Generation X, if you don’t know, is the collective name of those Americans born roughly between the early 60’s and early 70’s – the generation directly following the baby boomers. Born in 1970 with three older siblings, I fit into the tail end of that category.
Those of us Gen X’ers who are Catholic were the first children to experience the Church post-Vatican II. It was a time of confusion for our parents regarding the Mass. They might deny it, but how could it be otherwise? There were (and still are) a lot of bad interpretations of what Vatican II was all about. For the first time in 1500 years, the liturgy was not spoken in Latin, and it became just like any other town hall meeting. My family used to go to the Tulane University Catholic Center in the 70’s where the barefoot students in the band would play Cat Stevens’ songs and cheesy folk hymns like Day By Day and I Am The Resurrection – a far cry from the beauty of the liturgy that had been developed over centuries.
So it’s no wonder that so many people my age who were raised Catholic are part of the “Nones,” professing no religion at all. It was just plain goofy back then.
In our childhood, the new churches being built were horrendous. The meaningful architecture that focused on God first got replaced with “communal spaces,” ugly brick monstrosities with altars and crucifixes that were some post-modern interpretation of Calvary. Uggh. What happened to the cathedrals of old and the dark, silent places that are conducive to just sitting quietly and listening to the Lord? Like the “new math” that led America into substandard math aptitude, we were given the new Catholicism, which has been a major factor in the emptying of pews.
World Youth Day didn’t hit the United States until 1993 in Denver, and by that time I was 23 – most Gen X’ers were older than I. Up until that time there were no vigorous Catholic youth groups (as there are today) to speak of, at least none that I really knew about except for maybe a tiny club in high school I participated in.
We were the last generation to have lived in a world without answering machines and the last to go to college without the Internet. We still have one foot in the past, but unlike our parents’ generation are very adept in the uses of digital technologies. We have experiential wisdom but also energy and life ahead of us to help transform the world.
I do not speak for a whole generation, but Generation X is a demographic mostly still absent from and forgotten by the Church. For those of us who have children, which I do not, I suppose there are educational resources for kids, but very little to address us personally. Most parishes these days have some sort of young adult ministry, which the cynic in me assesses to be merely a way to spark the promotion of new Catholic families, but for this still very active although mellowed time in our lives, especially if one is single, there are not very many ways that collectively address our experiences.
So for now, I look for opportunities on my own to serve or to create beautiful things on my own that hopefully give glory to God. Perhaps you have thoughts of your own on this subject – please feel free to comment below.