Millennials and the Church: A Conversation with Fr. Daniel Horan

Those of us born between 1982 and 2004 are in a special class of people known as the “Millennial Generation.” We were raised in the dotcom boom and technological age, came of age during the attacks on September 11 and subsequent Iraq War, and now enter our adults years after the Great Recession of 2008. Some point out how these factors have developed the confidence and resilience of our generation, that we are widely tolerant when dealing with social issues, and have become more civically minded, volunteering and getting involved to a greater extent than previous generations. Other have pointed to a less noble set of characteristics, that we are driven by a sense of entitlement, detach ourselves from traditional institutions for the sake of the individual, and are particularly more narcissistic than previous generations (selfies anyone?)

All of this, to the extent that it is true, has had an impact on Millennials’ engagement with the Church. By and large, it has meant the acceptance the secular over ecclesiastical, showing a drastic dip in church attendance compared to the previous generation, while engaging the needs of the world but through volunteerism in a more profound way. Some point to the desire among Millennials to recapture aspects of the tradition lost in previous decades, while it seems clear, even if just anecdotally, that Millennials from both sides of the aisle are more comfortable challenging the practice of the Church for what they see to be a more “authentic” way of life.

For these reasons, among others, Millennials raise issues for the Church that previous generations did not, at least not to the same extent. How does one balance the dominant desire of this generation to assert its individuality and “authenticity” with the tradition and teaching authority of the hierarchical Church? As young religious leaders, how do we navigate the obedience we have to our superiors with the obedience we have to our consciences? To what extent can we learn from the Church, and to what extent do our voices need to be heard to challenge it?

These were the questions I asked Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Franciscan author and theologian. As a fellow Millennial engaged in the political, social, and theological issues of the Church, he offered balanced responses and encouraging insights into some of the issues facing our generation, and how all of us, no matter our age, can faithfully and authentically engage the Church in today’s world. I had a great time talking with Dan about a whole host of topics, the most relevant of which I share here (unfortunately, the bit about Dan being in a bowling league in high school didn’t make the cut. Sometimes you just have to let something go!)

Please feel free to comment on the conversation, ask any questions that you have, and check out Fr. Dan’s blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. For those on email, you can watch this video, as well as others, here on my YouTube channel.

One Comment on “Millennials and the Church: A Conversation with Fr. Daniel Horan

  1. Pax et Bonum, Br. Casey. Great article on Millennials with an optimistic view which we should all keep in our hearts. On a depressed note, I just engaged on a video by Bishop Robert Barron which he states that Harvard for the first time this year in its freshman class has had the highest Atheist and Agnostic group oppose to professed Christians and Jews then ever before. Why? Unfortunately, and I pray that its a small group in which we would have to engage in research, these Millennials are becoming non religious with their sense of entitlement, materialism and relativism.
    Bishop Barron ties his discussion with assisted suicide but the main point of his conversation is that we are losing God within our, what I believe to be country and youth.
    My personal observations with our youth and I’m not that old,lol, is that they are clueless as to anything to do with religion, its almost like they take pride in saying, “oh I’m Atheist”. Its a simple and quick way of opting out of a conversation about God and on to the next thing, like their text on their phones or their games on the ipad.
    I’m not talking negatively about our youth and some are very committed to serving God but its a trend that I think we should not ignore and pray that our “Millennials” open up to the possibilities that religion matters and Yes, there is a loving God. But where do you start? I read somewhere don’t recall where, that’s more pleasurable for the body to commit sin but bitter to serve God.My point is easier for our youth to enjoy a quick fix, fast way out, on to the next thing (they’ve been accustomed to it) then to take some time in understanding.
    God Bless you and keep these important Blogs active!

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