This question is not mine. I was asked by one young fellow who thinks that young Catholics are constantly preyed upon by their peers in other churches. But looking at the question, I do see a genuine concern in it. It is a fact that young Catholics form a majority of the total population of many new generation churches today. Why? It’s a difficult question to answer.
In my experience, I’ve come to realise that many young Catholics are timid and insecure. I’m not talking about social timidity, or social insecurity. I refer to religious timidity and insecurity. Perhaps one reason for this disposition is the manner of our faith communication.
We do not take pride in condemning the doctrines of other churches. We do not spend time insulting their pastors and prophets. We do not subject their theology to ridicule. We prefer to dwell on our own matters. We prefer to teach our young people to be just like us; not condemning, but open and reasonable. This is perhaps not a problem in itself.
However, there is a sense in which this approach can breed young Catholics who do not think their faith is worth protecting; Catholics who do not see anything wrong in switching faith every now and then. Where then do we draw the line? But again, perhaps the greater problem is the fact that many young Catholics do not even know what Catholicism is about. They were not properly taught, neither was their understanding subjected to rigorous testing. This is the greater problem.
Our present approach works only for those who are confident in what they know. But many of our young Catholics do not know that the Catholic Church is the only Church today that is traceable, in an unbroken manner, back to the Apostle Peter. They do not know that the Catholic Church is the only Church that was not founded by a mere human being, no matter how holy and anointed they were. They do not realise that it is the only Church that was founded by Jesus Christ himself when He said, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I’ll build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (cf. Matt. 16:18).
Something happened recently that knocked me off my comfort zone. It gripped me by the throat and begged for attention. Just last Sunday my phone rang in the early hours of the morning. I was surprised. When I saw the caller, the surprise quickly graduated to worry. This was not the kind of fellow to call me often, let alone in the wee hours of the morning. I picked the call and poof! I was blown away.
For the next few minutes I tried to compose myself. I know you’re wondering what I was told. Relax, I’ll tell you. One very ‘Catholic’ young friend of mine had made the decision to leave the Catholic Church. The sister was so distressed she had to tell me about it. The family was worried. Everyone was worried. I am not usually blown away by such news, to be quite frank.
Many young friends of mine have left the Catholic Church for a number of reasons. Some got married and suddenly realised the Catholic Church wasn’t for them. Others saw some light and left the ‘darkness’ of the Catholic Church. However, I was really shocked about this person. If I were to select a hundred persons who would likely leave the Church, she wouldn’t have made the first hundred. So I picked my phone and asked to speak to her. Friends, prepare yourselves. I asked her why she made the decision to leave and guess what she said? “God asked me to leave the Catholic Church for now”.
Now I had prepared myself for the usual ‘I have seen the Iight’ kind of talks, but this was way too much for me. I went, “What??? God did what???” You should have heard the shock in my voice. I quickly controlled my temper. I was trying to be reasonable here, not scare her. So I asked her why. Why would God ask you to leave the Catholic Church? She told me point blank she didn’t know. She was convinced God asked her to leave but she didn’t know why. She even wanted me to ask God on her behalf…
To cut the long story short, I gathered that she had attended a conference where a certain man of God had prayed for her and she had started speaking in tongues. Then these men of God had started calling her and following her about like monitoring spirits. They went on to indoctrinate her, telling her all sorts of negative things about the Catholic Church. When the parents expressed concern for their daughter’s radical change in attitude these pastors threatened them not to interfere as they risked the wrath of God.
Many years ago, J.S Mbiti observed that Africans are notoriously religious. The situation is even worse today. I look around at these new generation churches and I wonder. I indeed see much religious zeal, but I hardly see any spirituality. We just have many people with hearts fixed on prosperity and militancy. We have people who pray at the top of their voices for their enemies to die while they live forever. We have people who speak in tongues at every opportunity but would seldom lift a hand to help a suffering brother or sister. The virus has also come home to us.
My dear friends, I am worried. How can we have confident young Catholics when we mostly don’t seem confident ourselves? How many of us truly care about these young people? How much time and energy do we spend on youth ministry? They have to beg us before we allow them host seminars and workshops. They have to beg us before we say youth masses for them. We hardly encourage them. We take them for granted and other churches continue to prey on them.
I am pained in my heart. I hate to lose young people to some of these pretentious pastors who know nothing about Catechism. Why can’t they build their own churches without ridiculing Catholic doctrine or stealing our members? Why can’t they preach without twisting the Bible to suit their negative ulterior motives? Any man of God who says something evil about the Catholic Church is either ignorant or plain stupid.
I call on young Catholics not to relent. Meet your priests and Catechists and demand to be taught. Yes! Google your faith and ask questions. There is so much about the Catholic Church that no one can exhaust in one day. The right time is now.
Are you with me?
God bless you!