Skip to Navigation

June 10, 2009 + The Church – Future Of Our Youth

by Fr. James C. Meena
From The Word Magazine, October 1982

You have heard it said many times that our youth are the future of the Church. While I do not and have never disputed that statement because I’ve always agreed with it and perhaps because I was once considered to be a part of the future of the Church, I would like to turn that concept around for your consideration and to state that the Church is the future of our youth.

We have become so involved with young people that our whole culture has become youth oriented to the extent that those of us who are aging rapidly try to deny the realities of time and keep ourselves looking young. We dye our hair, go on special diets, wear special clothes, have plastic surgery, wear cosmetics, and do all sorts of things to keep ourselves looking youthful. We look with contempt upon aging because in this society, which has been so concerned with the future, the comfort, the pleasures, the education and the gratification of young people, (and with literally buying their love), we have not bothered to develop in the minds of our youth a conscientious respect for aging, a realization that one day they will no longer be young but that they will be members of the “older” generation and will need to assume the responsibilities of senior members of society.

For too long now we have so devoted ourselves to safeguarding our children from the suffering we or our parents have experienced that we have forgotten that sometimes we only learn from our own adversities and from our own experience.

We fail to let our children make their own mistakes. And worse than this we allow our children to inflict their mistakes of judgment upon us. We yield to our children. We say, “Oh, they’re good kids.” Well, they are good kids. Thank God for that! But how long will they remain “good” if they are not also granted the opportunity to learn of the fullness of their responsibilities as human beings? They learn about their responsibilities at home and they should perfect learning of them in the Church. They certainly are not learning them in school or from their peer groups. When our children say to us, “I can’t go to Church because I have too much homework,” our usual reaction is, “Poor Baby . . . go ahead and stay home and do your homework,” failing to realize that by allowing them to make this exception, we are encouraging them to believe that they can put “Things” before God, that God will accept something less than a priority position in their lives, that it’s okay to take God out of the primary place in their lives and place Him down the line someplace. If they don’t want to come to Church because they happen to have an event at school, we allow them to believe that that is more important than their coming to worship God, to take Holy Communion, to make confession and to be a part of a praying community.

The Church is the future of our children and yet we piddle that future away by compromising with it and by allowing our children to teach us how to rationalize and put that future in a place that is less important than it ought to be in their lives. We wouldn’t dream of allowing our children to deliberately play hooky from school should they falsely claim that they are not feeling well. A conscientious parent will virtually push that child out of the house and aim him toward the school room. But if that same child, on a Sunday morning or on the eve of a Feast or during the Great Fast says, “I don’t feel well, I don’t want to go to Church,” parents take him very seriously and allow that child to cop out and thereby allows him to fritter away his future.

Why do I say that the Church is the future of our youth? It is here that they learn not only about their relationship with God, but it is here, by their regular and conscientious participation in the life of the Church from the time of their childhood through their adulthood, that they learn the means of coping and dealing with the various subtleties of life by which they will be tempted. It is here that they learn how to deal with those seductive elements of life which would try to corrupt them. It is here, together with the teachings of their families, that they learn what life really is for a Godly person.

Without the spiritual upbringing of the Church and the family, that child goes into the world totally unprepared for that which the world has to offer and what is it that the world offers? It isn’t salvation. It isn’t hope. It isn’t goodness. It is the opposite of all these things that the world holds out for our young people. It is in the Godly family and in the Family of God that the children have a chance to learn how to deal with life as spiritual human beings, as complete human beings, as human beings who know how to bring to bear all the faculties which their Creator has given to them, prayer, meditation, spirituality, hope, love, understanding, ethical and moral values, all of the things that the world will not teach them. So it is that I contend that the Church is the future of our youth and it is time that we parents begin to realize that and make sure that we insure that that future is secure for our children, secure by our own examples, by the manner in which we relate to Christ and the Church.

***

St. Lazarus of Serbia, June 15

Troparion of St Lazarus of Serbia, Tone 3:
Thou didst desire the beauty of God's glory and please Him on this earth. Thou didst faithfully double the talent that was entrusted to thee. Thou didst suffer as a martyr and receive thy reward from Christ. O Lazarus, entreat Him to save our souls.

Kontakion of St Lazarus of Serbia, Tone 8:
Thou art praised by thy flock as an excellent champion, as a courageous martyr, O divinely-wise Lazarus. As thou hast boldness towards Christ the Savior, entreat Him to grant humility to those who praise thee, that we may cry: Rejoice, O wondrous Lazarus.