Anthony recently posted about faith, doubt and intergenerational worship. There is something important about young persons seeing their elders at worship (and vice versa). One might say something analogous about people of different races, cultures, economic classes, etc. Diversity in the assembly is a reminder that, in the words of Lumen gentium 9: “At all times and in every nation, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him (see Acts 10:35). He has, however, willed to make women and men holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather to make them into a people who might serve him in holiness.” In the case of youth, it can be valuable to see older generations continue to assemble through life’s ups and downs.
I’d like to nudge the conversation in a slightly different direction, however, by turning to the relationship between liturgy, faith, and doubt. In their 1999 document on catechesis, Our Hearts Were Burning within Us, the U.S. bishops offer this tidbit in paragraph no. 52: “A living faith is a searching faith—it ‘seeks understanding.’ Adults need to question, probe, and critically reflect on the meaning of God’s revelation in their unique lives in order to grow closer to God. A searching faith leads to deepening conversion. Along the way, it may even experience doubt. Yet the essence of this quality of adult faith is not doubt, but search—a trusting, hopeful, persistent ‘seeking’ or ‘hunger’ for a deeper appropriation of the Gospel and its power to guide, transform, and fulfill our lives.” It seems to me that what the bishops say here about adults also applies to youth who have begun to reflect critically on faith.
Certainly, homilies can be one forum to address this search. Musical selections can do likewise—years ago Joe Wise adapted a version of the Apostles’ Creed and added the refrain “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief” from Mark 9:24. That verse, by the way, never appears in a Sunday reading in the Roman Catholic lectionary. Nor does Psalm 44, in which Israel raises pointed questions about God’s fidelity. (As Walter Brueggemann and others have pointed out, lament is not a common feature of the psalms regularly used in Christian worship.) In what ways do our liturgies manifest a faith that has no space for wrestling with God? In what ways do our liturgies manifest a confident faith that also is honest about struggle and question? Such liturgies might serve our youth—and all in the assembly—in good stead.