Saturday, August 28, 2010

When the Church Was Young

From an article written by Mike Aquilina concerning youth ministry in the early centuries of the Church.
... in all the documentary evidence from all the ancient patriarchates of the East and the West, there's not a single bulletin announcement for a single parish youth group.

Yet the Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There's ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.
I have often found that we are afraid to challenge youth.  Too often youth ministry and campus ministry are focused solely on social gatherings than they are about forming the soul and the conscience.  Yet, we can't be afraid to challenge youth and young adults, giving them an invitation to a truly radical way of life.  Embracing the Gospel is radical and counter-cultural.  They should be taught honestly the truths of the Faith by people who aren't ashamed of them, especially concerning matters in which the Church is indeed counter cultural, such as when it comes to artificial contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage.  Yet, they also need to be challenged to be charitable and to live out their vocation with a truly compassionate concern for others: for the prisoner, for the poor, and for the salvation of souls.  Yes, the Gospel is radical!

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