BY DAVID O’BRIEN
It is not uncommon to hear young people referred to as the "Church of Tomorrow." This futuristic designation seems odd, as if they aren’t part of our church right now.
Almost all graduating seniors are fully initiated into our Catholic community. They received Confirmation in 8th grade and we told them: "Now you are adults in the Church." Still, they carry the moniker of the "future church".
Is it because we anticipate that they will stray during these years of self discovery?
Is it because they are in a time of transition where their commitments are short term?
I wonder if the "church of today" designation doesn’t fully kick in until you receive your first envelopes.
During May, young people are "commencing" the rest of their lives. They are receiving diplomas, celebrating their achievements, listening to speeches about making a difference in the world, and preparing themselves for Part Two of their lives.
But let’s not forget that these young people are not simply children of the future or emerging adults. They are dynamic, inspiring, creative, hard-working Catholic Christians who are doing the work of Christ right now. Take for example these instances:
1. ) When September 11 happened and the adults from my town in New Jersey watched the towers fall with their own eyes, it was the teenagers who sprang to action. Two days later, they set up collection stations for donated items, created a memorial board that was featured on all the TV networks, designed t-shirts and headbands that created a sense of solidarity, and took center stage during a regional ecumenical prayer service.
While most adults stood paralyzed in horror and shock, these 16 and 17 year olds were ready and able to be God’s first responders in the shadow of Ground Zero. The army of God reporting for duty, sir.
2.) A young man with a rough upbringing rode his athletic ability from high school into the National Hockey League. Rich and successful on one level, he suffered with tremendous anger and loneliness. His uncontrolled raging landed him in prison convicted of attempted murder.
Once paroled, he hoped to attend college and play hockey again. Finally, one Catholic college in Canada offered him a probationary chance, the coaches and administration doubting he would make it through the first semester. But his teammates and other students on campus, 18-21 year olds, took him under their wings. They welcomed him like a returning Prodigal Son, gave him the family he never had and loved him back to life.
He is not the hockey player he once was. He is, however, considering a PhD program in psychology, having found he had a gift for academic study.
3.) Finally, consider the wisdom of this teenage girl who wrote this poem Slow Dance from a hospital in New York City.
"Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round? Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight? Or gazed at the sun into the fading night? You better slow down. Don’t dance so fast. Time is short. The music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask: "How are you?" Do you hear the reply? When the day is done do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast. Time is short. The music won’t last.
Ever told your child: "We’ll do it tomorrow?" And in your haste, not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die cause you never had time to call and say,"Hi". You’d better slow down. Don’t dance so fast. Time is short. The music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there. When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift....thrown away. Life is not a race. Do take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over."
The Church of Tomorrow? I don’t think so.