When I left my evangelical seminary to become Catholic in 2012, I hardly knew any Catholics, let alone young Catholics. Now, a year-and-a-half later, I’ve met dozens of passionate millennials online who are helping lead the way in the New Evangelization. Whether it’s the “30 Impressive Catholics under 30” recently profiled by FOCUS, Brandon Vogt’s delightfully successful dialogue with atheists, Theology on Tap conversations across the country, or the millions energized by Pope Francis’ humility and compassion, this is a good time to be Catholic. Here’s how to keep the momentum going in your parish this holiday season.
2. Teach Hard Truths: Please do not be ashamed of our teachings on controversial issues. Are we not the apostolic Church? Do we not claim the approval of God in our dogma? How else will our people learn our teachings if we do no tell them? “No, all religions are not the same,” “Yes, the Church is still against contraception,” “Yes, holy days of obligation are obligatory” should not be muttered but gently and firmly taught. And, as Pope Francis reminds us, these teachings must be within the context of the gospel, not a “disjointed multitude of doctrines” but within the context of passionate proclamation that our King is risen and His Church is on a mission.
3. Serve with Joy: Why has Pope Francis captured the attention of the world? He is a joyful servant. You get the impression he genuinely enjoys having breakfast with homeless men and praying with the sick and disabled. Let’s take a hint: don’t make fun of the “Creasters” this Christmas, give up your seat and parking spot and pray a rosary for them instead. If parishioners secretly think of you as a mean and judgmental critic, you’re doing it all wrong.
4. Live as Evangelists: Have you read Evangelii Gaudium? Did you hear Pope Francis at World Youth Day? Yes, we want people to become Catholic, yes we want everyone to experience the fullness of Christ and His Church. Let’s tell the world in an authentic manner, backed up by lives filled with corporal works of mercy and a rugged determination to show concern for “the least of these.”
5. Captivate Ambition: How do we encourage young men and women to become priests and nuns? Tell them the truth! Tell them this will be the hardest but must joyful experience that’s out there, that God has given them an invitation to carry a cross and live for the salvation of souls. Give the married couples a vision for mentoring hundreds of hurting and abused couples through their lifetime, of leaving a legacy to impact thousands. Call for missionaries to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, risking their lives to share truths and help a hurting world. Tell them that Christ is worth living and dying for—they’ll respond, I promise.
Now is an incredible moment for the Catholic Church. Let’s seize the moment and energize the millennials in our parishes, unleashing a generation of missionaries to a world who longs for their presence.