we emphasise the importance of commitment, many of our young people stop attending Mass soon after they have received the sacrament. Are we doing something wrong?
Sadly, we do lose the majority of our young people at some time in their teenage years. Were parishes to retain the majority of those families whose children receive their First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation, they would be filled to overflowing within a few years.
A wise priest once said to me: “Young people will do everything for love but nothing for commitment.” A personal love of Christ, a sense of awe at the Sacred Liturgy and an enthusiasm for the teaching of the Church are the foundations of lifelong Catholic practice, and commitment is not likely to be taken up if these are lacking.
There is also a problem with the idea of “making a personal choice”. In worldly terms, such a choice is naturally seen by teenagers as a free selection from a range of options on the basis of personal feelings and preferences. If the faith is seen as one such choice among many lifestyle options it is unlikely to win out against more immediate allurements.
Various reasons have been put forward for this loss of faith among the young. The pressure of secular society or “consumerism” is often blamed, yet we obviously need to examine our own practice. The reverent celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and solid, orthodox catechesis are both vitally important in all our work with young people.
In the midst of various pressures on young people and the formation (or lack of formation) that they have received, you cannot hope to rescue the whole situation by means of the Confirmation classes alone. Nevertheless, your work is of great importance and I would encourage you to be confident in the faith of the Church, and in passing on that faith to the young as something noble, good and true. The enthusiasm and example of a good catechist can be like the invitation of Philip to Nathanael: “Come and see” (John 1:46).
What’s your view? And do you have a dilemma of your own? Write to us at the address on this page or e-mail editorial@ catholicherald.co.uk