Theology on Tap – Meeting Young Adults Where They Are on Their Journey of Faith

In addition to some of the usual engagements one might expect to find on the calendar of the Archbishop of Washington – Confirmations of youth at parishes across the archdiocese, baccalaureate Masses and commencement addresses – there’s one event on my schedule that stands out from the norm: a talk on May 7 for Theology on Tap at Buffalo Billiards near Washington’s Dupont Circle Metro Station.

Some might wonder what an archbishop is doing giving an address at a bar.  It’s all part of the effort to bring the Good News of Jesus to people (in this case, young adults) where they are.  For several years now, the Office of Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington has sponsored the Theology on Tap program which reaches out to young adults who want to explore and expand the role of faith in their everyday lives.  Theology on Tap takes place at local pubs and begins with a happy hour followed by a talk.

The theme of this spring’s Theology on Tap series, Habemus Papam!, uses the Latin phrase that was spoken from the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica to announce that we have a new pope, and I will be sharing my experience of participating in the conclave that elected Pope Francis and witnessing his first days as our new Holy Father.

Granted, it’s not every day that one finds a member of the clergy talking about the faith at a place like Buffalo Billiards, where people can also play pool, throw darts, and compete in ping pong; nor is it often the case that members of the “congregation” to whom I’m speaking are simultaneously enjoying burgers and beer.

When you think about it, though, Jesus did not just proclaim God’s word in the temple.  He shared his Good News on the shore of a lake, on a mountainside, in people’s homes, and as he walked with his friends.  Our Lord didn’t just preach to the choir, as it were, he asked fishermen and even a tax collector to follow him.  He reached out to a woman at a well.  His first miracle was at a wedding.  He met people where they were in their daily lives.

Before he ascended into heaven, the risen Lord asked his disciples to be his witnesses and bring his Good News to the ends of the earth.  His story was not over, it was just beginning, and it was their turn to share his story.  Those first disciples included young adult women and men who walked with Jesus and, as members of the early Church, helped spread the faith to the world, in some cases sacrificing their lives so others would come to know and love Jesus.  We recognize some of them now as saints.

Today’s Catholic young adults living in the Washington area are called to be Jesus’ disciples now and share his life and his love in their homes, their workplaces and their communities. Many are at a crossroads in their lives.  Having come from a different state or country after graduating from college, they have found a new home and employment in our nation’s capital, or perhaps they grew up here and are now finding their way as adults.  Like the first disciples, they are searching for the truth and the right path for their lives.  In a secular, materialistic and individualistic world, they understand that there is more to life than the here and now.

As a priest, I am happy to meet with them where they are, and share Jesus’ words of everlasting life.  The task of our new Holy Father, and of all of us, is to engage fully in the New Evangelization – to grow in our Catholic faith and then share it with others.  In our young adults, I really do sense that a new Pentecost, a fresh moment in the life of the Church, is unfolding. Among these Catholic young people, I have found an increasing openness to Christ, to his Gospel and to his Church.  They pray and volunteer at our parishes and generously serve those in need.  With my upcoming talk, I hope to “tap” into that spirit of faith!