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.