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Youth, Liturgy, and Life to the Full: A Conversation with Tim O'Malley and Elizabeth Tamez Méndez

In this conversation Catholic theologian and educator Tim O'Malley of the McGrath Institute for Church Life reflects on the significance of several key values in the lives of youth that work together to form lives shaped by scripture and transformed by God.

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In Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth series, pastoral leaders from a range of Christian traditions and denominations reflect on their ministry work with and for youth through the lens of several key values: youth agency, theological practices, role of parents, intergenerational relationships, and multiple pathways. 

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Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:00:16] Welcome to this session of Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth. This is a new series hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. I am Dr. Elizabeth Tamez Méndez, executive director of New Generation3 and longtime collaborator with the CICW. Today, Dr. Timothy O'Malley is joining us for conversation for this first video in the series. Tim, thank you for being our opening guest. We're so happy to have you here. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:00:46] Oh, it's so great to be here with you. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:00:49] Thank you for taking the time aside. As you know, the CICW has been working on gathering insights around this theme, and we want to come together and learn about community worship practices in different contexts, especially those that encourage intergenerational worship spaces and relationships. In today's conversation, we want to focus on practices that include and empower youth. Tim, would you please share with us a bit about your context and your work? We're eager to get to know more about it. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:01:22] Sure. So I am the academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame. It was established in 1970 to do outreach to the Catholic Church throughout the United States and eventually the world promoting, I think, really what we would call full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical life of the church. We wanted to bring the best resources of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend to Catholic parishes and dioceses throughout the US. Today we do that in a variety of ways. We do that digitally. We do that by running conferences and engaging in leadership formation. We're very focused right now on the question of affiliation and disaffiliation in the church. How do people get involved in the church? How do they stay in the church? How do practices of worship and especially the liturgy keep them involved in the church as they move along? So we do research, we do teaching, we do scholarship. Of course, I'm a Catholic myself, which means I go to a parish, and so in addition to my scholarship, my research, my teaching at Notre Dame, I also am just an average parishioner in my local parish, attending Mass regularly and other liturgies or experiences of worship as they happen. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:02:40] And that's something that is very unique sometimes in academia, right? Having those of us who are going between the two spaces and making sure that—there was another guest who mentioned making sure that we're not just writing and speaking and doing all these academic exercises about youth, but then we never spend time with them. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:03:02] Yeah, that's right. So I spent a lot of time with what we would call young adults, right? These are 18- to 23-year-olds. They're my students. I teach a lot of them at Notre Dame. I get to know them, listen to their concerns, their own religious desires. You know, I hate a church that—I suppose that in the end, I believe in the church that Pope Francis talks about, which is a church that's a little bit messy, that goes to the streets and to the margins and listens to people. And so it's a great opportunity, I think, to get to know the actual, existing church rather than the church of my imagination. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:03:41] That's true. Thank you. Thank you for sharing those details, because that really helps us to get to know you better and to understand the spaces where you are working and relating to youth. So now before we move forward, we want to let our viewers know that to frame our conversations in this series, we have chosen five values to shape this project on corporate worship and models of ministry with youth. These five values are youth agency, spaces for theological questions, the role of the family, sparking intergenerational relationships, and designing multiple pathways for ministry with youth. Tim, you mentioned that you wanted to focus on these five areas, so we're very much looking forward to hearing more about how you're integrating your work and your observations about these five values and what has been happening in your context. Now you were mentioning the word “liturgy” several times, being from the Catholic Church. As you know, we're going to have a wide array of viewers from different faith traditions, so would you explain to our viewers a little bit of what that means? Because I know that’s central for your work. What is liturgy? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:04:58] Thank you for that. I know a lot of people who come from other contexts will hear the word “liturgy” and be perhaps very afraid, right? They'll think, what Tim is talking about is something that's just very formal and stuffy. And what we're saying is that of course there's the official prayer of the church, which is in the Roman Catholic context, in books. There is a ritual order that we have to obey. We're very obedient to our ritual order. And it's just part of our common life with one another. I think it's really important to understand the roots of the word “liturgy.” Once upon a time all it meant was the work of the people on the part of someone else. So if I was a wealthy citizen of the Roman Empire, I would perform my liturgy, which would mean I would pay for a road. Part of my taxes would go toward the building of the road. That was my liturgy. Early Christians took up this term, and what they meant is, of course, God's work for the sake of the people, God's liturgy. God does this work for the sake of the people. So where you hear “liturgy” and where I might fall into it, even where sometimes I don't want to, you can feel free to think to yourself “worship,” or a mode of public worshiping of God in the communion of the church. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:06:25] Thank you for mentioning that. That really helps frame the conversation. Something that you mentioned earlier in our previous conversation was that you see liturgy and worship as a way of life. Could you share more about that with us, and how . . . the way you were explaining liturgy and then, of course, in the Catholic church, we know it follows certain structures and it could be perceived by others as rigid. So how does that interconnect with youth agency? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:07:00] Yeah, it's a good question. So the way that I like to think about liturgy is from Romans 12 from St. Paul, so, make of our bodies an acceptable or reasonable offering unto God. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. So this is Romans 12:1–2. I think when we think about worship, liturgy, in the way that we're speaking about it, we are talking about concrete rites and those rites are things that people receive and they pray, but they're not meant to stop there. In some sense, if you have a very formal liturgy like you do in the Roman Catholic Church, the reason why it's formal isn't so much so that you do the same thing every time and you get bored and there's no spirit of delight in the whole thing. It's rather that you can, because you pray the same thing each time, you can then focus on really giving yourself over and not worrying, “OK, what words am I supposed to say? Where am I in the book?” This is why I love Anglicans, too; I have a lot in common with Anglicans or Episcopalians, right? I often pray their Divine Office. And so when I pray “Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us and to all,” when I pray that, because I know the words and I pray them every day, then I can focus on giving myself over to the speech, to the music. I am no longer concerned about what comes next, what's here, or what's there, right? So bad Catholics—and there are many, and I am sometimes one—bad Catholics are just happy to say the words. But what we really should do is give ourselves over to the words and then let our lives be transformed by that offering, to make of ourselves a reasonable or sacrificial or acceptable offering back to God. And I think that's how we approach liturgy at my Center. I'm interested in how people pray, but I'm also interested in how people make their lives a reasonable offering back to the Father in everything, their vocation. And I think that's where youth empowerment comes in. It's not just making sure that they get to read the scriptures at Mass. I want that to happen. It's also making sure that they let their lives be shaped by the scriptures to become that offering in every crack and crevice of the cosmos. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:09:37] Thank you for framing it that way, because I think that's a very helpful and very unique contribution to the conversation, where others may see it as something that is very strict, then this is a good way for us to just engage with the words and not worry about what am I going to say next. And it started reminding me of the hymns that I grew up with or other songs in church. You would think it's repetitive, but precisely because you have the words, it gives you the space—if you want to; if not, you're somewhere else—it gives you the space to reflect on the words and to make them your own and then offer them back to God as an act of worship, both in our mind and in our speaking. And so thank you for framing it that way. That's very helpful for those who might struggle a little bit with the pre-structured and written words of liturgy. So thank you for that. And so within these aspects that you're working with, and then you see youth agency in following their vocation, how do you see worship being communities, being able to support youth in this in this process of bringing those two worlds together, their purpose and their belonging and their identity with worship and where they want to go in the world and what they feel they want to do? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:11:09] Yeah, it's a great question. And I think it's the prime reason that people leave the church. If they were baptized Catholic and then they leave the church . . . all evidence is, by the way, showing that they're not going anywhere; if they were baptized Catholic, not many are going somewhere else. They're going nowhere. They're just sort of done. And I think one of the reasons is that they think that what the church proposes has nothing to do with their lives. And I have to admit, as someone who goes to Mass, I kind of understand that. Nobody's telling you why you're doing this thing. There's no sort of formation that's being done. Sometimes it's just presumed that it's enough to show up and there's not this sort of joy or energy or gift that comes about. And so how do you make this connection for a Catholic? So for a Catholic, our top liturgy is the Mass. And my students, if they attended their local parish and received formation in their local congregation or assembly, they would have been told about the Mass a million times over in random ways, but that they're disconnected from their lives. So, Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Eucharist; Christ is present, of course, in the scripture; this is what we say here; this is what we say there; these are the seven sacraments; this is an altar. But it's disconnected. And I think if our communities are to empower youth to worship, we have to do two things. We have to explain what we're doing and why we're doing it, and we have to explain it in such a way that it connects to the very meaning of their lives. And I'll concretize it in particular practice of worship:

So in the Roman Catholic mass, one of the things you do is we present bread and wine and put it on the altar. We say something like “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for your goodness. We have this bread we offer you. We have this wine, fruit of the vine, work of human hands. For us, it will become the spiritual drink.” What are we doing here? We're presenting natural goods, bread and wine. Bread is matter created, given by God, the wheat of the field shaped by human hands. Same with wine. Wine is grapes, of course, crushed and fermented over time. And yet we give this over to God. We bestow blessing upon God—not because God needs our blessing; God's not just chilling up somewhere, saying like, “I just hope Tim blesses me sometime.” We thank God. We bless God . . . for this because we give thanks to God that this has been bestowed to us. This natural dimension of the world is now ordered, in this case, toward an offering that we will bestow to God in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think that when you know that, you begin to realize what you're actually doing at Mass: you're presenting your whole life as this offering. You're part of this natural order. You are the human hands that do the work and you present yourself at this Mass. It's not just “OK, I'm going to Mass; Father is going to say this prayer, and then I'm going to receive communion and leave.” No, no, no. I am offering myself here, my memory, my understanding, my will, my whole life. I'm offering it here. So I think that's what we have to do. We have to explain what we're doing in the liturgy as it is linked to the central sacrifice of praise that is our lives back to God, and that gives us meaning. Now my life is ordered differently. When I go to work, when I hang out with my kids, when I do all these things, it's not just Tim who's doing these things. It's Tim who's making the sacrifice of himself and then goes back to Mass to make the sacrifice again. We’ve got to do better here. And Roman Catholics are notoriously bad at explaining this to those who worship with us. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:15:10] I think that's part of what we're seeing in a lot of our churches, regardless of the background. We have lost a bit of this knowledge of why is it that we do what we do? Why do we do it the way we do it? And so there has been this disconnect for some time. So then for young people who are now growing up in the generation where they don't just want to do whatever you tell them to do, and they're influenced by an immense amount of information from all over the place, they want to go deep. They want to know, why am I doing this? And how am I able to connect with this in the deeper, more transcendent perspective versus just going through the motions and following this? . . . That's what saved me during the grueling PhD process. One of my mentors reminded me (that) every time you sit on that chair, every time you read an article, every time you're writing the forty-fifth page of that paper and you're just going through that process, it's an offering to God because you're not doing this just for the fun of it; you're doing it because you sense that this is what God is calling you to do and it’s part of your vocational tools. And so everything we do then really becomes that worship? And sometimes I know that that has helped students to put those two together. It’s like, yeah, I know you don't want to study for this test, but how about you study for this test in that context? And then it makes it a little bit easier. I think that what you brought up and touched upon a little bit is precisely that need and hunger that you have for exploring their questions about faith and religion and theology and just life in general. Like how are these things that I'm seeing in church or hearing really connecting, and where can I ask these questions without being dismissed or given a very simple answer or just being told, Well, we don't talk about that? I don't know what you have seen in your context about spaces for theological questions. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:17:25] I think this is an area where it's really difficult. Certainly in Roman Catholicism there are spaces of what we would call youth ministry. And the really good ones provide spaces for some of these questions. They're actually very robust, and they leave space for this inquiry. Once many of our young people leave their high school programs, they are left a little bit on their own and in the Catholic world today, that means they go to a chaplaincy at a college if they go to college; if they don't go to college, then there's nowhere really for them to be except their parish, and they're kind of forgotten. So I think the question that should lead to a kind of a mirror reflection for us is: how do we create those spaces for young people who are exploring their lives to ask the big questions, and how can worship be a part of this? . . . I think in a lot of ways, what we do very well in the Roman Catholic Church is we actually do worship together quite well. And I think one of the spaces that we should think about creating in cities and other areas are spaces of very quiet, contemplative worship. I think one of the things I'm seeing among young adults in particular is exhaustion over the pace of life. Like, life is moving perpetually; there's no silence; I'm addicted to my device, and that's my whole life. So to create these silent spaces of leisure, of time spent with one another and asking the big questions together. And here we need people who are a little bit older, mentors and peers, shaped to to have conversations about the big questions together. Right now in Roman Catholicism we're talking a lot about accompaniment. We want to meet people where they are and bring them along. I love it. Except you can also accompany someone off a cliff. So how do we invite people to accompany people toward wisdom, toward better forms of life, toward, as the gospel says, life to the full, eternal life? And so that's our task. And I think we need more money and resources in Roman Catholicism to do this. There are places that are doing a great job. Catholic campus ministry is often doing a great job. My own university does an extraordinary job with theology and spiritual life mixed together. But these are too few throughout the United States. They need to be specifically places where those on the margins of our social life are. In Roman Catholicism today, in Chicago, 90 percent of Latino/Latina young people are attending a community college in this urban Chicago area. There is no explicit outreach on the community college campus to these young people. And so we have to go there. One of the best things in the Roman Catholic Church that I've seen today on this point is run by a good friend of mine, Vicente; he’s in charge of this program called Iskali. It’s a young adult retreat space that forms young people in a life of worship together and yet also brings them some of the things that they most need in life—mentors who can ask the big questions. Examples, right? The number of Latino/Latina youth who do not attend college are huge. And so they need examples to say, “This is where you can go, and this is what your life can become.” I talked to one of these young women and she said to me, “You know, I didn't know I was supposed to go to college, and now I feel guilty. I met Vicente, and he told me that I should.” And it was good guilt . . . because she found a mentor who loved her and brought her in the context of Christian worship to a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. And I think that spaces . . . we need creativity now. We can't rely on these young people to just randomly find us anymore. That's not happening. We have to go to them, and we have to create structures where authority isn't just “I said this because it's true,” but authority is given because we are there, and we live faithful witnesses to the life that we propose. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:22:05] And just being able to, like you mentioned, be present in these spaces where they already are versus always expecting them to come to where we are. And as we are having this conversation on imagining new models of ministry with youth, I think that's an encouragement for local congregations to explore their context and see, what is it that we could do beyond our walls? Are there ways that we can take our work and expand it in that direction? Because sometimes there's a bit of a perspective that that work should be done by parachurch organizations or somebody else who's interested in that. And there's certainly a place for that. But I know part of our experience in the church in Tyler, where I was ministering at that time, is that then we were able to make a greater connection with the community because we found that there was a space for us in the local school where we could go in and serve the kids and serve the families in ways that were very tangible to them and created that connection between my faith and what I do every day and the social problems that I'm having, especially on these aspects of education, for the Latino community. Hopefully that sparks the imagination of some of the congregations to understand that youth are hungry. They want us to work alongside of them. What are the ways that we can imagine doing that beyond perhaps our traditional models or structures? And then in that you were touching upon aspects of intergenerational relationships, and I think a lot of people think about the way of interacting with the mentoring. I don't know if you want to speak a little bit more into that. What are some of the key practices you see in your campus, how the different generations are coming together, and where do you experience those richest relationships in your community? What have you seen so far? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:24:20] On our own campus, I sometimes worry about this because they encounter this beautiful space of 18- to 22-year-olds, many of whom love Jesus and live lives of discipleship and pray together well. And then they're thrown out to a parish where they're surprised that people are not at the door saying, like, Oh, you're so welcome, we need you to serve in every way possible. You are the most important person who's ever come to our church. I don't mean this to belittle my undergrads, but they're always like, “Well, why am I not being honored when I go somewhere?” And I always say to them, “Well, welcome to life.” We should all be honored more. But at the same time, when you belong in a Catholic parish, you really do have a kind of “Here comes everyone who happens to be here” sort of vibe, right? You’ve got old people, young people, babies, you’ve got everything in between. And I think that where I see some of this good work being done is in a program we run here called Echo. We take recent graduates, 22- to 25-, 26-, 27-year-olds, and we put them in parishes where they have to learn—they're young, and they're very excited about catechesis and liturgy and music ministry. And one of the things we want them to figure out is that to belong here means to belong to a communion of people who are not your same age, class, social structure, and that we want you to be mentored by someone who is much older than you whom you may clash with. Because part of Roman Catholicism, we're seeing a clash right now, a generational clash. We're seeing a clash between younger people and older people. So an older generation says it's the young people who are at fault. They're ruining everything. They're all traditionalists who want to return to X, Y, or Z. And we, the older people, represent what is. But then my students say, “No, no, no, it's the older people that are at fault. They screwed up the whole church and now we come to rescue them.” So we put them together and we say, “Stop, this is over,” and we want them to get together and to learn that what Christ calls us to is communion—and communion with one another no matter our age, our social class, etc. It is a deep communion. I think this is one of the great models that we're moving ahead. And by the way, these kids, they learn to love doing ministry where you put them in Florida and we say you're going to work at parishes in Florida, especially in the fall and into the of winter are basically just old people like there's a mass at like 6:30 in the morning so that everyone can get out and golf in time. But they're doing Bible studies with retirees, and they're sharing wisdom together. And so I find if you create the spaces where this can take place, you have intergenerational communion that unfolds. The problem today is creating spaces, and I think our program Echo does a great job of it. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:27:30] A lot of the research, especially from Stanford, is pointing to that more and more we're living in these generational islands. So kids spend only time with kids when they're in grade school and the majority of their life is spent with other peers their age, and the same thing just happens throughout life. There's a study that was showing from people they surveyed who were over 60 years old, about 6 percent of the people they speak to about very important things in life are under the age of 32. So really the majority of the time they're speaking to others who are the same age, they're not really interacting with anyone under 32. And so we're losing that connection between the generations and being able to pass down wisdom in some of the learned practices that we're seeing. . . . If I don't know you, if I don't connect with you, if I don't see how our lives are interacting day to day, then it's very easy to fall into these pitfalls of “Well, it's the fault of the young people” or “It’s the fault of the old people.” And then there's just this imaginary tribe because they have never even spent time together. So then it starts to create these separations instead of unity in what we could do together. So thank you for pointing that out because I know that campuses and congregations and churches and parishes, they're struggling at times with that issue of intergenerational connections and how they can improve that. One of the things that I also wanted to ask you about was the role of the family in this whole process, especially for young adults, because they're on campus and it's almost like that's characteristic of their generation. They detach from their parents, and there might not be a lot of connection. But how do you see that role in equipping parents and other family members to mentor and support the faith formation of young people in their family? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:29:58] I'd say two things. I think COVID-19 for Catholics revealed how bad we were at family religious life. One of my interests of study is history, specifically the history of worship, and if you paid attention to one of the last times the Roman Catholic Church went through a major plague that was worldwide, it was during the Black Plague or the Black Death, which continued for almost 400 years, really. And in Milan, the bishop there, Charles Borromeo, created all these remarkable things during this pandemic when they couldn't leave their houses to go to church, to worship together. The printing press was relatively new; Lutherans used it, and Catholics were using it. And so we were using the printing press to actually get out these leaflets to help people pray together. I think one of the things that we revealed during the pandemic is that we had no idea how families could pray together, at least in the Catholic world. What we had was, “We will watch mass on TV. We will turn to TV or my computer screen, but we won't worship together.” And so we realize that parents felt somewhat powerless around this. And I think that reveals to us how much work we need to do in the Roman Catholic Church, in particular around family formation for worship. And how do we get them praying with their kids early on and to continue praying with their kids as they move along? I think this is an amazing opportunity to have the big mentorship conversations with your kids. Sociologist Christian Smith here at Notre Dame notes that yes, a lot of adolescents and young adults pretend that they're not listening to their parents. They're secretly listening to every single word that they're saying. They're the most important people in their lives relative to religiosity, their views of marriage, of family life. They're essential. And yet we have to create these spaces of common purpose. So we have to start when they're young. I mean, I think about my own 8- and 4-year-old. We pray night prayer together every night. This is integral to our family. It's not always beautiful; it is very, very unbeautiful, often. There is a lot of violence and things like that, but we do it. . . . Sometimes literal violence; they're fighting with one another because we light a candle and they're trying to figure out which one of them gets to light the candle, and then the house burns down or something like that. . . . We do this stuff, but it creates spaces where we can start talking about our faith with our kids. Why do we do this? Why is this important? Why are we doing this? And we start being able to talk about it and offering this mentorship early on so that by the time they're 22, 23 years old, they're not like, I'm not suddenly broaching for the first time, Hey, tell me about your religious life. I mean, that's an awkward conversation to start having then. So I think we need to do a lot better in the Roman Catholic Church across the board toward formation of what we would call the domestic church, the church of the family. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:33:17] I think that's a myth that has been propagated in our society, that young people really don't want to listen to their parents, and they kind of have lost the voice over them and the influence. But as you pointed out, research shows over and over again that it’s the opposite. Children are always listening to their parents and their guardians and other adults in their family. And so I try to remind leaders that this is just the nature of how things are. If a child does something, it's because they learned it from somewhere. They don't come pre-programmed for “this is how you do life.” They learn it from somewhere, or they didn't learn it. I often share with them and say, “How do I know about prayer? My mom was teaching me how to pray before I was born. She was praying over me. So that is just it becomes part of what you do every day without even thinking about it because it started early on in my formation.” But parents seem to be very busy at times and overwhelmed, and they often wonder, whatever I do, is it even going to make an impact? And so we want to encourage parents to know that yes, definitely, it will be the best indicator of where your kids and youth will be able to draw upon and say, Yeah, this is something important in my life which I want to continue nurturing when I'm on my own and my parents are not around here. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:34:57] Yeah, I think that's everything. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:35:01] With all of these factors that you're seeing in your context, is there anything you want to point out about multiple pathways of ministry with youth? Have you seen anything that is unique or surprising or countercultural in the spaces where you see people connecting with youth? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:35:24] So we know that this isn't brand new. I think there's evidence in both Catholic and Protestant communities around interest in monastic things, not so much because people want to be monks, but I think they want the psalms. They want silence. They want ancient practices of prayer. And so one of the things I think we have to be very attentive to whenever I travel in the Catholic world, like we got to involve the young people. And that means drums, and that means we need cool things and guys wearing ironic T-shirts with sandals. And yes, I'm not denying that, but I think for too long that's been our exclusive modality. And I think we have to recognize that there is a hunger to connect to a memory that's older than yourself. In some ways don't presume that, you know; ask, and draw from the wellspring of whatever your tradition is to actually connect with people. There is a reason why so many Anglicans are returning to older prayer book practices. Catholics are returning to older stuff. Don't be afraid of it. I mean, we have to guide young people through it because sometimes they can become idols, but we need not be as afraid of some of the stuff as we are, especially we who are used to the way that we do things, we're scared when there's something new, especially when it's old. And I think we should be attentive to this and understand more about it. I think we're starting to see a lot more interest in what I might call historical Christianity as lived out in all the traditions—Lutherans returning to early Luther and hymnody and not the contemporary worship song. And that's OK. We can deal with that. We can have a church that has everything. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:37:22] I think that’s the reality of church, right? We have different chapters, and we see things going on in society and we want to react to them. I remember there was this wave of, like you were pointing out, churches that changed their whole look, their colors; they wanted to have more contemporary music, so then came in the drums and the loudspeakers and all the screens and these worship spaces where it looked more like a concert than . . . what we're used to in churches. That was the attempt to connect with young people and say, “You see, we are very young and contemporary, and this is a place where you can connect.” And Pamela Ebstyne King from Fuller (Seminary), has some research precisely about these topics that you're bringing up. . . . There's so much noise, there's so much running, there's so much plugged into the technology, and it has happened very quickly in the last ten years. And this is a generation that just feels overwhelmed, and there's always noise, and there's always something calling your attention. And now it seems like the trend is heading in the direction of moving away from all this noise and lights and being active and just being very much of a concert-like space to these places of contemplation and silence. The research was showing that then there's a greater sense of transcendence. And because our work is aligned with psychology, your brain and your spirit and your body being able to switch and understand, “Ah, I'm in a different space now, I'm in the different modality. Now I'm here to connect spiritually. Not to detain, not to make noise, but to connect.” And it just helps them move into a different space to be able to understand this physically and mentally. . . . In this university where I often collaborate, in their women's dorm they have one of the rooms just completely dark, and it has little spots where people can stop and have a reflection on a verse or a theological question. There might be a space for them to do something, either play with sand or with water or write something down. And I always thought, who's going to be interested in that? And I find it that constantly . . . they have a sign and they have to let people know (they) have to wait because somebody else is in there. It's this beautiful space. It's very small, but it's a beautiful space of contemplation. Dark, a little bit of spotlight in it. I just keep seeing these undergrad students eating it up. They just want to be there and spend time being in silence and just even sitting on the floor and being able to have that time of spiritual connection with God. I think that surprises a lot of people at times because they feel like, oh no, they just want to run around and have noise, right? It's like, no, now they're craving the opposite. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:40:48] That's right. In the end, I think we always have to remember that what people really want, it's not whatever is the newest trend. In the end, if we want to have the hope that we hope in most of all, they want the one who is ever young, right? They want Jesus, who is in the end the one we propose. He is ever ancient, ever new. And I think that's what meets the heart of people in the end. . . . They want an encounter with love, with love itself. So I think if we remember that, then we won't be troubled by movement between these various eras, and we'll be OK. . . . [laughing] Trends are dangerous. They’re very expensive. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:41:38] Yes, yes. And then in your context, it might not even click, right? 

Timothy O’Malley [00:41:43] Exactly. And then it doesn't work. And then, you know, the latest program goes the forgotten way. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:41:50] Thank you so much, Tim, for this engaging conversation. We have learned so much from you today. We appreciate you being our first guest in this series. And I know this has given us a lot of information for us to continue processing and just imagining what else can can happen within our context as we reach you, then thank you to our viewers for joining us in this session of Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth, and we pray these conversations inspire and encourage your efforts in reaching the next generation. Thank you, Tim, again, for being here with us. 

Timothy O’Malley [00:42:29] Thanks so much. I’ve learned so much. Thank you. 

Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:42:32] It was great connecting with you. For our viewers, please join us for the next video series, and leave us a comment about the session. We really want to hear from you. 

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