Monday, June 28, 2010

The Itch

I happened to meet a former student of mine while I was at the National Bookstore just recently. I had just compiled a number of articles by Fr. Mauro Gagliardi on the Priest and the Mass and as a finishing touch to this labor amoris for my priest companions here in the seminary I bought clear plastic folders to place them in. I was already paying to the cashier when this boy came along and we had quite a conversation. He shared that he was doing quite well in his new school, had already adjusted since his transfer the other year and was quite into a lot of activities. He then told me that he had been going along with some Born Again friends and their Bible Study groups and was helping out in their social welfare activities or something. Naturally for a priest and being his former formator I advised him against going in their company, despite of the fact that he had no intention of joining their sect. These people could be very cunning and subtle, I told him, and before long they would have you eating out of their hand. This opened the door for him to ask me many questions about the Catholic faith, questions about the Bible, the cult to Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Mass, and the fullness of the faith and the truth...he had been going with them mainly because of his desire more about the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. I counseled him to dare to ask questions about his Catholic faith to people who would know the answer. He studies in a Catholic school and I'm aware of the fact that there ought to be a priest in the vicinity of their school, since it used to be the premier institution of Catholic learning for the whole province, until squabbles about money and things connected with it (I'm in the dark about a greater part of the story of that now-defunct university) forced it to close down more than a decade ago. It has recently opened again, now under a new name.

However at the back of my mind I knew that his need to learn more about the faith would largely remain unaddressed. Now outside of the seminary, such familiarity with formation in the Catholic faith, rooted in the Scripture, passed on to us by the living Tradition of the Church and her teaching office (Magisterium), celebrated in its sacred liturgy and made alive in our present social, moral and economic millieu, would be very hard to come by. However, the fact is, such education in the faith of young people need not be confined to seminaries and other religious houses of formation. It is a need being increasingly felt by young people and their guardians everywhere. I would be limiting my view within the domains of the Palo Archdiocese. It is very evident that this formation in the faith given to young people within our local Church is largely inadequate, without prejudice to the efforts of many of our religious workers, whether they be priests, religious or lay. This is a need that is largely felt and sorely needed especially among young adults in the collegiate level, who are trying to look for a rock upon which they could stand on while being perfectly secure that it IS a rock that they're standing on. This is the solidity which Catholic faith would certainly furnish the upcoming generation with a sure criteria for life. This is precisely that which is being inadequately served, if not totally missing, in the eduction of our youth. Even in so-called Catholic institutions I would dare say that such instruction is inadequate (well, at least most of them). to add to the urgency is the fact that other Christian denominations and sects are getting the upper and in forming these young people, many of whom are supposedly (or where once) Catholics.

To what kind of instruction am I referring to? With regards to Catholic institutions, this would not be just values education, nor religion classes, but the catechism of the Catholic faith, pure, unadulterated, without exempting the challenges that accepting would necessarily entail. In the non-sectarian educational institutes, a formation in solid human and Christian virtues. Well, you don't have to be Catholic to be diligent or prudent or have a strong sense of commitment.

This all boils down to the point that we need to rethink and study the way we give this kind of formation and education in our centers of learning here in the Archdiocese. And I would not be just talking about studying and rethinking it, but most of all in making it work in favor of our young people; to make it not just a sporadic thing for our youth such as summer youth camps youth encounters (which hold a privileged place in their formation), but a constant and permanent feature of their education. This has been the itch that I've been feeling ever since I began to be acquainted with students while conducting recollections and retreats in different schools, and in listening to their confessions, in answering patiently their questions and in listening to their views and concerns. I think it's high time to revive the Campus Ministry once again as a formation of the human person in the faith. Anyway, isn't this one of the reason why we said "yes" to the call of the Lord in the first place?

I bid good-bye to the boy as we were going out of the bookstore, promising him that I would be keeping him in my prayers, as usual. And through him, I would be praying for his companions, and for theirs in turn, that very soon we would be able to address this screaming need among our young people.

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