Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Jesuits on the Frontiers
My latest article, a reflection on the work of the Jesuits' recent General Congregation in light of "postmodern" challenges, has finally been published! (I wrote it almost five months ago) It's a bit "Jesuity," as it is addressed to Jesuits, but I think it also offers some insights for a wider audience. It appears in the 100th issue of the Jesuit journal, Promotio Iustitiae, along with several other articles written in a similar vein. I chose to focus on a concept of "frontiers," a concept which showed up both in the congregation documents, and in the Pope's address to the congregation. Here's a little bit of what I had to say about one of the frontiers closest to my heart:
. . .There is a deeper “vocation” crisis than simply the decrease in those answering the call to priesthood and religious life. An increasing number of young people are not even realizing their vocation to a life of faith in Christ and participation in the Church. None of us can afford to ignore the call to this frontier.
There are many borderlines along this frontier where we can engage young people, inviting them to share our life with Christ. Some have become adept at speaking to young people in a language many recognize—the language of popular culture. This can be precarious, as popular culture sometimes promotes thing contrary to what we believe. But when we use popular music, television, film and the internet as a means of communicating Christ, young people themselves begin to realize the tension between what Christ preached and what popular culture frequently does. Other Jesuits are exploring the possibilities of that less than two decade old frontier of the worldwide web which, though not exclusive to youth, is a part of their lives they have come to take for granted in a way most do not. The Irish and British Jesuits have successful established the on-line prayer ministries “Sacred Space” and “Pray-as-you-go.” Jesuits of all ages are exploring the potentialities of this medium for evangelization. In such a venue, one’s age, attractiveness or experience becomes less important than whether or not one has something interesting or compelling to say.
This is not true just on the internet. Jesuits of all ages can aid and inspire young people by offering liturgy for them, by directing them on retreats or by accompanying them on mission trips working amongst the poor. Though each of us has a different “literacy” when it comes to youth culture, each of has the capability to invite them to faith in Christ because passion, though sometimes misdirected, is so much a part of their life, and we have made our passion our life—Jesus Christ. By our love and example, we can give young people license to take the passion which they bring to so many other things to their lives with Christ and participation in the Church. The recent World Youth Days have offered hope in this regard. With our worldwide network of educational institutions, we have a privileged place at this frontier which others do not.
What are the other "frontiers"? Read the whole article (or the whole issue) here. My article begins on page 47.