Young people today provide a challenge for the whole Church in their spiritual journey and their search for God and community, said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.
“I believe that today many young people are themselves part of a community which is searching, and that search is a challenge to the whole Church to journey with them in their seeking,” he said at an Aug. 30 lecture in Melbourne, made public this week. “Firstly,” he said, “they are seeking God, but don’t always know where to go.”
“Secondly, they are seeking to belong; they are seeking community,” he continued. Young people “crave” community and they “need to know that they are loved.”
“In community they can discover a place of healing, of forgiveness, and the opportunity of a fresh start,” he stated.
Young people are also seeking the poor and ways in which they can reach out to them.
“They are scandalized by any show of religion which does not have an eye to the most needy,” he observed. “I find today that young people are very generous, very willing to reach out to those who are on the margins.”
These young people, however, are wrestling with the realities of a post-modern society, replete with its suspicion of once-trusted institutions, its breakdown of the family and other basic societal structures, its emphasis on relativism and religion à la carte, the Cardinal said.
“It is as though people, especially many young people, are dressed up complete with 1,001 possibilities but nowhere to go,” he said.
However, the cardinal said he does not regard the post-modern period as totally negative if it can lead to God. “It is this very desolation which is the beginning of our reaching out to God. And I suspect that our post-modern society is leading us back to God.”
“The individual does not see himself only as subject to outside pressures but, thanks to the modern experience of freedom, and a history of freedom, recognizes that he can write his own biography, live his own lifestyle, free from outside influences,” he continued. He warned, however, that the greatest threat of individualism is to the basic community, which has historically been the place of most profound human flourishing.
“To be human means to be in relationship and so the concentration on the individual in contemporary society has brought in its wake greater personal isolation and loneliness,” he said.