Image from Catholic Memes
When I first saw this meme, I was confused. I, as a 22-year-old Catholic Millennial, enjoy the rich tradition the Church has, but in no way do I feel attracted to the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass and had no idea why anyone my age would. That was all before I dove headfirst into the “Liturgy Wars” when I started working for Pray Tell.
Growing up in the greater Seattle area, I was always surrounded by diversity: diversity of ethnicity, religion, and sexuality. My friend group throughout the latter years of grade school consisted of a Catholic (me), two atheists, an agnostic, a Muslim, and a Mormon. This diversity was not only expected in Renton but also welcomed. And that diversity was all the more encouraged when I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Portland (sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross).
It wasn’t until three weeks when I started my graduate assistantship here at Pray Tell blog that I realized there was a very different way to live out the Catholic faith. My fellow students in the School of Theology spoke about all the young, pious, Catholics back home pushing for the traditional Latin High Mass setting. Instead of Millennials pushing to understand and implement Catholic Social Teaching like I was used to, they were spending their time more worried about chapel veils and calling for a reform of the Vatican II liturgical reform.
I had been Catholic and studying theology for years and never heard of this ultra-conservative movement going on among the youth. I studied theology and went to Mass with other Millennials my age and never once did this come up. How is that the case?
I believe this is because this ultra-conservative youth movement is such a small faction, there was no way for me to know anything about it. For years I had been spending my time deep into the theological texts of Augustine, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and others. Because of that I never listened to the obnoxious voices coming from the small yet loud group of Millennials that make people think the up-and-coming Catholic generation is going to ruin all the great work Pope Francis is doing. It seems like all my generation does is exalt cardinals who hold fast to the outdated theology of the past and call Fr. James Martin a heretic for his work with the LGBT community. Don’t let the small population of ultra-conservative Millennials shouting on the internet fool you, that is not the case.
I call for Millennials like me to become more vocal. Let us not let our generation be defined by short-sighted traditionalists who have a narrow understanding of our Catholic faith. Let us not let the younger members of our generation growing up under us be indoctrinated by the pious missionaries who are more interested in spreading their rigid traditions than Christ’s all-enveloping unconditional love.
It is time for the term Catholic Millennials to no longer mean “terrifying youth traditionalists.” It is time for Catholic Millennials to mean the upcoming generation striving for the inclusive, engaged, forward-looking Church that we are called to become. Speak up, fellow Catholic Millennials!
Want a place to share your thoughts here on worship? Submit a post to the YouthSpeak contest!
Matthew Nelson is an M.T.S. student at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, and a Graduate Assistant for the Pray Tell Blog. Matt graduated from University of Portland in May of 2017 with a B.A. in Theology and minors in Education and Mathematics.