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Reflection by Noah Sloan, Thursday, May 23, 2024

Evening of Adoration |


[Noah Sloan]


When Laura asked me to say a few words to the clergy, I will admit that I was slightly confused. I do not know what authority I have as a 21-year-old layperson to be speaking to you, but I’m honoured by the opportunity. 


Many of you might be concerned about young people leaving the Church, and I suppose that is reasonable enough, but I would hesitate to resort to the all-too familiar excuses. Faith in Jesus Christ has never been easy and it never will be easy, so if young people are struggling to believe, I would not rush to blame the usual suspects. Indeed, the rise of militant atheism trying to convince young people that God does not exist, a liberal media that seems to take any opportunity to criticize the Catholic Church, and an overall culture of overstimulation and distraction caused by social media have all played their role in decreased Church attendance. But I would suggest that some of the big problems have come not from outside the Church, but from the inside.

 

Since I came to Christ in 2013 until I graduated high school, I attended mass every Sunday with my grandfather at St. Alexander. And while my grandfather remained steadfast in his faith until he passed away just last week, I noticed a huge breakdown on both sides of my family between my grandparent’s generation and my parent’s generation. And what I’ve observed from my aunts and uncles who have left the faith is that their atheism did not come from science or the liberal media, they came from bad experiences and hypocrisy within the Church itself as they were growing up.

 

On my mother’s side, her sister left the Church as a kid after being harshly told by a priest that she should not be serving as an altar server because she was a girl.

 

On my father’s side, his sister left the Church after a priest used the wedding to her husband as an opportunity to preach about the evils of homosexuality.

 

And while my father remains a Catholic to this day, his faith was shaken as a child after his local priest in Lakefield, Ontario was charged with sexual assault.

 

Stories such as these are entirely unacceptable, and yet all too familiar. And I am in no way blaming any of you for these instances, but I think that a big part of rebuilding the Church is regaining public trust in the clergy. This involves being present in schools, in the Church’s ministries, and in the wider community, always because a witness to the grace and mercy of God. The heart of a priest must be the heart of every Christian, one of love for friends and enemies, one who sees the dignity in every human person, and one whose first instinct is compassion, not condemnation.

 

Some of you may have seen Pope Francis was on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, and he was challenged by the interviewer on the disobedience of some quote “conservative bishops in the United States”. And the interviewer meant “conservative” in the political sense of the word, but I loved how Pope Francis spun it to talk about the literal sense of being a quote “conservative”. Conservative means to play it safe, to avoid risks, to follow status quo, and it’s this kind of conservativism which has absolutely no place in the Church. Scripture tells us to be strong and courageous knowing that the Lord our God is with us wherever we go. To go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. And so if you find yourself in your ministry being too conservative, trying to play it safe and stick only to what is familiar, I urge you to think bigger. To try something different. To engage your parish and local community in ways that you haven’t before.

 

Some of the best evangelists in our Church’s history risked even their very lives to share the good news, so shame on us if we’re afraid of failure, or rejection, or embarrassment, or financial loss. It’s okay. Fr. Paul delivered a great homily this past weekend on the feast of Pentecost where he talked about feeling a revival within the Church, and I can feel it too. But what’s going to get in the way of revival is not science or scandal, it is our own fear. Our unwillingness to be creative or courageous. If you start a kid’s ministry, or a youth ministry, or a young adult’s ministry, and it fails and it fails and it fails, who is going to judge you? I’m not going to judge you. God’s not going to judge you. But I dare to say that God will judge us if we become people of fear. I would suggest that nothing is more damaging or antithetical to the life of a Christian than living in fear. Network with your brother priests who seem to be building up their parish and try to replicate their efforts as best as you can. Be patient. None of us can expect the fruits of our labour overnight. It will take time to regain attention and interest.  

 

If there’s one thing that my grandfather’s death this past week reminded me, it is what has always brought me to faith. Apart from God, our lives have no meaning, and we can have no hope in the face of death. But humans cannot and do not survive like that.


The human soul longs for truth, for union with God, and for eternity.

That will always be true, and something that the opponents of religion will never be able to take away from us.

 

The faith is not dead. The Church is not dead. And I firmly believe that by your courageous efforts, this diocese can be restored, and we will see an increase in people at Sunday mass, an increase in vocations, and more people striving to do the Father’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.


God bless you all. 

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