Returned yesterday from the Youth Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. As always it was awesome. This was my fourth Steubenville Youth Conference, but my first at Franciscan University itself.
For those unfamiliar with them, the Steubenville Youth Conferences are events which bring together thousands of teens from all over the United States (and Canada) for a weekend of Mass, Adoration and talks from some of the most knowledgeable speakers on Catholic teen issues.
Yes, guitars are in evidence, but the worship music is anything but irreverent. Much of it is hardcore Catholic by such artist as Sean Forrest and Kelly Pease. No one who knows them could consider the Franciscans as anything but orthodox Catholic, and the conference shows it.
The adorations are famous for their charismatic nature, but Mass is promoted as the crown jewel of the weekend. Reconciliation is promoted, with dozens of priests present to hear the teens confess and grant absolution.
The keynote talks are the separate men and women talks. Each of these speaks to issues which are vital to teens.
This year the subject for the guys was the importance of having Christian male friends who can "cover your back." Too many males think they have to go it alone. Our society pushes and rewards individual effort so much that teen males are made to feel that if they can't handle it all themselves they are weak and inferior. The talks turned that notion on its head. Strong men have a group of male friends they can count on to tell them when they are over the line. Guys who can help them live a Christian life. And, of course, help them to treat our Christian sisters with the respect they deserve. Because a real man is one who protects the dignity of woman, both collectively and individually.
I, of course, did not attend the woman's talks, but am told they concentrated on building self esteem. If isolation and sexual objectification of woman is the major failing of teenage males in our society, then lack of self esteem is the major difficulty young woman face.
So the message? Christian men give women the respect they are entitled too. Christian woman demand and expect that respect. That respect includes living a chaste life.
The effect I have seen on the teens that I been blessed with accompanying to the various conferences is nothing less than amazing. While I'm not claiming that every participant is a candidate for sainthood, I have seen teens who are only lukewarm in their faith become highly spiritual practising Catholics, continuing their active participation in activities into their college years and beyond. None of them confused about subjects like Real Presence or what's a mortal sin.
Now I just have to get ready for our mission trip in two weeks.