Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How do we respond to a post-modern culture?

Here's the second question and response for the interview published recently in the newspaper of the NCP:

Q. We often hear it said that commitment is very difficult for young people today. Do you think that the post-modern culture makes your work harder?
R. I do think our apostolate with young people is key not just for vocations but in many ways for the future of a Christian culture. I also think that sometimes we haven’t been as agile understanding the signs of the times as we may have believed. A hallmark of post-modernism is fragmentation and constant change. A typical modern ‘soap’ will run numerous story lines and cut from one to another sometimes within a few seconds. Think of how young people flick through television channels or surf the net. At school they are taught to be ‘independent learners’. This doesn’t necessarily mean that young people have a short attention span. It means they are now more active protagonists in the information they receive. For us the challenge is to acknowledge two things. Firstly we are often too prescriptive in what we offer: we want them to be interested in the causes that matter to us as adults; the liturgical experiences we offer can often be too wordy and ‘teachy’. The second thing is to recognise that we do have traditions in the Church that young people can access at different levels and that of their nature draw them into a greater participation. Part of the success of the New Movements is that they offer experiences of prayer and Adoration that everyone can access at their own level, whatever their starting point. Perhaps some of the growth of the traditionalist movement in the Church can also be put down to the fact that with the older liturgy young people can enter into the Mystery of God at a pace and a level appropriate to their own starting point. We have to face the fact that we cannot compete with the experiences of Clubs and other activities – nor do we want to – but we can offer something different: the opportunity to rediscover that inner dimension of life where God’s still small voice may be heard. Young people respond to this.

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