.

And there was something "false" there that I couldn't put my finger on, and to this day, I STILL can't.

After my conversion, after I bought my townhome and joined my current parish, I became involved in my own local Young Adult group, and I didn't fit in even there. It was the same kind of "cookie cutter" person; young women and men with whom I could not identify. I'd seen so much, through both my personal and professional life, and through my own cynacism, all I needed was someone to understand me, even as I tried to understand Christ. It wasn't that the young adults I met pushed me aside; it was that I couldn't understand them or what I saw as their perfect lives.

It's the plague of good youth and young adult groups all around: those who have seen and lived some very serious things have a hard time when they come up against the innocence of lived holiness and...dare I say it?  An absence of suffering.  

That is not to say that those in those groups have not suffered, but rather, I find that in many of those groups are those whose parents are still married, whose parents have supported them when they HAVE gone wrong, and whose catechesis was actually not bad overall (even if in the case of college campuses the liturgy has gone wild). There are different variations of goodness and sin, but no matter where I have gone, I've always felt like the scruffy outcast.

It's not in anything they've done; there has simply always been a sense of not fitting in properly. A square peg in a round hole. Choose your cliche'.

It's been years now, and things ARE getting better. There are WONDERFUL Young Adult Apostolates such as the Frassati Society and other groups.  And although I've been involved in Frassati, this June I end my "tenure" even though my connection to them has been marginal.  As they've sat around discussing faith, I've been teaching it, in all my incompetence.  I look at their perceived holiness, wish I could be there, because, in reality, in knowing these people...they're living better than I am.  And yet...I can't spend any time with them because I'm WORKING for the Church. 

What irony...cut off from my own spiritual connections with people my own age because I'm...WORKING for the very venue.  

Yet, I know that it's not my group, anyway.  I can't put my finger on it, but I know that this is not my group of friends.  They are wonderful people...but they aren't people I understand, or who can possibly understand me. There is no ill will.  Just...a disconnect.  

And I'm in so many ways just like so many other Young Adults out there, wanting to find that group of good Catholic friends, but we don't fit a particular profile.  What about us?  Where do we go?  


I'm reminded of Menudo;  when I was a child, I remember watching them EVERY SATURDAY, so sad when one of them left and sang his farewell song.  Being a Young Adult in the Church is a lot like that, but we don't get to sing because no one knows us to begin with.  We're In limbo.  Disconnected, because everything out there seems almost an extended model of teen ministry, which DOESN'T fit those of us who have seen things better left unmentioned.  

In June, I won't be singing a song of farewell to anyone, for there won't be anyone to listen as I turn 35.  And it doesn't matter.  Because my life in Christ hasn't been about age, or a group, or a title. 

Ultimately it's been about Christ. It's been about Truth. It's been about seeking Him, and HE has provided those connections He intended me to have with others. 

I'm very saddened that for so long, Truth has been left out of the formation of teens and young adults; Popular Culture has been put in place of history and transcendence.  I'm saddened that what was supposed to cater to my "sensibilities" turned out to be the things that pushed me away, and that those doing their best to actually provide something REAL have been stymied by everything that preceeded them.  

And the vestiges of bad liturgy, bad theology hang on, holding everyone back. 

Everyone seeking Truth wants a faith they can DIE for. 

Yes, I've found it, but it's taken me to the end of my youth to do so.  That shouldn't be.  

I'm now in this "limbo" age; I'm technically classified as a "Young Adult" but haven't actually been able to see myself as such for several years.  Yet, I can't pass into the next category, whatever it is.  Once we turn 35, we're not "young adults" anymore. We're....what?  

Who am I, in the Church?  A single woman, in limbo. That's all.  Not part of any group, any category. A free agent.  A dryer sock.  Lost. Found.  Undefined.  Lint. 

It doesn't matter.  I've found a Faith worth dying for.  I've not been other there looking for a label or a group, but I've been looking for LIFE. And I've found it in Christ.  

I'm not willing to die for a job or an ideal. 

I'm not willing to wander the desert for a theory.  

But I AM willing to die for Truth, and I've found it in the Cross.  It doesn't matter that you can't pigeonhole me into a particular age group;  the Church isn't about that.  It's about LIVING as Christ calls us to live, and we don't always have the support we think we need. But we have HIM, and that's all that matters.  

THAT'S what we need to remember when we work with young people; they aren't looking for a label, but for Truth. And when they find that, they'll find something worth dying for.  Take away the fluff and the bad liturgy; they can spot it. They want reality. They want what matches their lives. They can understand the Cross because they're living it every day, but no one is willing to point it out to them. 

I'm so sorry that for so long, so many have been lost because the models the Church has been using hasn't addressed the deepest needs of those who have been seeking. I'm so sorry that so many have been deprived of a very real connection to Christ that should have been there, but wasn't. 

But it doesn't have to be that way.  It doesn't matter how scruffy we are, how much we don't connect to the existing "models" embraced by various parishes in how to do "outreach".  What matters is Our Lord, who inflicts no models and no lables.  He simply IS, and it is HE who defines us and helps us to find ourselves, there in His light and loving shadow beneath the Cross.


The Ironic Catholic said...

For the record--Mass isn't like that now at your alma mater! :)

The chapel is still ugly as a mud hen though. Got a million dollars?

Adoro said...

IC ~ SO glad to hear that! I think the Mass I hated so much was in St Mary's or maybe Griffon, top floor conference room...I forget. It was very blue. You probably know it.

The chapel...won't forget that red plush carpet, I didn't mind that. And you read my post of my moments there. Thankfully can't remember the ugliness, mostly because I usually saw it when the lights were out... *sigh*

The Ironic Catholic said...

Salvi lecture hall? That fits your description....

not used for Mass anymore though.

You know, it used to be the Christian Brothers' chapel in the 1920s-30s. I saw a picture of it. It looked almost gothic, really stunning. How times change.

Adoro said...

Hmm...dunno. Haven't been there since Freshman year, back in 1992.

At that time it was just a room with some windows and a stage and some curtains and balcony. Can't even remember how we GOT to the balcony!

Do you have any pics you can send...original ones? Anything online? I'd be interested in seeing it.

Molly said...

Have you thought of finding a traditonal parish?

Maybe even try a TLM?

It's amazing how quickly it changes and strengthens your FAITH.

You might like this YouTube video.

Adoro said...

Rita ~ Thanks for your comment, but my current parish really isn't so problematic. I'm LONG past college years...I'm 34. And yes, I've been to a EF Mass, and agree it is very transcendent, as it should be!

The point of this post, though, isn't to quibble on the type of Mass, more to point out that the "models" that are out there don't necessarily work. Didn't then, don't now.

Bobby said...


It no longer matters what denomination a person is in regards to what you said. This is the same problem, Catholic or Protestant; pop culture is replacing the Word in all instances at church. Witness the popularity of the megachurches that play rock tunes of a secular nature everywhere.

There's a scene found on the Web where an occultic rock group had a song played as pre-service music in Anderson CL (160 miles northwest of here), or the junk in Granger (IN) Community. Sadly, when even Catholics are falling to this trap, I knew something was fishy.

Warren said...

The most important and interesting thing you mention in this post, is that feeling you can't shake.

I know that feeling, too.

If I was your spiritual director, and I'm fully aware that I'm not yours or anyone else's, I would ask you to follow that feeling. That it is a string that will lead you to something else, something you really need.

But then spiritual directors always talk like that. And the funny thing is that however "together" they might look, they're just a fragile jumbled mess of broken-down humanity inside, just like you.

Some days it's only the duct tape and baling-twine that holds us together.


Adoro said...

Bobby ~ So true. The megachurches are getting big numbers, but they're not seeming to notice the revolving doors...the exodus of people who aren't being fed but don't know where to go. We all need something that transcends us, and when we go to find God and get pop culture, it's no wonder we look elsewhere.

Warren ~ Yeah, everything you say is true. I don't hang out with that particular crowd anyway because I don't have time, don't identify, etc. I DO however have some OTHER very good friends, so it's not like I'm floating around lost. :-) (Well, not

Mike T said...


"There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem."

This truth re-asserts itself for every generation, in every heart.

Those who strip the liturgy of reverence -- who hide the face of God from the little ones -- will find no shelter in this fact, but the Word of God has always been cloaked in obscurity. The psalmist tells us continually to seek His face, for otherwise we are certain to lose sight of Him.

The Ironic Catholic said...'re talking about the Common Room. It's kind of nice, but still.

I'm afraid I don't have the picture--it was handed to me briefly during talk of a chapel renovation. It really was lovely. Everyone's reaction was WOW.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosty, where in the cities are you from? I am from Anoka, but I go to school now in Fargo at NDSU.

P.S. Can you pray for Fargo-Moorhead as we currently face record flood levels in the next two days?

Anonymous said...

Mayyoufindstrength ~ for obvious reasons, I'd prefer not to state where I am from in the Cities. Let's just call it "Minneapolis".

But Fargo-Moorhead has been and will remain in my prayers! I remember the last flood there and the awful destruction. :-(

Larry Denninger said...

Ah, 34....I had just went thru my reversion. Once was enough.