Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, recently said that at a time when young people are bombarded by noise and distractions, especially from the social media, there is a “deep desire” for silence and personal encounter with Christ. (The Tablet, July 12, 2014).
While I am not sure there is enough hard data to support this sweeping conclusion my own anecdotal experience says he is right.
The archbishop added, while speaking at a July 4-6 Catholic UK discernment festival:
Today there is so much noise, with social media, we don’t understand the value of silence. We go away from it, from ourselves. In silence . . . we encourage ourselves, and God. There is a desire for silence, desire for spirituality [amid] the problems of society. If we take time in silence we find the answer to this desire.
In the same issue of The Tablet, the leading Jesuit magazine in the UK, several Catholic bishops suggested that the Mass has become “consumerised.” Alan Hopes, the Bishop of East Anglia, says this attitude is making it much harder for those who cannot receive communion. He poignantly says, “People at Mass have a view – ‘What do I get out of this?’,” he said. “We have shifted to a practice where everybody gets up for Communion and makes it awkward for those who can’t go to Communion.” Bishop Hopes said “we expect Communion at every Mass, and the Mass has become the most prevalent service. But we have a rich liturgy and this is something we should look into.”
What is the answer to this problem? The Bishop of East Anglia says Catholics need to encourage greater participation in all forms of worship and a deeper knowledge of what happens in other expressions of the faith. Each member has a unique role and they should understand this role is if they would enter fully into the faith of the church.
While many evangelicals might think these problems are limited to Catholics, and others with a higher and more ritually-based liturgy, they would be wrong to conclude that this is the real truth if they did their own study of this growing problem. In most churches I believe there is a deep need for silence, and a burning desire for personal encounter with Christ. This is especially true among younger Christians. But we keep giving them programmatic responses that fail. We have turned church gatherings into simplistic rituals without care for the inner needs of those who attend and these attempts feed into consumerism. The answer is to step back and enrich the way in which we seek God and true faith as a community. We need more silence, more reflection, more honesty.