The Reality of Singleness in the Church
In the average parish setting, there is usually more of an emphasis on married families, and less so on single people. There are many single people in church communities who feel alienated and confused because of the nebulous nature of their state in life. It is important for those in parish groups and those who lead councils to recognize the unique opportunity that reaching out to single people more provides. Single people provide a unique opportunity for service, as they do not have the typical restrictions and responsibilities that families have. It is critical that we welcome singles into our communities, and make them feel that they do have a place in our groups.
There is no such thing as the “single life” in the Church, as the Church is a community. We are all united through our common Baptism, which ultimately is a call to the Eucharist, and this unity must be emphasized in all our communities. There should be resources provided in our groups that allow singles to participate more actively, considering their daytime work schedules, but also providing opportunities for service that they can participate in at a greater level of commitment than a married person with children. We should make more of an effort to build programs and provide resources that are relatable and compelling to issues that single people deal with, from all generations. It is in this way that we can access a demographic that has the potential to make a great impact on our church communities for a long time.
Understanding the Transition from Youth to Young Adulthood: The Growing Periphery
In our lives, periods of transition are the most testing for our faith, and this is especially true for young people in the transition between youth and young adulthood. Young people are leaving the Church at earlier and earlier ages, and it is critical that we address this issue. The biggest challenge facing youth and young adults in transition is the “crisis of affiliation”, as they are transitioning between communities (ex. campus ministry to parish community). Young people struggle to find where they “fit” during this time, and it is important to reach out and welcome them so that they will want to become a part of their respective faith community. It is extremely important to help foster inter-generational relationships with young adults, as many of them will have only interacted with peers their age in a campus ministry setting or school.
Another issue that young adults are dealing with are lack of opportunities to work in the Church. There are many passionate students who get Theology or Ministry degrees who cannot find jobs or positions of leadership in the Church, due to older generations not providing openings for them to enter. Older generations need to recognize that working with young adults does not threaten their own ministry, but gives them the opportunity to bring up the new leaders of the Church who will carry on their work. Opportunities for leadership with a lot of mentorship should be provided in parish, council, and faith ministries, and there should be a place reserved for a young person in a leadership group. We should also reach out more to social media, as young people believe strongly in the power of their online communities, so it can be an extremely effective evangelization tool. Finally, we should approach young adults as “seekers”, wondering and curious about the Church, and be open to “radical hospitality”—meeting them where they are and having honest conversations with them about common struggles. This will allow us to connect with them in a way that will help them to grow and bear lasting fruits in their community.
Laudato Si: Practical Strategies for Caring for God’s Creation
It is truly a turbulent time as a Catholic, as our society continues to become more and more polarized along political, cultural, and moral lines. Even among Catholics themselves, the conflict between “social justice” vs. “pro-life” groups continues to intensify. It is critical that we recognize, as Catholics, that we are called to a “unity” of morality, and transcend human divisions to the ultimate Truth. In Pope Emeritus Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, he speaks to a “grammar of creation” (Benedict XVI, 2005), in which all of creation is ordered toward the good, the true, and the beautiful. This order encompasses all issues of morality, from human life and sexuality to protection of creation.
Ultimately, we are not owners, but stewards of creation, and it is our moral obligation to protect God’s creation for the well-being of our environment and the impact it will have on our posterity. There is a cultural shift in these times due to the “technocratic paradigm”, which changes our attitudes towards creation through technology. Instead of working with creation, we look for what we can get out of it, since we are used to instant gratification through ever-advancing technologies. Laudato Si is an act of evangelization that looks to the questions of the works and provides Christian answers, charging that unbridled human power is the ultimate source of the suffering of our environment. Pope Francis encourages us to embrace a “spirituality of poverty”, one that recognizes that we don’t really own anything, but that everything we have is a gift from God.
The beauty of the family structure, also known as the “economy of the family”, was created by God for the good of man. As an institution which is so attacked during these times, it is critical to remember that questions of the family impact not only social, but environmental issues as well. When we live with others as part of a family, eating, working, and living together, we are reducing our carbon footprint as well! Currently, we live in a time of increasing isolation, separated by computer screens. We need to get used to reaching out more and living closer with others; not only can it help our environment, but it can be joy-filled! There is an inherent joy in simplicity—if you’ve ever asked anyone the question “Do you have too much stuff?”, the answer is always “Yes!”. If we live simpler, more sober lives, we can have a positive impact on the environment and grow in holiness and joy.
Benedict XVI. (2009, June 29). Caritas in veritate. Retrieved July 18, 2017, from http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate.html
Francis. Laudato si. (2015, May 24). Retrieved July 18, 2017, from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html