Yesterday, I was in town taking care of an errand, and a young woman at a check out counter noticed my ring.  She said something to the effect of: “That is a nice ring.  Does it have any significance?”  I said: “Yes. It is a bishop’s ring, and I am the new Archbishop of Anchorage.”  She then responded: “Pardon my ignorance, but what is an Archbishop?”  To which I said: “I am the leader of the Catholic Church in this part of Alaska.”  Then, she said quite casually: “Well, I guess you now know, I am not a spiritual person.”  I simply responded: “There is always time.”  

As I left that place, I was more saddened than shocked at this young person’s lack of knowledge regarding faith and religion, and even more saddened by how completely comfortable she was in claiming that religion held not interest to her.  I realize this is a quick impression of someone, which more than likely is not totally accurate.  How could it be?  But it is a snapshot of a growing trend in youth and young adults today.

According to a recent survey, See this article from Catholic News Agency, many youth who are baptized Catholic are leaving the Church in their teenage years, some make this decision as young as ten.  The reason is more and more a crisis of faith.  These young people find great discrepancy between what they are learning at school and religion.  They are looking for certifiable proofs from science, thinking that faith and science are incompatible, which is not the case.

In these final days of Advent, the Church rejoices at the approach of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As I think of and pray for the young woman mentioned above, and the many other young people today who lack faith, I reflect upon what our own faith teaches us, namely, that in the beginning and in the end, one thing matters; one person matters, Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel for Mass, we hear the beautiful hymn of Mary, which gives voice to her own faith in God, and the wonderful things he has done.  Join me in reveling in this hymn of praise to God today.  Join me in praying for those today who are in need of the gift of faith.

Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.” (Luke 1:46-56)