I spent June 26th to 28th on retreat with 80 other Catholic young adults as a part of the San Jose Theology on Tap group. When I left for the retreat on Friday morning, the news of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage across the nation had just broken. I was glad I was going away on retreat for the weekend when I first heard the news, to have some fellowship during that time. But, to be honest, there wasn’t much spoken about the Court’s decision all weekend. Maybe we didn’t know how to react, or perhaps we just didn’t want to think about it. The retreat went on like any other Catholic retreat that I have been on, full of prayer, friendship and joy.
It was difficult to come back from the retreat on Sunday afternoon. I had almost forgotten what had happened while I was away. There was so much celebration going on about the decision everywhere I looked—on the radio, on TV, on social media.
I wasn’t surprised by the Court’s ruling; it seemed inevitable. Still, it’s hard not to feel deflated by it. The difficult part for me, as a millennial, was seeing all the support from so many of my friends on Facebook, especially from people I know were raised Catholic. Even some of my former teachers from the private, all-boys Catholic high school that I attended had posts about their support of the ruling.
The Court’s decision was a 5-4 ruling, and the deciding vote was cast by Judge Anthony Kennedy, who is a Catholic. In my opinion, the Catholic Church failed here; we had an opportunity for one of our own members to make a decision that would influence the entire nation for generations to come, and we failed to convey the truth about Catholic teaching on homosexuality to him in a logical, attractive way that would impact not only his mind, but his heart. This is nothing short of a tragedy.
People talk about how great the ruling is, how love has finally won over hate. On the following Monday, my coworker, who is also a young engineer I went to college with, was telling stories about his experiences at the San Francisco Gay Pride parade that weekend. He bragged about how many women’s bare butts he got to grab and how he could walk up to any woman on the street, make out with her, then just simply walk away. To him, this is what free love is. I imagine this is what it was like in the late ’60s. He told another story of a man giving oral sex to another man in public, on a balcony, with hundreds of people watching. It made me wonder, “How is that good for society?” He told this story while laughing about how great the parade was. He even took a video on his iPhone; when he took out his phone to show it to several of us, I left the conversation.
Personally, I don’t see free love being demonstrated at that parade; I see lust, uncontrolled desires, and disordered behaviors. I also know that I am in the minority for thinking this way.
My reflections on the ruling have led me to ask myself some other questions: How many of those people walking in the streets at the Pride parade were Catholic? And how many more people are going to leave the Church because of how the definition of marriage has been changed? When are our churches going to be forced to hold gay marriages or shut down if we refuse? If that doesn’t happen, when is attendance going to drop so low, or a when are there not going to be enough priests, that we won’t be able to keep our church doors open?
The reason why there are so many Catholics on Facebook supporting gay marriage, and why so many Catholics were walking the streets during the Pride parade, and why a Catholic justice cast the deciding vote to legalize gay marriage is because the world has evangelized the Church. We need to reverse this; the Church must evangelize the world. The Court’s ruling is a sign for the need of the New Evangelization now more than ever.
As a young person, what’s most frustrating to me about the gay marriage movement is how youthful it is. Most people my age are widely supportive of gay marriage. Furthermore, I look around at Mass every Sunday, and I struggle to find one other person in my age group. Many people my age have stopped coming to Mass.
We need to proclaim the good news to our families and friends that God is real, that God is good, and that God is love—true and life-giving love. Too many people my age believe that God is not relevant; my generation thinks it has no need for God. The truth, of course, is that God does matter; He desires a personal relationship with us. My generation needs to know that God has a plan for our lives, and that we are called to selfless love. God loves all people, and as Catholics we are called to love everyone. We are called to love homosexuals, and care for their souls.
We need to proclaim the good news that couples who wait to have sex until marriage, who go to Mass together every Sunday and pray every day, who choose not to cohabitate, and who use natural family planning instead of contraceptives have a divorce rate that is dramatically lower than the national average divorce rate. This message will resonate with many young people, because we are the victims of our parents’ divorces. We want something better than what our parents have, and the Church has the answer.
We need to bring the good news of salvation to our families, friends, and parishes. The world is longing for purpose; everyone is looking to dedicate their life to something greater than themselves. The purpose of life is to go to heaven. As sinners, the only way that we can go to heaven is through Jesus and His sacrifice, because He is perfect. There is nothing else in life that is more important than this: Jesus died for your sins and for my sins so that we can go to heaven forever. Most Catholics know this already, but very few of us believe it. Once we really believe in Jesus, then the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist makes sense. It’s no longer about having to go to Mass, it becomes wanting to go to Mass because we develop a longing and love for Jesus.
Evangelizing the world is an uphill battle; we are in the minority. Turning the tide after a Supreme Court decision like this will probably take decades. Look at the effects of Roe v Wade; there are encouraging signs of the tides just now beginning to shift, 42 years and 57 million murdered babies later. A reversal of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage is not going to happen anytime soon, and we will not be getting any help from the media. Change has to come from us and from our churches. That doesn’t just mean our priests—it means you, and it means me.
Here are five things that you and your parish can do to be an active part of the New Evangelization:
1. Approach a family member or friend who you know is a non-practicing Catholic. Talk to them about what they believe about God, and pray for them. Invite them to go to Mass with you. If you aren’t comfortable talking to someone about this, write them a note about what they mean to you and how you would like to encourage them to go deeper into their faith. Give them a copy of ‘Rediscover Catholicism’ with the note and challenge them to read the book. You can get a free copy of the book here.
2. If someone asks you what you think about the Supreme Court’s ruling, instead of getting in to a debate, consider watching ‘The Third Way’ with them on your phone or tablet. ‘The Third Way’ is a documentary about practicing Catholics who struggle with same sex attraction. Watching this video together will allow you to be able to talk about homosexuality on your terms.
3. Have your parish Welcoming Committee hand out a welcoming gift as people walk into Church on Sunday mornings. This should include a welcoming message from the pastor, a list of activities to get involved in, and a parish registration form. Every member of the parish should receive a gift at first, then as the weeks go by, regular parishioners will know not to take another gift, and only visitors will be taking them. This will not only increase the number of people registering at the parish, but it will also make visitors feel more welcome, let them know how to get involved, and give a sense that your parish is alive and well. It will also help the greeters as it’s always easier to give something to people than to just say ‘Hi’ with empty hands. It’s important that the gift is physically handed to visitors, and not just put in a box with a sign – the gesture of physically giving a gift is a sign of welcoming and inclusion. We need to start treating every Catholic and non-Catholic who walks through our parish doors as an opportunity to evangelize.
4. Encourage your pastor to support having a Lighthouse Media kiosk in the front of your Church with life-changing Catholic Media. Show your pastor the video of how the kiosk works. Keeping new and informative media in front of our parishioners and visitors is key to evangelizing.
5. If you know someone in college, encourage them to go to their Newman center or to get involved with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). College is really a profound time in our lives when we develop our personal beliefs, which makes having a good faith community during college all the more important. Too many young people fall away from the Church during college. A list of schools with FOCUS on campus can be found here.