On Catholic Teens
IT WAS AN AMAZING scene. There I sat among 23,000 exuberant Catholic teenagers mobbing the entire field floor and first seating level of the Houston Texans' Reliant Stadium.1 This mass of rollicking Catholic teens, gathered from all over the United States in November 2003 for the biannual National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry's National Catholic Youth Conference, was for four days alternately bouncing to the throb of Christian hip-hop bands, fervently praying the Hail Mary and Our Father, wildly cheering the testimonies and messages of young and old Catholic speakers, and reverently celebrating the Eucharist en masse. These kids, by all appearances, were splendidly proud to be Catholic. They wore T-shirts emblazoned with in-your-face Catholic slogans, creeds, and Bible verses. They thunderously applauded the attending bishops and priests and screamed adoration for the Pope whenever his name was mentioned. Groups from parishes and dioceses roved about the stadium and convention grounds in packs, waving parish banners and bellowing Catholic cheers and chants. The throng's palpable energy was generated by this congregation of many thousands shouting, hugging, swaying, singing, and sharing together in unity—a real religious collective effervescence at work, a massive sacred experience, a distinctively Catholic spectacle that was jubilant, intense, exhausting, inspiring.
Many of the teens attending told me they had come mostly to have fun at this major event about which they had heard so much. But it was also clear that most came from lives and families much involved in their parishes