“So, if the “Zombie Apocalypse” occurs, what skills will you bring into the new future?
It was a confusing question. The family was sitting down for a picnic dinner and my young adult children were playing a game called Zombie Apocalypse. It was “What can you contribute to the general good?” sort of game… which is not an uncommon young adult sort of question. What did zombies have to do with it? A staple of horror films, zombies are formerly dead characters walking this world mindlessly attempting to consume the life and flesh of the living.
My eldest daughter explained her understanding of the game, “We’ve grown up with so many real-life villains — from Columbine to the 9/11 terrorists to Hurricane Katrina to British Petroleum – that zombies pretty much reflect them all. The game reminds us that we must all share what we have with one another.”
The zombies of my own youth came to mind, the back-up dancers in Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller.” As dancers they were choreographed to be slow and stilted in their gate, emotionless in their steps, and slightly menacing.
This summer, youth ministry programs around the nation will be taking young people off to summer youth conferences, leadership camps, and work-camps helping those in need. During these summer days, they will attempt to live out the model of the early Christian Community, devoting “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
In these moments, they will experience the Church that Pope Benedict XVI discussed in his instillation homily in 2005. As a Catholic, I was emboldened when he proclaimed “…The Church is alive. And the Church is young.” As these young people return to their own church communities, this is a good time of assessment for us. Are they returning to a Church that is alive and young? Or might it scarily resemble the slow, lifeless, faith of the undead?
As faith communities, there are many things that we can do to ensure that the vitality and vibrancy of our Church.
> We must find more ways to inform, form, and transform the faith of parents. They are the first witnesses of faith for young people. Whatever kids understand about the Church was likely both taught by and caught from their parents.
> We must make a commitment towards greater inclusion of young people into the ministries of the Church, especially within our communal worship. We must work towards inclusion in our worship and engaging “the life” of young people into it.
> When we do minister with young people, we must find ways to elicit their energy, passion, and skills towards making a meaningful difference in the world. Pope Benedict encourages young people to make “definitive choices” regarding their lives and faith and we should do the same.
As Church, we need to recognize that young people are fully ready to engage against that which is perceived as assaulting civilization with hostility towards human life. Young people must recognize the Church as alive and young; we cannot risk sending them the perception that we are a lifeless zombie culture.
From their summer experiences, hundreds of young people will be returning to parish pews this summer and will look at the Church through new eyes and ask “What can you contribute to the general good?” Our response must match the rhythm of their lives, expressive in our response, and slightly reassuring for the future. Let us consume the fullness of life together with the One who came who that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)
D. Scott Miller is the coordinator of adolescent Faith formation for the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He blogs at www.catholicYMblog.com