A friend of mine here in the Twin Cities takes his Catholic faith seriously and works to live it out on a daily basis. By this, I do not mean that he only spends time praying his rosary (though he does do this), but he also realizes that our Catholic faith is not something that is discovered by accident, but has been intentionally shared from one generation to the next. As a result, he has stumbled upon one of the most authentically Catholic practices: porch ministry.
He has six children and works full time. As a result, he does not have much free time to go out and about. Rather, he is one who invites in. During the spring, summer and fall months (and sometimes winter), he invites men over to have dinner with his family and then retreat to the porch for time to chat. The conversation usually starts with the simple enjoyments of life, such as sports, or movies. Very quickly, though, the conversation will move to the much more important elements of life: growing-up, maturing as a man, being a father, living the Catholic faith, encounters in prayer, etc. What makes this particularly important is that he will intentionally invite younger generations to be a part of this conversation. He recognizes that it is essential that we mentor the younger generations in the Catholic faith beyond the catechesis that we receive at school or at religious education.
It is very tempting to complain about the lack of practicing Catholics among the younger generations. It is as easy as complaining about blizzards in April. Though, I see Christ as responding to us with the question: What are you doing to mentor them? And there is the key...mentoring. The younger generation needs not only information, but the environments to learn from the Catholics who are actually living the faith, who are practicing the faith from day-to-day. Their encounters with the faith cannot only be the priest’s homily on Sundays and the informational websites that Google prioritizes for them. They need the previous generation to actually mentor them.
I encourage all of the Catholics here at Nativity of Mary, and beyond, to make the time to mentor the younger generations. Welcome not only your peers to dinner, but welcome those who are younger than you. Share your wisdom with them. Enjoy their company. Build the relationships.
I know that for myself, as a priest, I am indebted to many of the veteran priests who are in their twilight years for reaching out to me. I still meet with some of my brother priests who are in their nineties. When I was newly ordained, I would never have thought to invite myself over to their parish for dinner, but they reached out to me. From them, I learned not only the data of our Archdiocese, but also the spiritual wisdom they gained from years of experience.
This ought to be the case for living our lives as Catholics. Resist the temptation to only have friends of the same generation. Recognize our opportunity to foster deeper relationships that allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to mentor the next generation of Catholics.
Fr Nathan LaLiberte