I, myself, am a rebel, just so you know.
And a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being a chaperone on our parish's Confirmation retreat. If you don't know, Catholic kids receive the Sacrament of Confirmation sometime during their high school years; and before that occasion, they usually attend a retreat in order to prepare and reflect upon the graces they will receive from that Sacrament, as well as what it means to be a Catholic.
The retreat that I helped with was a very good one. It included prayer and music and speakers -- including teen speakers -- and Mass and Confession and Eucharistic adoration. It was very well-run and the kids seemed to enjoy it.
There were some kids there though, who were rebels, in the best sense of the word. These kids are people who question the status quo, who have merciful hearts, who have a great sense of justice, who are compassionate, who are creative. And they don't always like what they are seeing in the Catholic Church.
And I guess what concerns me is that these kids didn't seem to get much of a chance to have their voices heard during this retreat. It seemed to be, basically, assumed by the retreat organizer that everyone was on the same page concerning the moral authority of Church teaching. And these kids were very well-behaved, not really wanting to make waves.
But -- you know -- if we Catholic "grown-ups" aren't careful, we will lose these kids. Because these kids are smart and their questions are legitimate ones and they are not being answered. Oftentimes, too, the Church (at least where I live) doesn't act in a way that is very tolerant of different points of view. So, if a kid does have the guts to speak up and ask a difficult question, they might be given a solid answer, but that answer comes with the attitude that "it's this way or the highway." And that's not how it should be. Not everything is black and white in the application of Church teaching. There is the primacy of conscience. So, we need to be careful. The Church needs these young people. They are strong and they are smart and they are good. And they need to be taught in a way that respects their intelligence and their sense of justice and their compassion. They need to be taught in a way that respects their consciences and their creativity. Yes, we need to teach them Church doctrine accurately, but there needs to be space for discussion. AND they -- the rebel children -- need to know that we want them in the Church. At least I want them in the Church.
Because rebels bring fresh perspectives and honesty. They force us to look at ourselves. They shake things up; they force us to clean things up. They remind us of what is essential. They encourage us to behave respectfully toward different kinds of people. They keep us from living in an echo chamber.
So, my prayer for the rebel children receiving Confirmation is that the Holy Spirit will assure them of God's unconditional love for them and give them the graces of wisdom and understanding and confidence that their voices matter in the Church and in the world.
God bless the rebel children. Amen.