This phrase is thrown out quite often when spoken by those who believe that “praise and worship” or “glory and praise,” along with interesting and fun things are needed to interest young people about their faith. But, honestly, this is a phrase I tend to dislike.Why is there such a need to “appeal to the young people” about the Catholic faith? In some common circumstances, this leads to watering down of our prime Catholic beliefs.
Honestly, it would incredibly prudent to ask young people themselves what they want. But, if that might be difficult…here’s a few things that would appeal to me as a young person of the Catholic Church. For some, it may or not be surprising to comprehend the things I’m about to list. Maybe you’re agreeing with my thoughts, or maybe you’re vehemently shaking your head. I don’t entirely know.
Gregorian Chant and the Pipe Organ. Yes, young Catholic people actually like these two things very much. (I myself play the pipe organ, so I especially appreciate it). The pipe organ is the “king of instruments!” It seems like other Protestant denominations put more emphasis on the pipe organ than Catholics sometimes. Some might consider Gregorian chant to be boring or too slow for millennials, but honestly, if millennials wanted upbeat music, they might just easily turn on the radio to the nearest pop music station. Many do really think Gregorian Chant is great! The reason? Because it’s beautiful, the immense history and depth of Gregorian Chant is something young people appreciate. In the world today with the busy noise and beats, when someone hears Gregorian chant, it’s possible that they stop a little and take time to think or pray. Just because something may be old in the number of years it’s been around, it doesn’t mean that it’s worse. The Catholic Church has a rich and meaningful heritage, and some of those things include Gregorian Chant and the Pipe Organ. And just a gently reminder that in the Vatican II Ecumenical Council document, “Musicam Sacram,” it is stated:
“Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place, other things being equal.” (50. a)
“The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lift up men’s minds to God and higher things.” (62)
Mass. Yes, young Catholics like going to Mass. The more reverent, the better. But, of course there are those that are simply bored whether they’re at a Mass with guitars or a Mass with a magnificent choir singing Gregorian Chant. It is more likely for them to find the Mass with Gregorian Chant more fascinating though, simply because it truly takes them closer to the deep beauty of our faith. Please don’t make Mass more focused on community than God. If the Mass is made into a performance or community event, it will be harder for teenagers to understand why they’re even there. Performance? They’d rather be at their favorite artists’ concert. Community event? They’ll prefer hanging out with their friends.
The more reverence those leading the congregation portray and expect, the congregation (even the youth!) will reflect the reverence expected. If the expectations are low, it’s easy to lower those expectations and not receive wanted results. But, I’m pleading all those in charge of liturgy, music, priests, and others trying to engage the youth during the Mass. Let us experience the Mass! Face the correct way (cough cough ad orientem), create a reverent moment through music, and most importantly is to direct our focus during the Mass to Jesus and His sacrifice, not about the people next to you.
Truth. Honestly, please tell us things about the faith truthfully and straightforward. We don’t prefer hearing sugar-coated versions of dogma. We’re all striving for the truth, especially young people who are at a stage of their lives when we hope for authenticity. Sometimes it seems hard to be blunt about something, but it’s better to clearly explain than to glaze over the topic. Yes, it may not sound pleasing to the ears, but that’s not what is important. Truth is important. Two thousand years of Scripture and Tradition shouldn’t be watered down and made to sound less “offensive.”
Value our opinions. I do know many that value the youth opinions, but at the same time, there seems to be some adults who only value certain opinions; those that agree with them. Most of the people that try to appeal to young people are obviously not millennials. Simply put, find out what it is that young people want, not just your own perception on what it is. Please! Just because something is fun or in with the times doesn’t automatically make it attractive to the young generation!! If we looked at a reverent person versus someone shaking their head back and forth, “having fun,” we would easily get bored looking at the second person, but there will continue to be something attractive and appealing about the person being reverent.
Prayer and Adoration. And Silence. There’s the common notion that young people need to be doing something every minute to stay engaged. That’s not true at all, it’s imperative that young people and adults have quiet time to pray. It’s a lot harder to pray and think when there’s background noise, it can become a lot easier during silence or adoration. Although, the mind can tend to wander, it would be wiser to let young people experience the silence that can help them listen to the voice of God.
This honestly feels like a “Part 1” of something. So, that’s it for today, please please please take this message into account!! I’m not only speaking for myself, but there are many other millennials who will think the same, too.
(Also, if anyone would like to correct my citations from the document, please let me know!)