The questions young people ask

Yesterday after the morning Mass, I went over to Aylesford to give a Day of Recollection for boys in Year 10 (i.e. aged 14-15) from the John Fisher School.

The day was organised by Sir Dan of the Blogosphere along tried and trusted lines: a tour of the Friary given by Brother Lawrence O.Carm, a talk by me, confessions, lunch, "Question Box" and a votive Mass of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. St John Fisher is one of the saints to whom I pray every day and I always love to preach about his heroic life: he is a great inspiration to boys and an example of inner strength and courage in the face of adversity.

The "Question Box" session is always interesting. The boys are invited to write any questions they want on a scrap of paper and it is the priest's job to answer them as well as fielding any impromptu questions. I have often run sessions like this with young people and it is a very good exercise since it gives them the chance to set the agenda. There are rarely any questions about global warming, pollution or the environment but there are always plenty of questions about sexual morality (masturbation, homosexuality, sex before marriage, etc.) I usually take these as a "job lot" and speak for a while about the Church's teaching on chastity, self-control, and the sacredness of the procreation of new life. The insights of the Good Counsel Network and the Sisters of the Gospel of Life are always of interest since they come from people's experience at the coalface.

The other questions nearly always include one or two about what happens after death, heaven (sometimes) hell (always) and purgatory. Questions of the day tend to come up depending on news priorities - yesterday we had one about the Church and the Nazis, probably prompted by recent coverage of Pope Benedict. That was a good opportunity to talk about the response of the Church to Nazism, and to try to restore the reputation of Pope Pius XII. As ever, there were a few questions about the priesthood - on celibacy, "Are you paid?" and "Is it boring being a priest?"

To the latter question which is a frequent one from young people, I always answer with honesty that sometimes the priestly life is challenging, and sometimes it is very joyful, but in 25 years as a priest, I have not yet had a boring day.

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