Monday, April 14, 2008

Feeling "detached" from the Pope?

"Some youth feel detached from the Pope", bemoans Channel 14 News (Charlotte, NC):

“The pope represents what we believe in, he sends out a lot of good messages,” said John Luttrell a senior at Charlotte Catholic High School.

Added senior Ali Gileta, “I think it’s hard for a lot of Catholics in America to feel really connected to Pope Benedict XVI since he is so far away and not a part of our everyday lives.”

At Charlotte Catholic, students in Patty Burns’ religion class are anticipating the upcoming visit. She says she understands her students’ feelings of disconnect.

“The only pope that they ever did know is Pope John Paul II,” she explained. Despite that, as leaders of the Catholic Church, young people are encouraged to listen and learn from the new pope.

“I really don’t know about the pope that much, so it’d be really interesting to know what he stands for,” said student Rachel Ainsworth.

The article's author, Lisa Reyes, writes from her blog:
One young man said Pope John Paul II was like a grandfather and when Pope Benedict XVI began his Pontificate it was like gaining a stepfather. It was a very eloquent and profound analogy. The teacher, Mrs. Burns, suggested reading a book Pope Benedict XVI wrote entitled, Jesus of Nazareth. The first book written during his Pontificate.
I have to wonder what could be wrong. Short attention spans of the children? Lack of education by their teachers? -- After all, back in 2005 more than 400,000 young people from 200 countries had little difficulty connecting with (and learning about) the Holy Father; we can expect as many will do so in Sydney, Australia July 15-20, 2008 -- which leads me to treat with skepticism the press' stories about the Pope being shy, bookish and not having as much appeal as his predecessor.

As far as reading material, here are some suggestions -- Jesus of Nazareth (2007) of course is one of the best books ever written by Benedict, and is deservedly on the top of the list. Another that I think would be geared toward students is God and the World: Living and Believing in Our Time, a 2002 book-length interview which took place over three full days spent at the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, with the journalist Peter Seewald. The discussion covers a variety of topics, including God, creation, Christology, scripture, sacraments, and ecclesiology. The topics are substantial (the table of contents reads like a systematic theology) but are nonetheless easily accessible, precisely because of its "dialogue" format.

By the same token, Our Sunday Visitor has compiled and published Pope Benedict's "Question and Answer" sessions with children, priests, and laity (Pope Benedict XVI: Questions and Answers) as they talk about everything from divorce and remarriage to the Mass, consumerism, relativism, sacraments, Scripture, music, sex, vocations, and more.

Also, for those with a brief attention span, Our Sunday Visitor has come out with a special pamphlet written especially for this visit, which "not only gives us the history of Pope Benedict XVI, but also gives us the history of the papacy."

In short -- if your student complains of "not knowing that much about the Pope", there are remedies aplenty (provided of course they're willing to pick up a book or a pamphlet).