St John's Q&A

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Mass is real

Yeah, ‘Skins!
Mindy posted the following insightful comment:
“I was reading an article that posed a good question- If you spent 15 hours each week in church or 15 hours a week reading scripture and praying, would this influence your thoughts and behavior?15 hours a week is the average amount of time that young people watch TV, and I think it’s probably much more for many kids. This doesn’t take into account the additional time listening to music. Imagine the power this forum has after 15 hours a week for 10 years! None of us seem to question why so many of our youth act in opposition to what we are trying to teach about chaste behavior. So- why, instead of trying to get everyone and anyone to change programming, don’t we simply turn it off?What would happen if we considered an additional one or two hours of religious ed. and/or involvement versus 15 hours a week of media exposure that condones and promotes actions that go against what we say we want to teach our children?”

These are excellent points and questions. I have given a talk many times to youth (12-14) – most recently to our sixth graders a couple of weeks ago – along these same lines. I typically start out by asking them how many hours they spend each week watching movies and TV, on the internet, listening to music, play video games, etc. They have indicated that each week they, on average,: a) watch movies 10-15 hours, b) watch TV 15-20 hours, c) listen to music 15-20 hours, and d) are on the Internet and play video games over 20 hours a week. Whoa!!

I then ask them if, by and large, movies and TV programs are real. They say no. We agree that the actors are real people and the events may be based in reality, but movies and TV are not real life. Even the Passion of the Christ is just a movie! We also agree that much of the music to which they listen is based on things that are made up or fantasized. Obviously, the Internet and video games present many images that are based in fantasy, not reality.

Next, I ask them if they participate at all in these movies or TV programs. They say no. So, I remind them that they pay $ 8 for a movie that isn’t real, just sit there for 2 hours, and play no role in it whatsoever. And, yet, they walk out of some movies saying, “wow, that was awesome! I can’t wait to see it again!” Now, of course, we all have done this (minus the awesome comment maybe) because some movies can be very entertaining. I like a good movie as much as anyone. But, if you know me, then you know where I’m going with this; the kids don’t know where this is going, so they are quite surprised.

I then ask them how many hours they spend each week with God. A large gasp can usually be hard from the youth. The typical answer, on average, is one hour. Now, many of these kids pray every day, but the majority of them are thinking that the only time they spend with God is when they go to Mass. So, we then start talking about Mass. I ask them if Mass is real. They say yes, hopefully because they know what happens during Mass (transubstantiation), but more likely because they know that ‘yes’ is the answer for which I am looking. I ask them if they participate in the Mass and again they say ‘yes’, although they appear more confused and unsure. We then discuss what really happens at every Mass, and how we are all there to witness and participate in the greatest event in the world – greater than any movie that’s ever been made – Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

It has proven to be an effective way for these kids to see how many things they put ahead of God and prayer. And, hopefully, it plants a seed that the Mass is not only real and relevant to their lives, but it is the most real and most important event of their week.


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