Director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, 16 year-old pop star Justin Bieber was asked about his position on abortion. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” he said, since abortion is “like killing a baby.” Bieber is not alone among his generation. After watching the descent of young people on Washington, D.C. at last year’s March for Life, NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) President Nancy Keenan worried aloud: “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
What Keenan knows is that in a recent Rasmussen poll, a majority of Americans surveyed – including a large percentage of those who identified themselves as “pro-choice” – said that they believe abortion is “morally wrong most of the time.” And last year, for the third consecutive time, the Gallup folks found that more and more Americans are comfortable with the label “pro-life.” The polling firm admitted that this evidenced a “real change in public opinion.”
What is it with these kids? First, nearly 1 million young people from all over the world travel annually for World Youth Day to see the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, a man well into his eighties; and again this year, we will see hundreds of thousands of young Catholics in America make the annual pilgrimage across the country to walk in solidarity with their peers in protest against abortion on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. So what’s going on with this younger generation?
Many see in these young people a real search for certainty in an era of ambiguity. Mike Hayes, author of “Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s” writes, “In a world where life seems very fleeting, young adults search for things they can depend on, things that have stood the test of time, things they regard as true, and things greater than themselves.” And for their little brothers and sisters, Catholics in their teens, many seem utterly and simply “on fire” about their faith in a way that older generations find hard to fathom. In their world and in their understanding, living one’s faith is not a given; it must be a conscious decision, and they are embracing the truths of the faith and challenging those older – and perhaps more lukewarm than themselves – to do the same.
This passion was evidenced on Friday, January 20, 2012 as the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center came alive with the flames of faith at the “IGNITE! Youth Rally for Life” sponsored by the Nazareth Project of the John Paul II Center. Almost 700 high school students and their chaperones, along with scores of young priests and seminarians from the dioceses of La Crosse, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison, came together for the celebration of the Mass and a two-hour praise and worship rally for life. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki presided at the “Mass for Life” in a jam-packed Mater Christi Chapel. As part of the Mass, he gave his blessing as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to all of the students who would travel on to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. The praise and worship rally that followed the Mass rocked the Cousins Center auditorium with music by the band SONAR and later featured Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying leading the gathering in eucharistic adoration and Benediction.
This immense pro-life response locally is echoed all across the country, and as Archbishop Listecki has said, “The unborn don’t vote. These young people will.”
This generation’s passion and fervor for their faith is out-of-control . . . and it’s “catching.” Catch the fever yourself, and feed the flames of faith in your own life. Let Jesus Christ ignite the flames of desire and love in your heart for him. We will set the world ablaze!
Lydia LoCoco is director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation, which is part of the John Paul II Center for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has been married for 27 years and is the mother of eight children. You can contact Lydia at firstname.lastname@example.org.