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Stuff Luke Carey Found for December: Encounter in the Ordinary

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Two different people shared the same article with me last month. My charismatic roots tempt me to take that it as a sign it should be this month’s topic, so here goes.

The article came from the Catholic website Aleteia, and is titled, “Hey, pastors, want to bring us Millennials back to church?”

The thesis is simple enough. If you want to bring Millennials back to the Church, it says, give them what the world does not offer: beauty, mystery, and prayer. The author makes a good point but
fails to say anything new. There’s been a movement amongst Millennials for more traditional liturgies since at least 2010. More incense and chanting, less tambourine and guitar.

But the end of the article struck me. The author quoted Luke 11:1,”Teach us to pray.” I whispered an emphatic yes reading that line. But why?

If you’ll allow me to have a Millennial moment (he said, wearing a U.S. Soccer t-shirt at a hipster Protestant coffee shop), I’d appreciate it.

This is why. Last weekend I went to a vinyl store in Oakley. The amount of options overwhelmed me. I found the following in the first five minutes: every Sufjan Stevens album, “The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend” for only $18, “1989” (both the Taylor Swift original and the Ryan Adams cover), and “Awaken My Love” by Childish Gambino — for $7 less than Amazon. I know! Crazy.

I needed to limit my options. Bravely, I decided to purchases only all-time favorites. It took half a second to see that they had “Clarity” by Jimmy Eat World. Released in 1999, “Clarity” is a masterpiece. The first song, “Table for Glasses,” changed me. Specifically, the first 30 seconds of the song. I can still remember feeling goosebumps at the sound of the snare drum. Those seconds shaped my musical taste for the next decade. That song is beautiful in its simplicity. The almost-hidden two-part harmonies, the cellos and strings, the xylophone, the tubular bells, and the lyrics express an earnestness more at home in post-2010 America than the cynical 90s.

“Table for Glasses” drew me out of myself. It affirmed long-held desires, and challenged me to keep seeking beauty in simplicity. Reflecting back on it, it strikes me now as something akin to the “encounter moment” described by Pope Benedict XVI. This parallel between encountering beauty and encountering Jesus still intrigue me.

So how do you teach a Millennial to pray? Doctrine and ideology are not enough. The faith, in all its beauty, must be experienced. We must hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, let it touch the core of who we are. I wonder if there are more evangelization opportunities found in exploring the themes raised in the song “Appointments” by Julien Baker than there are in sharing a Bishop Barron article on Facebook.

“Teach us how to pray.” It means: Draw us into the mystery that transcends space and time. Provide opportunities for encounter with the Alpha and the Omega, God made man, the Logos, the Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Let forever encounter the present. Give space for death to be conquered, for the Paschal mystery to be experienced and not simply mentioned. Let Jesus be encountered, proposed, and wrestled with. Don’t discuss the woman at the well, be the woman at the well. That changes a person.

That impacts a lifetime.

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