Don’t Diss Me ‘Cause I’m Young

Do you view youth as a disadvantage? Even subconciously?

I love the cast of SQPN’s Catholic Weekend podcast, and while I enjoyed this weekend’s episode, I was struck by how often they referred to guest Brandon Vogt‘s youth. Seemed to me like I was supposed to be a little shocked that Brandon just turned 25 and he’s put together the most authoritative book on the Catholic Church and New Media to date.

After listening, I left Brandon a little ‘thank-you-note’ on his Facebook wall for representing us ’20-somethings’ with such grace. Even after being elbowed for his age, he “opened not his mouth” in spite. (Wink.)

Sometimes, I have difficulty following Brandon’s example. There have been plenty of folks who’ve disregarded me because of my age (and my apparent age, since I look younger), called me ‘cute’ or ‘sweetie’ and promptly turned away to speak with someone much older.

What I want to know is: what’s wrong with being young?

Young Heroes Aren’t Rare

Not much, according to our God. St. Paul says, the Lord has plenty of reasons to raise up young leaders:

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

Think of King David, chosen over his older brothers; Esther; the prophet Jeremiah; the Blessed Mother a ‘mere’ teenager at the Incarnation; Christ himself proclaiming the Kingdom, dying, and rising as a young man.

Think of those with whom Mary has entrusted her messages for the world: the children of Fatima, young Bernadette of Lourdes, the youth of Kibeho, young Catherine Labouré, Faustina Kowalska…

Blessed James Alberione was 16 when he had the initial inspiration to serve God through media, and he began founding religious orders in his 20s and 30s.

Young New Media Leaders

Those who serve the Church in communications or evangelization should especially remain open to the help of younger generations. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI has all but demanded that:

Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities…

I would like to conclude this message by addressing myself, in particular, to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. [...] It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent“. (Source)

and earlier this year, he re-affirmed youths’ necessary involvement in new media endeavors:

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world.

Some of the greatest pioneers in new media we’ve seen are young; the guys behind flockNote and Little i Apps stand out in particular, along with the Catholic Underground priests and laity. SQPN has its origins in the podcast of a priest in his 30s who happened to be at St. Peter’s Basilica during the death of John Paul II. The list goes on.

Re-Train Your Brain

When you meet a young man or woman, fight against the natural temptation to think of them as inexperienced to the point of being largely useless on projects (except as cheerleader / energizer), or immature-by-default.

I would like to request that the phrase, “The youth are the future of the Church,” die a horrible, painful death. … Hello! (Waves hand in front of your face.) I’m not the future; I’m part of this Church now! I’m not going to exist in some kind of beer-drinking, sex-binging coma and suddenly wake up ten years from now. I’m a member of Christ’s Body as much as you are, and God is calling me to help you build it up. Will you listen?

The word of the LORD came to me thus:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.”
But the LORD answered me, Say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. (Jeremiah 1:4-7)

Please don’t take this as some sort of defensive, one-sided whine session. God can work through anyone. But you know, it wasn’t for naught that St. Paul had to write these words to St. Timothy:

Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)

10 responses

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! You’re right on. May us young Catholics honor those above us, but never let our age be a detraction. May we follow in the footsteps of all those young saints before us.

  2. Well said! And I stand with a contrite heart. I know many young persons doing magnificent things…the default to joke around is just that…a default.

    Brandon’s contribution to the episode was very enlightening, and certainly worth a listen for his contribution to this on-going conversation about new media in spite of our foolishness.

    Thanks for the correction — I’ll work on retraining my brain (and my tongue).

    ~Maria

  3. Angela, thanks for helping me to retrain my brain – I absolutely meant no offense – truly I’m in awe of all that those of you like Brandon and you and so many of our other new media friends have accomplished. You continually teach and inspire me! When I was your age, I was far more concerned with selfish pursuits, which makes me stand in amazement for the love and passion and energy your generation has for our Church. You ARE our Church, and I’m blessed and edified by your work and our friendship. Thanks for taking the time to help me gain a fresh perspective. Hugs! Lisa

  4. Great post, Angela. I didn’t hear the interview in question, but I’ve certainly gotten my fair share of comments over the years. In my diocesan office I manage people nearly twice my age and who have children older than me. (I’m 33.) Fortunately it hasn’t been a problem; in fact, they regularly express their appreciation at the different perspective I bring and the technological skills I’m helping them build. (Online meeting were a revelation to them!)

    I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of changes in the “faces” of Church work in the next ten years. A lot of the boomers will be retiring and the next generation is chomping at the bit. Just in the last 3 years I’ve seen a lot of younger faces start to appear at the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership annual convention. In fact, at our young adult gathering this past May I was the oldest person in the room! So I’m hopeful that this is just a phase as we transition from one generation to the next — people like Brandon are just on the cutting edge. ;)

  5. Excellent post! I love the paragraph about how you’re part of the church NOW, not the future. People in their late teens and twenties bring all kinds of energy and excitement about what they’re doing that just motivates everyone around them. You aren’t “cheerleaders,” you are DOERS, inspired with all sorts of new creative ideas.

  6. Thank you so much for this post, Angela! I, too, struggle with this in the realm. Being a 20-something shouldn’t discount our thoughts and expertise! Thanks for saying something I’ve been thinking for a while. You and Dan are in my prayers. Cheers!

  7. Wow! You really make some great points, Angela! Honestly, I didn’t realize how we, the older folks, sounded when referring to younger people. But, after your gentle shaking of my head, I reflected on it. You know, when I was your age, I was a very mature, knowledgeable man… in fact, I was married at 23, my wife 21. I guess as I’ve grown older, I have forgotten that.

    Thank you for making me aware of my age bias; I guess it works both ways (young and old age bias). Perhaps, subconsciously, it’s my way of feeling more comfortable about my advancing age? Something for us all to ponder…

    PS: It was all Lisa’s fault! ;)

  8. Ain’t that the truth!? Just heard that last reading from Timothy at Mass today and I was thinking how much of an impact those words had on me. Thanks for this post, I subscribed to the blog so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with you’re writings! God bless you!

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