The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode.
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Today is episode 135: The Kids are Alright
Hi friends. There are just two episodes left in this big summer series all about takeaways from my week in Rome. I hope it’s been helpful to you, and if so, I hope you’ve that shared your favorite episode with a friend this summer. Thanks so much for that! Next week, we’ll close up by talking about what is maybe the biggest, most emotional spiritual experience that I’ve ever had, but for today it is all about the kids.
If you’ve been listening to the whole series, you will know that the trip we took to Rome was with a college choir. And even though I had been a part of a college choir who did a tour very much like this one to Germany and Czechoslovakia when I was in school, that was many, many years ago, and truthfully, I did not know what to expect from being a part of this group, many of whom were younger than my own kids.
You know, it’s funny. If you’re listening to this, you were probably eighteen to twenty-two years old once. Maybe it was a while back, like me, or maybe it was just yesterday, but the generational divide is real. It can be hard for us to understand our experience and each other at times. This generation is facing huge challenges that I couldn’t even have imagined when I was their age – growing up with school shootings, social media, computers in their pockets, a sharply divided culture, the social disruptions of a global pandemic, among many others. And they have a lot of battle scars, to be sure, but I guess my takeaway from my experience with these kids all the way up to and including the young adults that I’ve known – my own kids who are 23 and 25 and their peers – is that with all this generation is facing, and make no mistake, it is a lot they are facing, but it seems to me, the kids are alright. Or at least, that they will be.
And no one can ever know the interior life of anyone else, of course, and I’m not trying to generalize a huge group of people, but here are my observations, for whatever they’re worth.
This generation is clear-eyed. They see what is right and what is wrong, and they won’t be put off with any “because I told you to” arguments. They are authentically themselves and they value authenticity in others. They don’t necessarily trust authority, but come on now, if you look at all they’ve seen in their church and their country and their culture in their lifetimes, who would blame them? No, this generation finds out for themselves. They give their trust to those who have earned it.
This generation is kindhearted and compassionate. On our week’s long trip to Rome, I saw countless examples of these kids looking out for and caring for each other physically and emotionally. They are empathetic in a way that I certainly was not at that age, and it was refreshing and encouraging to see their kindness and concern expressed in real, practical ways.
This generation is thoughtful and curious. They ask good questions, and not just on the tours of the sites we visited, although they did that, too. I remember being so completely self-focused at that age that on myEuropean college choir tour, I pretty much missed the huge significance of being in Wenceslas Square in Prague just after the election of Vaclav Havel, a huge world event. Ugh, I am embarrassed at how ignorant I was then, but when you know better, you do better, I guess. This generation has much more knowledge and insight than I remember from being this age. These kids were present, they were learning, and they were appreciative of the huge opportunity to learn that they had during our time in and around Rome.
This generation can connect with other generations, and also, they want to. I look back to my own college choir tour, and there were probably other adults on that tour, but I’m sorry to say they might as well have been invisible to me. The kids on our Rome trip engaged with us and asked us questions. They included us in some of their photos, which was so kind and unexpected! I had so many lovely conversations with many of the kids that I’ll always remember – shared limoncello on the patio, walking through the little streets of Assisi, sharing breakfast each morning. I found these young people to be truly impressive and thoughtful, and I felt lucky to be allowed into their world even in small ways.
In speaking with many of the kids, it was clear that they know themselves way more than I did at that age, and they know what’s important to them, too. They are justice-minded and community-minded, and their clarity on the issues we are facing as a culture and a church is something we really need. I believe this generation will rise, as St. Catherine of Siena said, “to be what God meant them to be, and they will set the world on fire.” In watching both them and my own kids and their peers, I can say that I honestly do believe that. It might not look like what we think it should, or like our own experience, but I do believe that this generation is rising up for such a time as this.
When my kids were younger, they would sometimes come to me with questions from things they’d heard in a homily or from Catholic media, and I would so often say, “I hear you, but we are not that kind of Christian,” or “We are not that kind of Catholic. In our family, we’re the kind who tries to love everyone and welcome everyone, because that’s what Jesus did.” And if you have been inside an American Catholic Church or listened to Catholic media in the last six years or so, maybe you can imagine some of what they would relay to me. It could be exhausting, and maddening, honestly, to counter some of the things that some ‘religious’ people preached to my children, so hard to continually bring them back to what Jesus actually taught versus the politicized, culture-war faith that is increasingly prevalent in America. But this generation is having none of it.
They’ll accept an invitation, but they won’t be directed anywhere without understanding where they’re going. They focus less on rote faith practice and more on a faith imagination. They want encounter with God more than they want religion, but they’ll find God in an authentic religious practice for sure. They want open doors and inclusion for them, and all their friends and they dismiss a tribal, ‘us versus them’ kind of faith.
It seems to me that this generation is not about a church critiquing a person’s behavior or faith practice or vote, and they don’t trust church authorities who insist on doing that, especially from their pulpits. They’re more ‘growth of a mustard seed’ than buildings and hierarchical power structures.
It seems to me that this generation might be much more responsive to an invitation to explore the abundant life that Jesus actually preached than they would be a critique about just how often they go to mass or checked other faith practice boxes. They might hear us more if we share with them what is possible in a life of faith: ‘you can’ versus ‘you must’, ‘accompaniment’ versus ‘governance’, because I do believe that this generation wants to know the big God of the universe, just not the one that we keep trying to put in a box. Many of them want to know about Jesus, and they want to actually know Him, too. And not the American, Republican caricature Jesus that they are so often shown, but the rebellious, self-sacrificial, loving Jesus who came to teach us and lay down His life for us. They want to know how to live a life of faith from people they respect, but first they want to know why, and ‘because I told you so’ is just not an option for them. They won’t be directed by authorities who tell them all the things they’re doing wrong, but they do so much want to hear about who they are – that they are beloved, that they are seen, and they are known. This is a generation that is well acquainted with fear, and it seems to me that many of them are longing for the kind of freedom that a life spent walking with Jesus could authentically offer them. It’s my deepest prayer that the Church will be transformed into a helpful and holy shelter for this and every generation as we accompany and learn from each other. I am heartened by the some of the voices I hear from World Youth Day and please God, the Global Synod will bear good fruit as well. This generation has so many challenges, many of which we have unfortunately passed down to them and laid at their doorsteps, but they are also uniquely open to the Holy Spirit in a way that makes me excited to see what will come next.
It took me until my forties to start to ask some of the questions that these kids will readily ask and not only ask, but diligently, intentionally find the answers to as well. They will be such good teachers for us if we will let them, and I am so grateful and inspired by the time we got to spend together. Come Holy Spirit, lead every generation into the abundance of what you have in whatever comes next.
Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
In the words of Pope Francis at World Youth Day:
God, we know that you call us by our names, loved as we are, not as we would like to be or how society would like us to be. Help us to move forward in that love. For our Church, we pray that it would be a place of welcome for everyone in every generation. As Pope Francis said, “todos, todos, todos” – everyone, everyone, everyone. As he said, “That is the church, the mother of us all – there is room for all.” Amen.
Thanks for being with me today, friend. I’ll see you next time.
This week continues a summer series on a bunch of spiritual takeaways and epiphanies I experienced while on pilgrimage in Rome. I hope this one about time spent with the younger generations is a meaningful one for you.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Coverage of World Youth Day by Vatican News
2. Coverage of World Youth Day from The Pillar
4. Article: Sail Boldly Into the Sea of Evangelization, Pope Tells Clergy, Religious in Lisbon, by Catholic News Agency
5. Podcast: Jesuitical, from America Media
6. St. Catherine of Siena basics from Franciscan Media
7. Song: The Kids Are Alright, by Pearl Jam