DON'T DEVALUE THE FAITH! Why Teens Need A Gospel That Costs
By Bert Ghezzi
"Envision Industrial Collapse." So reads the bumper sticker on my
godson Michael's car. I envision myself shaking him and chanting,
"Michael, if industry collapsed, you...would...have...no...car!"
Currently, Michael is involved in the environmental movement. He
makes time to attend lectures on eliminating noise pollution and
recycling. (I wonder if I could interest him in recycling alternative
rock music as Mozart. That would be a start at eliminating real noise
pollution!) Michael has taken off from school to walk across Ohio,
demonstrating his commitment to keeping the earth green.
Don't get me wrong. There's something very healthy about Michael's
involvement. Caring for creation is good stewardship. That's not
all. Michael's commitment itself is also very healthy It is an
expression of the innate idealism of youth.
Psychologists tell us that teens naturally want an ideal to live for.
William Damon, for example, says that teens he studied were eager to
serve others. They also craved challenges and responded positively to
the discipline of moral principles. Like all young people, my godson
is looking for something worth giving his life for. When he finds it,
he will be ready to pay the price.
All that our youthful idealists need is to be pointed in the right
direction. To the Lord. To the Church. If that's to happen, our kids
need to hear the hard, costly Gospel. They will find the demand that
they take up their cross and follow Jesus appealing. A watered-down
Gospel will not attract their attention. A softened, warm-fuzzy
message may even repel them.
Paul Lauer, the dynamic editor of You! magazine for Catholic teens,
says parents must challenge their kids. The demands of the Gospel
drew Paul himself from the false ideals of Zen and rock to Christ.
"We must challenge young people," he says, "to channel their abundant
energy for good, for God, for the Church and the world. Young people
have enough energy to climb tall mountains of faith, hope and love.
If all we offer them are little molehills, they'll simply go
somewhere else for their challenges-to punk rock, drugs or satanism."
So parents must see to it that their kids hear the good news that
will cost them something. How to do it is the question. Here are some
We can hold up the example of Mary and the saints. The Church gives
them to us to show us that it can be done-that ordinary humans can
live the extraordinary life Christ demands.
We can encourage our teens to respond to invitations to serve others.
Several pastors I know sponsor summer teen-action programs. They give
the teens the opportunity to travel during the summer to serve the
poor in Appalachia. All the kids have to do is work hard all winter
to earn the money to pay for their travel and housing. One experience
like that can challenge and change a kid for life.
We can give our kids a specific challenge, like embracing the ideal
of chastity Molly Kelly, who annually speaks to 50,000 teens about
sexual morality, says that when kids hear the truth they recognize it
and embrace it freely.
We must also show our kids that we are living for Christ by our
example. And we must tell them about it in our own words. We must ask
ourselves, "Have I put Christ first in my life?" so that our kids
will make that same choice someday And we must hold fast to our
commitment even when the going gets rough.
Now back to my godson. Recently, Michael bumped into some young
people on campus who seem to take the Christian life seriously He's
been hanging around with them and I think he's about to catch the
positively healthful infection of the Christian ideal. I know he'll
gladly pay the price.
RECOURCES THAT CHALLENGE TEENS:
Parents who are seeking help in presenting a challenging Christianity
to teens should consider the following possibilities:
YOU! Magazine (800359-0177) proclaims a challenging Gospel and
provides teaching on how to live it.
HEART Catholic Work Camps (407-740-0791) give kids a chance to serve
the poor, to worship, study and play with other Catholic teens who
are seeking an ideal to live for.
LIFE-TEEN (602-838-8844) is a Catholic service organization that
helps parishes and parents challenge kids to follow Christ. It
provides a full program to support parishes in supporting teens on
their Christian journey.
Bert Ghezzi's books "Keeping Your Kids Catholic" and "Guiltless
Catholic Parenting from A to Y" (Servant Book Express: 313-677-6490)
suggest many practical ways of handing on the faith to teenagers.
This article was taken from the September/October 1995 issue of
"Catholic Parent". Catholic Parent, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN