Where do young people find God? In freedom and friendship, providence and prayer – not much mention of church, schooling or social justice. That was the message given convincingly to a gathering of some seventy people, including the Jesuit Provincials of Ireland, Britain, Netherlands and North Belgium. They were attending a forum in Milltown Park on the second of Fr Provincial’s priority ministries. Four young people spoke about finding God in their lives and their efforts to share that discovery with others. For Fr John Looby’s account of the evening, read below.
Listening to young people on God
John Looby SJ
Each speaker was a member of some group: two belong to Slí Eile, one belongs to Youth 2000, and another attended the World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney. All cherished belonging, sharing, and conversing with other young people about finding God in their lives. There is a genuine respect for others in their approach and it is in the goodness and passionate desires of others that they especially found God. Unequivocally they see finding God as a free choice that excludes any imposition or compulsion. One will not forget the aside which told us that one of Slí Eile will soon begin conversations with prisoners who have requested help with finding God in their lives.
There was hardly a mention of the traditional ways in which we were accustomed to thinking of handing on the faith. Of course, what they said was not prescriptive, but if their faith journey sometimes owed much to parents who themselves had found God, no one credited their schooling with having any influence, nor was their parish relevant. Sacraments could be a vibrant encounter for some, while chance meetings played a role for others and were obviously seen as God’s providence in action. Social action did not figure, but their narratives gave a large place to an openness and basic trust in God.