Monday, June 7, 2010

Catholic Young Adults: A Shift in Piety?

Happy Monday to you all.

Blogger has been down most of the day. To be honest, I just didn't know what to do with myself this morning between 8:15 and 8:45! But now it's all back up and running.

I had a very busy weekend; not unlike most parish musicians and clergy. I have been playing at liturgies at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago for their "Catholics On Call" conference. You can learn more about this program for vocational discernment aimed at Catholic young adults here.

I have been involved with this program for a number of years and it has been interesting to watch the subtle shift in piety with these young adults. A few years ago there was a request for a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This was not a request that we had anticipated. We celebrate Eucharist, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer regularly at these conferences. This year, I noticed one member of the conference praying the rosary during the various liturgies. I heard that one young adult confronted one of the vowed religious, asking her why she was not wearing a habit. One young woman wore a head-covering during the celebrations of Mass. I must admit that I haven't seen one of those since I was a teenager. These were all young adults who exhibited varying levels of a deep and committed faith. Simply attending one of these conferences is an exercise in vulnerability for them. In a world that pushes young adults into a lifestyle of consumerism, to take the time to pause and reflect on where the Lord's calling is, is a great sign of hope for the Church—and for the world!

I guess I am softening up as I grow older. The kind of pious practice I have seen with these young adults would have made me cringe several years ago. But, I have grown—I guess—in my own appreciation for how wide our Church is, as well as how wide the arms of the Lord are. I am always cautious, though. I remember reading all about Saint Faustina and this whole Divine Mercy devotion several years ago. While I thought that some of her writings exhibited—at least to me—a certain off-centeredness, I did think that the literature on the Chaplet and the cult of Divine Mercy was right on target with the emphasis on the works of mercy. The problem is that—and this is sad—for many people involved in praying the chaplet and embracing the piety, there is little commitment to the real work of mercy. And this is always the catch for me. The world needs changing and we Catholics have the power to inaugurate so much change. We have to wed prayer with action, don't we?

Well, I am usually less controversial in the mornings; my mind has been working all day so I am all juiced up; so thanks for listening today.

By the way, I have heard from a few people who have never been able successfully to post their comments on this blog. I did some snooping and I think I fixed the problem in my "settings" area on blogger. So, if you have tried before and failed to post, please try again. As always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


FJH 3rd said...

I have been pleased to notice such pious practices - Eucharistic adoration, rosary praying (esp in front of the abortion mills), receiving Holy Communion on the tongue - among some young people in the last couple of years. Not a lot, but enough to register with me. Where it is really dramatic is at Masses with seminarians and their families. Then I see MANY of the seminarians and their siblings (and parents) receiving on the tongue, and quite a few kneeling to receive (on the hard floor while in a line).

Gives me great hope for the future!

Diezba said...

I don't understand why pious practices of the Church endorsed by the Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy would cause you to cringe.

Would you care to elaborate/explain?

byte228 said...

It's interesting to me that you should write about this. Back in the latter 90s I went to a Newman Center while in college and we were definitely on the more liberal side of the Church's spectrum, but we were very active reaching out of the Church to the community. A few years later on visiting the Newman Center for an alumni function, both the director and the Priest commented on how the students were much more pious and inwardly focused than our group had been and that they just weren't too sure what to make of it.

I think as you have said that the Church has room for both. The problem that I keep seeing is that most Catholics seem to want everything to be homogeneous within the Church, as long as it is like them. I see a Church where both the Tridentine Mass and a Life Teen Mass can be celebrated in the same community and afterward both groups come together for the Parish festival.

Whether it be Chaplets of Divine Mercy or John Angotti's Billy Joelesque music, whatever brings us to Christ is good!

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Diezba, as someone who ministered as a full-time liturgy and music director in parishes about twenty years, I saw my share of people whose spirituality was exclusively inwardly focused, while their pious practices were made quite visible for all to see. These were the people who would spend their energies complaining about everything in the parish, misquoting vatican documents as "proof texts" and generally creating ill will and division in the parish. I tried repeatedly to reason with them, to discuss the audiences to which the vatican material was directed, but to no avail. This is why I cringe. My hope, of course, is that any emerging piety will be matched with a hope-filled Christian life, a life dedicated to serving the needs of the poor and strengthening the parish and the family.

skeeton said...

Dr. Galipeau,

I found my way to your blog today, and I enjoyed reading your comments. It's always refreshing to read someone who is open to considering the seriousness of these young Catholics who aspire to be devout. While I am not as young as they are, I am a fan of their piety and their rediscovery of historic elements of Catholicism. Though, as you illustrate, not everyone is comfortable with their external signs of faith, I think it's helpful if people try to remember that many of these devotions and sacramentals are merely external signs that point to greater spiritual realities.

I would like to address one specific point you made in this post. In considering those attached to the devotion of Divine Mercy, you said that "for many people involved in praying the chaplet and embracing the piety, there is little commitment to the real work of mercy." Please allow me to ask: what is the real work of mercy here? In the following sentences, you spoke of changing the world, inaugurating change and taking action, so it seems that you are referring to corporal acts of mercy. True? If so, your allegation that young Catholics have "little commitment to the real work of mercy," as if corporal acts of mercy are the sine qua non of authentic Catholicism, is troubling. By whose standards are you judging them? Also, just how do you know they aren’t as committed as you prefer them to be? Do you follow these young Catholics around all week? Do you know what they do in their spare time? Perhaps, like me, they are busy raising young Catholic families, and due to the demands of this phase of life, it is difficult to do much beyond praying.

Which brings me to my next point… does not the Church teach that the visible, physical realities of our faith point to the greater invisible, spiritual realities? Is not the work of praying real work? Is not prayer, offering and sacrifice the real work that we are all called to do as members of priesthood of the baptized? If so, then is not the application of Divine Mercy to a needy soul actually a higher work than say filling their belly once or twice? The satiation after a meal will last only a few hours. But the salvation that comes from God's mercy is eternal! (Disclaimer: I am certainly not saying that we shouldn't feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc., so please don’t read that into my comment. It's not an either-or proposition. It's both-and.) If one day you see me sitting on the street hungry and tired and miserable in my sins, by all means please find a priest to hear my confession before you bother to find me a hot plate dinner.

In my humble opinion, the Church needs this renewal and rediscovery of spirituality if it is to have maximum effect in the world. If we do not know who we are as Catholics and what we believe, we have nothing to contribute to the public square. While certainly the Church has made some great strides since Vatican II, it cannot be denied that many, if not most, Catholics have a limited sense of their own identity and heritage. I am a catechist and teach Adult Faith Formation in my parish. The 60 or 70 people, ranging in age from 40-80, who attend my class weekly are great people. They are interested in living an authentically Catholic life. But it is shocking how poorly catechized they are, and they will be the first ones to admit it.

Do you want to fill the volunteer list for the soup kitchen and the St. Vincent de Paul Society? Then help the faithful understand the demands of their faith. Get them to engage spiritually. Teach them the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary. Share with them how to make a propitiatory offering of themselves during Mass, so that they can truly become the presence of Christ for the world. Teach them these things, and as Catholics, we can change the world together. Knocking young Catholics for not being committed to the “real work of mercy” is condescending, counterproductive and seems incoherent with those things we profess to believe.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello Skeeton,
A warm welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comment. You make some wonderful points. You are right in saying that I have no right to judge anyone. If you read my comment posted above in response to Diezba, you'll see why I have made the kinds of statements that I did make. And I did not make any connection between the Divine Mercy devotion and the young adults I experienced last week. Probably it was wrong to say "many of these people;" probably should have said "some." I'm learning and re-learning as I go. I think that the foundation for everything you said in your last paragraph is the need for a solid baptismal spirituality, something sorely lack for many/some Catholics. Thanks again for your comments.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

I received this comment from Alan Hommerding here at WLP:

I think that what can become problematic with young adults (or older adults, or the faithful of any age) with the pious practices is when they become the core focus of peoples' spiritual lives, and they forget - as the Vatican II documents and Catechism teach - that the CELEBRATION of the Eucharist is the primary place we encounter Christ. (As the Directory of Popular Piety itself states.)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry too much about young Catholics like myself (I'm 28) getting so wrapped up in private piety we forget about the Mass. To me and many of my fellow Millennials there's no better way to encounter Christ than in the Mass!... preferably during a novena to a Marian feast, having prayed the Rosary (publicly, if you like) 30 minutes before Mass. Good music (some Latin even), a beautiful historic church, reverent celebration, kneeling at an altar rail and receiving on the tongue don't hurt either.

But maybe that's just the scapular talking.

Nick Wagner said...

Hi Jerry. Great thoughts, as usual. I think that expanded expressions of piety as endorsed by the Directory of Popular Piety can be a great benefit. However, my cringing starts when folks begin to identify personal preferences as pious practices.

I often hear people say (and see it in some of the comments here) that kneeling is more pious than standing. Or receiving communion on the tongue is more pious than receiving in the hand. Or bowing your head in silent prayer (Rosary or otherwise) before Mass is more pious than greeting friends and strangers. And so on.

Becoming more pious is good. Claiming my path to piety is better than another person's--not so good.

Chironomo said...


Been a while since I've been here... this is completely consistent with the "trend" (if you want to call it that) of the youth movement in the Church today. I serve at a parish of about 11-13,000 parishioners. We have a rather half-hearted youth group of about 15 or so who show up or don't each week, depending on what's on TV that night or whatever... I also attend Mass and sing in the Schola at a EF Parish here, about 400-600 parishioners and a Youth Group of about 35-40 who are very active. Again, you can't generalize so I won't but it seems to be where the very active and commited youth are these days.

And regarding seminarians, one of ours was ordained the week before last and I prepared the music for his First Mass:

Introit: Benedictus es Domine -(Latin-From Simple Graduale)
The Introit will be sung at 4 minutes prior to Mass time.

Processional: O God Almighty Father

Kyrie: Mass XVIII
Gloria: Mass VIII

Psalm 8- O Lord Our God - Tone IV

Acclamation: Alleluia - Gregorian I

Glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit;/
To God who is, who was, and who is to come. R/.

Offertory Hymn: Immaculate Mary

Offertory Antiphon: (English-Simple Choral Graduale)

Sanctus: Mass VIII
Memorial: "Dying you destroyed..." (Tone VI)
Agnus Dei: Mass VIII

Pater Noster: Gregorian

Communion Antiphon: (English-Simple Choral Gradual)
Communion I: Adoro te Devote
Communion II: Ubi Caritas

Recessional: Holy God We Praise Thy Name

Very definitely an Ordinary Form Liturgy, but definitely showing the new direction that many of the seminarians who graduated this year, and who will graduate in the coming years, are heading.

There is room for both, but I have to wonder how they can co-exist and remain unchanged.