Bishop, young adults discuss discipleship during crises - Catholic Courier

Bishop, young adults discuss discipleship during crises

HENRIETTA — More than two dozen young adults recently met with Bishop Matthew H. Clark and a local campus minister and pastoral administrator to discuss discipleship in times of societal crisis. Times of crisis obviously can produce suffering, they agreed, but such times also can provide an opportunity for something positive to bloom and grow, and they provide the chance to help each other and let their true personalities shine forth.

The young adults discussed those ideas Sept. 9 at Jitters Cafe in Southtown Plaza, where they’d gathered for the 12th and final installment of the summer’s Theology on Tap series. Sponsored by the Diocese of Rochester and participating parishes, Theology on Tap is a young-adult discussion series set in local bars and coffeehouses. Each of the installments in the summer’s “12-pack” featured a different discussion topic and guest speaker.

Bishop Clark shared the limelight Sept. 9 with Mike Sauter, campus minister at SUNY Geneseo and pastoral administrator at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Livingston County. Sauter opened the discussion by stating what he considered an obvious fact.

“Let’s take it for granted that crisis can produce suffering,” he said.

Sauter then proposed, however, that suffering also has the potential to produce positive things. During Lent, for example, Catholics often renounce food and suffer through periods of fasting, and oftentimes the energy they didn’t spend eating is instead channeled into a deeper spirituality, Sauter said.

However, if the extra energy generated through suffering is not cultivated and channeled into something positive, it could end up fueling negative pursuits, he noted.

“If society hasn’t inculcated virtues, society could turn into something barbaric. It could go either way,” Sauter said.

Two men who have been laid off, for instance, might decide to help and support each other in their job search. Or on the other hand, he said, they might view each other as competitors to be pushed down and beaten. Today’s society often values independence, while the church encourages a more community-oriented view, he said. This view may lead Christians to realize that although it may be impossible to eradicate suffering, perhaps a life well-lived is one full of both suffering and of friends to help bear that suffering, Sauter said.

“Crisis possibly can take us to greater community, but crisis also can make us hold in on ourselves, It could go either way,” he added.

Today many people — and especially young adults — are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about their future, Sauter said, but this may in fact be a positive thing. A generation ago young adults often set out on the path they thought they were expected to follow. They planned to go to college, earn a degree, find a job in their field, marry and have children. Their lives were mapped out from an early age, but these rigid paths left no wiggle room for growth or changes of heart, Sauter said.

These days the single life is now accepted as a personal vocation rather than a misfortune, and college graduates can’t necessarily count on finding a good job in their field. These changes and uncertainties allow people the freedom to be true to themselves and their own personal callings, Sauter said.

“When everything’s changing I think people show more of their true selves. If you don’t know what the future is going to hold, why not joyously do your best and be yourself? You have less reason to betray yourself,” he said.

Young adults often feel they’re being measured by their success, but in times such as the current economic crisis, people often need to alter their definitions of success, Sauter added. For someone who has recently lost her job, success might be defined as gracefully dealing with poverty, he said.

“Whether we’re rich or poor, or achieving success or dealing with loss, God somehow is in every bit of it, speaking to us,” Bishop Clark said.

Christians know they can rely on God as their guiding force or center of gravity in the midst of crisis, and they also know they’re called to be community for others and to serve the common good, he added. It’s important to know God is present in times of crisis as well as times of stability, he said.

“We can lose our bearings in prosperity as well as adversity,” Bishop Clark noted.

As unpleasant as times of crisis may be, they often provide great opportunities for growth and learning, he said.

“I would say the greatest lessons of my life have come out of difficult times, as a general rule,” he remarked.

It’s also important to keep things in perspective, and be mindful of one’s blessings, however trivial they may seem.

“However difficult the problems we face may be, to a huge percentage of the world’s population we live in total luxury,” Bishop Clark said. “We have more than they can ever imagine having.”

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