by Paul Morisi
As I began my work in youth and young adult ministry, I sought counsel from others who worked with young people in the Church. I spoke with many wonderful people who gave me many insights. The one piece that sticks out in my mind is “the youth are not the Church of the future, they are the Church of now and we are responsible for them now.” That idea really put my ministry into perspective. My work is vital to the youth.
At a recent Theology on Tap, a program where young adults come to hear a discussion of the faith in a casual bar setting, Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Vicar for Communications, addressed a group of over two dozen young adults about how society, particularly the media, views the Catholic Church and sex. It was a great discussion. Again, I found myself thinking about our responsibility to the young people of our diocese.
How many Catholics really know what the Church teaches about sex? How many Catholics would know what “NFP” (Natural Family Planning) stands for? My guess would be that Catholics know more about what those outside the Church have told us about what they think the Church teaches regarding sex. The next question is, “Why do people not know the actual Church teachings on sex?” The debate that emerged out of the Theology on Tap led to some interesting points.
Sexual morality is rarely addressed from the pulpit. It is often glossed over within our religious education programs. One can argue why or why not those are the venues. But, if it isn’t addressed there, where is one to find out the truth about the Church’s teachings on sex?
In recent years, Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body has come to the forefront. Theology of the Body is a collection of talks given by the late pope on the study of God through our bodies. At the time it was a revolutionary concept, and in many ways it remains so today. Authors and presenters like Christopher West have made the teachings of JPII more available to the public. Not only has Christopher West written extensively on this topic, a quick YouTube search brings up several video clips of his presentations. He explains the content in a way that we, the everyday Catholic Christian, can understand it.
This topic isn’t only for adults. Ascension Press has Theology of the Body for Teens and middle school programs. These come with DVDs, teacher manuals, and student and parent workbooks.
Recently, a very helpful resource has been the Philadelphia group Generation Life (generationlife.org). Now with a base within the Archdiocese of New York, Generation Life sends lay missionaries (a young man and woman to each presentation) to speak to high schools and middle schools on pro-life issues, chastity and sex. Many of their teachings stem from their background in Theology of the Body.
A participant at the Theology on Tap that inspired this reflection questioned the marketing of these programs. He wondered why these avenues for educating our communities, in particular our youth, weren’t employed more. Perhaps there has to be a greater effort in bringing these programs to the local parish and school level.[hr] Paul Morisi is the diocesan director of Youth Ministry in the Office of Faith Formation.