Today’s consumer-oriented societies revolve around youth culture, but it wasn’t always so. For much of history, and in some traditional cultures still, people were either children or adults. Boys were boys until they could work like men, and girls were children until puberty, when they could become mothers themselves. There wasn’t much of that intermediary phase we call youth, and consequently no thought of listening to youth.
As children quickly became adults, often in clearly defined rites of passage, they adopted the ways of their parents and grandparents, and passed along their faith and culture. For a lot of reasons, that changed in the past century. All sorts of linkages between one generation and the next are no longer assured, and today reaching youth is an endeavor in and of itself.
In this issue of MARYKNOLL, we look at the Church’s recent efforts to engage youth. Admirably, from the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry last September to the Synod of Bishops on youth last October to January’s World Youth Day in Panama, the emphasis is on listening to youth.
It would be easy to dismiss the initiatives above as just the Church, including Maryknoll, playing catch-up. Except, the advance of youth is as inevitable as ocean tides. The only issue is how we meet and support them. If we fail to have faith in youth, we have no faith in the future. And Christianity without faith is a contradiction in terms. If we listen to what they are saying, we’ll find there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Lynn F. Monahan