Young people listen to the homily during the closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 18 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Speaking Out: Homilies that attract youth

By  Declan Riley, Speaking Out
  • February 21, 2019

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church is not a “young kids’ game.” 

Rarely do you attend Mass and see crowds of youth unless it is at a school or honestly, if it’s Christmas or Easter.

I’ve heard almost every narrative about why kids don’t attend Mass, but I can’t remember the last time someone from the Church asked me, as a young, pretty active member of the Catholic faith, what can be done to get a couple of my buddies to come to Mass.

One thing I struggle with is hearing from priests during homilies about how youth aren’t attending. 

Priests need to spend more time with youth and be more involved in youth ministry. We want to hear more about how we are the future of the Church and less about why we are the reason the Church has less attendance. 

This kind of homily isn’t going to help grow a congregation. You’re out of touch if you think that the elderly congregation is going to come home and talk their grandchildren into attending church because of something they heard in church. 

Some priests compromise and only give the “people-need-to-attend-Church” talk at Christmas, when there’s a bigger audience for broader reach. 

But, again, this is the wrong approach. If people finally work up the courage to come to church, they don’t need to hear about why it’s bad that they don’t come enough.

Few people like going to the dentist. Not only is it tough to make time for it but you always feel guilty about how you don’t go enough. But then having the dentist tell you about how you need to come more often just adds to the guilt.

Going to Mass can’t be like going to the dentist. 

The Catholic Church is at a critical point. As laypeople we have a responsibility to consider what we can do to share the faith, but at the end of the day, the priest is the face of the parish. It’s his job to spread the word of God and to be a facilitator for the faith within the community. 

But I’d also like to invite my fellow Catholic youth to ask yourselves these questions and take it upon yourself to be a catalyst for change.

Strike up a conversation with your priest about what stuck out to you in their homily last Sunday. What is one question you wish he could answer, maybe for next week’s homily?

There’s no need to be referencing the latest pair of Yeezy’s in an effort to relate shoe shopping to greed, but talking about real struggles or real questions that should be asked is what we all need to be hearing. 

Talking about mental health, relationships or even how to deal with the questions people from outside the Church are all things worth hearing about, and they are especially relevant to youth.

(Riley, 23, is a third-year journalism student at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alta.)

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