World youth greet Pope Francis outside Brazil's Apollo Space Capsule, I mean, Cathedral: NBC Reporter states on Today, quoting the pope: "I have arrived in Brazil, not bringing gold and silver, but Jesus Christ!"--Ann Thompson, NBC News (in fact NBC seems to have the most concerned coverage of the lapse in the papal security yesterday, which I viewed live and found astoundingly dangerous, first of all for security, then the laity and ultimately the pope. I think it is a miracle no one was injured or run over or hit by other cars or motorcycles or crushed to death!)
The goal of parents is to give their youth (children) a foundation of participating in the Church. This begins with the home being made into the "Church in Miniature" where the parents are the "pastors" of their children. In fact, the father, husband is the head of the home and collaborates with his wife and the mother of his children in rearing them to love God and neighbor.
As "good shepherds" of their children, parents have the responsibility of making sure their children are reared in the faith by having them baptized, confirmed and prepared for the other sacraments of the Church, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders as well as the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
In other words, youth ministry begins at home WHERE YOUNG AND OLD CO-EXIST AND GRANDPARENTS AND GREAT GRANDPARENTS ARE WELCOMED!
How do we improve youth ministry? Normally we think of what the parish must do first, but in fact, we should be thinking FIRST about the parents who are the youth ministers of their family! What we do in the parish is meant to support the full time youth ministers who are the parents.
Herein lies the problem. We know that there is a decline in religious practices in the home and that most parents today do not view theIR home and Catholic family as the "Church in Miniature." When this happens, the seeds of antipathy and disinterest are sown in the children of the family. If the father is disengaged from the faith and does not model a manly spirituality and a manly regimentation to make sure the family goes to Mass each Sunday, prays in the home and does good works at home and elsewhere, this disinterest and antipathy grows unabated.
The Catholic youth I know are good people, they are great kids. Their parents love them, but religion isn't always the number one priority in their homes, everything else comes before. A goodly number of parents and children have lost the Catholic sense of the sacred and fear of the Lord. Their Catholicism is built upon shifting sand. Anything might wash it away.
If we could all have a common bottom line in terms of what is essential in the practice of the faith, I think we could improve our youth ministry and keep our youth engaged in the Church throughout their lives, or have a higher percentage of this happening for our folks.
This is my dream list:
1. All Catholics assist at Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation and understand that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church and ecumenism is to bring our separated brethren back into full communion not to make Catholics think it doesn't matter what denomination one attends or what religion one belongs to, just as long as one is good; (this alone will accomplish great things, but how many parents today take this seriously?)
2. All Catholics pray in the home, have icons/religious art/imagery and say a blessing before eating.
3. Every Catholic appreciate that the Real Presence of our Lord remains in every Catholic Church in the tabernacle in the Most Blessed Sacrament and is a source of strength and consolation in need and a source of inspiration and strength and that private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is medicinal.
4. Every Catholic should know and appreciate that no matter how bad things get in the parish and liturgically or how different the taste of the parish is in terms of music and community compared to the wants and likes of individual family members, that if the Mass is celebrated validly, the Word of God is heard, the Sacrifice of Christ is made present in an unbloody way and God the Father accepts this Sacrifice of His Son for our salvation and God the Father gives us back His Son through the Holy Spirit and sacramentally in Holy Communion. Our worthy communion with our Lord, spiritually at Mass and worthily when we receive Him unites us to the Church and thus to God the Most Holy Trinity and ultimately to the eternal Kingdom of God in heaven. The salvation of the sin sick soul and the resurrection of the body are the goals of the Sacrifice of Christ accepted by God the Father. All of salvation history beginning with Adam and Eve, the People of Israel through the Second Coming of Christ is geared to our salvation from the eternal fires of hell.
MY FINAL COMMENT: If these four things are accomplished or experienced, everything else is icing on the cake. We hope that parishes and dioceses have good youth ministers and ministries, but often some of the best Catholics come from youth who never really participated in non-obligatory youth ministries. They simply did the first four things.