As I meet with men who are discerning the priesthood, I eventually get around to the question of how they spend their free time, as it shows where some of their interests lie. However, over the last three years in particular, the responses have been getting more and more interesting. Or, rather, the lack of response to the question of free time. In short, they do not have any. Young adults go from work, to sports, to play, to friends and back again constantly. We are constantly plugged in. (Ask my family about my constant use of my iPhone!) There is so much ‘stuff’ going on in our lives that it is difficult to find the necessary time for quiet and prayer, where The Call from Christ is heard.
It is not that these things are necessarily ‘bad,’ either. The young adults I know are involved in excellent apostolates, both within and outside the Church: volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, praying in front of abortion mills for the end of this heinous practice, serving on Parish councils and boards, dedication to work and family; coaching their children in sports; etc. This generation, my generation, wants to be active and involved in a wide variety of aspects of community life, and we are. But what is the cost?
One of the ways this seems to affect the life of young adults is precisely in their faith life. In the many parishes that I visit, it is interesting that I do not see many of my own peers, those in their 20s and 30s. It is not that they do not believe, per se, but often I wonder if it is a matter of being too busy with the other things of life that interfere with our faith life, even among ‘Committed Catholics.’
As I write this, one Gospel story comes to mind. In Luke 9, as Jesus is walking along and making His way from Galilee to Jerusalem, He invites those around Him to “Come, follow me.” However, He is met with various excuses: “Let me bury my dead father;” “let me say goodbye to my family, first.” Both of these are not necessarily bad things to do, rather seem to be praiseworthy, yet Jesus rebukes both of them for putting other priorities before Him. How often do we do the same thing?
As I work with young people, and not just those coming into or discerning the seminary, it seems that the life of faith is slowly, but surely being pushed aside. But not in an outright, malicious, way. Rather, it is slowly being shoved further and further into the corners of our calendars, now simply one option among many instead of the bedrock of stone upon which our lives as Disciples of Christ must be built. It is not that this “pushing aside” is intentional, far from it; it’s just that, “I’m busy.”
So what must we do? How do we respond? There are a few simple things we can all embrace to return our faith life to the centrality that it not only needs, but deserves. First, rediscover Sundays. As difficult as it can be, do not schedule non-family events on Sunday. Keep that as a time to reconnect after a hectic week, spend time either with just the immediate family or with the extended relatives. Second, begin the practice of a Morning Offering, consecrating the day to Our Lord and offering your works that day for Him. Third, make time, once a week, for a Holy Hour. My mother has committed, from the time I was in my early teens, to making a weekly visit before the Blessed Sacrament at our home parish. Despite now 19 grandchildren, this hour is vital to her so that she can be present to each one of them.
These little things can help us on the path of being more intentional about the practice of our Faith, rather than just sliding through the motions and letting other things fill our time. If we truly believe that Christ is Lord and God, is this not the least we can do?