It has been several centuries since St. Francis heard the voice of Our Lord from the crucifix at San Damiano, but there is so much work to be done to rebuild the Church.
For one thing, it seems to me that we need to re-educate our young people in the Faith. I am a convert and educated myself, but I know that there are many Catholic young people out there who do not know their faith well. Indeed, it is a reason for why some of them leave the Church altogether during their college years and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Yet how can we solve this? What can we do to bring young people to church and keep them there?
One of the things that seems to be a solution is religious orthodoxy. Throughout the Catholic world, young men and women are embracing religious life. Yet these young people do not embrace the so-called “liberal” Orders of the Church, but those that still have habits, the Liturgy of the Hours, and life in a community. The Sisters of Mary, Mother of Eucharist, in Ann Arbor are an excellent example of this. They many young women coming and staying with them because they seek an authentic life as religious.
I think this is also a reason for why some Orders simply have not had anybody join them for the last 20 or more years. Perhaps, it is because that the original way of life was thrown out with the bath water years ago. Maybe, new directions were sought. Also, there are many groups in which the Sisters and priests do not live in community. Instead, they have apartments scattered all over the cities in which they live. It’s a way to live all right, but how does it attract young people?
Here’s another thing: the habit. Wearing a habit is something that marks out a religious from every other ordinary human being. A habit shows the world whom we represent and what we are about. It’s not something that should be worn only on ceremonial occasions or on special feast days. Rather, it should be worn all the time. It is an extremely visible sign of the consecrate life and the life of Roman Catholic Religious. And yet why is it that so few religious wear the habit these days? Why is it that so many priests do not wear the biretta and soutane? It seems to me that if we could get these thinsg back, then may be things would change and we would be able to keep our young people.
It also seems to me that we should be much more rigorous in our knowledge of the faith than we have been in the past. It is extremely important to me as a convert and as a Catholic to have the ability to defend my faith against all comers. It seems to me that all of us can do this, too. But how? Well, reading is a good start and apologetics classes are another part of the equation as well.
Yet there is much, much more that needs to be done and I do not think that I have the space to enumerate all of the ways. Therefore, I will write another column soon. Stay tuned!