Religious Life and the Young

Antonio Pernia SVD – Tagaytaty City, Philippines

First of all, I would like to thank David and all of you for the invitation to share a reflection on the “Religious Life and the Young.” At first, of course, I found it somewhat paradoxical that a senior Religious should be asked to speak about this topic. I thought that perhaps one of the  young religious should have been asked to give this talk. But, as you know, David is a difficult person to refuse. In his characteristically gentle way, he convinced me that I may have something to share about this topic. So, here I am, in “fear and trembling.”

In any case, I tried to address the paradox by consulting with some young religious through a simple questionnaire and an interview. About 50 responded to the questionnaire and five of them agreed to be interviewed in addition. And so, hopefully these reflections will carry not just my own ideas but also the experience of some young religious.

 I would like to divide this talk into two parts. In the first part, I would like to explore the question about who and what the young are today. In the second part, I would like to suggest a vision of the religious life that might be relevant to the youth of today.

Part I

Who and What are the Millennials

  1. The Demographic Cohorts after the II WW.

The Youth of today are generally called the “Millennials.” Speaking about the “Millennials” inevitably brings us to the topic of “demographic cohorts”. In demography and statistics, a “cohort” is a group of subjects who have shared a particular event together during a particular time span — e.g., those who studied at the Gregorian University between 1960 and 1970; or those who were superiors general between 1990 and 2000.[1]

As  we know, demographers and statisticians have grouped generations after the II WW, at least in the US and other Western countries, into cohorts, namely, the “Baby Boomers” (1946-1965), the “Generation-X” (1966-1985), and the “Millennials” or the “Generation-Y” (1986-2005).

1.1. Baby-Boomers.[2] Those born after the II WW (that is, between 1946 and 1965). This is the generation that is now in their 60’s and 70’s.

1.2. Generation-X.[3] This is the generation born after the post-war baby boom, between 1966-1985. They would be the ones now in their 40’s and 50’s.

1.3. Millennials.[4] This is the generation born between 1986-2005. They would be the ones now in their 20’s and 30’s – in other words, precisely the present formandi in our formation houses at the pre-novitiate, novitiate and post-novitiate levels. This generation is also called the “Generation-Y”, that is, the generation that comes after “Generation-X”. But it is better known as the “Millennials”, in other words, those who were growing up as teen-agers and young adults at the turn of the millennium.

Other names for this generation are: the “Generation We”, “Global Generation”, “Generation Next”, and the “Net Generation”. Still another name is “Echo Boomers”. Due to the increase in birth rates in the 1980’s and 1990’s, this generation is seen as an echo of the post-war “Baby Boomer” generation.

There are many ways of describing the characteristic traits of this generation. But one fundamental characteristic is that this is the generation that grew up in the context of “globalization”.[5] As we know, globalization refers to the world being experienced as a global village. This is the result of the “revolution” brought about the epoch-making developments in the information, communication and transportation technology. Distances are cut down drastically. Peoples and places are linked to each other more easily. Living in the world now seems like living in a village. Globalization may thus be defined as the contraction of time and space, resulting in the growing interdependence of peoples of diverse nations and cultures.[6]

Thus, this is the generation that grew up with the computer, internet, mobile phones, social media, virtual reality. This is the world they inhabit, the world that shapes their consciousness, their values and their attitudes. Thus, we can rephrase Descartes’ “Cogito, ergo sum” into “Colligo, ergo sum”. I am connected, therefore I am. Individuals of this generation have to be connected with the internet, with the virtual world, with the social media. If they are not connected, they don’t exist. They exist only if they are connected. “Colligo, ergo sum”.

  1. The Post-modern Generation.

Another designation of the Millennial generation we are considering is the “post-modern generation”, even if the term “post-modernity” or “post-modernism” has a wider meaning or application. Post-modernism, as the term implies, is a late-20th century movement in the arts, architecture, literature, music and philosophy which is a reaction to and a departure from “Modernism”.

2.1. Modernism.[7] Modernism is a philosophical movement born out of the historical phenomenon of the Englightenment in 18th century Europe, with its optimism that it was breaking through barriers towards untold social progress. These barriers were external authorities imposed on the human mind, like tradition in general and the Church in particular. Thus, reason had to be emancipated from these barriers and given free rein to search for the truth without restrictions. Modernism was fueled by the Industrial Revolution which led to the wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors, then, that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities.

As a mode of thinking, modernism is characterized by “self-consciousness” or “self-reference”. This entails a reliance on reason and rationality and an affirmation of the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge and technology.[8] But Modernism’s reliance on reason and on the power of human beings to bring about progress collapsed with the two world wars. This horrible experience led to the emergence of post-modernism in the second half of the 20th century.

2.2. Post-Modernism.[9] By the very term itself (“post-modernism”), post-modernism is an affirmation that the Englightenment, and the modern world that was born out of it, were not working. Aspects of the “enlightened” or “modern” world which post-modernism rejects include the following:

(a) An excessive reliance on the power of reason. Post-modernists warn that reason is not the clear, pure, fail-proof light that will lead us to the truth once it is freed from the constraints of external authority. Indeed, reason can be contaminated and exploited, and can mean different things in different cultures.

(b) The primacy and reliability of empirical data. Modernism assumes that if we can get the facts and “nothing but the facts”, then reason can analyze them and lead us to clarity that all can see. Post-modernists retort that there is no such thing as “nothing but the facts”. Facts always come in different cultural guises.

(c) The exclusion of mythical-mystical views of the world. Another assumption of modernism is that science, with its empirical method, is the final arbiter on how things really are. Post-modernists question this normative authority of science. They suggest that there are other ways of knowing the world which cannot be measured or put into formulas, like myths and mystical experience.

(d) The quest for universal truths. The often implicit goal or quest of modernism is to move beyond narrow-minded local views to get at the big picture of what we really are. The search is for truths and understandings that apply to everyone and be recognized by everyone so that everyone will finally be able to agree and live with everyone else. Post-modernism warns that this is not only impossible but also dangerous. People, and their cultures, are more different than they are alike.

This last point could be considered the main pillar of post-modernism, namely, that universal truths are dangerous and differences are life-giving. Thus, post-modernism is characterized by the dominance of diversity. We cannot get away from diversity. Different things may be interrelated, connected, integrated, but never to the point where diversity is lost. Diversity always has the last word, or diversity always has an additional word. Diversity dominates unity, and we should be happy about this. For otherwise, life and its evolution would get dull and wither away. Remove diversity and you remove vitality.

Thus, post-modernism sees the world in a state of perpetual incompleteness and permanent unresolve. Post-modernism promotes the notion of pluralism; that there are many ways of knowing, and that there are many truths to a fact. From a post-modern view knowledge is articulated from perspectives, with all its uncertainties, complexity and paradox. Thus knowledge is relational and all realities are woven on local linguistic “looms”.

  1. An E-P-I-C Culture.[10]

A simpler and more popular way of describing the post-modernist culture is to call it an EPIC culture, namely, E=Experiential, P=Participatory, I=Image-based, and C=Connected. In other words, Experiential rather than rational, Participatory rather than representative, Image-driven rather than Word-based, Connected to Others rather than Individual.


3.1. Experiential (From Rational to Experiential).

The shopping Mall is not just a shopping center, but an experience. People go to the mall not just to buy things or watch a movie, but to have an experience – family bonding, meeting old friends, making new friends, watching people, window-shopping, relaxing. That’s why malls do not just have stores and shops but entertainment facilities. And stores do not just offer products but an experience.[11]

3.2. Participatory (From Representative to Participatory).

The post-modern culture is a culture of choice. Thus, it is also participatory. But not just simple participation. Participation needs to be interactive. You do not just choose from a menu, you change the menu itself. You do not just transmit tradition or culture, you transform and customize it. It is no longer enough to possess things or to enjoy events. One has to be involved in bringing about those things or events.[12]

3.3. Image-driven (From Word-based to Image-driven).

The Modern culture was word-based. The post-modern culture, on the other hand, is image-driven. Propositions are lost on post-modern ears, but metaphor they will hear, images they will see and understand. Image dictionaries are replacing word dictionaries, and image banks are becoming as valuable as money banks. Images are humanity’s universal language. All 6,500 languages of the world share one common language: the metaphor. Indeed, cultures are intricate, interwoven webs of metaphors, symbols and stories. Metaphors are more than just decorations. They are the most fundamental tools of thought. Human beings think in images, not in words.[13]

3.4. Connected (From Individual to Individual-in-Community).

Two favorite words in the Web are “connected” and “community”, which have become one in the new word “connexity” – I.e., making connections and building communities. “Connexity” demonstrates that the Web is less an information source than a social medium. It is the new town square for the global village. It is the new “public space” and the new marketplace. The paradox is that the individualism that is sometimes fostered by the internet has led to a hunger for connectedness, for communities not of blood or nation, but communities of choice. The post-modern sense of community is less nation-driven than culture-driven. The rise of private communities is an indication this — condominium cooperatives, home-owner associations, the environmental community, gay community, etc. A true website is a gathering place, a watering hole where people go to in order to meet other people.[14]

Part II

Religious Life and the Millennials

Let me now pass on to the second part of this talk. After having explored the worldview, values, and lifestyle of the Millennials, I will not attempt to present a vision of the religious life that might be relevant to the youth of today. Obviously, at this stage, all we can do is to indicate some aspects of that vision, rather than a complete picture of that vision.

  1. What is irrelevant/relevant in Religious Life Today.

I would like to begin by briefly summarizing the result of the interview and questionnaire I undertook with some young religious in my area in the Philippines. Both the interview and questionnaire revolved around two questions, namely, (1) What aspects of the religious life, as understood and practiced today, do you think are no longer relevant to you? And (2) What aspects do you think continue to be relevant and important?

To the first question, the responses emphasized the following:

— a “fuga mundi” or a “world-negating” spirituality, that is, a spiritiuality that has no   connection with, or is indifferent to, the current problems of the world.

— a “convent-oriented” lifestyle, or a lifestyle that separates religious from the rest of the       people, especially the poor, the marginalized, the suffering. In this connection, a lifestyle          that is perceived to be comfortable or middle-class is seen as irrelevant.

— an “elitist” attitude which gives the impression that holiness is reserved to the religious and             practically beyond the reach of ordinary people.

— a religious formation that is averse to, or has no regard for, the use of the new technology, namely, the computer, the internet, mobile phones, the social media.

— a theological formation that results in a theology only for within the four walls of the seminary       and does not equip candidates to actively engage the present world.

To the second question, the responses most often repeated were the following:

— mission:

            — in terms of selfless service to the poor, the marginalized, the suffering.

            — in terms of “ad gentes” mission, that is, the readiness to leave home and country and share the faith with people of other countries and cultures.

— the vows:

            — in terms of witnessing to the existence of God and to spiritual values in a secularized world with its distorted values and false promises.

            — in terms of witnessing to a life of simplicity and honesty in a consumerist and comfortable world.

            — in terms of witnessing a life of radicality and holiness in a materialistic and superficial world.

— community life:

            — in terms of witnessing to fraternity and solidarity in a world of “globalized indifference.”

            — community that is not closed in on itself, but open to inter-acting with like-minded communities in the creation of a world community and a civilization of fraternal solidarity.

— prayer life, especially the harmony and balance between contemplation and action.

  1. Religious Formation and the Millennials.

If I am right about the culture of the Millennials being an E-P-I-C culture, then the religious formation of the Millennials needs to be an E-P-I-C formation. That is, a formation that is experiential, participatory, image-driven and one that fosters connectedness.

2.1. Experiential.

Thus, the need to emphasize the experience of God as the ground of spirituality and the source of theology. In Evangelii Gaudium (EG 78), Pope Francis laments the fact that for many religious, the spiritual life has come to be “identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelization”. The Pope, therefore, encourages a spirituality of encounter. And so, the need to incorporate in the formation program periods of exposure, particularly exposures to other people, that is, to people who are different from us – the poor, the sick, trafficked women, street children, non-Christians, non-Catholics, non-believers. For if we surround ourselves only with people like ourselves, we will never have “an-other experience” of God, or never see the “other face” of God, or never encounter the unfamiliar God, the God of those who are different from us. And our own experience of God will never be challenged and enriched.

2.2. Participatory.

Thus, the need to allow our post-modern formandi to be participants in their own formation. As mentioned earlier, today’s post-modern candidates find it difficult to accept a ready-made program. They do not just choose from a menu but want to change the menu or even create their own menu. Much progress has already been made in this regard. Consultation and dialogue are now a standard practice in most formation houses. But perhaps there is need to extend this to the question of the concrete expression of the religious life. Can we allow our young formandi to discover new forms of concretely living out the religious life? Can we allow them, within certain parameters, to find new ways of living the congregation’s charism, as well as new modes of realizing the congregation’s mission? Post-moderns do not just want to inherit old ways of doing things, no matter how tried and tested they may be. They seek to be engaged in the creation of what they want to give their lives to. The shift here is not just from passivity to active participation, but from passivity to inter-active participation.

2.3. Image-driven.

The modern world was a “wordy” world. It was word-based. Its theologians tried to create an intellectual faith, placing reason and order at the heart of religion. Mystery and metaphor were banished as too fuzzy, too mystical, too illogical. The Christian story came to be told through “creeds” and “doctrines” rather than through “parables” and stories. Its bias was showing that faith in God is right and true – a faith that satisfies the mind. On the other hand, the post-modern world is image-driven. It seeks to show that faith in God is not just right and true, but joyful and beautiful (cf. EG 167) – a faith that warms the heart. It seeks not just to understand God’s mystery but to experience the God of mystery. It therefore seeks what Pope Francis calls a “mystagogic” language (cf. EG 166), and not just a rational language. Can theology be transformed from being simply “fides quaerens intellectum” to becoming “fides quaerens sensum”, from “credo ut intelligam” to “credo ut sentiam” (from “faith seeking understanding” to “faith seeking experience or feeling”)? Can theology employ not just the “via rationis” but also, in the words of Pope Francis, the “via pulchritudinis?” (cf. EG 167)?[15]

2.4. Connectedness.

In the post-modern culture, the connections one makes in cyberspace stirs up the hunger for face-to-face community. The impersonal transactions made via the Internet only sharpen the hunger for personal relationships and community. Formation needs to reinvent the concept of “connection” and “connectedness” to fit the post-modern context. It is not just the extensiveness of connections that counts but the diversity of connections that makes a difference. There is a difference between a life rich in contacts and a life rich in connections. The youth of today write about themselves and post them on social media. But they cannot seem to talk about themselves and share their experiences in real community. And yet, community is built through story-telling. True community takes place when people gather to tell stories. A genuine community develops on the basis of shared stories. But story-telling requires experience. One cannot really tell stories if one does not have experiences to share. This brings us back to the “E” character of the EPIC culture, i.e., experience. The modern world emphasized abstract principles over “stories”. And yet, we organize our experience through narrative. Human cognition is based on story-telling.

  1. The Religious Life as a Call to Mysticism and Prophetism

Coming now to the heart of the matter, I believe that the emphasis of religious life in the post-modern world should be the call to mysticism and prophetism.

As we know, in recent years, the notion of the Consecrated Life as a call to Mysticism and Prophecy has gained widespread currency. For instance, Sandra Schneiders, IHM, professor emerita at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, in the USA,[16] defines the Consecrated Life as “a Christian mystical-prophetic lifeform, given to the Church by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world ….”[17]

3.1. Mysticism and the Language of Mystery.

First of all, the Consecrated Life’s vocation to mysticism is rooted in the consecration to seek God alone and love God above all. This consecration, in turn, is founded on an attraction to the mystery of God.

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), the eminent German Lutheran theologian, in his book, The Idea of the Holy (1917), spoke about God as mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a mystery that is both terrifying and fascinating, a mystery that both repels and attracts.

Most people are terrified and repelled by mystery (the mysterium tremendum). They are afraid of mystery, uncomfortable with mystery, ill at ease with mystery. And so, the usual tendency is to do away with mystery by trying to understand it with discursive philosophical and theological language. Once understood, we can file it away in a folder and archive it. Then we go on like business as usual, never bothering again about the mystery we have understood and filed away, or better, never allowing the mystery to bother us again.

Mystics, on the other hand, are those who are attracted and fascinated by mystery (the mysterium fascinans). They are comfortable with mystery, at ease with mystery, at home with mystery. They sit with it, contemplate it, live it – in such a way that it begins to manifest in their own lives. And the ineffability of mystery leads them to seek another language with which to speak about it. And often they can speak of it only in the language of signs and symbols. Mystagogic language, rather than discursive language. The language of mystery, rather than the language of rationality.

Mysticism is built on the conviction that God is not like us. God is always more than our God, more than what we make of him. God is always more than our thought of God, more than our theology of God. Again and again the prophets of the OT reminded the people that God is not an idol, the work of our hands and imaginations. God is always stranger and less familiar than we think. God is the totally Other. God is the radically New. In other words, God always has “another face”. The unfamiliar, mysterious face of God. The face of God that emerges out of his hiddenness, rather than the face of God that is created according to our own notion of God.

Most people prefer the known God, rather than the unknown God. They prefer a God they can love, rather than a God who loves them. A known God, the God they can love, is one under their control. They decide when to love him and when not. They decide how love him – with prayers now, and then with good works afterwards. A known God becomes a friendly and familiar God, a God who is like us. This becomes a domesticated and manageable God, one who can be called upon for all kinds of personal and political solace. Such a God is thoroughly predictable and totally lacking in surprises, a God who makes us complacent and comfortable.

On the other hand, the unknown and unfamiliar God challenges us and disturbs us. A God who loves us is not under our control. He takes the initiative. He decides when to affirm us and when to challenge us. He loves us by jolting us out of our comfort zones, and thrusts us into the unknown, into the high waters – “Duc in altum”. The unknown and unfamiliar God is beyond our thoughts and our imaginations. The unknown and unfamiliar God is not like us. Indeed, he summons us beyond ourselves and calls us to be more than ourselves. The unknown and unfamiliar God summons us to newness, summons us from our customary experience of God to an encounter with God who is different enough to call us to a different way of being.

Indeed, what the world needs to see today is not the familiar and customary face of God, but the unfamiliar and mysterious face of God. Not the face of God that makes us comfortable and complacent, but the face of God that challenges and disturbs. Not the usual face of God, but the “other face” of God.[18]

And where do we encounter this other face of God? It is said that the other face of God is revealed to us when we come face to face with the one who is different from us, the one who is other than us, namely, the poor, the stranger, the foreigner, the refugee, the migrant, the displaced people, the unwed mother, the single parent, the one affected with HIV-AIDS, the faith-seeker, the unbeliever, the non-Christian.

And so, mysticism begins not in the silence of our chapels or in the sacredness of our seminaries and convents, or in the comfort of our rooms, but there where we encounter the ones who are different from us – in the slums and barrios, the market place and the workplace, in the schools, hospitals and orphanages. Mysticism begins with our encounter with people who are different from us. And it leads us to the moment of contemplating the mystery of God, gazing at the other face of God, encountering the unknown and unfamiliar God. In doing so, we are summoned to newness and led out of our customary selves. Gazing at God’s face, we acquire the heart and the eyes of God, so that we begin to gaze at the world with the eyes of God. When we do so, we see the world differently, we see the world in a new way — enemies become friends, separating walls become open doors, strangers become brothers or sisters, borders become bridges, diversity leads not to differences and conflict but to harmony and unity.

Thus, mysticism leads us back to people. Mysticism leads us to Mission.

3.2. Prophetism and the Perspective of the Margins.

Secondly, the Consecrated Life’s vocation to prophetism is rooted in the consecration made through the evangelical counsels. Some years ago, Johannes Baptist Metz spoke of the religious vows has having both a mystical-religious dimension and a prophetic-political dimension.[19] The mystical dimension of the evangelical counsels refers to the profession by consecrated persons of God as their only treasure (poverty), their only love (chastity), and their only freedom (obedience). The prophetic dimension, on the other hand, refers to the solidarity that is implied by the profession of the evangelical counsels with those for whom poverty, celibacy and obedience are not virtues but imposed conditions of life. That is, solidarity

            — with the poor, for whom poverty is not a virtue but a condition in life,

            — with the marginalized, for whom celibacy is not a virtue but a social destiny,

            — and with the oppressed, for whom obedience is not a virtue but a sign of oppression.

Thus, one with those for whom poverty, celibacy and oppression are realities of life and not just “vows”, religious acquire a certain “dose of reality” in living out their consecrated life.

At the beginning of the “Year of Consecrated Life” some years ago, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) wrote a letter to all religious in the country. They said:

… “Religious life is prophecy” (Conversation with the USG, 29 Nov 2013, Rome). More precisely, it is prophecy from the margins . We are called to go to the places where the great majority of our sisters and brothers have been driven away from the centers of power, wealth, and opportunities and from there – with the marginalized – proclaim the Gospel and act on its demands.

Solidarity with the Poor reveals to us the “Other Face” of God – not the familiar face of God as seen from the “overside” of history, that is, from the standpoint of the victors and the powerful, but the unfamiliar face of God as seen from the “underside” of history, that is, from the standpoint of the victims and the marginalized.

The option for the poor is not just a political strategy but a recognition of God’s own preferential option. As Pope Francis puts it in EG 197:

God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself “became poor” (2 Cor 8:9) …. When [Jesus] began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor (Lk 4:18). He assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart. “Blessed are you poor, yours is the Kingdom of God (Lk 6:20).

Thus, the option for the poor is God’s own perspective, God’s own way of looking at reality. As such, it constitutes a hermeneutical key, that is, a key for the interpretation of reality. In his interview with the Jesuit Italian magazine, La Civiltà Cattolica , Pope Francis said the following:

I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything.[20]

What is required in today in the New Evangelization is adopting this hermeneutic from the periphery, this perspective of the margins, this optic of the poor, this view from the underside of history. For only then can we effectively communicate what Pope Francis refers to as the core of the kerygma that we proclaim, namely, the “Father’s infinite mercy” (EG 164).

Thus, mystics are those who contemplate the “other face” of God; prophets are those who view reality from the underside of history. And that, I believe, is consecrated life today. As such, consecrated persons today perform an indispensable role in the Church. They help move the Church from the “conservation mode” to the “missionary mode” (cf. EG 15), revealing thereby the “other side” of the Church, that is, the Church not as a bureaucratic institution but a “field hospital” after a battle, where the wounds of humanity may be bandaged, cured and healed.[21]


To conclude, it is said that there are usually five coping mechanisms for relating to any transition[22] – “holding out”, “keeping out”, “moving out”, “closing out”, and “reaching out”. Hold out = reject the new by holding on to the old. Keep out = hunker in the bunker, or deny the new and hide in the old. Move out = relocate and run away from the new. Close out = toss in the towel and admit defeat. Reach out = engage the new and respond to it creatively.

I believe the last mechanism should be our way of responding the post-modern generation, that is, “reach out” by affirming and enhancing what is good and positive, and purifying and transforming what is negative and destructive. Emphasizing the mystic and prophetic dimensions of the religious life is a way to doing this. Mysticism affirms and enhances what seems to be good and positive in post-modenity, particularly the “E” (or, experiential) and “I” (or image-driven) characteristics of the EPIC culture, while Prophetism purifies and transforms what seems to be negative and destructive in post-modernity, particularly, the consumerist lifestyle and the “selfie” and narcissistic tendency of the EPIC culture.


[1] Cf.

[2] Cf. The post-war years witnessed a boom in births, with the birth rate beginning to drop around the 1960’s. Thus, the term “baby boomers.”

[3] Cf. The term “Generation-X” was coined by the Hungarian photographer Robert Capa. He used it as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the II WW. Describing his intention, Capa said «We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, … » The term was popularized by Douglas Coupland in his 1991 novel, entitled Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning the lifestyle of young adults in the late 1980’s. This eventually became the meaning of the term, i.e., the generation after the baby-boomers.

[4] Cf. Various authors differ slightly in the dates they assign to the beginning and the end of this generation. Some say “the early 80’s to the early 2000’s”. Others refer to this generation as those who were between the ages 10 and 20 by September 11, 2001 (or the 9/11 tragedy). So they call this generation the “9/11 Generation”. My designation of this generation as those born between 1986-2005 comes from Harvard Center for Housing Studies of the Harvard University, which assigns equal 20-year periods for each of the generations after the II WW. Cf.

[5] Cf. USG (Union of Superiors General), Inside Globalization: Toward a Multi-centered and Intercultural Communion, (Roma: Editrice “Il Calamo”, 2000), pp. 10-21; John Fuellenbach, Church: Community for the Kingdom, (Manila: Logos Publications, 2000), pp. 107-108; SVD XV General Chapter, “Chapter Statement”, In Dialogue with the Word, No. 1, Sept 2000, pp. 16-20; John Allen, The Future Church (NY: Doubleday, 2009), pp. 256-297.

[6] Cf. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990). Or, “The growing planetary interconnectedness driven by technology, communications, travel, and economic integration”. John Allen, The Future Church, p. 257.

[7] Cf. Also Paul Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions (New York: Orbis Books, 2002), pp. 173-177; Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith and Mission (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2001), pp. 55-91, 124-157.

[8] Modernism was not confined to philosophy. It also found expression in other areas of life – the arts (Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso), literature (Fyodor Dostoyevsky and T.S. Eliot) music (Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner) drama (Georg Kaiser and Arnolt Bronnen), architecture (the construction of skyscrapers).

[9] Cf. Also Paul Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions (New York: Orbis Books, 2002), pp. 173-177; Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith and Mission (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2001), pp. 55-91, 124-157; David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990).

[10] Cf. Leonard Sweet, Post-Modern Pilgrims: First Century Passion for the 21st Century World (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2000).

[11] It is said that, toward the end of his life, St. Thomas Aquinas had a direct experience of God’s love. From that moment on, he stopped writing and called everything he had written “all straw”. It is one thing to talk about God, and quite another thing to experience God.

[12] In a representative culture, people want and need to be controlled and have decisions made for them. The task of leadership is to administer guidance and regulations. On the other hand, in a participatory culture, people want to make their own decisions and have multiple choices. Leadership is emboldening and empowering others to lead. The cultural shift is from passivity to interactivity. TV watching has dropped among the youth of today, because it is not nearly interactive enough. Instead the time spent on the computer has risen dramatically. As Steve Jobs of Apple once remarked: “You go to your TV when you want to turn off your brain. You go to your computer when you want to turn on your brain.” With the TV, you are merely an observer. With the computer, you can be a programmer.

[13] That’s why the power of the liturgy is so immense. Joseph Stalin was an ex-seminarian. From the Orthodox Church he learned the power of icons. That’s why he littered the Soviet landscape with pictures of himself. The first Christian icon was a textless, wordless symbol – the fish, for ichthus (iota, chi, theta, upsilon, sigma).

[14] If one asks the question, what accounts for the most time spent on the internet, the response is the chat room – 26% of all time spent on the internet. Where else can people tell the stories most central to who they are and find people eager to hear them than the internet? This is the new thing about the internet – even when I am most alone, “I” can be connected to a global mix of “us”. The more connected we become electronically, the more disconnected we can become personally. Post-modernism is characterized by a certain dyslexia: me/we, or the experience of individual-in-community. Post-moderns want to enjoy a self-identity within a connectional framework of neighborliness, civic virtue, and spiritual values.

[15] One can think here of the way theological courses are usually conducted in seminaries. For instance, the term paper. Does it have to be always a paper, rationally argued and duly footnoted? Cannot the “term paper” be a work of art? A poem? An original song composition? A painting? A drawing? Or the final exam. Should it always be an essay which answers a question? How about a play composed by a group, and performed before the entire class?

[16] Sandra Schneiders has written a monumental trilogy on the Consecrated Life. Cf. Sandra Schneiders, Finding the Treasure: Locating Catholic Religious Life in a New Ecclesial and Cultural Context, Religious Life in a New Millennium #1 (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000); Selling All: Commitment, Consecrated Celibacy, and Community in Catholic Religious Life, Religious Life in a New Millennium #2 (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001); Buying the Field: Catholic Religious Life in Mission to the World, Religious Life in a New Millennium #3 (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2013).

[17] Sandra Schneiders, “Theology of Consecrated Life for the Contemporary World”, Unpublished Lecture delivered at the Religious Life Week at ICLA (Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia, Quezon City, Philippines), January 24, 2015.

[18] Cf. Mary Jo Leddy, The Other Face of God: When the Stranger Calls us Home (NY: Orbis, 2011).

[19] Cf. Johannes Baptist Metz, Followers of Christ: Religious Life and the Church (London: Burns and Oates, 1978.

[20] Pope Francis in “Wake Up the World! Conversations with Pope Francis about the Religious Life.” An interview with Antonio Spadaro, SJ in La Civiltà Cattolica 2014: I3-17.

[21] Cf. Homily at Santa Marta, Servants of the Kingdom, accessed October 30, 2015, available at

[22] Cf. Leonard Sweet, Post-Modern Pilgrims: First Century Passion for the 21st Century World (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2000), pp. XIV-XV.

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Foto de Kekey Takaya CMF