Friday, January 18, 2013

Archbishop Chaput on Evangelizing Young Adults

The following comes from the First Things site:

The current White House, and many others in our nation’s leadership classes, have a very different understanding of religious liberty from what our country’s founders intended. As a result, I’ve thought a great deal about St. Thomas More. 

We revere the witness of Thomas More because we know his story. But the reason we know his story is the courage of his daughter Meg. It was Meg who refused to be bullied by the men who judicially murdered her father. It was Meg who secretly collected his letters and other writings. And it was Meg who made sure that his materials were published and that her father’s story would not be forgotten—all this from a woman in her 20s when her father died. 

Of course, that was five hundred years ago. Times are different now, though maybe not as different as we’d like to think. Nonetheless, the importance of forming intelligent, committed young adults, as Thomas More inspired and formed his daughter, is the same today as it was then. Because most of you here today work with young people at a decisive time in shaping the direction of their lives, you have one of the most vital missions in the Church. 

Your situations as campus ministers are obviously very diverse. Each campus is unique: secular or Catholic, urban or rural, commuter or non-commuter. Some of you serve at huge state schools, others at small private colleges. But all of you share one common pastoral problem: popular culture. The shape of today’s mass culture is different from anything the Church has faced in past decades. And for better or worse, it influences all of our campus outreach.

You know today’s environment as well as I do. Sunday Mass attendance has declined along with other sacramental indicators. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have dropped. Divorce rates are high, and fewer people are actually getting married. Even marriage itself is being redefined. 

Over the past five decades, we’ve moved from a culture permeated by religious faith to a culture that seems increasingly indifferent or cynical toward religion in general and Christianity in particular. Many Americans no longer claim any religious affiliation. And as Notre Dame’s distinguished social research scholar Christian Smith has shown, vast numbers of American young adults are, in effect, morally illiterate. They’re not bad people—far from it. But they lack the moral vocabulary and roots of a living religious tradition that would enable them to reason independently through complex ethical problems. They believe in God, but only in a generic, feel-good sense: God’s main job is giving them what they want when they want it. 

Read the rest here.

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