1.3.5.The Identity Crisis The theme of identity today is one of the most challenging cultural nodes for education in general and the pastoral. The term itself is rich and complex in nature in the sense that it can be defined by various filed of studies. However, in a simple definition, identity is the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. Moreover, identity could be understood in the interdisciplinary context. In fact the answer to questions who I am, who I must become cannot be given without a reference to a multiplicity of personal data, social and cultural that enter simultaneously in play.
One’s identity can be identified therefore in the consideration of the various factors in one’s life such as the culture, the religion and the society where he/she belongs. Sociologically speaking, identity refers to the specific designations ” ascribed or achieved ” individuals use to recognize sameness, which in turn distinguishes them from the other and thus answers the question who am I? To put differently, identity is invoked in the various categories people use to specify who they are and to locate themselves relative to other people.
The multiplicity of identities depends on various social networks to which an individual belongs. It is possible therefore for the self as a totality to have various identities or categories that can be invoked at various points in time such as ethnicity, citizenship, gender and religion. In an open letter of the Filipino youth to the Catholic Church, the youth expressly says, we are dynamic individuals, overflowing with blessings, willing and open to learn and to grow when provided with opportunities to do so. Young Filipino faithful are open for guidance in their quest for spiritual and human growth. However, this letter reflects the reality that not all catholic youth were given the opportunity to be guided, to be accompanied, to be listened and to be shepherded. In the following content of the letter, it says, We are all searching for our identity-who we are. We search for our meaning and ultimately our purpose in life. We know that we are called for something more than ourselves. We are called to act, but we still need to be guided and formed. We lack critical thinking and decision-making skills that usually make us hesitant to commit. We do not see ourselves as the future, but as the present of the Church, the world, and of society. Hence, we are gifts, life-given to the Church and to the Philippines, and we want to be truly life-giving. The search for identity is what the Filipino youth catholic seeks to answer. Questions such as the meaning and purpose of their existence remain to be the area of concern when speaking of their crisis and problems. This question is so much related also to the question on finding the sense of direction of their lives. They considered themselves young in their faith that needs an accompaniment and guidance. The confusion to find a sense of direction and meaning to their lives are evident to the Filipino youth catholic. As they search for identity, they struggle to find its answer in the seemingly noisy world. For this, the Filipino youth catholic says, our hearts are open to see and embrace role models who give witness to the goodness of life while rooted in the family. Young as they are they lack experience and maturity in taking decisions and actions in their own will. They are afraid to take risk because of their being inexperience in life. With the acknowledgement and calling of the young people of their need to be formed, it clearly send a message to the ecclesial community especially to the pastors and leaders that pastoral care for the youth or the youth ministry must exert effort to reach out these needs and attend the spiritual and human formation of the catholic youth faithful. The pastoral care for the youth needs really to go and meet, find and encounter where the youths are. Who they are and what is their purpose in life are two serious questions that youth need to be guided and enlightened. The question of who am I is the start of asking about one’s self leading to self-knowledge which is important in the journey of faith. Self-knowledge implies knowing one’s self, personal traits, one’s spiritual life, relationships and one’s identity. This is what the Filipino youth catholic ask from the church- that they may be guided in achieving and knowing their identity. Thus, the Filipino catholic youth plea for role models who will give a living testimony of the goodness of life, role models whose integrity and credibility can truly be a mirror and reflection of guidance and accompaniment towards their journey of faith. These role models could be a priest or the whole Christian community or even the family of the youth living a true disciples of Christ thus, worthy to be called as Christian. In the crisis of self-identity and belongingness, the Filipino youth need an adult Christian to guide and walk with them. Guimary, a leader in the Diocese of Para±aque Youth Ministry, reminded them- the youth, of some truths that could anchor their sense of self in a fast-changing world that they are God’s perfect masterpiece; that they are the extension of God’s peace; that they are God’s ray of hope; that they are God’s shining light; that they are God’s gift; and lastly, that they are love. As the youth struggles to find their self-identity, they are being reminded that their true identity is their being the child of God. To remind this to the youth is not an easy task. It is not easy because there are so many things and factors in the present situation of the youth that could hinder them to appreciate and realize that they are indeed a child of God. In the noisy world, the youth cannot seem to find the true meaning of their identity. 1.4. Other Factors of the Filipino Youth Distancing from the Catholic Church There are also important factors to consider in understanding the seemingly distancing of the young Filipino catholic to the church. Below are important considerations to study in understanding the reality and situation of the Filipino youth catholic today. These factors are limited yet are considered important to study in order to understand the world of the Filipino youth catholic today. 1.4.1.The Influence of Technology The influence of technology refers here as the impact of the social media and online gaming to the Filipino youth and their lifestyle. The advancement of technology especially social media and online games impacted and influenced the activities of youth today. Youth are less active in terms of physical activities such as doing outdoor sports because of the online games. Social interactions and socialization with friends are also declining because most of the youth prefer to spend social media rather than talking to friends personally. They could cultivate value systems like individualism and transcending time and space in a globalizing culture. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, video games can have a number of negative effects, including increases in violent behavior, desensitization to violence, social isolation and decreases in physical activity. Youths are the primary victims of these online games. Most of their times are spent in online gaming instead of physical activities such as playing sports and doing house chores. Playing video games may also lead to social isolation, since many games are played alone. Individuals who develop a dependence on gaming may be less inclined to engage in healthy socialization in the real world. Thus, gaming can also cause many physical problems. This is true in the Philippines where online gaming and the use of social media is very high. Filipino youth spend their time and money in online gaming and use of social media, thus limiting their social interaction and physical activities. Filipino archbishop Orlando Quevedo states that the youth (Filipino) are the most numerous in our population and they are some of the most active workers of renewal in the church and in the society. Nevertheless, they are the most vulnerable to the negative developments in the rising technological society. The negative effects of technology have impacted the religiosity of the Filipino youth catholic. Instead of going to church and participate in the ecclesial activities, youth tend to spend their time to social media and online gaming. They loss interest in different church’s activities because they find online gaming more pleasurable to do than to spend time in the church. Fr. Ramon Jade Licuanan, youth director of the Archdiocese of Manila said that it would be unfair to tag an entire generation of young Filipinos as rudderless. While he notes that a good number of youth who are grounded [on] their deepest identity as Christians go on to give up personal ambitions to become missionaries or pastoral workers, he admits there are a lot more young people who are at a loss with regard to their true identity. In addition, the youth director Fr. Licuanan said that the youth try to become a person the materialistic and individualistic world has enticed them to become. The priest believes an overexposure to media is the culprit behind young people’s shaky sense of self. He added, that they are confused [about] who they really are. Media has bombarded them with so many images, and they happen so fast, they lose their self-identity. In the presence of the social technology and online gaming, many youth do not thought and care for the greater and good things to do instead of spending their time, effort and energy to these risky culture of technology. That is why we speak of new normal,’ but actually, they do not know what really to follow, what is good and which is bad. With the high exposure to the social media and online gaming, the youth seems to think that these can give them happiness and true direction, meaning and sense to their lives. Reality would tell that the Filipino youth spend most of their free time to online gaming and social media. These hinder them to engage in different social activities and doing outdoor sports. 1.4.2.The Rise of Moral Relativism The Filipino youth appears to be in the direction of moral relativism in practicing the Christian faith. With the external factors and lack of formation and knowledge on the Christian faith, the Filipino youth could easily be a victim of relativism wherein one person determines what is good and bad and what is truth according to his desire and reasoning. Fr. Osias Ibarreta of the Diocese of Tarlac goes deeper by tracing the hand of relativism to which young people have fallen prey. Every age has its bullies. Today’s youth experiences a new kind of bullying called the dictatorship of relativism. It does not recognize anything definitive; its goal consists of ego and desires. According to him, the idea that there is no absolute truth, that each individual decides for himself what is true, what is right and wrong, can easily corrupt how young people see themselves and others. The young person with such a mindset, Ibarreta added, learns to keep the Church at an arm’s length. Unfortunately, post modernity has taught young people to view the Christian tradition with suspicion, to see it not as an aid to living a happy life, but as an oppressive, restrictive force that prevents them from discovering the meaning of existence and charting the course of their life. Such a perception, said the priest, soon proves detrimental to a young person’s personal development and growth. This outlook cuts off the young generation from the very source that help us flourish. Whatever the case maybe our youth must know that they have been cheated. 1.4.3.Personal but Individualist Faith Many of us, young people of today, regard ourselves as more spiritual than religious. We acknowledge the presence of God; we believe in Him, and we yearn for Him. We choose to express this longing for a deeper relationship with our Lord and heighten our experience of faith through personal prayer and participation in various prayer gatherings. Our apparent distrust and doubt on the credibility of the Church, on the other hand, is but an expression of our burning desire to see her truly living the joy of the Gospel. To them, religiosity is also about having a deep faith and love of God, fidelity to the teachings of the church and commitment to live according to Catholic values. However, when asked if their fellow Catholic youth are religious, participants said that there are a number of them who are not that religious because there are other things that tend to attract much of their attention, such as studies, hanging out with their peers, playing video games and social networking. A study on Filipino Youth says, most youth are personal but individualist in relating with God. They are more able to express their faith in God individually rather than with the community. Though they said that they believe in religion, that is Catholic Church, they tend to practice their faith personally. Private Practice of religion refers to the social expectation that individuals devote themselves to the transcendent in individualized activities and rituals in private space. Religion is also a subjective commitment to a transcendent reality. The vast majority of the Filipino youth explained the meaning of being Catholic in terms of an individual emotional experience of God, an action-oriented outlook in life, and moral living. Jayeel Cornelio emphasized that these are both collectively and inherently personal (as in belonging to the person), as they are not so much about the institutional doctrinal and religious life as they are about individual experience. Creative Catholics both believe and belong. What differentiates them from orthodox Catholics is that they are more progressive and adventurous. They are willing to stand up, speak against, and challenge the Church and its priests and bishops in a way that would have been unthinkable in previous generations. In the Philippines, Filipino youth catholic find more satisfying on personal practice of faith, which leads to a personal and individualistic religiosity than to participate in the communitarian practice of faith such as religious events and celebrations. This could be a serious indicator of the church’s attendance slowly declining and less youth who are actively involved in the parish activities.1.4.4.The Lack of Ecclesial Support and Spiritual Formation Nobody could really force the youth to have spiritual experiences, but parents and church’s leaders can promote opportunity that lead to conversion, deepen their faith and eventually a spiritual experience for the youth. At this stage of their lives, the youth should be given an avenue for their spiritual growth and a group support where they can experience the sense of being who they are. This requires a commitment from adult to patiently guide and walk together with the youth. Moreover, the lack of spiritual support and formation of the faithful especially of the youth are the main factors of the youth’s crisis in terms of faith and of their loss of interest to participate in the events and activities of the church. This is very evident in the rural area where parishes are very far and the priest could not easily attend to the faithful’s need due to the mile distance of the place. The shortage also of the priests and lay volunteer hinder the church to do her pastoral action to the faithful believer. In the youth level, there is the difficulty to reach out them for many reasons such as their lack of interest, their attention is not for the ecclesial activities, and they are distracted to the use of new technology specifically to the social media and online gaming. The Filipino youth also receive less support and encouragement from their family in terms of the education of faith and of spiritual formation. Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, a noted Filipino theologian, described the Filipino youth of today as needing support in their faith. He said,The well-known shortage of priests and even religious; the lack of religious and catechetical formation (it has been estimated that less than 10% of Filipino children receive adequate catechetical instruction) especially in the urban areas, but increasingly in rural areas as well; the massive population movements toward the cities, where traditional family structures break down, and with them the handing-on of traditional Christian belief and values; the moral impossibility for traditional parishes to reach the majority of children and teen-agers in the massive slums which are rising around big cities”all these factors contribute to the erosion of faith among the youth in the Philippines.