Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

08 October 2013

"21st Century Saints," First Draft

I will be speaking to young adults in our diocese later this month as part of a "Theology on Tap: Octoberfest" series. This is a new venture for me. For two years I was a high school chaplain and teacher. Perhaps the students, staff, fellow teachers, and administrators would have a better estimation of my efforts, but I considered the assignment successful insofar as I completed it without committing any crimes.

There are differences between high school students and "young adults" in their early 20s to mid-30s. While many high school students are forced to attend religious programs, young adults get to choose to do so. Young adults have had more time to define their personal talents and areas of interest, so they will tend to invest themselves more deeply in their chosen activities. When religious formation is worthy of a young person's time--now this is something special!

I say this in light of a recent Facebook status of a young woman who was a senior when I was the chaplain. She was feeling the dread deficit of activities in Berks County for a professional her age. As far as I know she still adheres to her Catholic faith, but finds nothing in common with her parish. There is a huge gap between high schoolers and parents of young children, and she is in it for a few more years! She didn't want married people or older people to post any comments, because we "don't get it." I didn't read that caveat before making a pitch for the Theology on Tap series; but I figured that she was looking for answers, so there was one that she could take or leave.

Because of the paucity of worthy faith-based gatherings, and out of respect for the relative few young adults who profess to be Catholic in this atmosphere, I accepted the kind invitation of the Diocese to speak at this event. If there's any way to support those twenty and thirty-somethings who make no secret of appreciating their faith, I'm game!

The assigned topic is, "Becoming a Saint in the 21st Century." I was not strong-armed into the topic, you must know. For all I remember, I may have told the regional youth ministry coordinator to "surprise me." Today I ran into the diocesan coordinator at a meeting, where I asked her, "Are you sure you want me to do this one?"

An inveterate over-thinker, I have concluded that I am neither a saint nor a resident of the 21st century. Well, as for the latter, I am typing on a laptop computer while this is playing in the background:
so perhaps I do qualify as a 21st century resident. But I also read the print version of the daily newspaper, read books, and I have watched most of the Monty Python corpus and both Fletch movies.

But "saint" is, for me, a dubious distinction, so far.

Perhaps that is part of the point: what is to say that people who want to know, love, and serve God can't maintain some familiarity with certain things of this world? Who says they can't address current topics with fresh, even "irreverent" language?

I'm not incredibly much older than my target audience, but I this is how (I fear) my approach will seem to them:
Who will free me from this blasted self-consciousness? Only God, and not without my cooperation. This concern, I grant, is a real waste of time and energy. I will be the best representative of Christ I can be to these people, yet thoroughly in my own skin.

Some ideas are percolating. Heavy on the Hopkins...heavy on the humor...

Beloved readership: Do you have any suggestions for this topic of "Becoming a Saint in the 21st Century"? Feel free to leave them below.


  1. I think striving to become a Saint seems like a very daunting task. Maybe break it down into smaller "boxes" ....... smaller ways that will lead you on the path towards being a better Catholic, a better a more Christ-like life?! Community involvement, Church involvement, role modeling for others, selflessly helping others, bringing people to church, ministering the Word, etc.

    Just my two-cent ideas! I would love to come and hear your speech. How wonderful!!!!

  2. P.S. It is great knowing I am still in the "Young Adult" category! Yippee!!

  3. I'm slightly outside of the "young adult" age range, but thinking back - I think I would like to have heard examples from or about Saints and Blesseds. At that time in my life what I needed to hear, and didn't, was that no matter my sins, faults, failings...I could be forgiven. Was forgiven. I still had a shot at becoming a "saint." Maybe I wouldn't have been ready at the time, but hearing and knowing that might have shortened the 20year separation from God. But do use actual examples from the saints of the Church - the basic formula is still the same, and can be applied to today with few modifications. Good luck. I'll keep you in my prayers.

    1. Thanks for your input, Shelly, and for your prayers.