Megan's College Discovery
Among my fondest ministry memories are the college and university chaplaincies where I served while a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. The energy, the challenges, the vitality of Catholic life on campus I found to be stimulating, stretching, and, yes, inspiring. At the periodic meetings of the many Catholic campus ministers serving the enormous student population of the Boston area, there was much discussion about the effectiveness of our efforts. The consensus was that our ministries were quite effective in the areas of worship, community, life, and Christian service. The area of major weakness? Finding good ways to help our students, busy about many things, learn more about their Catholic faith, about the creed, sacraments, morality, and prayer.
I remember the afternoon a sophomore at Harvard walked shyly into my office. I had never before spoken with Megan, only noticed her at our Sunday afternoon student Mass. She sat down, and we spent a few moments in “small talk” before she revealed the reason for her visit. “I am learning so much about so many things here at Harvard,” she said. And then her eyes filled up and she said, lips quivering, “I know so little about my faith, about the Scriptures, about Catholic teachings. I love Jesus; I want to be a faithful Catholic. But I don’t know my faith.”
I think she was a little bit puzzled by my response. “Congratulations,” I said. “The very fact that you are so upset is a beautiful sign of God’s grace at work in your mind and heart, inviting you to study, to learn, to shape your life by God’s word.” And so began her continuing faith formation — not now as a child but as a young adult,
Don’t let Megan’s story be yours. Devote yourself to serious study of the Scripture and our Church’s doctrines now. There are many good resources to assist you, including the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults — not beyond the reach of any intelligent, interested teen determined to know the faith. Our new youth ministry experience, Life Teen, will also include a strong emphasis on learning the truths of our faith.
We bishops are very concerned about the inadequate knowledge of Catholic teaching on the part of many of our people — teens and adults included. I often meet adults with college degrees, even at the graduate level, whose religious education crept to a halt in their teen years. The culture in which we live throws many challenges at our values as Catholics. St. Paul called the Christians of Ephesus — and us — to grow in our faith “so that we may no longer be infants tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery …” (Eph. 4:14).
While Christian faith is primarily about our trusting, committed relationship with Jesus Christ, lived out in the Church community with regular Eucharistic worship and a life of Gospel love. We need to know what it means when we say, “I believe.” Teens and adults cannot live strong, convinced Catholic lives on the basis of a childhood knowledge of faith.
Dear teen friends, learn you faith. Now is the time. And remember that I respect you and love you. And I need you to help me strengthen the heartbeat of our Church in Maine.
In God’s Peace,
Bishop Richard J. Malone