We’re the young generation



At a clergy meeting I attended recently (nearly all the priests about my age) there was some concern expressed about the younger generation of seminarians. It seemed, some felt, that they were more conservative, in theology, dress and liturgy than ever our generation had been.

But one priest pointed out, wisely, I thought, that each generation reacted against the previous one, to some extent. He asked us to remember that, as curates, we had enjoyed shocking the older parish priests, by our wholesale embrace of Vatican II. We could hardly be surprised if the next generation enjoyed needling us a bit.

I’ve tried to reflect on the monthly meeting I have with a group of young Catholics involved in some particular pastoral work. They are bright, deeply committed, and devout. They would prefer me to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and at the moment I am only confident enough to do the Ordinary Form in latin. Given my Anglican background, and the fact that Vatican II was in the full flood of implementation just as I started training, it is hardly surprising that I don’t feel particularly at ease with the old Mass. But I think I understand where they are coming from.

The way of worship for some young people

The way of worship for some young people

My generation grew up in a culture which was still largely Christian in its attitudes and behaviour.  In the state Grammar School I attended there were in my own year, and the years above and below, young men who were going to train for the priesthood. Most of my friends would be married in church, and many of them went to Mass or a service at Christmas and Easter. Divorce was unusual among our parents, abortion unknown, and suicide was at worst a crime, at best a failure by family and friends.

For the generation now entering their 20’s, to hold Catholic beliefs about suicide, abortion, marriage, human sexuality and gender roles render any young Catholic open to curiosity, ridicule and even hostility. The Church of the 1960’s was confident of its need to be open to a changing society: it expected a generous response to its many changes and reforms from the society around it. We were disappointed.


Many young Catholics are now pessimistic about the state of 21st century European culture, and therefore seek from their faith a confident proclamation of salvation from sin through God’s grace. They need peer and group support; they want a clear Catholic identity; in liturgy and devotion they look for something which lifts them above the mundane and the everyday. Are they so different from the young people we now venerate as saints and martyrs at the time of the Reformation, and in the great missionary evangelisation of the nineteenth century?  It should not surprise us to learn that the most dramatic renewal and growth among young people is happening with those who are part of the Charismatic Movement, and those who gather around the Extraordinary Form of Mass. They may seem polls apart – but they are not.

Young witnesses to Christ: the Martyrs of Uganda

Young witnesses to Christ: the Martyrs of Uganda


About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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5 Responses to We’re the young generation

  1. Harry says:

    Fr Scott, I remember the late 1970’s and 1980’s when I was learning more about the Catholic Faith and the enthusiasm that ARCIC and Vatican II had generated in Anglo-Catholic circles, especially among young Priests I knew, but also among the laity. I’m sure we were at times quite a problem to older people in the Church. It’s all part of being young and enthusiastic and even though we all, or some of us, inevitably come to consider ourselves old enough to know better, or not young enough to know everything, we must welcome the energy of these young people. Like you I’m not so confident about the Extraordinary form, but if it does give younger people a “clear catholic identity” which lifts them above the mundane and the everyday, then who can argue. Perhaps we all should beware of becoming hum-drum and complacent, even losing the sense of the transcendent in our liturgy whatever form it takes.

  2. Ryan M. says:

    Father, I’m a twenty-something convert from Anglicanism in the U.S. I attend the local EF Mass (there aren’t any Ordinariate parishes around), and it is far-and-away the youngest Mass in my diocese. We have not only young singles, but many more young families than the other parishes around. As a new parent myself, I think I can speak for many of my generation when I say that it is not just about personal preference: we worry about the pedagogical and formative elements of the liturgy as well. I think we look around and see that, since the switch to the OF, young people have been leaving the Church in droves, and we suspect its because they are looking elsewhere for the authenticity and beauty they can’t seem to find in many parishes. And so as we begin to raise children ourselves, we’re eschewing the local folk music or rock ‘n roll liturgies, because we’ve seen that they’ve failed to pass the faith on to one generation already, and we’d rather bring up our young ones in a time-tested liturgy that will provide deep spiritual formation.

  3. Scott says:

    Perhaps you could start saying the Ordinariate Use as a way of breaking yourself in for the TLM.
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  4. Alan Robinson says:

    I seem to think that there is a real loss of interest in the “modern ways” – all the clergy I know who are enthusiastic about Vatican II and the New Ways seem to be very old and are not being replaced. I knew a priest who always made a point of mentioning Vatican II in every sermon. Young people – it seems to me – can’t see the point of Vatican II and look around at the after effects [shortage of priests, closed convents, plain clothes nuns, dreary liturgy]. Many are now looking behind to see what was there and are finding it rather interesting and substantial. I have never seen anyone flicking through, page by page, a Post Vatican II Missal, but I have seen many examining and going through the old Traditional Missals.

    • What interests me very deeply is that young people of faith seem to be turning to what gives them a real, deep encounter with God, and a way of living which is strong and good in the face of the trivial and destructive ways of secular society. For some this is clearly the traditional liturgy and all it stands for; for others it is Charismatic Renewal; for others one of the ecclesial movements.
      Believe me, there was dreary liturgy before the Council!
      And lastly, is it true to say that the loss of vocations was the after effect of Vatican II – or would there have been an even more dramatic loss of faith in the modern world if the Catholic Church had continued along the pre-Council path? The answer may only become clear with time.

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