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Like me, Many of you will have been shocked and horrified to hear the news this week about the criminal charges being bought against people like Bill Roach and Stuart Hall. All well-known figures in this country whose charges come hot on the heels of those against other prominent celebrities in recent weeks and months.
At one point yesterday the front page of the Sky News website (screen-grab above) had these kind of crimes against children dominating the leading stories.
Since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke less than a year ago, it seems as though there's been a domino effect with historic allegations and stories of this kind being bought the fore and, at long last, being properly dealt with.
I hope what I'm about to say isn't naive, but I really do think that this sort of thing couldn't happen these days. At the very least, it would be far more rare. I really think that if young people fell victim to this sort of thing in this century, they wouldn't feel they had to hide the fact for decades. And that, of course, is a very good thing.
What's also interesting about the revelations of the last year is that it proves conclusively that sexual abuse of children isn't just a Catholic problem. Of course, we had been saying that for years, but until the Savall scandal broke absolutely nobody took us seriously. Or at least if they did, they did want to publicly admitted it. It went against the agreed narrative. Never mind the fact that statistics had proven again and again that Catholic priests were no more likely to commit this kind of crime than men in the population at large.
The fact seems to be that, across a number of different countries, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic groups it was acceptable at times in the past to...
One thing we all struggle with from time to time is getting teens to attend our events. In fact, that's not just a from time to time thing, it's a large part of our lives!
The problem is that you reach a point with some young people where you feel like you're just nagging them, and that can feel tough. None of us want to be the pushy guy (or girl) who just can't take a hint.
With that in mind, Randy Raus, the LifeTeen chief, has a suggestion. Take a look...
Personally, I think four is a little high. I'd go for two, but hey... it's a good idea.
The next time you worry about the latest strange craze your young people come up with, be grateful at least that they're not making their hair look like ripe tomatos.
Yes folks, this is the latest fad in Japan!!
In this series of posts I'm sharing some thoughts on 'the problem' we're currently facing as a Church trying to minister to young people.
Following on from the first and second posts earlier this week, I'm aware that I haven't actually got to what I think is causing the problem yet. I'm not going to today either. We'll look at that next time out. What I'm going to do today is to ease the burden on youth ministry ever so slightly before we focus in on exactly what that burden looks like.
You see, as soon as you admit that there is a huge problem facing youth ministry, a lot of people who frankly don't like us very much usually jump up with glee, realising that they've finally found a stick to hit us with. I'm talking about the kind of people whose definition of 'youth ministry' usually boils down to stereotypes that don't actually happen or just simply to somebody who once annoyed them!
The fact is, youth ministry gets it in the neck for a lot, and it's not our fault.
Well, actually, it is our fault to a degree, but my point here is that it's no more our fault than it is anybody else's.
One thing that really, really grinds my gears is when people make a glib comment about the failure of youth ministry. This parish (or whatever) is bereft of young people; youth ministers are there to work with young people; therefore, youth ministers are to blame. Youth ministry has stuffed up. Never mind the parents, the priests, the schools, the wider community, extended family, peers, the FHC catechists, the Confirmation team, the people who prepared their parents for marriage and baptism. And, never mind the fact that serious, decent youth ministry never gets near the majority of parishes anyway. No. It's all on youth ministry.
Somebody I know used to...
We've talked a few time on this site about Tim Tebow, the American Football Quaterback who has become well known for his active Christian faith.
Unfortunately for Tebow though, while he was an inspiration to millions of young Christians, it turned out that he wasn't the best at his chosen sport. This Monday he was released by the New York Jets and is now looking for a new contract.
It must be difficult for sports stars when they're told that their services are no longer needed. In the famous Baseball book Ball four, Jim Bouton described being traded down to the minor leagues as 'dying.' That's how seriously some people take it.
When Tim Tebow was released though, he turned to Twitter and just simply shared a passage of scripture which reflected his view:
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
There's a great lesson for all of us in that.
Fairly recently, we went through a very difficult phase in one of the projects I was involved in. We made a decision which we felt was right, and necessary, but which caused a lot of hassle. There were a few battles and a few stress-filled days and nights.
One night a I was trying to sleep, I just decided to put it all in God's hands. If we've got this right, I thought, God will bring it to perfection for us. If we haven't, he'll find a way to let us know. Then I went to sleep!
We all know, of course, that God is in control, but if you're like me you sometimes forget. If so, let Tim Tebow (and me!) remind you!
[image hotlinked from Wikipedia]
I was lucky enough this week to get an interview with Nathan Satchell. Along with John Toryusen, Nathan is co-chair of the Brightlights core group and responsible for this year's groundbreaking WYD@Home event. Because of this, Nathan is probably one of the busiest guys in youth ministry right now, and whenever you meet him - or anyone else involved in the event - it's hard not to feel an infectious enthusiasm.
'If you can imagine a tented village,' says Nathan, 'the centre of which is a Big Top marquee next to an ancient shrine, you may be somewhere towards what the festival will physically look like. Within this are spaces for everything from prayer and reflection to outdoor stages for live bands. Even a licensed bar!'
For the uninitiated, we should explain that the Brightlights Festival happens every year. This year, it's been timed to coincide with World Youth Day in Rio, giving thousands of young Catholics who can't afford to get to South America a chance to be a part of this key global event.
Nathan explains: 'The idea for WYD@Home came from our hosts Southwark Catholic Youth Service and the Carmelite Friars in Aylesford. As early as 18 months ago it was becoming clear that it was going to be difficult for many to travel to Rio. The Carmelite Friars [at Aylesford] had been receiving inquiries about the possibility of an event for Young Adults that weekend for some time. We'd moved the Brightlights festival to Aylesford only the previous year, so when we began to plan for the 2013 festival it made perfect sense to have it over that weekend.'
The idea of entering into World Youth Day at different satellite locations around the world is one that's building up a head of steam. We'vediscussed it before on CatholicYouthWork.com. But yet, while the idea of having some kind of link-up with 'the field' might have some promise to it, the idea of taking an already established festival and devoting it so completely to World Youth Day is perhaps even better still. And Brightlights is certainly well established.
'The first Brightlights festival took place in 1995 at the SPEC Centre in London Colney. It was a...
(If you're American, of course, it's a scary word with a 'z'!)
I've just been reading a brilliant piece about a Parish in the US that has just started doing door to door evangelisation.
I know what you're thinking... Catholics don't do that? That's what those small, slightly weird Churches do, right?
Well, yes, actually you are right. But why should you be? Why shouldn't Catholics take the Gospel to where people actually are?
Catholic parishes tend to think they're quite good if they're feeding and engaging the people who turn up for Mass. If they're bringing a few lapsed Catholics back into the fold on top of that, then they're seen as brilliant. But, what about the completely unbaptised? Can you think of any parish that's doing anything serious and consistent for them? And, no, having a bigger sign or an occasional 'witness walk' doesn't really cut it!
And what about us as youth workers? I firmly believe that if you are a youth worker in a Catholic parish then you have a responsibility to all of the young people who live within that parishes borders. Those young people will be in three categories: the practicing Catholics, the lapsed Catholics, and the rest of them. The second group is probably much larger than the first, and the third group probably makes the second look microscopic. But yet, the Gospel calls us to have a distinct plan for each of those groups.
There's a challenging thought for a slow Tuesday!
Judging by the hits the site's been getting, Sunday post on the problem we're facing seems to have got people thinking. Or at least, reading. Hopefully both.What we didn't do in that piece though, was say what the problem actually was, and we're not going to do so today either. We've already discussed how the problem manifests itself - the symptoms if you like - and eventually we'll work towards what's causing it. First though, before we work on what's those causes and on what they might mean, we need to talk about what's not causing it and about what it doesn't mean.
Whenever there's a problem there are usually a lot of unhelpful reactions which actually obscure the real problem and push us further form tackling it. It was impossible among many groups, for instance, to have a reasonable discussion about the clerical abuse scandals because all those people wanted to do was tag the scandals on to things they didn't like and use them as a weapon with which to hit their longstanding enemies. To the liturgically traditional (okay, some of them at least) it was the fault of those who perpetuated or allowed liturgical abuses; to the tablet-leftie types (again, not all of them) it was the fault of hierarchical clericalism etc etc; to the Justice & Peace crowd (same caveat) it was the fault of capitalism. The list goes on and on, and while one of those things may have been true, any chance of doing anything useful with it had already disappeared under a mudslide of gleeful vitriol.
When we're tackling a huge problem, we have to put our own prejudices and agendas to one side and look with fresh eyes, and so before we go any further, I want to get a few things straight.
Thing Number One: This isn't about Vatican II.
What's that you say? 'But parishes, seminaries and convents were full before the council?' 'Everyone was faithful to the teaching of the Church?' Well, no...
Certain things that I've been through lately have made me want to jot down some thoughts. Thoughts on the current state of Youth Ministry, on the current problems were facing, the current ways in which were going badly wrong, and ways in which we maybe need to put things right.
We need to start by recognising that there is a problem. And it's not just a small problem. We know that less and less people identify as Catholic or Christian, and we know most people who still do identify as such rarely cross the threshold of their church. We know too that most people who attend church every week don't make the faith the centre of their lives. We know that most young people in any given area are completely uninterested in religion. We know that religion is seen as outdated and dangerous, and we know that the secular society in which we live seems to be winning most of the important battles.
And yet, despite all this, we seem to be rather good at completely ignoring it all and pretending that everything's fine. Any genuine desire to actually look at these things and respond gets buried under talk of 'sowing seeds' or of natural social change, or of lapsed Catholics who will we tell ourselves will eventually come back. Talk, which ignores the fact that that seeds aren't bearing fruit and that the lapsed Catholics are staying lapsed!
The fact is, we have a problem. And it's not a small one.
The Gospel calls us to be dynamic. It calls us to be revolutionary and radical; it calls us to challenge the world around us. For that to happen, we first need to recognise where we're at. And where we're at is in a mess!
One statistic that's often casually thrown around on the Internet is that there is a 94% lapsation rate. Despite asking several times I've never been told what the statistic actually means or where it comes from but I would guess that it's a statistic noting lactation between infant baptism and adult practice. That seems about right to me. For reasons which we'll explore in future posts that's not quite as scary as it sounds on the face of it, but it's still very scary. Most people who join our faith in the western world wonder away from it uninspired without ever really letting it shape their lives. Mass attendance dwindles year on year and while the 2011 census shows 59% of the population identifying themselves as Christian, it also shows a drop of 12% in that measure since the last census in 2001. Other data also shows us that the vast, vast majority of those who identify as Christians do little or nothing about it.
It's all scary, sobering stuff.
One thing were absolutely fantastic at in the Catholic Church is...
Vatican City, April 28, 2013 (Zenit.org)
Here is the translation of the Holy Father's homily during the Mass for the Day of Confirmands celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica today.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.
1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John's vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord's face - that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him for ever, in his love.
You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God's constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!
2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that "we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God's glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!
3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God's work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!
The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.
(April 28, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.
Written by Marie Boston, Youth Speak News Saturday, 27 April 2013 10:40 (CatholicRegister.org)
In an industry where media plus young people equals entertainment, two Catholic production companies — Vocation Boom and Spirit Juice — are adding spirituality to the equation.
Vocation Boom, an organization based in Cathedral City, California, and Spirit Juice Studios, a production company in Chicago, are both focussed on creating quality productions to ensure youth are, in the words of Vocation Boom's Jerry Usher, "getting the absolute best when it comes to the media they consume."
Usher has 33 years in the media industry, working in various capacities in radio, including creating the popular Q&A radio show Catholic Answers Live in 1997 and hosting it from 2000-2009. While a seminarian in the early 1990s, Usher and a fellow student started a newsletter that encouraged vocations and sent it out to seminaries and individuals across the United States. From that experience, Usher says he "had a broader vision for promoting priestly vocations that included all the means of technology and media available."
Usher decided not to pursue the priesthood, but his desire to promote a media vocation grew stronger. In 2009, he and a small creative team of lay people established the web site Vocation Boom. Usher works with other production companies to create high quality videos to promote vocations. He also provides links to videos created by other organizations.
Read the rest of this article at the (Canadian) Catholic Register...
Argentina will send more pilgrims to World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil than any other foreign country, according to organizers. Members of the local organizing committee for World Youth Day say that, with the recent election of an Argentine Pope, they expect up to 2.5 million young people at the international event in Rio de Janeiro.
Argentine youth are excited about the Pope, says Maria Lopez, 23, from Our Lady of Guadeloupe parish in Toronto. Lopez was born in Argentina and stays in touch with the local culture by watching a lot of Argentine television.
"The Argentinian youth and even just the people in general in Argentina have been following him so much. And I think part of it is pride because they're proud that he's Argentinian. At the same time he brings that hope that a lot of people have lost," said Lopez.
"I'm extremely happy… I started crying," she said about the election of Pope Francis, adding that Argentines feel they can connect with the pontiff.
"We currently have 200,000 pilgrims already registered, but registrations go on until the last day of the event," said Carol de Castro, press co-ordinator for the local organizing committee. She said the committee expects 800,000 Argentine pilgrims to have registered by the start of the event, which runs July 23-28.
By then, there will be more copies of the YouCat (youth catechism) in Brazil than pilgrims. Brazil's dioceses and new Catholic movements are expected to receive a million additional copies of the YouCat, the new youth catechism published by the Roman Catholic Church. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has already funded the printing and distribution of 500,000 copies of the YouCat since last October.
"Young people are simply looking froward to it (WYD). They love (to) celebrate together. And YouCat goes down well. It helps many to get to know the faith, to understand it better or deepen it," said José Correa, director of ACN Brazil in a press release.
An estimated 70 thousand young boys and girls are descending on St Peter's Square this weekend for the first in a series of 'great events' with the Holy Father organized for the Year of Faith by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
On Saturday and Sunday those young boys and girls who have been confirmed in their faith or are about to be confirmed will gather in St Peter's from all over the world together with Pope Francis, while next weekend it will be the turn of confraternities.
In a press briefing earlier this week, Council President, Archbishop Rhino Fisichella explained that the common denominator of the events, which will take place in Rome with the Holy Father, will be "of highlighting pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter. That is why, the day before, the participants will take part in a symbolic procession from the obelisk in St. Peter's Square to the tomb of the Apostle where they will pray the Creed. Along the way there will be a brief catechesis to recall the significance of the places that we find ourselves at and their historic meaning for the faith."
The first event will take place this 27-28 April and will be dedicated to all those who have received or who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. "Already more than 70,000 youth, accompanied by their catechists and priests, have signed up. This presence shows the enthusiasm with which they have joined in the initiative and the great turn-out that we should expect."
For the first time, Pope Francis will...
One of the bigger challenges we face is in how we communicate with our young people. I'm not talking about how we speak in sessions of give talks, and I'm not talking about how we relate the Gospel to life. That stuff's all important, of course, but I'm talking here simply about how we let them know what's going on. I'm talking about how we remind them when events are and how we promote our events to those who don't already come along.
Here are some thoughts...
That's all I got... any more?
[image hotlinked from Flickr user Carol Browne]
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