In every parish I visit there seems to be a huge emphasis on attracting new young Catholics to the faith. It’s no surprise. They are the future of the church and are desperately needed. However, nearly every appeal to these young people that I’ve witnessed has been a play on modern pop culture and precisely the opposite of what drew me to the faith as a 21 year old fresh out of college.
It wasn’t the rocking drums and electric bass from our parish Life Teen band that I found so enticing. Although those musicians are certainly talented and their music is something that I still enjoy in the car on my way to work, it is at odds with the quiet, reverent beauty to be found inside a Catholic church. I wasn’t starved for pop culture. I was desperate for holiness, peace and Christ in my life, even before I consciously accepted that fact.
The moments which ignited my faith were all moments of quiet reflection. The first of these came during an advent vespers service led by our former associate priest. It was an eye-opening experience which I will never forget. The sanctuary was completely dark except for the altar which was ablaze with the warm flickering glow of dozens of candles. The entire service was conducted in a reverent silence broken only by the sweet tenor of the associate priest as he guided the assembly in musical hymns at the beginning of the service.After group prayer was finished there was a time of silent prayer for parishioners to light candles in front of the altar for their own prayer intentions.
In that darkened, quiet sanctuary I finally felt the presence of God. I consciously accepted Catholic teachings very early in my faith journey but it took a bit longer for my heart to catch up. I understood these teachings to be true months before emotionally investing in them. This advent vespers service was the first time that I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Everyone is so quick to fill the silence these days. There seems to be a persistent assumption that we can’t possibly focus in absolute quiet and that we must fill every waking moment with noise, in particular, the hip guitar music that all those young folks are so fond of but if we are constantly surrounded by all of this noise and activity, how then will we hear the voice of God when he speaks to us? We need peace in our lives, the kind of peace that only silent and sincere prayer can bring. We grow up learning how to clap in time to our favorite tunes. What we need now is to learn to stop and listen. Church isn’t where we come to be moved by the music. It’s where we come to be moved by Christ.