Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 11, 2002
Youth give voice to orthodoxy
For the last several years, a new growth of Catholic orthodoxy has taken place in our local Church. It is a hopeful sign that a Church a decade ago that sometimes seemed to be going through the motions and wasn't attracting much deeply-convicted interest from youth is now becoming more vibrant with each passing year.
The turnaround began about the time of World Youth Day 1993 in Denver which was attended by 1,100 Catholics from across Alberta. Since then, there have been numerous youth and family retreats, many of which featured traditional Catholic practices such as the rosary, Confession, Benediction and Eucharistic Adoration. The preparations for WYD 2002 in Toronto and the event itself have given greater momentum to what was already happening.
Whatever is happening to lead our Church to a new embrace of traditional Church practices, it is clear youth are a major driving force. This is odd to those who have always seen youth as a time for breaking down traditional barriers, not for asserting their importance.
A few years ago, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George remarked, "Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project. Essentially a critique, even a necessary critique at one point in our history, it is now parasitical on a substance that no longer exists. It has shown itself unable to pass on the faith in its integrity."
This is a damning critique, so damning because it is so accurate. If one wants to fight "liberal" battles in society, one hardly needs the Church as an ally. Indeed, at this point, one will typically find oneself fighting against the Church.
Has the Church's teaching changed from its halcyon days of liberalism in the 1970s and early '80s? Basically - no. What has changed is secular society - in its overt rejection of religion, its acceptance of abortion as a right, rather than an act of desperation, its hedonism and, more generally, in its rejection of any universal code of morality.
Young author Colleen Carroll (WCR, Nov. 4) sees youth's embrace of orthodoxy and rejection of society's "anything goes" mentality as, in large part, a rebellion.
Rebellion, however, does not go very far by itself. It can easily turn into anger, negativity, self-righteousness and a rejection of individual bishops for supposedly being less orthodox than moi.
However, this is not where the bulk of the new orthodox appears to be headed. Carroll also notes, "This generation craves mystery and a connection to the traditions that the modern world has stripped away." And recently at the local youth Mannafest, organizer Lorianne Potvin said the youth in attendance "love the (Eucharistic) Adoration because they know Jesus is present in the monstrance."
Although this new orthodoxy rejects liberalism, it ought to provide new fire to the Church's social teaching. That social teaching is itself an essential part of orthodoxy. One cannot be a true Catholic and reject the plight of the poor or have a dismissive attitude to efforts to protect the natural environment.
Orthodoxy calls for action. It calls for action in terms of bringing "right belief" to more people. But it also calls for action to relieve suffering and to overcome the structural injustice that often causes such suffering.
The patron "saint" of such orthodoxy could well be Dorothy Day. As a young woman, Day lived a bohemian lifestyle and had an abortion. She underwent a profound religious conversion and spent the rest of her life as a peace activist and organizing Catholic Worker houses across the United States to serve the poor. Yet Day also attended daily Mass and was deeply loyal to the Church, even in the days of the widespread Church dissent in the 1960s and '70s.
Day was wise enough to see that there is only one kingdom of God. To the extent we are in touch with the praise, honour and equality in heaven, we will want to see it evident on earth too.
The Benedictions and rosaries of the new orthodoxy, as well as being worthy exercises of religious piety, are also a call to each of us to become engaged in trying to end the injustices here before us on earth.
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