A Catholic Conversation about Racism in the U.S.

If you follow me in any capacity – whether on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter – you might have noticed that I’ve been posting about a new project called The Chicago Inquisition, which is a weekly livestream that myself and five friends started to discuss relevant issues within a Catholic context in the midst of quarantine. Last night, we recorded our most important episode yet: ‘George Floyd, Race Relations, and the Catholic Perspective’.

The current state of our country is one of profound conflict and deep upset. It becomes increasingly clearer to me as these conversations unfold that Catholics in this nation are called to engage on these topics at a deeper level. It is for this reason that I am immensely grateful to have had our friends, Louis Brown and John Washington, join us in this critical episode.

If you’ve been looking for substantive, honest, Catholic conversation regarding race and racism in this country, this is it. Period.

‘George Floyd, Race Relations, and the Catholic Perspective’ can be streamed on Youtube by clicking here.

You can also listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play.

Physician Assistant Says Responding to Coronavirus with ‘Social Distancing’ is Pro-Life

Well, it doesn’t need to be said that we are living in unprecedented times.

As the number of Coronavirus cases continues to rise in the U.S. and politicians acknowledge a heightened concern that American healthcare systems could be overloaded in as little as two weeks, people across the country are entering into a state of self-quarantine that many are calling “social distancing.”

At Illinois Right to Life, we recognize this time for self-quarantine means that people will be consuming media at a pointedly high rate. With very little else to do, consumers will be turning to Netflix, video games, and yes, you guessed it – pornography – to fill their empty time.

We’ve decided to respond by rolling out a new Life Chat episode every day for the next two weeks. Our goal is to create content during this time that pro-lifers can feel *good* about consuming. So, from today until Monday, March 30th, we’ll be posting a brand new interview with a different pro-lifer every single day.

Today’s first episode hits the issue right on the nose: a Chicago PA, Monica Herron, spoke with me about coronavirus – what makes it different from other viruses, why we need to respond swiftly, and why social distancing is a pro-life response to the urgent moment at hand.

You can listen to Life Chat on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, or using the player in the side bar.

Physician Assistant Says Responding to Coronavirus with Social Distancing is ‘Pro-Life’

Well, it doesn’t need to be said that we are living in unprecedented times.

As the number of Coronavirus cases continues to rise in the U.S. and politicians acknowledge a heightened concern that American healthcare systems could be overloaded in as little as two weeks, people across the country are entering into a state of self-quarantine that many are calling “social distancing.”

At Illinois Right to Life, we recognize this time for self-quarantine means that people will be consuming media at a pointedly high rate. With very little else to do, consumers will be turning to Netflix, video games, and yes, you guessed it – pornography – to fill their empty time.

We’ve decided to respond by rolling out a new Life Chat episode every day for the next two weeks. Our goal is to create content during this time that pro-lifers can feel *good* about consuming. So, from today until Monday, March 30th, we’ll be posting a brand new interview with a different pro-lifer every single day.

Today’s first episode hits the issue right on the nose: a Chicago PA, Monica Herron, spoke with me about coronavirus – what makes it different from other viruses, why we need to respond swiftly, and why social distancing is a pro-life response to the urgent moment at hand.

You can listen to Life Chat on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, or using the player in the side bar.

Illinois Right to Life Action Just Launched A Pro-Life Podcast

Friends –

I am so excited to share that earlier this week, we launched the first episode of Life Chat podcast. We hope this will be just one more way that our organization can connect with, educate, and engage the pro-life people of Illinois. As the 2020 election cycle approaches, it’s more important now than ever before to keep a close eye on our state legislature in Springfield, while starting productive, compassionate conversations about abortion within our personal networks and communities back at home. This podcast is just one of the numerous projects we’re launching this month to help you do exactly these things!

Episode one of Life Chat consists of a general introduction to our goals and plans for the podcast, as well as an analysis that dives deep into SB 25, the Reproductive Healthcare Act, which passed through our state legislature back in May. In the future, we hope to conduct interviews and have purposeful conversations with some of the solid pro-life people who are most engaged in this issue, both in Illinois and nationwide!

You can listen to Life Chat on iTunes here, on Spotify here, and on Google Play here.

We hope you enjoy!

If You’re Pro-Life In Illinois, Leaving Isn’t An Option

Last week, Turning Point USA founder and executive director Charlie Kirk penned a column for the Daily Herald titled “A fond farewell to state I love that doesn’t seem to love me.” In his article, he laments the financial and moral crises plaguing Illinois and announces a predictable exit to Florida, which lacks an income tax for state residents and boasts an excess of Republican money – attractive qualities for Kirk as an up-and-coming conservative mogul.

Of course, he’s not the first quasi-famous Illinois resident to announce such an exit, nor will he be the last – but his editorial makes some critical points, particularly in reference to Illinois’ millennial demographic that, for someone like me – a millennial, a conservative, and a pro-life activist – demand a pause. Why, given the odds and the reasons to leave, would I choose to stay?

In his column, Kirk points out that Illinois “is in the top five states from which wealthy millennials are departing,” per data from the IRS itself, defining “wealthy millennials” as six-figure earners under the age of 35. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that when unestablished young adults start making real money, they realize they’d rather put down roots anywhere but here. And if a bad pension algorithm in decades past meant big problems for our state at present, imagine what this exodus might mean for the future. Hint: it’s likely bleak.

It’s true Illinois lacks a great deal – prosperity, for starters. J.B. Pritzker’s latest onslaught of tax increases will surely be felt for miles, and the legalization of marijuana combined with the state’s long-standing immigrant sanctuary policies will soon mean a list of troubles as long as my left arm. These policies are disastrous and the outcomes, predictable: poverty, crime, and widespread suffering must follow (although, many would argue poverty, crime, and suffering made a home here long ago). And that’s all without mentioning the General Assembly’s very-public efforts to turn our state into the abortion capital of the nation, going to great lengths to attract abortion providers and pave the way for abortion-seeking travelers from across the U.S.

The abortion issue in Illinois is one worth honing in on. Yesterday, The New Yorker printed an article titled “How Illinois Became An Abortion-Rights Haven.” We’ve been forced to watch these past six months as a frantic national abortion industry has projected the state of Illinois from “abortion-friendly” to its new role as nationwide oasis. It’s rumored that Hope Clinic – which made headlines for this billboard on I-55 – has a parking lot full of cars from states across the country every day. Hotels throughout Chicago provide discounted rooms to women who have an appointment for an abortion procedure nearby. The goal of the Reproductive Healthcare Act – which forces private insurance to cover abortions and removes the need for a doctor to be present, amongst other things – is clearly to achieve more abortions. And if the Repeal of Parental Notification passes in the fall, it’s a matter of time before the decreased rate of abortions performed on minors sees a drastic uptick. Illinois has been hand-picked to single-handedly carry the country’s abortion rate – regardless of the outcomes.

Why does this matter? Because the outcomes will be devastating. Those of us who work in pro-life – at a pregnancy resource center, or in post-abortive counseling, or at an education organization like IRL – know that more abortions means more broken women. It means more Illinois women who will travel through life as merely a shell of themselves. In 2006, a New Zealand study concluded that there is a strong correlation between induced abortion and subsequent mental health issues – such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or suicidal thoughts – when compared with women who had never been pregnant or had carried pregnancies to term. A Canadian study found that women three months post-abortive were five times as likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization, and another study suggests that within one year of their abortions, post-abortive women experience a suicide rate six times higher than women who’d never had an abortion. And these studies are supported by countless more performed across the world that conclude, time and again: abortion is bad for women.

The stats are overwhelming. And what’s more, the CDC reports that black and Hispanic women are significantly more likely to have an abortion in their lifetime. That means these disturbing mental health stats disproportionately affect minority communities – the same communities disproportionately affected by poverty and crime in Illinois, and the same communities that will feel the greatest hurt when bad policies like legalized marijuana set in.

Impoverished Chicago neighborhoods are already experiencing a crisis of the family. Homes on the south and west sides are ravaged by drug abuse and gang violence, and are significantly lacking in father figures. The State of Illinois reports that more than half of incarcerated men are black. Safe to say, fathers have been adequately removed from the picture – and now, by working overtime to increase the rate of abortion in our state, we’re doing irreversible damage to women’s mental health and taking black mothers out right along with them.

These changes to Illinois abortion policy will be lethal. So, when Republicans tout an exodus, I have to ask: why? Why are we leaving? Because the way I see it, we have a moral duty to stay.

Yesterday, I visited a pregnancy resource center that serves a large Hispanic community in Illinois, and is mere blocks from a Planned Parenthood. My welcome was warm and inviting. The waiting room was cozy, bright, and adorned with pamphlets that described adoption as “a profoundly loving and selfless choice.” The clinic’s “boutique” – where new moms are able to shop using credits they accrue through clinic programs – was overflowing with clothes, toys, and diapers. And the clinic’s director – herself, post-abortive – shared a thought with me: in Illinois, our politics are bad – but this means women need us even more.

Her point is gravely critical. Pro-life does not end with politics. I think of Mother Teresa – who scolded the Americans who showed up on her doorstep in Calcutta, looking for someone to serve. “Go home,” she told them. “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.” As Illinois residents, we find ourselves in one of the most corrupt states in the nation. Our legislators are firmly under the thumb of an abortion PAC that’s wreaked havoc for more than 30 years. We can be frustrated. We can be angry. But we cannot quit, and we cannot leave. We cannot let politics – we cannot let taxes – distract us from the mission, which is to serve women and protect the unborn. How could we leave? We have to stay and fight.

Illinois Democrats Are Preparing To Force Another Major Abortion Bill

Last week, Capitol News Illinois confirmed that democrats in the General Assembly intend to pursue the repeal of Parental Notification during the veto session in the fall.

Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside), who’s the primary sponsor of HB 2467 (the Parental Notice Abortion Repeal), confirmed that he’s going to push the bill during the veto session (the last week of October and the second week of November) and, if it fails, he’s “going to go back at it again in January.”

Per CNI:

“Men can make health care decisions on their own without having to give notice to a parent. Why can’t a woman,” Welch said. “At the end of the day, I don’t want my wife and my daughter to be equal only in the confines of our home — I want them to be equal in the confines of the law. That’s what this fight is all about.”

So, first and foremost, let’s get something straight: men under the age of 18 are decidedly *not* allowed to receive invasive surgical procedures without the consent of their parents. And actually, since the General Assembly passed HB 0345, men under the age of 21 are not even allowed to buy cigarettes (Rep. Welch sponsored that bill too, by the way).

There is absolutely *no* consistency of thought here. And that’s without mentioning the risks that young girls face without this law serving as a checkpoint in the industry.

Take note of Welch’s word choice in his above quote. “Men can make health care decisions on their own without having to give notice to a parent. Why can’t a woman?” Words mean something. We’re not talking about women. We’re talking about *girls* – underage girls, who are at far greater risk of being sexually exploited than almost any other demographic block. In 2017, the youngest girl to receive an abortion that was paid for with taxpayer dollars was a 12-year-old. Any responsible adult can look at this situation and see that something isn’t right.

This isn’t a red herring. Chicago is a national hub for human trafficking. Repealing this law would actually protect traffickers by providing them the opportunity to conceal the consequences of trafficking and continue the cycle of abuse.

One might wonder why the public isn’t outraged at the suggestion of repealing such a common sense law. Funny thing: it is.

Back in March, 12,625 people filed formal witness slips in opposition to the repeal of parental notification (compared to 490 in support of the repeal). You can view those here.

Later in the month, when the bill was scheduled to be heard in committee a second time, 6,980 people filed formal witness slips in opposition to the repeal of parental notification (compared to 190 filed in support of the repeal). You can view those here.

Also in March, more than 4,000 people showed up at a rally held by a group of pro-life organizations to protest HB 2467 at the Illinois State Capitol. The crowds brought the building to max capacity and security had to close the doors. 

Just as the case with the Reproductive Healthcare Act, the public has spoken loudly and clearly on this issue. The question isn’t whether the people of Illinois support this bill – it’s whether or not Illinois democrats care.

 

I’m blogging again…

You read that right, fam! I’m back in the blogosphere.

After a significant hiatus, I’ve made my way back – and this time, on a namesake website.

From Fearlessly Feminine, to A Soul at Work, to Twenty Five & Catholic… if you’ve been following along all these years, thank you! I’m deeply grateful for the many people who’ve encouraged my ever-changing writing endeavors, and I continue to hope that these little website projects eventually become something much larger (and perhaps, one day, printed on paper)!

If you follow me on social media, you’re likely aware that I am now the executive director of Illinois Right to Life. For some time, I wasn’t sure what this meant for my individual voice – particularly as it pertains to writing for the web. A few impassioned posts of my creation on our Illinois Right to Life blog (specifically, this one and this one), however, have convinced me that my personal voice has a role to play in this fight. So, here I am!

Obviously, a lot’s gone down in Illinois over the past six months. Madigan and his gang of cowards down in Springfield executed a manipulation of historic proportions back in May, when they added the overwhelmingly unpopular Reproductive Healthcare Act (RHA) to unrelated mental health bill SB25 and passed it through the House on the Sunday over Memorial Day Weekend. Pro-lifers came out in droves to fight this bill (4,000+ in attendance at a protest on March 20 and 15,000+ filed witness slips with the House Human Services committee to voice their opposition to the bill) but legislators sided with the national abortion effort. It’s a pivotal moment in our state history and now, more than ever, we need to speak out.

Illinois Right to Life and Illinois Right to Life Action communicate directly with the pro-life people of our state on important updates and action items (witness slips, anyone?) and do an incredible job of relaying that information. That said, I want the opportunity to speak directly (and regularly) to those who follow us and the work that we do.

And of course, as always, I want the opportunity to talk about other things – like, uh, the Democratic presidential primaries (tiger don’t change his stripes, folks).

I anticipate that this blog will take a different tone that much of my writing has in the past , especially given my personal involvement in the issues directly affecting Illinois.

I hope that you’ll follow along and continue reading what I write – as so many of you have for years! As we observe the strange (and often scary) twists and turns our nation continues to take, it’s clear that there’s plenty to say. Social media is a powerful tool that lets us relay truth with the simple click of a button. That said, I encourage you to engage with what I post here by commenting, sharing, liking, etc.

If you haven’t yet, you can also keep up with my posts by subscribing via email, liking my Facebook page, or following me on Instagram (where I’m most active).

Thanks for your friendship and support! Let’s make waves.

 

Everyone Is Terrible At Dating So I Decided To Write This Blog Post

I was recently talking to a male friend about man’s common failure to ask women out on dates.

“Men need to be intentional,” he said. He pointed out that men today hedge their bets when it comes to dealing with women they’re interested in, engaging them casually but otherwise failing to invest.

“But I sympathize with them,” he added. “Men today don’t know how to act around women.”

I had to laugh to myself. To me—a single, 25-year-old, female Catholic—I’ve always thought my expectations were pretty clear and pretty fair. Ask me out on a date. That’s it. And I suspect that most women in my situation would enthusiastically agree.

But somewhere along the way, this simple action became a complicated formula. We could argue it’s not that easy anymore, and point the finger in one of numerous places. We could blame technology. We could blame casual sex. We could blame an increasingly-feminist society that tells us the “male-asking-a-female-to-dinner” phenomenon is sexist.

I’ll be honest: these excuses are garbage. What it all comes down to is rejection.

Fear of vulnerability (and, ultimately, rejection) keeps both men and women from engaging one another at a level that implies a deeper connection. The possibility of putting oneself out there, only to be faced with the other’s disinterest, is far more daunting than the single state we’re currently in, so we hide behind these excuses. We hide behind the complicatedness of texting, Facebook messaging, and dating apps. We hide behind the potential sexual implications that come with a first date. We hide behind the fear that the other’s political views on sex and gender might lead to an awkward shut-down. Nevertheless, that’s what it is: hiding. And friends, it’s time to come out.

I’ve got some thoughts. Here we go:

Men.

1) Always ask. Always ask. Always ask. Should I say it again? Always, always, ALWAYS ask. If you harbor any semblance of interest in a woman and she’s not spoken for, ask her on a freaking date. Here’s the thing: women know when you’re interested. They can tell when you’re giving them more attention than you’re giving everyone else in the room, or when you’re going out of your way to say hello, and it probably got back to her within minutes that time you asked her friends if she was single. Trust me, she knows. She. Knows. Chalk it up to feminine intuition and thank the good Lord for it next time you’re on your knees. Then get up and go ask her on a stinkin’ date.

But what if she says no? What if she’s not interested? Brace yourselves for thought #2, boys.

2) Rejection is a good thing. *Men reading this everywhere flip the table and swear off women for life* You guys, hear me out. Yeah, rejection sucks. It’s maybe the suckiest experience in the history of sucky experiences. Trust me, I’ve been there, as have many who’ve come before us and many who’ll come after. But that’s sort of the point: everyone experiences rejection in some capacity, be it dating or elsewhere in life. If you haven’t, I’d argue you’re not trying hard enough.

Here’s my math on this: God gave us life. He gave us free will. He gave us the birds and the bees and said “go forth and multiply” and set us loose on the earth. But did you hear that? That call to action? “Go forth.” Go FORTH. Pursue that which the Lord’s placed on your heart and proceed with confidence that He directs your path! Because here’s the important piece: a “no” from a person is a “yes” from the Lord. It’s His yes! It’s His “yes” to something else—a plan undeniably better than the ones we make for ourselves. So in those moments that rejection hurts, dig deep. Take it to church. Hear the Lord’s abounding “yes” in one, very small “no.”

And be not afraid, guys. The Lord knows what He is about. He will not abandon you, He will not forsake you. The beauty of the human person is we’re incredibly resilient. It. Will. Be. Okay.

Ladies.

Rest assured I pull no punches when it comes to you, because you’re of my own makeup, and I see what you’re about. You want a relationship, but you’re naturally defensive—as you should be! You’ve got an incredible treasure to defend, and I sympathize with you.

But ladies, be gentle. Our men are not so tough as their external appearances might suggest, and their hearts are affected by us. Here are my thoughts:

1) SAY YES! What the heck are you saying no to first dates for?! Girlfriend, you are very single. You are very sick of being single. You are very much spending Friday nights cuddling your pet and complaining that men never ask you out. So why—WHY—are you saying “no” when good men work up the nerve to actually do it? Say yes! Open yourself up! Stop being so stubborn!
Here’s the thing: men have quit asking us out because we’ve quit saying yes. SO OFTEN, women make snap judgements of men and turn up their noses, because our standards are remarkably high and, in my opinion, vastly unfair. Give him a chance. And don’t give me this “but what about our friendship” garbage. Girl, what use do you have for another friend? While I’m sure this kind male “friend” of yours enjoys listening to you ramble on about The Bachelor and your theories about Jack’s impending death in This Is Us, he actually doesn’t. He just wants to take you out. So please, for the love of all that is good, let the poor guy date you.

(Speaking of The Bachelor! It’s like Carly and Evan, you guys. Everyone knows Evan was the sweetest guy in Paradise that season, and Carly vehemently refused to give him the time of day. Then they had to do that weird kissing date, and she got past it, and now they’re the most down-to-earth couple in the history of the franchise. Thank you. I rest my case.)

On to my second point.

2) Put yourself out there, girls. I know it’s tough, and it feels unnatural, and you feel exposed. I know it’s not necessarily the way you saw it in your head. But sometimes, boys just need a little push. And your availability could be that nudge to send them straight over the edge.

What do I mean?

Don’t. Do not. Do NOT. Show up to a social event and stand in the corner talking to your seven girlfriends, leaving the circle only to travel to the bathroom in packs of three. Just, please don’t. Who are you kidding? You’re here to meet men. You’re not going to do it while standing over in that corner, lamenting about the fact that no one will approach you. Go talk to other people.

Don’t leave everything up to the guys. They have to lead, but we have to be willing to follow. Open yourselves up! Let yourselves be seen! And as I told the boys: be. not. afraid.

We have to be vulnerable to love, y’all.

C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

It’s hurtful and it sucks, but it’s a byproduct of the human condition. So what can we do? We can do this: accept it as our cross in the single life, and carry it gracefully. Use it as an opportunity to pray for those who’ve rejected us. Offer it up for your future spouse. Life is long, my friends. But a long life spent with a holy, God-fearing person whom you love is well worth the rejections you might endure along the way.

25, Catholic, & Here For The Party

Forgive me for the long (read: very, very long) hiatus I took smack dab in the center of this series. It was very Mary Kate-esque of me to start my first series and then take, like, a two month break after the first post. *sigh* His power is perfected in my weakness, y’all. Mea Culpa!

Anyway, so: in continuing this series, we come to the second most common response I had when I asked young adults in a recent survey what it was they were looking for from their church communities—and so, here we are: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party.

IT’S COMMUNITY. Young adults are looking for community and fellowship from the church. It’s the reason that young adult events offering free beer, wine, and La Croix (as one survey respondent put it) are typically so successful—not because we’re all like, 25, Catholic, & Here For The Free Alcohol, but because the opportunity to gather around food or drink is the opportunity to gather. Period.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently, both within this context and elsewhere, about the call that each human person has to be a self-gift. In Pope Paul VI’s Gaudium Et Spes, we’re reminded that:

“Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.(2)”

JP II echoed this idea, when he said in Redemptor Hominis that:

“…man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Man must create a gift of himself. We cannot so much as begin to understand ourselves if we do not have opportunities to love in our lives. So where can we find these opportunities?
One of these places, I believe, is in community.

I often think back to college and the emphasis placed on community that most of us likely experienced. College freshmen are encouraged to “get involved”—rush a fraternity or sorority, join a club sport, participate in Newman Center events, and for what? For community.

The Catechism is bursting with good material on this topic:

“The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.” (1879)

But here is where we must return to a post I wrote a few weeks months back: the choice of whom we enter into community with is so, so important.

C.S. Lewis delves into this in “The Four Loves” when he discussed the difference between companionship and friendship. You can read more about that here.
Gaudium Et Spes touches this topic within the context of both public and private life:

“Among those social ties which man needs for his development, some, like the family and political community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights. (4)

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.”

Obviously we see the undertones of public life at play here, but the emphasis on the impact that community can have and the notion of communities originated from free decision are just as important.

If the social environments we’re born into can impact us this much, the ones we choose for ourselves are that much more critical.

And young adult Catholics know this. What’s more, we know ourselves and our faith, and we deeply desire a community that not only welcomes this, but embraces and contributes to it. And we deeply desire to give ourselves back to a community that gives us what we’re looking for.

It is, like so many other things, part of the human condition.

And it’s why we seek it in the Church.

Survey Series: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party

Forgive me for the long (read: very, very long) hiatus I took smack dab in the center of this series. It was very Mary Kate-esque of me to start my first series and then take, like, a two month break after the first post. *sigh* His power is perfected in my weakness, y’all. Mea Culpa!

Anyway, so: in continuing this series, we come to the second most common response I had when I asked young adults in a recent survey what it was they were looking for from their church communities—and so, here we are: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party.

IT’S COMMUNITY. Young adults are looking for community and fellowship from the church. It’s the reason that young adult events offering free beer, wine, and La Croix (as one survey respondent put it) are typically so successful—not because we’re all like, 25, Catholic, & Here For The Free Alcohol, but because the opportunity to gather around food or drink is the opportunity to gather. Period.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently, both within this context and elsewhere, about the call that each human person has to be a self-gift. In Pope Paul VI’s Gaudium Et Spes, we’re reminded that:

“Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.(2)”

JP II echoed this idea, when he said in Redemptor Hominis that:

“…man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Man must create a gift of himself. We cannot so much as begin to understand ourselves if we do not have opportunities to love in our lives. So where can we find these opportunities?
One of these places, I believe, is in community.

I often think back to college and the emphasis placed on community that most of us likely experienced. College freshmen are encouraged to “get involved”—rush a fraternity or sorority, join a club sport, participate in Newman Center events, and for what? For community.

The Catechism is bursting with good material on this topic:

“The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.” (1879)

But here is where we must return to a post I wrote a few weeks months back: the choice of whom we enter into community with is so, so important.

C.S. Lewis delves into this in “The Four Loves” when he discussed the difference between companionship and friendship. You can read more about that here.
Gaudium Et Spes touches this topic within the context of both public and private life:

“Among those social ties which man needs for his development, some, like the family and political community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights. (4)

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.”

Obviously we see the undertones of public life at play here, but the emphasis on the impact that community can have and the notion of communities originated from free decision are just as important.

If the social environments we’re born into can impact us this much, the ones we choose for ourselves are that much more critical.

And young adult Catholics know this. What’s more, we know ourselves and our faith, and we deeply desire a community that not only welcomes this, but embraces and contributes to it. And we deeply desire to give ourselves back to a community that gives us what we’re looking for.

It is, like so many other things, part of the human condition.

And it’s why we seek it in the Church.