A Catholic Alternative to Life Teen
Everyone knows about Life Teen. It has essentially become the only recognized “youth-oriented” function of the Catholic Church and exists in some form or another in every Diocese in the United States. Its growing ubiquity, however, has produced an interesting side effect; that is, that a parish’s lack of Life teen is seen as just that, a lack. A parish is hard pressed to reject a Life Teen program outright as it will face a charge of being distant from, or unconcerned with its youth. So, the absence of Life Teen in a parish is usually seen as something that “they just haven’t gotten to yet” or “they’ll get once they’re bigger.” Like it or not, it really seems to be a parish’s only option when it comes to catering to youngsters.
Enter Juventutem. An organization founded in May of 2006 who’s aim is to “foster the sanctification of the youths worldwide according to the Roman traditions of the Church.” Just this description alone is about the biggest breath of fresh air that I’ve gotten in a long time; there is actually a Catholic alternative to Life Teen! If you continue to read their mission statement and the other elements of their program, you find that they are about as well-grounded as one can be when it comes to programs aimed at youth. That is, they treat their involvement with the children as one aimed at bringing about a movement, a movement from the spiritual infancy in which such programs typically find their members, towards the kind of maturity that should be expected of catholic teenagers, and even adults. They have their members make such promises as weekly adoration and at least yearly attendance of a mass in the extraordinary form.
My purpose here is not to attack Life Teen, but I believe that in the interest of demonstrating just how unique Juventutem is in the world of Catholic youth programs it is interesting to compare the picture that either organization currently has on its homepage.
And then there’s…this
Now I know that pictures such as these are not exactly illustrative of the inherent differences between the two organizations, but it does provide a unique (and undeniably funny) glimpse into certain aspects of either group which words may not be able to convey, or at least that they do not convey, I’ll just leave it up to you to figure out exactly what that is.
Juventutem’s dedication to the Traditional Latin Mass may lead one to believe that they are more of an “old mass club” than they are a group dedicated to reaching out to the youth, but the point is that they could easily be used as the foundation of a youth program at any parish around the U.S. whish is seeking an alternative to the “charismatic” and “progressive” attitude which so characterizes Life Teen. In the same way that not everyone is devoted to the Old Rite, not everyone is devoted to drums and guitar solos during mass either. The exciting thing about Juventutem is that they allow pastors of conservative parishes to cater particularly to their youth without being pressured into using Life Teen for fear of having that dreaded “lack” of a youth program.
I understand that Juventutem does not portray themselves as an alternative to Life Teen, but we are in desparate times, and they fit the mold. Juventutem is principle driven and has an idea of formation which is other than “meeting them where they are,” it is based on principles which more resemble those of good parenting rather than those of a cool, young uncle who lets you stay up late and watch R-rated movies.