What turns on young people today? Y0u might think it’s eating out at their favorite restaurants, walking around with their own libraries of songs plugged into their ears, sharing little cute details about any number of interests through social media, attending sports events and concerts, dressing just casual enough to look cool without looking pretentious, and seemingly spending almost every minute of the day with their phones in constant communication with their friends.
But at their core, the opportunities out there are beckoning and maybe what they are doing is trying to experience all that is out there. Are young people really so attached to the “good life” or are they more attached to the notion of experiencing all the wonderful things people can experience in the 21st century that was just not available to most people in days gone by. Is the food that good at their restaurants? Or is it more a case of just being able to embrace more than their parents?
Of course, for many of us with “some age,” we know or at least have a notion that the best things in life are still about the pilgrimage we are making with faith towards the full experience of human love and God. Regardless of how it may sound, we are on the road to salvation and most of us are blessed to go with others in our own families.
That may sound dull to some, but frankly it is an adventure and can be tremendously exciting and motivating.
I was spending a lot of time thinking about how my family and faith was at my core and wondering if that was how it was going to be for my kids. And I began working on a new project that led me to do some research on pilgrimages. The work I did led to a book called Pilgrimage with Patrick McCaskey, but it gave me a great sense of just how basic our need to be adventurous and take pilgrimages is our lives. They can affect us in great ways and let us feel confident in the life we choose and where we end up. Of course, everyone cannot go on great journeys, but most of us can at least come to a better understanding of what we seek and where we have been.
I was motivated to look at pilgrimages after I read about the Camino in Spain and had seen the movie, The Way. I found that the journey had been dying out over the years but had recently made a comeback to where more than a quarter of a million people are making it today. People who I respect had said that once they made the trip, their lives would be divided by the time before the Camino and the time after. That was profound. And the Camino was trip that required weeks of walking and sacrifice.
Then we looked at more pilgrimages. We covered many of the famous ones that are known to many Catholics–Rome, the Holy Land, Fatima, Lourdes and more. For many people these can be experienced via a plane ticket and a short tour. But for others, they chose to spend more time. Many have found it instructive to live in these places (Rome and the Holy Land). I read about many people who needed some guidance and motivation. They made the trip and found God and themselves at the same time. I also found that many young people come back from these places and start families and settle down. Some find a calling to religious life.
But in our little way as book publisher, we just laying some things out for people in a brief concise way.
We are in the middle of Lent these days and that turns out to be especially critical for those who may never have a chance for a traditional pilgrimage. In the Holy Land there is the “Way of Grief,” a path that leads people through the streets that Jesus took in the Old City or Jerusalem on the way to his crucifixion. Saint Leonard popularized the Stations of the Cross based on the Way of Grief which have become millions of “virtual” experiences all over the world for people right at home at their local churches.
Lately I have had the opportunity to see how young people are attracted to faith by new experiences that are roughly hewn in stories and ideas that revert back to our faith. There are lots of superheroes out there “saving the world” just as Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for our salvation. I hope our young people will see the connections to our stories. The trek they make will lead them back to faith and values, but many will have to make the trip first.