By Jamie O’Brien and Josh Low
In the face of an ever-increasing secular society, and with a Year of Youth having been proclaimed by the Australian Bishops, now is the time to look at how the Church can better support young people in their search for the truth.
Official of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Walter (Tad) Oxley’s role in the congregation (part of the Roman Curia), involves the promotion and defence of Catholic doctrine.
Originally from the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, in the United States, Fr Oxley sat down with The Record Editor Jamie O’Brien and Journalist Joshua Low in Rome to discuss young people today, intentional discipleship, and how we can better live in the world.
Fr Oxley believes that at the core of every young person lies the desire for the fullness of truth.
“Young people are seeking the truth and how it affects them personally; a personal encounter with the truth, which of course is Jesus Christ.
“What we have to do is to speak in the language of truth and how truth affects the person,” he said.
“The youth want clarity, and I think they have found that the world has tricked them in many regards, and when they begin to seek it, they want to go all in.”
Fr Oxley said he believes that because society is has become increasingly secularised, young people are beginning to realise how broken their lives can be, and how broken society can be without God.
“The promiscuous relationships and culture, drugs, the taking advantage and being taken advantage of – it didn’t do anything and ended up leaving them wanting.
“But when they come to God with an open heart, there is kind of a conversion experience.
“Through seeing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, they experience someone who will stay with them their whole life.
“They experience something that is lasting, something that is enduring.”
He added that while the rise of secularism and an aggressive movement against the Church has affected people’s Catholic faith and the desire to live it in the public, the expression of faith among Catholic youth in today’s society is in stark contrast to earlier generations.
“It is more difficult for the youth of today to say they are Catholic or to go to Church but not profess it in the public square.
“In the 1970s, 1980s or 90s, it was easier to keep the faith to yourself. You wouldn’t necessarily talk about the fact that you are Catholic or about going to Mass at work often, so as to not impose it on anybody.
“Or you would never stand up for what those teachings are in a way that would put yourself at risk,” he added.
“There are people of course that did this, but right now I think we are moving into a phase of Catholicism where we will see more people say ‘If I am going to say I’m Catholic in this world, and if I go to Mass in this world today, well then I want to give myself totally to it; to go to confession regularly, to try and live a chaste life.
“The youth want clarity, because the stakes are just too high. It’s either ‘I’m going to do it, or I’m not going to do it’.
“We are in a place in the world where it is more of ‘all or nothing’. There is a sort of totality to it.
“It’s not easy just to say anymore: ‘I go to Mass and do a few good things so I’m a decent person and I happen to be Catholic’.
“Just saying they are Catholic is no longer enough. Something must reach the heart; the Spirit must reach the heart, where they are experiencing God and want to live their Catholicism in a more radically committed way; in a way more docile to the Spirit in all dimensions of their life.
“That’s where I think we have this theme of intentional discipleship. How do we form the youth into being disciples of Jesus? How does their whole life become engrossed in the following of Jesus?”
Fr Oxley said intentional discipleship can be seen in World Youth Day, national youth days, and through evangelically based communities within the Catholic Church.
“There’s preparation before, then there’s an encounter during the events and then the forming of small groups and communities that continue.
“Some of the best examples I’ve also seen are evangelically based communities within the Catholic Church that mutually support each other; where you come together regularly to pray.
“Deep friendships are formed, marriages are formed and vocations come out of it; where you’re walking together through the world.
“Maybe deciding to buy a house near where another person or family is living in the knowledge that you can walk this Christian, Catholic discipleship intentionally together, because that’s where I think we are right now in Australia,” he said.
From pages 22 and 23 of Issue 14: ‘Culture of Life: Love does not come at the price of another person or their dignity’ of The Record Magazine