Lander, Wyo., Feb 9, 2013 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- A professor at Wyoming Catholic College reflected on Pope Benedict's recent address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, saying it showed his desire that we “re-connect with our Catholic heritage.”
“Young people are not being properly formed in a way that connects them with the larger history, tradition, and identity from which they've come,” Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a professor of theology and philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College told CNA Feb. 8.
“So, they're kind of set free into a floating void, where as Pope Benedict puts it, if they do live their faith at all, they live it in a privatistic and emotional way.”
The pontiff's Nov. 7 address to the Council's plenary assembly stressed the challenges facing young people, while also noting the hope placed in them by the Church.
“The Church has confidence in the young” and needs their lively participation, he insisted, while also underscoring the threat of youth being pushed to the margins of society by unemployment and the crisis in education.
Kwasniewski said the “language here of a cultural landscape that's increasingly fragmented and in continuous rapid evolution and…the educational emergency” was the most striking feature of the Pope's address.
“One of the main themes of his whole pontificate has been to urge people to rediscover, recover, and re-connect with our Catholic heritage, tradition, and identity, in every respect. As regards liturgy especially, but also as regards theology, catechesis, architecture, our sacred music…everything that makes us distinctively Catholic, and that come from our 2000 year inheritance.”
“And he sees this as not just a nice thing, like an ornament or a decoration, but as really, vitally important for human identity.”
Aware of the “problematic situations” facing youth, the Pope nevertheless reaffirmed “that the Church looks to their condition and their cultures as essential and inescapable” for its ministry.
He expressed concern over trends of “spectacularization of private life and a narcissistic selfishness,” but also said the church “hopes in young people and in their energy. She needs their vitality in order to continue living the mission entrusted to her by Christ with renewed enthusiasm.”
Kwasniewski said the vitality of youth is drawn by “a sort of magnetism” of the traditional Roman rite, which has “an inherent dignity, beauty, and power.”
Youth, he said, “will be attracted to anything beautiful, and that's a revolt against the meaningless utilitarianism of our times, where everything is stripped of its personal meaning.”
The professor sees hope in young people who are sickened by the utilitarianism of modern culture, yet “wouldn't really be able to put their finger on the problem, which is that they've been reduced to ciphers, numbers, workers.”
Pope Benedict told the Pontifical Council members that he hopes their discussions will contribute to “the Church's work in the lives of young people, which is a complex and articulated reality” that can no longer be understood using old paradigms.
Kwasniewski added, “I think what Pope Benedict is saying is absolutely, and obviously true. But what I've seen is that when you actually implement the proposals and remedies of Pope Benedict, it works extremely well.”
“The youth do love it, they thrive, it gives them a sense of belonging, and meaning and direction, which is exactly what the Pope says is needed.”
He echoed Pope Benedict's call to overcome the educational crisis through a vibrant Catholicism.
“To reach the youth, you have to be radically, visibly, strikingly, and beautifully Catholic, because they need something different from the secular culture that is not answering their deepest needs.”