The last of the annual Steubenville youth conferences has wound down. These are huge, popular, teen-oriented Catholic gatherings at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, here in the US. They offer sacraments and adoration, concerts, talks, and various kinds of worship rallies.
A few seconds of one of those was recently shared on Twitter by a priest who was there. It’s a stadium packed with thousands of young people, clapping along with some kind of modern worship song. Spotlights dance across the crowd and there are glowing blue and green sets behind the band, and the audience waves multi-colored glow sticks back and forth in rhythm. The song seems to be something about God performing miracles.
This is not some place I, personally, would want to be. When I was of the age group this show is aimed at, I would have liked it even less. A lot of Twitter felt the same way, and heaped scorn and mockery and even dire warnings on the kind of thing that goes on at events like this. It’s not just that it’s kind of tacky. People spoke about emotional manipulation, about nonsense that will kill the faith of thousands of kids in attendance, and setting kids up for failure.
I understand what the critics mean. …Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.
Image is a screenshot from the video on Twitter linked above.
NOTE: The hyperlinks I included in this essay do not appear to have translated into the essay at The Catholic Weekly. I have restored most of them in the excerpt above, but I wanted to draw your attention to one in particular that I had linked to the sentence which appears in the rest of the essay: “there is reason for being on alert about spiritual manipulation particularly at Steubenville.” Jenn Morson has been tirelessly documenting abuse at Steubenville at her Substack Refiner’s Fire. While I believe abuse at the university is a separate issue from the conferences which are being hosted on campus, it’s still worth noting the context. There’s always context.