By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Many young Catholics lament that when it comes to faith and morality “the church is telling us what to do” and it sees issues in “black and white.”  

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Young Catholics enjoyed social time and faith formation at a Theology on Tap meeting Nov. 14 at Tin Roof Brewery in Baton Rouge. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator


But if young adults study church teachings and attempt to live by them, they are not “black and white” but a moving picture of living color, said Dr. Jennifer Miller in her presentation, “Living in Color: Virtue Ethics and the Beatitudes,” at a Theology on Tap meeting at the Tin Roof Brewery on Nov. 14.  

Playing a video clip of the primarily black and white movie “Schindler’s List,” the color Schindler sees is a red coat of a young girl, which represents the innocence of the Jewish faith being slaughtered. When in a sea of what seems to be black and white Catholic faith teachings, the Beatitudes are those beacons of color that point out “this is the way to go,” according to Miller.  

Developing virtues through the Beatitudes helps young Catholics colorfully stand out in a world that seeks happiness in essentially murky gray and unfulfilling ways.  

“The church is calling us to happiness now, to flourish for the rest of eternity,” Miller said.  

Focusing on Advent, Miller challenged the attendees to think about ways to grow spiritually in the light of the Beatitudes.  

St. Augustine, who lived a life that ranged from debauchery to a life of spiritual poverty and humility, is an example of the saints who serve as good examples in walking in the footsteps of the Beatitudes.  

Miller also noted that Adam and Eve’s sin was “that they decided they would become god without God.”  

The Blessed Virgin Mary, however, reversed that through her humility and her “fiat” to becoming the Mother of God. Yet, she was also not afraid to ask questions such as “how can this be?” because she wanted to understand how this would be accomplished. Then, rather than thinking of herself, she rushed to take care of her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with St. John the Baptist.  

When one allows God to enter their life more deeply one sees “how much bigger he is than I am.”  

“This brings great joy,” said Miller who acknowledged it is also difficult and scary because the future is uncertain.  

She further urged the young adults to reflect on where they are trying to play God in their lives.  

For attendee Daniel Fox, 20, of St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Church in Albany, the message was timely.  

“I liked how she talked about the God complex, about how we try to plan our lives 20 years ahead instead of walking with God,” said Fox.  

Miller said St. Augustine recommended people practice Lectio Divina, or meditating and praying with Scriptures, and “let the word of God challenge you.”  

Additionally, young Catholics should embrace a eucharistic way of living and the “culture of love” as described by St. John Paul II.  

This means respecting the dignity and presence of Christ in every human being, Miller said.  

She pointed out some Catholics were angry when Lady Gaga, a fallen-away Catholic, took to Instagram in 2016 to thank Father John Duffell of New York’s Blessed Sacrament Church for delivering a “beautiful homily” at her family’s restaurant. 

In the image’s caption, she wrote, “I was so moved today when you said, The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.”  

Miller noted that sadly some expressed indignation rather than appreciation for how the Eucharist brought people closer to God.  

“I thought, ‘That is the Eucharist,’ recognizing that everything is a gift of God,” Miller said.  

This leads to the question, “How do we react to others who struggle in their faith and who have questions, and if you love someone, will you challenge them to grow?” said Miller.  

She issued another Advent challenge to the attendees to think about their pursuit of pleasures by reflecting on the beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  

“God created pleasure because people enjoy pleasure,” said Miller. “The problem is when we pursue pleasure for its own sake.”  

She pointed out Jesus warns, “Woe to you who laugh, for you will weep and grieve.”  

What Jesus is condemning is not the enjoyment of pleasures, but when people are indifferent to the suffering of others or seek pleasure to escape from suffering rather than walking through it with God, said Miller.  

“There is a joy in accepting and living out our suffering,” she said.  

This point resonated with Conner Graham, 28, a member of Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant. 

“Something that we struggle with is the temptation of staying busy, to seek pleasure to avoid the feelings that we have and to do the work we need to do. At the moment it feels good, but when it’s over, you feel worse than when it started,” said Graham, who added there is a joy in sacrificing to achieve spiritual growth.  

Developing virtues include adoration, prayer, fasting and “coming through the back door” by giving up daily “must have pleasures” and finding a “fasting buddy” for accountability.  

Audience member Sarah Coleman, 24, a member of St. George Church in Baton Rouge, said through Miller’s talk she heard God’s call to spend less time on social media and more time on Lectio Divina.  

“What challenges me most is screen time …. I feel that (Miller) called me out on that,” said Coleman.  

But she said she thinks the benefit of “losing out” on social media time will be finding God’s love, mercy and grace. 

“Finding him is a great joy especially when you are praying and making an important decision in life,” Coleman.