Hello my dear readers! Are you ready for Part II of “The Holy Spirit Among Us”? If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part, I encourage you to read it when you have time as it challenges you to think about how your parish cultivates the Holy Spirit in confirmands to help them to be active participants in your faith community. But now I want you to push that thought a bit further. Knowing that some parishes confirm in the 8th grade, while others wait until older grades, it is important to consider the young adults of the parish – those graduating high school, those in college – think ages 17 -26. Not what I personally would consider a “youth”, but still falling within the age range that the Catholic Church defines as a “Young Adult”.
The inclusion of our young adults begs that we take a serious look at the various generations and the misunderstandings that accompany them. Gen X, Gen Z, millennials, xennials, Boomers, and whoever else is out there– we are all sitting in the pews together. And you know what? We all are on the #synodjourney together, and we have to work together to carry out Jesus' mission, young and old - each a vessel for the Holy Spirit; each with God-given talents to be shared and used.
But if this is the case, then why are there those who are unwilling to appreciate the gifts that young people bring? In my workplace I see so many of our seasoned, veteran employees belittling our new employees because they're so young and want to be seen as equals but they haven't "earned their stripes". Do we treat people the same in the church? Is youth itself a barrier to recognizing and unleashing the gifts of the Spirit in each person? If so, is it any wonder why our numbers dwindle or why we don't see the service and the works of faith that we should be seeing in congregations if they are full of the Spirit?
Having celebrated Pentecost, I want you to stop and think about what exactly is going on,; what is being proclaimed by this great feast. Consider how you can unleash the Spirit of Pentecost...how you can help recognize the many manifestations of the Spirit and hear its voice - hear God's voice - in our young people.
Inside each of our parishes, let’s look at those ministries who have difficulty embracing change. Who do you think is going to take over these ministries when our veteran church members pass on or when it becomes too much for them to manage? Is there a backup plan. Is there a contingency? Is there someone to take up the mantle and move that ministry forward? Yes. We confirm young people every year. But do we make room for them to continue their spirit inspired discoveries, to learn, to teach us, to lead us in new ways? Do we have a preferential option for them: welcome, mentoring and space for their innovations?
So, here's what I am proposing: look and listen for the Holy Spirit. Look to the people who are excited to be coming into the Church and who want to take some part of Christ's mission and run with it. We need people who are young and in tune with society – ones who know how to reach out to others and move Christ-like among their peers. We need energy, insight, and we need challenged around the “way we’ve always done things.”
Let us all remember, the Holy Spirit is not reserved for any one group. The Holy Spirit is given to all the baptized so that it can be seen in each. The Spirit can be seen in that chaotic hustle and bustle as children run about trying to find their classes or prepare for children's liturgy. It is inside the worried teen who sits silent but still wants to be seen, the young man in the lifeguard uniform going to Mass prior to a shift, the 9th grader who is goth..but still Catholic, the 10th grader who loves baseball and puts in six days at the gym and on the field and carries a St. Sebastian medal, the college student home for the summer, the tattooed and pierced lapsed Catholic longing to come home, the cool and collected professional, the new parents who haven’t slept in a month. The Spirit is in each and every one of them and it wants to be unleashed. Those gifts have been placed by God for the sake of the world.
Help to cultivate the Holy Spirit and invite your young people to participate! Engage them, see them as a beloved children of God, see them as a brother or sister in Christ! Because they are! I guarantee that the younger generations will become more involved the more they feel more seen and valued. Overall, I have found that people of all ages want to participate more when they are valued and heard. So, give them a place at the table. Hear their ideas, because they are good ideas! They are very insightful if you just stop to listen.
If you need more ideas on how to unleash the Spirit, check out our Pentcost Vigil Project resources. I invite you see the Holy Spirit in everyone because it's there. We don't need a flame over top of our heads or a ray of light or a dove to show it. Invite it, trust that it's there and that it moves among all of us. Then look out for what can happen!
Image: Part of an original work done by Jerry Duenas for the Pentecost Vigil Project. See his work here.