Once upon a time I had lots of ideas about how things should be, especially when it came to the behavior of people in Church.
Then God helped me mess everything up.
. . .
I die a little inside when I see good adult Catholics judge teens at mass for not behaving in a way that the adult deems appropriate. I despised Sundays as a teen. The selfish adults who believe that church exists to serve as their well-ordered club did nothing to draw me toward God. How could they draw me to God when all they really cared about was church as their place of perfection?
These days I hold my breath just a little when I go to church, praying that I will be surrounded by people Christlike enough to know that teens must be welcomed rather than scolded.
If someone were to watch my teen sister as we walk in to mass, they would see her ignore the holy water and move into the pew as if it were a seat at a movie theater. They might notice her reading a book at times, or even taking a drink from her water bottle. When it came time for the sign of peace, they would find her smirking as she reluctantly shook hands.
That is what they would see. What they should know though, is that it does not matter what they think they see, it is impossible to ever really see what someone else is going through.
My sister is not Catholic. She is still figuring things out in terms of faith. She comes to church with me only because she has a medical issue which requires that she not be alone. Her genuine, shy smile just so happens to look like a smirk. She does not encounter Christ directly through the Eucharist at mass, but she does encounter God through each person who graciously chooses to welcome her presence at church.
It does not matter whether it is a teen’s first time in church, or if they were confirmed last week after growing up in the pews. What matters is that you never truly know what is going on inside someone else’s head. And in the case of a teen who would rather not be at mass, it is of utmost importance to pray for them and try to make church clearly a place of love.
You don’t know how much a teen may be encountering God at church, and the only thing that you can control is whether they encounter God through you.