‘An exciting dimension of our faith’

Young People in the Church

Dear friends,

One of the early World Youth Day songs remains stuck in my mind whenever I think about our young people: “Jesus Christ, You are our life. Alleluia, alleluia!” It is simple yet true. Christ is our life! Oftentimes, it is said that young Christians are “the future of the Church.” It seems reasonable, from a certain point of view, to consider our youth and young adults in a formative stage of their lives, preparing to take over the Church’s leadership at some point in the future and to take their rightful places. After all, their futures are ahead of them. They will have their time!

After having spoken with a number of young people over the years, I think the statement that the youth are “the future of the Church” is a bit misguided and misses the mark. It underestimates a significant contribution our young folks make in the Church today. Perhaps we can better say that young Christians are “the Church of today” alongside us. They are the spirit that energizes the Church’s unique dynamism of being joyful, alive, and hopeful.

What precisely do young people bring to the life of the Church? A partial listing would include such noble things as idealism, dreams, hopes, and aspirations. They also bring energy, enthusiasm, and spirit of adventure. Where we might hesitate with our criticisms and doubts, they bring a joyful “yes” to the mission of Christ. They radiate wonder and amazement when they encounter the true, the beautiful, and the good.

They offer themselves through their early commitments to be part of the band of joyful disciples of Jesus, ready to unleash the Gospel on a waiting world. In so doing, we all become young at heart, for the Church is perpetually young!

Of course, they also put forth their questions and doubts about Church teaching and practices. Nonetheless, many contemplate God’s plan for them in life. Sometimes, it takes time to not only unravel the mystery of knowing the mind and heart of God but also know, with certitude, the direction of the Lord. For that reason, many are drawn to the Rosary, reading Scripture, or spending time in contemplative prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. These moments of quiet, of personal encounter, and of contemplation provide a place where one can have a heart-to-heart with the Lord undisturbed by the noise around them so that the Lord’s voice can be heard, allowing one to respond in freedom.

Yes, our Church today, and especially our Church in Birmingham, needs young people to inspire us about their relationships with Christ. We want to hear their joys and sorrows, dreams and desires. We want to walk together as sisters and brothers to be a vibrant presence of Christ in central and northern Alabama. After all, we are all in this together.

When our young people join us, we experience an exciting dimension of our faith. As the refrain says: “Jesus Christ, You are our life. Alleluia, alleluia!”