It is a saintly desire, and of the highest importance, to attract young people to love and live the Faith. A very popular method is to provide a “fresh look” at the Faith by passing it off as compatible with the modern, secular cultural. Using the modern culture as an attractant to the Faith is an exceptionally dangerous idea for two reasons. First, because an actively hostile element in our culture contradicts the Catholic Faith and second, modern culture only proposes the satisfaction of our natural desires for power, fame, and pleasure, thus competing with the complete supernatural satisfaction promised by Jesus Christ. For this twofold reason, Christians must carefully and diligently present the Faith to young people. We must believe that the Faith will inspire young people to engage their culture and direct their desires, rather than depend on cultural fashions to build the Faith of young people. The lens of the Faith enables us to see the world more clearly than the lens of the world enables us to see the Faith.
History shows us one program that successfully presents the Faith: authenticity – no tricks, no fancy doodads, no gimmicks. While an intellectual knowledge of the Faith is helpful, living the Faith is the best example. An authentic relationship with God sells itself. Christ did it. The Apostles did it. The Martyrs did it. The Saints did it. They followed God’s command and lived in His love – yet they did not abandon the culture, rather they transformed it by prayer and by loving the culture as Christ loved it. So far, this program has successfully transmitted the Faith for 2000 years. This presents us with a challenge. Statues decorating our churches are not walking the streets or hanging out at the Mall. We are. To teach the Faith, we have to live the Faith.
As cliché as it sounds, the fact remains: Faith is Love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:9-12) While we must love Jesus above all things, we must also love Him totally: with our whole heart, mind and body. This is not impossible. But if we keep anything back for ourselves, divvying our pursuits between the love of God and the love of the world, the very thing we keep for ourselves becomes an impediment to our love of God.
It is in the Faith that the paradoxes of love find, not resolution, but higher meaning. A father does not say he loves his wife less when a child is born. Nor does he love each of his children less as his family grows. On the contrary, his love for each increases as the object of his love increases and he is willing to sacrifice anything for them. Similarly, when we love Christ first and completely, we are all the more free to love secondary goods such as power, money, pleasure, and fame as they ought to be loved – as various ways to honor Christ, perhaps even relinquishing them for His glory. Suddenly, in this view of the world, we see a road to holiness rather than a roadblock to Christ.
Without a daily and living example of men and women striving to love God above secondary goods, young people will have no empirical evidence to verify the hypothesis presented in them. The intellectual theory of the Faith will only make sense when the Faith is credible in practice. That, my dear friends in Christ, is a task for us all.