I sat with my friend, Liz, at my reunion for a long time...who not only went to high school with me but we were even in the same Kindergarten class! So we've known each other for over 30 years.
Liz, my kindergarten buddy, talked to me about my work with the church at BustedHalo. She seemed impressed that we try to reach young people where they are, to try to help them make sense of how they can believe in God in an often secular world, where science seems to trump religious experience. She's a Godmother to her brother's children and wonders if she's up to the challenge of being an engineer with a scientific mind and a Godmother who has to pass on the faith to a younger generation when she can't seem to square it with her own critical thnking.
Our high school was very science-based. In high school many of us studied electronics, chemistry, or some other form of engineering. If we stuck with that focus we ended up well ahead of our college classmates in that area (I aced my physics class as a Freshman at Fordham due to the fact that my high school prepared me well). If we didn't stick with our then-chosen areas we ended up being prepared for college and more focused on NOT chosing an area of study that didn't suit our personalities. It was great doing this discernment at a young age and at this stage in my life it's given me the opportunity to continue to challenge myself to focus on what I do well.
But it also led many of us into this gray area where we had to do deeper discernment to figure out how we can be both people of faith and still be believers in the religious beliefs that we had grown up with.
What I have come to believe is that we can't simply hold on to the faith of our youth but that we need to create a new faith, an adult faith, one that looks different from the faith of childish simplcity--but still rejoices with child-like awe in God's creation and wonder.
Most of all it calls us into being people of love. People who choose to love when it's hard. People who choose to see God's creation in those who make it hard for us to see that. Can we see God in the homeless when they burden our community? Can we see God in the aged who are lonely and require time and patience? Can we commit to help those in desparate situations--perhaps a pregnant teen or an orphan in Africa? Who are we called to love?
Liz reminded me last night that my own work in helping people translate God into their critial, scientifically-educated adult-sense of faith is hard work indeed. But gently bringing them to discover God in their midst in a way that doesn't deny what is obviously scientifically true is where I'm called to be.
Your humble blogger is Mike Hayes, a well-known expert in the world of young adult ministry (20s and 30s) in the Catholic Church. Mike is the author of Googling God (Paulist, 2007) where he explores both the chaotic world that young people live in and their religious reactions to that world. He also explores the age of instant gratification and how churches can respond to the needs of the young adult age by using technology alongside more traditional ministry methods.
Mike founded the award winning BustedHalo.com® in 2001 and continues to contribute to it as the editor of their catechetical section appropriately named Googling God.
Recently, he left BustedHalo® to focus on more direct ministry with young people at St Joseph University Parish as a Campus Minister for the South Campus at the University at Buffalo.
He has only two loves: his adorable wife, Marion and a nine pound chihuahua named Haze, who still find him amusing enough to let them live in their home.