Faith in the Family

Faith in the Family

Diarmuid is doing his Leaving Certificate this year and recently had a very interesting Irish essay for homework – ‘Will young people in the future have Faith?’. They were asked to explore a number of questions including the impact of the Pope’s visit, the scandals that continue to rock the Church and whether young people today feel the need for religion. There is a good probability that a question along these lines will come up in the Leaving Cert this year and so there is an added incentive to open up these conversations at home – but it is challenging.

When we ask if our young people will have Faith what do we have in mind? Do we simply mean will they go to Mass? That really is not enough.

The reality is that there are young people who do not go to Mass but consider themselves to be people of Faith. Now I would certainly want to ask them how Faith shapes their lives and how it is expressed without a Faith community.

But the reality is these young people may feel disconnected from parish life and yet in no way would they describe themselves as atheist (there is no God) or agnostic (I don’t know if there’s a God). We need to be very careful not to alienate young people further by measuring their Faith only in terms of Mass attendance.

I met a lovely couple a few months ago who are deeply involved in parish life but their children have drifted. The mum asked her daughter why she didn’t go to Mass and the response was “because the Mass has no connection to my life”. We have to face up to the reality of this for a lot of people – not because the Mass has no connection but because we have failed to help people explore and take ownership of those connections.

So maybe that is a conversation we need to open up. Why do you go to Mass? Why is it important to you? What difference does the Eucharist make in your life? Are there times when Mass has been a strength and support for you? Are there times when you have struggled to keep going to Mass?

If our teenagers and young adults were to ask us those questions would we be willing to answer them? Have we thought about these matters deeply enough ourselves? Because these are the types of questions that need to be explored and we need to have the openness and courage to do so.

We need to be able to talk about the abuse scandals that are coming to light in Chile, the US and now Germany. It is not up to us to be defensive on behalf of the Church.

Young people have been scandalized by what they have heard and we need to acknowledge the rottenness and corruption that have enabled people within the Church to protect abusers and ignore victims.

However, we all need to look at where the heart of our Faith lies – is it in a relationship with God or is it in an institution? Do I believe in God or do I believe in the Church?

Personally, I feel that if I was to rely on my Faith in the Church I’d be gone by now. My Faith is in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit and while I recognise the vital role of the Church I also recognise its brokenness and sinfulness.

So, if our young people – and indeed all of us – are going to have Faith we need to be a people, a Church rooted in relationship with God, humble, Spirit-led. Our Faith needs to connect with our daily lives and help us see, in the midst of everything, the presence and the power of God.