Community through charisms– how do we achieve this? Firstly, we need to rethink our perspective on gangs and their appeal to young people. The Church has much to learn from gangs in terms of fostering a sense of belonging, purpose, and adventure. By embracing these elements, the Church can better engage with the youth and bring them closer to Christ.

Belonging: The Essence of Community

Firstly, a foundational element that drives young people towards joining gangs is the desire for a sense of belonging. Human beings are social creatures, and the need to feel connected to a group is deeply ingrained in our nature. Gangs excel at providing a tight-knit community for their members. They offer a sense of belonging that can be lacking in other areas of their lives. Therefore, recognizing this intrinsic need for belonging, the Church can foster an environment where individuals feel welcomed and embraced. She can form authentic communities that provide a spiritual home for all.

Purpose: Finding Meaning in Faith

Another community aspect that the Church can learn from gangs is the importance of purpose. Young people are constantly searching for meaning, a reason to live and strive for something greater than themselves. Gangs often provide a distorted sense of purpose through illegal activities that can be destructive. However, the Church has the opportunity to offer a true and life-giving purpose through faith in Christ. The Church can guide young people discerning and using their charisms for the Body of Christ.

Adventure: Embracing the Journey

The last element the community of gangs offers is the allure of adventure. Young people yearn for excitement, a sense of adventure that challenges and pushes them to grow. Gangs often provide this in dangerous and damaging ways. However, the Church can offer a different kind of adventure – one rooted in faith, service, and discipleship. The Church can satisfy young people’s thirst for adventure while leading them towards a life centered on Christ. This happens by encouraging young people to step outside their comfort zones, engage in missions, and explore new opportunities,

The Church should consider what gangs offer to young people: a sense of belonging, purpose, and adventure. The Church can offer youth a community where they truly belong, a purpose, and an adventurous journey of faith. Through the charisms that each individual possesses, the Church can unlock their potential. She can also empower them to make a positive impact in the world. As we strive to bring more young people to Christ, we can create an environment that encompasses these essential elements. We can invite them to experience the radical belonging, purpose, and adventure that the Church has to offer.

Learn more at Many Parts Ministries.

Jill Simons [00:00:00]:

Hello and welcome to Charisms for Catholics. My name is Jill Simons and I’m the executive director at many parts ministries where we equip the body of Christ by helping people learn about and discern their charisms, which is really another word for spiritual gifts. When you discern your charisms, you’re able.

Jill Simons [00:00:18]:

To see how the Holy Spirit is.

Jill Simons [00:00:19]:

Already active in your life and where he is inviting you to further build the church. Let’s dive in.

Jill Simons [00:00:32]:

So today’s episode is going to be on a really, I think, fun topic. I know that it definitely has very serious overtones, so I’m going to try and keep it as light as possible. But this episode is about why the church should be like a gang and obviously massive negative connotations to gangs, right? There’s this culture within gang culture that is very toxic. It kind of sucks people in and eats them alive. And so that is not necessarily well, no, not at all. Scratch that. No necessarily about it. That is not at all what we’re lobbying for in the church. We don’t want any of that toxicity. But what we do want to look at is why do young people fall prey to this? Right? Because looking in from the outside, gangs just seem awful, right? There’s violence, crime, the possibility for all kinds of legal repercussions and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the physical danger, all of these things that are just so toxic and bad about being in a gang. So why do we have this enormous gang problem just in the world as a whole? This is something we see all over the place in all kinds of different iterations with different levels of intensity and severity. But this phenomenon is universal, that we have people, a lot of them young people, that will voluntarily, willingly buy into this toxic culture. So what’s going on here? Well, this is not obviously an area of expertise for me. All of this knowledge has been gleaned from my reading in social sciences and my exposure to the work of Dr. Jordan Peterson, who has written a lot about this phenomenon. Why is it that people will, especially young men, join into these kind of ideologies? And really it comes down to a few elements. I’m not going to talk exhaustively about every element. I think there’s three that really rise powerfully to the top. And those three elements are what I would like to propose that we need to be nurturing in the church, not to the end of violent toxicity, but to the end of increasing the buy in of people who are looking for specific things in their lives. So what do I mean by this? These three elements are belonging, purpose and adventure. And there’s more elements that contribute to the proliferation of gangs, but we’re going to focus on those three belonging, purpose and adventure. And so when you have a young person especially and you think about does a young person want belonging, purpose and adventure? Yes, pretty much universally. That is something that people are looking for so vastly in young men especially, and this makes perfect sense, evolutionarily. We have always had our survival really tied to the group of people that we’re in, being communal people and just animals. When you take it all the way back to the evolutionary beginning, being communal animals, there is massive amounts of safety and belonging. This is on the Maslow hierarchy of needs and this is something that we just really cling to as a basic need. As human beings, we also want to have a reason to exist. There is this problem people talk about all the time of the meaning of life that was much less of a problem in primitive times. You don’t have a lot of early settlers across the world, or at least not a lot of archaeological record pointing to suicide being a problem. Now that is that does vary from culture to culture. You do have individual cultures that had things like honor, suicide and things like that. That was a cultural element of that community. But in general, it was not the kind of epidemic mental health crisis that we’re facing currently. And why is this? Well, because people had a lot more sense of purpose in the fact that their daily work was really the work of survival. Going out. What are we going to eat? Let’s get the thing we’re going to eat. Let’s prepare the thing we’re going to eat. Let’s actually eat it. It’s a very clear, linear existence with a lot of purpose drivenness to it. And then adventure as well. You have in men especially, this is less the historical experience of women. And I think there’s also although a lot of people would want to fight me on this, I think there’s less of a natural desire and inclination for adventure in women. I certainly have a huge inclination towards adventure myself. I think it just looks potentially a little bit different between the genders. But of course, that’s very touchy to say anything about that right now. So maybe I’ll leave the gender differences for another time. But you see in young men especially, this desire for adventure and this is perfectly natural, they needed to go and fight wild animals for all of us to survive. So that’s going to be very hard to coax them to do as a species if they are risk averse. And so we see these elements showing up in our early nature as human beings, kind of just part and parcel of how we were created to function in the world and those basic functions being stripped out by modern daily life. We live in a very dehumanized culture where you could go all day without interacting with anybody. It can be really challenging to develop a sense of belonging. You have people that don’t have to go and hunt and take care of preparing their food and there is a huge lack of purpose. What is the meaning of my life? And you also have very little sense of bodied adventure. So a lot of people will look for their sense of adventure through media right now, right? We’ll go to action movies and play video games and read crazy books that give us that sense of adventure, but that in a bodied way is kind of limited to your extreme sports and maybe sports at a high level in general. There’s just a lot less sense of adventure in modern life because of how many frontiers have been conquered, right? This makes sense that this would continue to kind of ebb and flow throughout the course of history. So why do I point out all of these things? Why do I go into all of this? I want to posit and this is Dr. Peterson’s kind of thought as well, that the Christian Church needs to do a way better job of telling its story in a way that points out the inherent nature of these three things in belonging to the Church. The church. Specifically the Catholic Church. You all know that that is my home, and I think I would love for that to be everybody’s home. But certainly anywhere that you fall in the larger body of Christ, even if that is in an Orthodox or Protestant church, nondenominational church, there is a real and powerful sense of belonging that should be a part of that experience. There should also be a deep sense of purpose that goes along with that. And finally, there needs to be this sense of adventure, because when we look at the faith as laid out by Jesus Christ himself, as lived by the apostles in the New Testament, this is like peak adventure. This is so many new horizons, new frontiers, places where you have your best movie cliffhangers of all time. Nobody knows how this is going to work out and oh my goodness, the Holy Spirit comes in and makes something beautiful happen. This should be our everyday experience of the Church, where there are radical senses of belonging, purpose and adventure that activate and engage the faithful. But we don’t frequently experience this. Maybe you go to an amazing church where this is your experience. Write me an email and tell me about it, because I 100% want to hear about places that are getting this right and places that are walking in the fullness of our birthright as Christians. And I think that those stories are really important to amplify and hear so that more people who want to do it right can have access to kind of the information about how. And so obviously, this is all about the Church as a whole. So why am I talking about this on charisms for Catholics? I am talking about this because it is my thesis. This is not dogmatic. You don’t have to believe this to be Catholic, but I think this follows very closely all of these data points about the social sciences and what it means to be human. I would like to posit that our charisms are one of the very powerful tools in our arsenal to make this the reality in the church, because we talk all the time here at many parts about the fact that we are just that many parts of one body. And so that is where there should be an inherent sense of belonging. When you have this context of the fact that I only have this small sliver of what is necessary for a vibrant church in myself and I am dependent on and related to all other people here to actually bring it about that should foster a sense of belonging and it should also foster a sense of purpose. Because then you understand this is my function in the larger body of Christ and it is necessary that I execute that function which gives me purpose and direction. And then finally, using our charisms, especially at a high level where we are really aware of them and really inviting the Holy Spirit to be present in them, using our charisms at a high level is that peak first century Christian adventure. Being in situations where you have absolutely no safety net except the Holy Spirit is one of the coolest rushes, the best excitement that you can find in this life. I will take that belief to my grave. Life with the Holy Spirit is the greatest adventure that you can ever live out. And this is straight from John Paul II. He used this talking to the youth all the time, this idea that life with Christ is a great adventure. And I think that that is something that this is absolutely in no way critical of John Paul II because he is one of my very most favorite saints. I think that it’s helpful sometimes to just talk about things in different contexts, though, because I have heard that and had heard that so many times throughout my young life. This quote that life with Christ is a great adventure. And I was like, cool. I don’t really have a framework to put that in. I don’t know what that looks like. What would me having an adventure with Christ actually be like? And I think that charisms gives us that context. Okay, I’ve been given this set of gifts, graces specifically by the Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of the church. Me pushing the envelope on these and using them to the fullest extent that the Holy Spirit wants to empower them in me is the road to the adventure that the Holy Spirit wants to take me on. Okay, that makes sense. That’s got some bones that I can hang this on and move forward with some direction. And like I talk about so many times, discerning your charisms is not like, necessary to your salvation, to being in relationship with Christ, but I firmly believe that it is so, so helpful. It’s a tool, just like so many tools that were given in the Church. A tool like the rosary and the sacraments are definitely a different kind of thing, because that is compelled by God to use those means of receiving his grace. So that’s a different kind of thing. Those we must partake in, but things like the rosary and certain devotions. Devotion to the Divine Mercy, maybe devotion to a particular saint, knowing your charisms, engaging in more charismatic forms of prayer, being in a traditional community. All of these things are really, really helpful for a lot of people to again create that architecture, those bones on which to hang your life of faith. And that’s why the Church and her wisdom gives us such a wide breadth and such a diversity of these. And I am a professional lobbyist for charism. I am all about them all the time, as you’ve probably garnered if you’ve listened to this podcast at all, even if you’ve only listened to this episode of this podcast, you will probably see that in me. And I think that we also see this. There are people that are really called by God to bring about emphasis and devotion to certain things that God has already given us in the church. And so if charisms are not the thing that light you on fire, I don’t think any less of you. I think that you can have an absolutely beautiful, powerful relationship with God. But I jill always tell people that I think it’s a really powerful tool. I think it’s something that lends a lot of context to our life of faith, specifically when we’re looking at how can we engage the body of Christ more actively, how can we build the kind of bonds, the kind of faithfulness, the kind of fidelity that you see largely negatively in these gang relationships? This is where this information has been really weaponized. I’m going to say by the evil one. I’m going to go all the way there and say that this is the evil one, taking the good way that God has created us and weaponizing it in a way that ultimately leads to the harm and downfall of everyone involved. And we want to take those things back. We want to claim all of the good things that God created, and we want to use them intentionally for his glory and the upbuilding of the Church.

Jill Simons [00:16:33]:

Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics. If you would like to learn more about your charisms or begin your own discernment journey, head to our website@manypartsministries.com, where you can download our free PDF guide to all 24 charisms and also begin your own journey by taking our Charism assessment.