My posts on this blog vary, as I write it for my own amusement (and hope like crazy someone other than me perhaps reads it and enjoys it!). Sometimes I write as a mom of 4 boys, sometimes I write as mother-of-the-Monkey, sometimes I write as a homeschooler, and sometimes I write as Christian in general, and sometimes I write more specifically as a Catholic. Or all of the above!
Today is the "Catholic" variety! (Thanks to fr. Jason Cargo for his inspiration for this post!)
I consider myself as part of the "lost generation" of Catholics. We are the ones born and raised in the 1970's, 1980's, and probably the very beginning of the 1990's. We are are the post-Vatican II generation, but born and raised so soon after this major council, that the effects of it were confusing - to say the least, and although most of us were never aware of it (Vatican II being "ancient history" to us), our experience of faith was profoundly influenced by the confusion of the implementing of this Council.
Not that Vatican Council II was bad. So much of it was very, very good. But the changes were not always understood, or were implemented too quickly and without proper preparation. One cannot also discount the "mood of the times", as well. The 1960's and 1970's (and really, the 1980's) were a time of great change, especially in America. The "sexual revolution", the changing workforce, education reforms, economic boom - these all lended to a vast change in the very culture of America. And while one country's particular culture does not change what a Papal Council teaches, it does affect the way in which the teachings are received.
And to a culture where technology and information has been speeding up constantly over decades, the idea that a set of teachings will take decades to understand and plunder is almost... well, almost a medieval thought.
And yet, here we are, around 40 years post-Vatican, still unraveling the meaning of Vatican Council II, still trying to understand how to balance the modern and the dignified past, still trying to grasp how to be in the world and not of the world.
As a consequence of this, my peers and myself who grew up Catholic received a very different religious education than our parents and grandparents. Some of it was good - a lessening of fear and anxiety, and an deeper understanding of God's unfailing love. But sadly, much of it was - in reality - a watered-down version of faith.
I was never educated in Catholic schools until college. I know my major experience of faith formation was "God is love. Draw a picture of God as love". I remember that in almost every single religious ed book from Kindergarten through 7th grade, when I was finally able to quit my parish religious ed class.
I was a spiritually hungry child, who ate up Bible stories and facts (I totally rocked in Bible Baseball). I wanted to know, I ached to experience the fullness of faith. I had some very good religious ed teachers, but the materials given to work with were often....less than fulfilling.
As a result of similar experiences, my generation became lost, spiritually speaking. The Church, not in herself but in the way Vatican II was interpreted, seemed, in many ways, unknowable. A mystery, but not an alluring one. We were not taught enough to be introduced to the wealth of faith and meaning behind what we gathered to do every week. It was a faith experience softened to be compatible with the world.
College blew my mind. I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville. I had no intention of studying theology, but as the teachings of the Church were clearly explained and unfolded before my mind, I began to wake up. This Church that I had committed to, but never really knew, became more and more lovely to my eyes. The history, the rationality, the extreme mysteries of rite and ritual grounded in an earth-shattering logic, the profound love of the dignity of each and every person - these were the things I had hungered for and never knew existed (or perhaps I did know, but only received hints of, and thus I hungered).
Now, as an adult, one of my jobs is to educate parents in a Baptism preparation class. I also am involved in religious education, and am now trying to write for children in a faith setting. I have come to understand my calling as a mission to #1) educate children, but more importantly #2) educate parents.
By educating parents, I mean filling in those gaps of what we missed in our growing up. To give some kind of understanding that faith is all-encompassing. That even rites and rituals have a logical, beautiful flow. To know that there is substance to this faith of ours. Educating children is great, but educating the lost generation is really the goal.
Thanks to Blessed John Paul II, who knew we were lost and who called us by name back into the light. Thanks to the many teachers, educators, priests, and theologians who work tirelessly to find and seek the lost.
Because now the lost generation are parents, raising children in the church. Some of those children are quite young, some are teens and young adults. And they have been taught all their life by the lost generation (and those converts, who burst like fiery comets across the course of our sky). So, even though today's youth have the advantage of the new Catechism and the trickle-down religious ed from its publishing, they have been in the hands of the lost their whole lives.
What is the answer? That is the trillion dollar question. Whole-family catechesis, parish catechesis, cluster groups, faith formation, LifeTeen, and so on - these are but an example of how this question has tried to be addressed. Some work better than others. Some mean well, but fail in form. The Church continues to seek ways to reveal its beauty in a modern way, in a modern voice, but still connected to the past. And above all, not falling into the path of the world.
When Blessed John Paul II called us, we were young. We are no longer young people. I miss his voice. I still hear it -"My good young people, rejoice!". But I now know he was like John the Baptist, meant to show the way, not BE the way. As I am no longer young, it is time to rise up and claim my heritage. A weak spiritual diet may have led to standing on weak legs, but I can feed myself now. Or, I know where to go in order to be fed.
It is time for the lost generation to come forth. "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you." (Isaiah 60:1). Come and taste the feast prepared for you.