A good brief interview with Katie Diller, campus minister. I was serving at Michigan State for a few years in the 90′s, but missed her undergrad years. She’s back there on staff, and from what I read of the chat linked above, she’s a great find for that ministry.
She fielded the question:
The new atheists are younger, friendlier, more upbeat, and found on college campuses. How will the Catholic Church, often viewed as resistant to modern trends, compete for the attention of young people?
What do you make of her reply? There’s a nice shout-out for Sherry Weddell–that’s good to see. Her book is quite good and very nearly a required read, if you’re willing to dismantle what you might be doing wrong and attend to a truly far-reaching evangelization.
A good mystery always captures attention. I’d like us preach more about mystery. Falling in love is a mystery. Self-sacrifice is a mystery. Radical giving, volunteering, selflessness, these are all mysteries.
In recent years I have observed a shift toward preaching about truth, perhaps an effort to combat societal relativism. When truth is wielded like a hammer, our faith can seem cold and uninviting. Yet our truths are made manifest to us through mystery, the mystery of the incarnation, the cross, the Eucharist, etc.
Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples talks about five stages of conversion. The second stage is curiosity. An encounter with mystery inspires curiosity!
Young adults are filled with passion and they are thirsty to live radically. Atheism can seem radical to students who might be shrugging off a flavorless experience of growing up Catholic. We have to talk about the mystery of faith in our lives. Pope Francis keeps encouraging us to go out of ourselves, to live mysterious lives in solidarity with the poor. Encounters with that mystery of love and self-sacrifice will always inspire curiosity about the mystery of Jesus and the Church.
I think this is accurate. Preaching about the truth is a kind of a warm fuzzy. It reinforces the in-crowd, and in extreme cases, has a bit of gnosticism about it. Which isn’t to say that people are preaching false truths. I think the words, sentences, and ideas are accurate. The problem is that preachers lack the virtue of prudence.
For college campuses, the thing is to preach Christ, and to do so in a way that enchants people.
And that goes for mostly all parishes, too.