Is adolescence compatible with Catholicism?

As an adolescent in today’s world, life can be very complex.

The decisions we make at this age have an active effect on our futures. We must be logical and stand by our faith, too.

That brings me to the pivotal question I struggle with every day: Are adolescence and Catholicism compatible?

The first thing the faithful reflexively say is, yes. Adults made it through high school after all and are still at Mass every weekend. Obviously though, it wasn’t easy. There were tough decisions and a couple trips to the confessional. Take that and add all the “horror stories” you hear about the youth of this day and age. (Parents, I’m talking to you.) The process only seems to get harder.

Take me, for example. I’m a sophomore at St. Francis Xavier High School and am confirmed in the church. If you ask any of my teachers they would probably tell you I’m a good, solid student. They’d also say I’m a bit lazy, like to goof off, and in many ways just a typical teenager. I’m also a bit of an intellectual; I like to really think about concepts.

To press on with my question we must first define the ideas. Adolescence (for all intents and purposes) is the range of worldly views shared by most teens today. Catholicism stands for the faith in the guidelines that Christ has given us through His church.

I’d have to say the biggest contradiction between the two is simply the arrangement of priorities. Jesus Christ teaches us that we should love God with all our being and next love one another as we love ourselves.

I’ll be honest: my list of priorities probably starts with girls and material possessions. Most teenagers simply do not value religion as much as Catholicism dictates. They see it as restrictive and limiting. Why should I follow these laws? It’s not illegal — why should it be immoral?

The perfect example of this situation is the legality of sex outside of holy matrimony. We are stuffed full of hormones yet expected to remain chaste. May I remind you that this is the way God created us? It’s very difficult to combat your natural desires with simple prayer and abstinence.

This also happens to be the stage, in my opinion, where vice looks the most attractive. Young adults want to get away from their watchful parents and be independent. Most want to be noticed by their friends. Many of my peers view themselves as good Catholics but turn a blind eye to the areas where they stray from church teaching.

What forms is an interesting web of individualism versus influence versus divine influence. When I struggle with conforming to a certain church teaching, I cycle through every theory of why my action is more logical than the church’s. It is natural to defend one’s integrity but I know we can go to extremes.

The short answer is, this lifestyle is incompatible with the Catholic faith. Now I know what you’re thinking: my practicing Catholic instinct is kicking back in, and you are 100 percent right.

Adolescence is more than a million doors to vice. We have just as many opportunities to live in virtue, too. At least for me, my years as a Catholic teen have really extrapolated my interest in understanding the church’s doctrine. I will take a teaching and quite literally put it to the test in countless ways.

For example, one day in religion class we discussed the nature of God. The church’s view is simply that we cannot comprehend God or His ways. My question was: If we can never fathom Him, why do we bother trying? It’s a paradoxical quest for salvation that we must walk intuitively. It underscores the idea that Catholicism is a faith and not a science. In my own journey for understanding, I must concede to the fact that God will always transcend Earthly logic.

My faith ends up strengthened and rejuvenated; I feel like I can defend my beliefs from the entire Protestant onslaught here in the Bible belt! All jokes aside though, this zealous questioning of beliefs is healthy to a Catholic youth. It has been proven time and time again that those who investigate their faith grow in it — just look at the saints.

Also, we have many chances to do good deeds. At my school we value service. Every month, our class helps clean the local Catholic cemetery. At home we are encouraged to help out wherever possible. For adolescents, stewardship must merge with our hunger for independence. We know we can help others and choose to do so of our own free will, and are pleased with ourselves as a result.

The crux of the issue is that the answer can’t be yes or no, saved or damned. The life of a modern Catholic teenager has too many variables to be easily answered.

To keep temptation from overcoming faith, teenagers need global prayer. They need good role models and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, the guide ever alive in our hearts. 

In the end, the answer is yes. As we journey toward adulthood, our life is not only compatible with Catholicism, but fits like a custom made coat over it. Christ weaves our shield with His love and the love we have for Him. It protects us from the elements of all ages, should we choose to wear it.


Michael Rickabaugh is a sophomore at St. Francis Xavier High School in Sumter.