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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Fr Benjamin Saliba: I listened to our youth at WYD. We need to go back to basics!

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Instead of the jumping up and down, Bishop Barron's Catechesis started with exposition of the blessed sacrament, a Eucharistic procession  and confessions being heard by 50-100 priests. Photo: Mat De Sousa
Instead of the jumping up and down, Bishop Barron’s Catechesis started with exposition of the blessed sacrament, a Eucharistic procession and confessions being heard by 50-100 priests. Photo: Mat De Sousa

I have just returned from world youth day as a bus chaplain for Sydney Catholic Schools. I have had the privilege of meeting an amazing group of young people from western Sydney schools and beyond, as we journeyed through Italy, Lisbon and Fátima. One of the great things about extended time together in buses, planes and queues is that you really get to know a person. I got to know these young people and something that doesn’t seem to be observed often enough is how serious they are about the important things.

The highlights mentioned to me not only by my bus group were daily Mass, adoration and rosary. Who would have thought that for many young people it wasn’t the concerts, the dancing, the performances that left you scratching your head as to what it was all about. It was beautifully simple: More Jesus, More Mary.

This was exemplified by the catechesis that Bishop Robert Barron gave one morning. Instead of the jumping up and down, deafening music that sounded like any other concert you might go to, the morning started with exposition of the blessed sacrament, a Eucharistic procession around the field where thousands were on their knees in complete silence—not to mention the hundreds that made use of the 50-100 priests hearing confessions. Mass followed and the morning had ended. There was something deeply spiritual about what had happened, and you could tell everyone knew it.

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When will we as an ageing church in Australia stop with the failed experiments of liturgical “creativity,” watered-down catechesis, and imitation of other styles of worship, and realise that this is not what the youth want. In a world that is separating itself from goodness, truth and beauty, young people want exactly what they are not getting—the beauty and glory of the church Jesus founded.

The questions I was asked by young people multiple times on the three-week journey will not be found in a school syllabus, nor would many priests touch these topics with a 10-foot pole in a homily. And that’s half the problem. Are we keeping up with what the Catholic youth of our world want today? Or are we doing what we have done terribly for decades; assuming we know what they want in an attempt to engage them and bring them back to Mass?

I took what the youth of Sydney said to Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in a listening session we had at Fátima, along with the many conversations I had in my travels and summarised it all in a final catechesis to the hundreds of students and SCS staff in attendance. Simply put: more Jesus, more Mary. This is the winning formula; Eucharistic revival through liturgy that is “otherworldly” and Eucharistic adoration. Marian devotion in the rosary and learning about the lives of the saints.

If we truly want to secure the future of our church in Sydney and beyond, it’s time to start listening to our youth and stop assuming. Let’s keep it simple and do what the Catholic Church does best: worship Christ in the Eucharist and draw closer to him with the help of his mother Mary.

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