Back in 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI was a recently elected pontiff, I remember the phrase "the cafeteria is closed" being thrown around a lot in the Catholic world. That catchy slogan summed up his true adherence to the teaching of the Catholic Church, as seen in quotes such as this one:
Click on the picture above for a link to printable prayer cards of this quote.
Looking for a way to do a topic study with my youth group kids on some of those hard "hot button" issues, I decided to use "The Cafeteria is Closed" as a theme. I started by talking to the kids about relativism. Is there a truth? What is truth? Can it be true for you and not for me? This led into a discussion on the teachings of the Church- found in the Scriptures and Traditions. Are they relative? Are they true? I told the kids that we were going to work through a series about the hardest topics (of their choice) and look at them through the lens of truth. The cafeteria of picking and choosing what to believe and when to follow it would be closed.
Cue this fun brainstorming poster. The kids were the ones who named the topics that would be the most controversial or most likely to cause someone to say "I believe in this but not in that." Within three minutes, the group of teens had listed Saints, being spirirual but not religious, Mary, social justice, all male priesthood, abortion, the Catholic hierarchy, euthanasia, indulgences, and marriage. You can't pull anything over on kids. They knew exactly what issues people, well, have issues with.
-Indulgences and Eternal Life
-Mary and the Saints
-Vocation and Marriage
-Religious and Spiritual
Then things got interesting. The kids had to pick a topic to help plan. That might mean that we met beforehand and they helped flesh out what questions teens really have, it might mean that they helped led a discussion, or maybe that they researched and sent me great youtube videos that helped make points on different sides. I wanted them to buy in and take some ownership and leadership.
The back of the menu had some great quotes and references about truth.
Then, at each individual study, the kids got a little menu card that fit right over the topic in the menu. For example, at the session on being pro life, we added the purple card.
YouCat references for six big ideas within the main topic (all of our Confirmation kids and youth group kids have their own copy of the YouCat due to a generous donation). The back had one specific quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church summing up the idea. The point was not to cover the topic exhaustively (like that is possible) but to answer their big questions and give them the tools to get started studying more deeply.
The overall goal of this series, which I repeated a hundred times, was for the kids to know that there is a truth, you can find that truth, and you can follow the truth.
This was not about bashing, arguing, brainwashing. Anything was open for question, and the answers did not come from the world according to me . We sought the truth and we found it. The kids now have an open invitation to follow that truth.
Since this post is already way too long, check back in the next couple of weeks for six more individual posts for each topic, complete with all of the printables we used, prayer cards, links to good info, ideas for video and song use, etc. I'll also tell you how we wrapped it all up and how my kids impressed me more than I though possible with their knowledge and insight.
-------Also, as a brief P.S., I am aware that the YouCat has had circulating mixed opinions over the past couple of years. You can read the most common questions/issues and some responses here. Is the YouCat perfect? No. Should it be the only resource used in Catechesis? Certainly not. However, is it a tool that can probably be used with the average teen more readily than the standard CCC? I think yes. It is a starting point, meant to lead them deeper in study and quest and prayer. In my experience working with teens, something like the YouCat is needed. I hope to see the publishers take it and revamp a few things in future editions to make it better, but I have been and will continue to use it as one resource among several in my work with teens.