Ignatius and the World

I’ve been thinking much about how strange it must have been to be an early follower of St. Ignatius. Being a “contemplative” engaged with the needs of the world was a new mindset, different from old school monasticism which didn’t fiddle with the machinations of living and praying within monestary walls.

Much like ourselves, these folks found that the needs of the world left them little time for prayer, so Ignatius encouraged the use of his examen at least once per day. Seeing God in all things gets easier if you try to do that daily. The spiritual life is about mindfulness and seeing beyond sensory experience to find God lurking there.

This past week I had the pleasure if hearing the stories of several students during an imaginative prayer meditation and the deep sharing that followed. It gave me confidence that God indeed continues to lead me to places that I will find much fertile ground with which to serve.

At the same time the search for those who are healthy and who have much to give to leadership is taking precedence. I imagine Ignatius must have faced similar challenges but also saw similar rewards.

Today pray that good things continue to happen and that we can see God in all things.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Mandatory Reading for Anyone Who Does Ministry With Millennial Catholics: Young Catholics Are Not TALIBAN CATHOLICS

Amen, Amen I say unto you, John Allen of NCR. As usual, he gets the actual story accurately. I’m taking partial credit for this article because this is EXACTLY what my book Googling God says and John served on the board at BustedHalo┬«. So I assume my influence and the appropriate back slapping has ensued.

I reflected on the next generation of Catholic leaders. Most empirical data has pegged this cohort of young priests, religious and lay activists as more “conservative,” and there’s a good deal of truth to that claim. In general, they’re more attracted to traditional modes of devotion and prayer, less resistant to ecclesiastical authority, and less inclined to challenge church teaching and discipline.

Yet, I argued, slapping the label “conservative” on all this is potentially misleading, because it assumes an ideological frame of reference, as if younger Catholics are picking one side or the other in the church’s version of the culture wars. My sense is that these young people are not so much reacting to (or against) anything in the church, but rather secular culture. In a nutshell, they’re seeking identity and stability in a world that seems to offer neither.

Proof of the point comes when you drill with these young Catholics. You’ll find they often hold views on a wide variety of issues — such as the environment, war and peace, the defense of the poor and of immigrants, and the death penalty — which don’t really fit the ideological stereotype.

These observations are hardly unique to me, of course, but I included them because I wanted to issue a plea to Catholics my age and older.

This new generation seems ideally positioned to address the lamentable tendency in American Catholic life to drive a wedge between the church’s pro-life message and its peace-and-justice commitments. More generally, they can help us find the sane middle between two extremes: What George Weigel correctly calls “Catholicism lite,” meaning a form of the faith sold out to secularism; and what I’ve termed “Taliban Catholicism,” meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn. Both are real dangers, and the next generation seems well-equipped to steer a middle course, embracing a robust sense of Catholic identity without carrying a chip on their shoulder.

That’s assuming, however, that the best and brightest of today’s young Catholics aren’t prematurely sucked into the older generation’s debates — either by liberals who fear and resent them, or by conservatives eager to enroll them as foot soldiers in their private crusades.

Read the rest here and a further comment from me….

Many people in the younger generation might fall prey to being “co-opted” into one camp or the other when those stuck in the camps of the left or the right take advantage of those who don’t have a strong sense of self. What ends up developing is a reliance on a “trusted source” that leads them into an “unthinking piety” on the right or an “action over prayer/ritual mentality” on the left. What really ends up happening to those in the middle who feel forced to choose one side or the other is frustration with older people’s baggage and issues.

And what the result is…

They choose nothing. No religion, just an informal spirituality. They become “spiritual but not religious” but long for what could be.

Today let us pray that we have the courage to accept young people where they are and move them into love. Love for the church, love for others, love for Jesus and the love that Jesus had for all. They want to be inspired. But they often are not.

Thanks to John Allen and NCR for an excellent article.

Project Chaste: Not For Losers?

Often when young people start talking about leading chaste lives and screaming it from the rafters that they are saving themselves for marriage, I wonder why they need to make such a public spectacle of themselves. I have a tendency to wan to say “No worries, mate. You won’t have much of a problem with celibacy. Nobody’s going to want to have sex with you anyway because you are creepy.”

Then there are those creepy father/daughter dances and chastity rings that make the chastity choosers look like fringe element losers.

However, perhaps I have bought into a typical Hollywood stereotype of those who choose to save themselves for marriage, because I’m beginning to find that this is no longer the case with today’s younger people.

Take a look at this:

Normal, good-looking, articulate and non-creepy. A healthy attitude towards sexuality too.

What thinkest thou?

NCR: Young Catholics Accept the Church as It Is

An excellent piece by Tom Roberts in NCR’s Emerging Church Series. He interviews 8 young Jersey City parishioners on their sense of being Catholic. The results seem to surprise him, but are no surprise to me.

“I think the church has to earn parishioners to come,” said Bridget d’Souza, one of the young professionals who joined the conversation in May at Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in Jersey City, N.J.

She was describing a kind of free-market approach to parish selection that applies to groups across generational lines, but particularly to young people without permanent ties to a neighborhood or diocese. No longer can pastors be guaranteed a congregation because of geography. People go where they’re both getting fed spiritually, said d’Souza, and where they can feel ownership of the parish and its activities.

It wasn’t that way growing up in a place, she said, where people owned their homes for decades and where churchgoing was determined by parish boundaries.

The loss of those physical boundaries seems symbolic of deeper lines and categories that have become less distinct when it comes to deciding on the bigger questions: whether to be religious at all and, specifically, whether to be Catholic….

D’Souza and her husband, Devantin, have been members of Our Lady of Czestochowa for three years. Both are cradle Catholics. She grew up in New Jersey, and spent time in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps right out of college. He is from Bombay, India, arrived in the U.S. in 2001 and moved to New Jersey in 2005, they year they were married. They met in business school in Washington and at the time of the interview were working as consultants for the financial firm Deloitte and Touche in New York.

In college, she said, she struggled through a period when she asked herself, “Do I want to be Catholic? Do I want to go into a Protestant denomination?” She said she had felt frustration over issues like the sex abuse and financial crises “that you’re not as empowered as you might be in other areas, like with your civic government for instance.”

In the end, however, it was the tug of “a tradition that goes back 2,000 years” that “draws me in.”

She perceives a certain power in the tradition, in the Mass and the Eucharist. “There is something there that his so powerful, and I think the church has nurtured that. I think for me the church embodies that.” In the larger culture she mentioned, Catholic Charities and all the things that the church does. I don’ think most people are aware o that. If they were aware of it, all of these other things that are perceived as negative, they wouldn’t be as proportionally as negative in my opinion.”

Read more here and think about the young people you know…and pray for them.

Tonight on Net TV…Once Again…

is me.

I did an iWitness segment with them on my ministry to young adults. I was quite moved by some of the questions so check it out by going to NetTV.net. And if you didn’t see our cast of characters from the Busted Halo Cast and our editor in chief Bill McGarvey check out this episode from a few weeks back.

Best Practices: Using the Net FOR Ministry

I’m just leaving the Richmond Diocese where I led a group of parish and diocesan leaders in using technology for ministry. I’ve come to the conclusion that many on parish and diocesan staffs are beginning to realize that the church is being called to become another content provider on the net. The spiritual search begins online and answers to even basic questions are often at the mercy of a google search–where the best information is not always accurate.

But nonetheless, we need to be content providers because that’s where Jesus was. Jesus would be twittering at this moment I think if he were walking the earth.

So my question to those of us who work in this field is a simple one: What have you used technology for in your ministry? Why and how did you choose it? What successes and failures have you had? Did you start out with one idea and then move quickly into another one? How have young people gotten involved and what was the response of the end user? Did you reach your target audience and how are people responding? What has it moved people to do?

What problems occurred? Where were you lacking? What challenges did it bring into your life?

I hope this can be the beginning of a wide ranging conversation.

Columbine:10 Years later

In Googling God (my book) I attest that Columbine is a seminal moment in the life of the Millennial Generation, that their world has been marked by many tragedies all mounting on one another leading them to see the world as precarious. Religiously speaking, they look for security within religion’s ranks, especially because when you couple this precariousness with the rise in technology you get a world where many different sources compete for the attention of the younger generation and therefore trust also becomes a major issue.

“Who or what can I trust?” is a major question for this generation. Contrasting that with Generation X’s wonder of who will be there for them at all and we find a bunch of cynical people who wonder if religion seems to make any sense altogether. The younger millennials seem less willing to search for these truths, but also adhere strongly to something that makes sense to them that they are able to find quickly. Long term however, some initial commitments also make lack staying power. People who follow Catholicism strongly at this juncture are likely to eschew it for something that may fit their lifestyle better down the road when that life changes into family or marriage responsibilities or when deeper questions of faith go unanswered by their religious mentors or even their tradition as a whole. There seems to be little room for ambiguity amongst the young.

For the older Generation Xers, faith is more relational. How do I see myself and others in faith traditions? Where is our belief helping us form community, virtual or otherwise. As a member of Gen X I can say, we crave community so much that we settle for new ways of trying to produce its effects (See, facebook, social networks). We long for trusted sources too, but are more willing to listen to all-comers and then discern for ourselves what is is that God is trying to tell us within it all?

Columbine and 9-11 and the myriad of tragedies that followed revealed even more:

Millennials ran to churches and intellectual approaches to see where God exist. What have certain structures said about God because they’ve taken the time to look at it–time Millennials don’t have time for. More critically, Gen Xers don’t trust the institution but instead look for what the tradition itself forms–what cohorts come together to try to make sense of things and to explore questions of deeper meaning as well as provide support for one another in it all.

But as the world grows more precarious, I pray that we remember the lessons of Columbine. That the pressure that students are under is often immense and we need to continue to be active in their lives asking questions and staying informed about who they are developing into. They want your help, they need it and moreover they seek it.