The Art of Living
The deepest poverty is the incapacity for joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today (in very different forms) in the materially rich as well as in the poor countries. The incapacity for joy presupposes and produces the inability to love. It produces jealousy, avarice—all the defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.
This is why we are in need of a new evangelization. If the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science. This art can only be communicated by one who has life—He who is the Gospel personified.
—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Our aim is to...
to assist parents in teaching their children the art of Christian living. To this end, we try to create a space outside the home in which youth can
- enjoy Christian fraternity and friendship;
- share and explore the faith with one another;
- pray communally, usually in the context of Eucharistic adoration;
- have the opportunity to go to Confession (offered at every regular youth night);
- receive practical wisdom about the concrete ways and challenges of living a fully human and authentically Christian life, animated by love of God and neighbor. What does such a life look like? What are its essential and distinguishing qualities? How can I open myself up to sanctifying grace, day by day? In answering these questions, a special emphasis is put on getting to know the lives of the saints.
Our aim is not . . .
- to replace parents.
The art of Christian living begins at home. Parenting is the most basic, comprehensive, and demanding form of youth ministry! (Add your adjective to the list: humbling, joyful, exhausting, excruciating, hilarious, . . .)
- to replace CCD.
CCD and youth ministry reinforce each other, but their goals are different. One is about understanding the mysteries of the faith; the other is about how those mysteries unlock the “art of living.” We can’t understand the faith without living it, but we also can’t live it without understanding it. And here at St. Patrick’s we are very fortunate to have an exceptional four-year high school CCD program.
- to separate youth from wider involvement in parish life.
It’s important for young people to serve in the parish alongside adults in various appropriate ways, especially as they get into their high school years. Their experience of parish life shouldn’t be limited to a youth group subculture—however fun and devout a subculture it may be.
- to be indispensable.
Of course, we hope youth group becomes an enjoyable and important part of your child’s life. At the same time, it’s not a sacrament! If, after giving it a solid try, one of your children doesn’t want to attend, he should not be made to feel he is therefore failing in his faith. He or she may just prefer other avenues. Consider the needs and desires of each child.
- to provide service hours.
Some of our guiding principles are . . .
- Communicating and partnering with parents.
Parents receive regular emails, summarizing what has been covered at each youth night. Feedback and questions are always welcome. Parents who have received safe environment certification from the diocese are invited to help in various ways at youth ministry events. (Call the parish office to begin the certification process, which is short and free.)
- Responding to the questions of students.
When we hear answers to questions we’re actually asking, we begin to ask questions we’ve never considered. The “Question Box,” where students can propose a question to be answered at the following week’s youth night, is one small way of addressing this need.
- Utilizing the gifts and strengths of many different adults in serving the youth.
The eight members of the youth ministry core team, as well as guest speakers from different walks of life, add variety and appeal to different temperaments.
- Fostering joy and a sense of humor.
Adolescence already has more than its fair share of anxiety, introspection, and emotional tumult. The faith should be an objective anchor in this subjective storm.
- Being serious and honest about sin and suffering.
Those who preach a feel-good gospel of perpetual smiles insult the intelligence of young people. Everything is not awesome.
- Finding God in ordinary life more than in extraordinary experiences.
Such experiences can be wonderful and life-changing when they occur, but trying to manufacture or prolong them as a path to God is ultimately exhausting and disappointing. God normally works unobtrusively in our daily life.
- Appreciating the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Reflections of God’s glory are all around us. Noticing and enjoying them can deepen our love for the One from whom they come and toward whom they point. In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, “Everything true, by whomever it is spoken, comes from the Holy Spirit” (ST I-II, 109, 1).
- Staying grounded in the perennial teaching and tradition of the Church.
Investing too heavily in any new program or method inevitably flattens and distorts the Gospel. The Church shows her catholicity (universality) in the depth and variety of her tradition.
- Showing how the faith clarifies and “unlocks” our basic human problems and desires.
Because we often live in a way that alienates us from our own deepest desires, the Gospel can sometimes seem unreasonable or impractical. To appreciate its deep meaning and pertinence, we need to keep asking the big questions that are fundamental to the human condition.