Dr. Timothy O’Malley unpacks the need for developing a Eucharistic culture in order to more effectively evangelize in a world where most people are greatly influenced by a culture at…Watch
Edmund and Emily invite Pete Burak to this episode of the Real+True Podcast. Pete has been in young adult ministry for a decade and shares his insights into the roadblocks young adults are facing in their journey with God, how to reach those with no religious affiliations, and practical steps for using the Catechism as a resource.
(00:37) Edmund and Emily introduce this episode’s guest Pete Burak. Pete shares about Renewal Ministries, i.d. and the important role young adults play in the life of a parish. They discuss the struggles that young adults face in trying to live faithful lives– including a need for community and a fear of authority. Pete mentions the “nones” of our culture, those who do not ascribe to any religion.
(12:55) A look at the state of young adults: Pete explains what he sees in the culture. He describes the phenomenon of “Nones,” those who, when asked what religion they affiliated with, would respond, “None.” This number of people is rising and alarming. Our guest Pete dissects this with an understanding of the broken trust and broken credibility with authority in all realms (politics, sports, and even within the Church.) Emily mentions that the mission of Real+True is a counter argument to the attitude that the Church is only focused on rules and controlling behavior. But rather, through the Catechism, we see that our Catholic faith is an experience of God revealing himself to us and desiring for us to respond.
(23:08) “Catechesis is a moment in the process of evangelization.” Emily shares her insights into the role of relationship in the process of sharing the Gospel with another person.
Making this personal: the role of personal testimony in sharing the Gospel. Pete mentions young adults’ desire for stability, a desire for the sacred as they build their lives. And that ultimately the Catholic Church is that place of stability and sacredness they search for. Edmund makes the point that, “People are shying away from institutional religion, but also seeking wisdom from somewhere.” Real+True exists to be that “somewhere.”
(30:26) Pete Burak shares, ”our generation’s allergic to commitment… yet I’ve found it incredibly refreshing for young adults to be challenged to commitment.” Pete, Emily, and Edmund discuss the task of unlocking the greater mysteries of the Catholic faith, past the moral or political questions that arise more naturally. “How do we make people excited about the Trinity?”
(37:21) Practical suggestions: “If you want people to engage with the Catechism, you need to know the Catechism.” Pete encourages us to encounter the Catechism for ourselves and to turn to it in discussion and dialogue. “Instead of trying to quote it, I say, “Hey, why don’t we just read it?” Having the Bible and the Catechism on hand as a catechist is an idea Pete suggests for anyone handing on the faith.
Edmund: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Real+True podcast. I’m one of your co-hosts, Edmund Mitchell.
Emily: And I’m your other co-host, Emily Mentock.
Edmund: And today we are interviewing Pete Burak. So Pete is the Vice President of Renewal Ministries and the director of i.d., which is a young adult outreach ministry. He’s a graduate of Franciscan University, has a Master’s degree in Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. And Pete is a frequent speaker on discipleship, evangelization and young adult topics. And Pete and his wife have five children. Pete, thanks so much for being here.
Pete Burak: This is great. It’s good to be with you.
Edmund: So maybe you could just open us up by talking to us for people that don’t know. Just give us a little bit of context on Renewal Ministries and your involvement with Renewal Ministries and then i.d.
Pete Burak: Yeah. So Renewal Ministries was started by a guy named Dr. Ralph Martin back in the early 80’s. And basically what we exist to do is to proclaim the lordship of Jesus wherever the door’s open. So we go around preaching, teaching radio shows, TV programs, parish missions, kind of anywhere that, uh, we are invited to share the gospel, really emphasizing the Lordship of Jesus, the need for us to convert and believe in him. The universal call to holiness, the universal call to mission. There is a heaven, there is a hell. It really matters what we do and to be filled in full of the, the life of the Holy Spirit. And so i.d. is an outreach of Renewal Ministries where we carry forth the same message we’re bringing, trying to bring to the Church the same anointing, the same conviction. Uh, we’ve just attached kind of a method to it, a strategy particularly focused on people in their twenties and thirties. And so I’ve had the privilege since, kind of unofficially, since 2011 and more formally, since 2013, to, uh, you know, make as many mistakes as possible, figure out exactly what doesn’t work in, uh, discipling and evangelizing young adults. And in the context of that, uh, continuing on it just with a deep heartache, a real like, we need to do something about this generation. They need Jesus. And, um, we might as well contribute to it.
Edmund: How did you, how did you first get involved with Renewal Ministries? And for people who aren’t familiar with it, does it have like a particular, like charism or I have an idea of what I would call it. Maybe like a focus or what makes Renewal Ministries very distinct, but yeah, what’s kind of your, how’d you get involved in then? What, what’s the distinct aspect of Renewal Ministries?
Pete Burak: Sure. So I grew up in Ann Arbor, which, um, was blessed by kind of through just lots of different factors, the Holy Spirit just led incredible people to decide to plant roots here in southeast Michigan. And, um, my parents were part of something called the Word of God community from the beginning, which spawned forth a relatively well-known parish called Christ the King here in Ann Arbor. And it was all part of this…
Edmund: Is the Domino’s… this is the Domino’s community? Okay.
Edmund: Emily, are you familiar with this?
Emily: Yeah, I’m familiar.
Pete Burak: The Dominoes community. Yeah. Uh, yeah. Well, it is kind of a compound here, but, um, yeah. And so over the years, over those decades of just responding to this incredible grace for the Church, which was the charismatic renewal, this outbreak of the power of Pentecost in the late 1960s, that then just has blessed the Church in a myriad of ways. The popes have called it a, a current of grace for the Church. And so Christ the King and and my family and the community I grew up in was, was deeply impacted by that. And so growing up, didn’t know it was exceptional to have Ralph Martin, Mr. Martin and Mr. Herbeck, and Mr. And Mrs. Herbeck and Sister Ann Shields and all these, uh, Al Kresta and, you know, Dr. Mary Healy. And I mean, literally, we could go on and on. All these people were just people in my life.
They were parishioners at our parish. And, um, like even Peter and Debbie Herbeck, their oldest son Mike was one of my dearest friend, one of is one of my dearest friends. I grew up going to their house, raking leave, staying with them when my parents were out of town. So when I was at Franciscan and discerning what to do next with my life and this call that was kind of like landing on me to, to share Jesus with people, which is not exactly a career path, especially when you’re in love with a young woman and not feeling called to the priesthood. Um, I just sat down with Peter and I said, “Peter, hey, I’ve always kind of wanted to be you. Uh, I’ve always admired Renewal Ministries, and this is what the Lord seems to be doing in me. Does renewal have any space for me?”
And he, I’ll never forget, he kinda like leaned back and he was like, well, not really, but, but let’s pray about it and see what the Lord, uh, wants to do. And so I ended up, by the grace of God getting a, a job here in town with the Dominican Sisters, of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, I was their gym teacher and athletic director for K-8 kids. And then every Friday, Sister John Dominic gave me off to go pray and dream with Peter. And so for an entire year we got together and he would, you know, share with me what his vision for discipleship and evangelization. I would pretend like I knew what he was saying and, but just kind of like leaning in and really being discipled by him. And out of that came this at one point, pretty unexpected heartbreak for my generation where I found myself actually one day in adoration, like weeping for all of my friends and cousins and classmates who had been raised in the faith who had left.
And, uh, out of that wound, really like this holy discontent came this beginning seeds of a vision for i.d. And we’ve been going after it ever since. And so we’re blessed to be part of Renewal Ministries, which is much bigger than just the i.d., Uh, sphere. And, but we’re all united around this common conviction again, of the lordship of Jesus, the need for us to repent and believe. We kind of call it, what we call what we refer to ourselves as, like the radical center. And we’re not trying to get pulled in any direction, but we’re also not trying to be lukewarm. We’re being radically in the heart of what the Church teaches radically in the heart of what Jesus is doing and what we see in the gospels and what we see the Church teach. That’s what we want.
Emily: So yeah, that’s what a beautiful story, Pete. Um, thank you for giving us that background. And it’s clear that the Lord was really leading you, um, with the heart at the time for your peers, for young adults. And, um, I think we really wanna go in that direction for the conversation for our podcast today because the mission of Real+True even though we say it’s for men and women all over the world, but I think there’s a particular focus on digital natives, which are also young adults. And, um, it made sense that at the time, you know, you were thinking about your peers and, um, it’s kind of funny, I think, would we all consider ourselves still young adults now? I don’t know.
Edmund: And I do, I don’t know. I don’t know if like, do I classify as one, but I do. Yeah. I still think I am. Yeah.
Emily: It’s such a particular focus of ministry, and I’d love to just get your take, Pete, on, you know, how do, um, you and your ministry kind of define young adults and why is it important for the Church, um, you know, for you personally at the time, but really the Church as a whole to have this focus on young adult ministry and reaching out to young adults.
Pete Burak: I mean, Edmund, you can identify however you want as a young adult if you, if you, however you wanna, however you wanna frame that. We’ll, we’ll welcome you in that. Uh, I mean, the USCCB kind of in a, in a funny way, defines it as like 18 to 39, married, single married, divorce. I mean, they give the full spectrum. Yeah. Super wide range. And sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes that’s not very helpful. Um, the way I like to think about it is more just like young-ish adults. I think we actually do the young adults themselves a disservice when we think about them, because a lot of times when we say young adults, the emphasis is on young. And to me, the emphasis should be on adults. These are adults who need to be treated as such who need to be ministered to as such, who just happen to be kind of at the beginning stages of a lot of the big kind of adult decisions and transitions that characterize often those twenties and thirties realms.
So for us, we don’t, we don’t spend a lot of time making a distinction. And we don’t check cards at the door, you know, in the sense of like, we’re trying to disciple people. We’re trying to help people meet Jesus, fall in love with him, begin to share with him, with others, and, um, whether or not you like fall on the right or wrong side of 40. I mean, what are we talking about here? You know? And in fact, the Church, right, in some ways is in young adult ministry is, is deeply blessed when there is a cross-generational component of it. And I think that’s actually one of the pitfalls that can often happen is we, we emphasize this generation, so kind of concretely that we eliminate the trickle down and trickle up effect of when we actually reach them. One of the reasons I’m so convicted by young ministry is because it’s the, to me the highest leverage point for actual culture change in a parish.
Because if you can capture the twenties and thirties, what you’re gonna get from them is a lot of passion, uh, a lot of energy, and a lot of, uh, gifting that certainly blesses people who are older than them. Older people love seeing young people on fire for the faith. It does so much for their faith. It so does so much for their giving. It does so much for their, their conviction about where the parish is going. Then younger people in their teens and and younger wanna be led by people who look and sound a more closer to them. But young adults are a little bit older. They have a little bit more life experience, and so they have something to offer. So there’s, there’s a unique opportunity to capture people in that, again, twenties and thirties range that, um, that I think the Church for a very long time has just assumed that they will win this generation because they’ll get married, they’ll have babies, and they’ll want to have those babies baptized.
And they’ll, they’ll kind of harken back to a time of they’re growing up when the parish meant something to them. And that assumption is just proving statistically to be like alarmingly false. Um, I mean, we don’t wanna bore the listeners with all the statistics, but there are reams upon reams upon reams of studies to indicate that the decline that we’re seeing, let’s just say from 39 and down, so millennials and Gen Z, the, the decline that we’re seeing is not like a oh, that, that, that doesn’t seem good. You know, it’s not like this kind of gentle decline. It’s, it’s like a cliff. I mean, like, one of, one of the things I like to say to people, if, if you ran a business and your core clientele were engaging with your product at the right, millennials and Gen Z are engaging with the Church, you’d be out of business. I mean, it would be like, you’d be holding board meetings, the CEO would be fired. I mean, there would be a total alarm, the fire, the house is on fire situation. And, um, unfortunately most of our places, there’s still this either ignorance, we don’t realize it’s happening, uh, ambivalence, uh, well, they’ll, they’ll be okay. They’ll come back or kind of, uh, paralyzation from, we don’t know what to do, so we’re not gonna do anything. And all three of those responses are deeply problematic.
Emily: Yeah. You used the word that it’s such an opportunity to engage young adults, which is really like the positive focus positive spin on saying, you know, it’s a real challenge. So there’s a lot of opportunity because there’s so much that does need to be done. Um, but that’s a good way to approach it. And I think that what we need is the people who are getting more creative about different ways and being willing to try and fail and just really put effort and energy and some of the best Spirit-led, uh, innovation in the Church into doing this.
Pete Burak: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the, again, the other response that often comes is, well, because we’re a little uncomfortable because we don’t really know what to do with them, um, let’s just, you know, throw a program at it or, um, host a series of events, right? So you have Bible & Brew and Coffee & Catechism and all these other alliterative form of, of moments kind of event-based ministry moments. And it’s not that like events aren’t effective, it’s not that they don’t do anything, and it’s not that programs can’t produce something, but what our generation is really looking for is not so much like an event to attend or, or even like a program to be a project that somebody’s like, I gotta take you through this, you know? But really what we’re looking for is family. We’re looking for community. Um, everywhere I go, I always ask the same question, like, what’s your number one need?
Uh, both in and outside the Church and people of all ages, but particular in their 20’s and 30’s, the number one need, and it’s not even close, is community, to feel like they’re part of a people, uh, or a tribe. This idea that these, these are my kind of extended family-sized unit that’s doing life together, which explains like some of the expressions that we see either in CrossFit or in some of the political movements or all these things. Like, we just wanna be a part of something. We wanna be seen, we wanna be known, but we don’t want it to be so intimate that the, there’s no real movement together. The way we like to talk about is it’s like small enough to care about you, but big enough to dare big dreams. Like we want to be in a, a unit that we’re known and seen, uh, but we also want to be doing something.
We want to be contributing. We want to have a purpose to why we come together. And so ironically, the Church, which should be like the best at community, um, often is the seen as the place that’s actually the worst at it. And then what our response to that as a body often per life, well, we just gotta do, if we just had more events, if we just had more programs that will produce community, and we’ve just found that that doesn’t do it. And, uh, we can talk about what does, but the, the project of creating family for young adults to me is the secret sauce of truly engaging them with the gospel.
Edmund: Is there any, anything else about the stats? Like a anything else that defines how most young adults are perceiving faith or religion or Church, um, that sticks out to you or that you find helpful?
Pete Burak: Well, I mean, I think there’s been a lot of, um, press about the whole, like, “Nones,” right? Um, and I think breaking those down is, is, there’s a lot to that. Um, but I, one….
Edmund: Of the things, what, what are NONES just for people that aren’t familiar…
Pete Burak: Yeah. They would, they would say like, I’m religiously unaffiliated basically, that I, I maybe am spiritual but not religious, right? This idea that I am some degree of agnostic or believing in a higher power or something, but I don’t ascribe to any organized religion or any of the traditional religions. And I think, again, a lot of conclusions can be drawn from that. One of the major ones to me is that our generation has been really callous to leadership and to anyone who stands in front of us and tells us how to live. So we are incredibly skeptical of anyone or any worldview that would dictate to us how we’re supposed to live. Because over and over again in every segment of society, we have been burned by people who would say, yeah, this is how you’re supposed to do it.
And then turns out they can’t live up to it. I mean, sports figures, political figures, the Church herself, uh, over and over again, people would say, yeah, follow me. And then we start to follow ’em. It’s like, oh wow, you have clay feet. Like, you can’t even do what you’re asking me to do. So why should I believe you? And so what emerges out of this is this, um, this radical commitment to myself as the source of truth, even though I know it’s lacking. One of the reasons why our generation is so depressed and the mental health is through the roof. There’s lots of factors through this, but one of the reasons we’re so depressed and lonely is because we’re so reliant on ourselves for meaning, and that is radically like, radically insufficient. Uh, the human being is not designed to create for myself what is true. We’re supposed to receive that we’re supposed to ascribe to it and follow something else.
And so what happens though is because we can’t trust any institution or people, we’re just like, well, at the end of the day, whatever I feel must be true, and as long as it’s deeply felt enough, then not only is it true for me, you, unless you hate me, are going to agree with me. And so if you, because, and the reason you hate me is if I feel it so deeply, it’s part of who I am. If you can’t agree with me, then you must hate me. You must not believe in who I am. And so you see it drs down into this kind of irrational zone of where and older generations kind of look down and go, what is with this people? Like? They can’t even seem to define anything these days, you know? And it’s like, well, yeah, because everyone we’ve ever tried to follow has burned us. And so we don’t know where to turn other than inward. And the more we go inward, the more complicated it gets, the more trapped we get in our own desires, the more trapped we get in our own passions. I’ve heard it said once, like, uh, emotions and feelings are wonderful companions and horrible leaders. You need ’em, you absolutely need ’em on, on the journey. But if you’re following them, ooh, it leads to some pretty absurd and crazy, uh, conclusions.
Edmund: Yeah. Emily, has that been your, I know you have a broad range of friends that you know everywhere from like religious, non-religious, and like, especially like you, you talked a lot about young adult, you know, experiences and stuff. Like, has that been your experience with your friends at this kind of hesitancy to believe in institutions or people or trust those sources?
Emily: Yeah, I think that’s, um, I think that that definitely hits on something. I mean, it’s a, it’s almost become like an easily quotable reason too, right? Like to be against the institution or that say that, oh yeah, you believe in God, but like, not what the Church, you don’t believe that the Church is telling you the Church like the truth about God, or that you should take it at face value. The, that broad range of friends that you’re referencing comes from the fact that I had my, uh, conversion after becoming an adult or adult-ish. So I didn’t kind of like come up into adulthood just kind of within Catholic circles or ministry circles. Not that you, that’s the only way you get friends, but, um, I do get a lot of outside perspective. And my, my work before, um, even this project was focused more on young adults on the outskirts.
Emily: So I would say that that is true, and that that kind of cuts to the heart of what we were trying to do for this project of overcoming even just the stigma that the Catechism is a book of rules that the Church is just, is only interested in telling you what to do. Of course, we know that that’s not what the Church stands for, but there is this rejection of being told what to do because as soon as you get let down by it, it’s easy to reject the whole path. Um, but what’s really important then, it sounds like the work that, i.d. And Renewal Ministries is trying to do is when you get people to encounter Jesus, you realize that that’s not what, that’s not what it’s about. Or the, the rules that you were given in high school theology aren’t necess, are not the same thing as having a personal relationship with Christ.
So I’ve definitely seen that sort of distrust and, but I think that also people can, as soon as they start to become a little bit skeptical or they run into those few times, the the leaders like, let them down or don’t walk the walk, um, then it’s easy to kind of reject the institution, or, and, and the interesting thing too about the Nones, right? It’s like saying that they spiritual but not religious or that term. It’s like they’re not rejecting the spiritual, they, but they’re just against the institutions as a whole. And as, uh, Pete said, there’s a lot of opportunity there.
Edmund: Yeah. It, Pete, it’s interesting, I’m thinking about how, uh, you know, for Real+True, we’re focusing on this book that, you know, kind of sets the bar for what Catholics believe. And it’s like, it’s almost like there’s this distrust of institutions, but then even within institutions, there’s a distrust or there’s a, there’s a worry about almost like ideological purity. Like, oh, you’re not really doing veganism, right? You’re not really doing CrossFit, right? And like, I’ve had experiences kinda like what you were talking about Emily, where it’s like people start getting interested in Catholicism or Christianity, but then just get so frustrated cuz they’re like, okay, well this Catholic’s saying this, this Catholic’s saying this. Like, I, I just need to know what the Church teaches. And Pete, I wonder if you see like a connection between those kind of issues. Like, and the fact that the Church did put out, you know, a Catechism in, in a way before the internet. Like you couldn’t search what your local pastor or what someone said about what Catholics believed. There were a lot of Protestants for a long time, uh, thought that Catholics believed they were cannibals or you know, like just believe these like weird things. It’s interesting in this age, we’re having the, all these issues kind of come, come to the surface together.
Pete Burak: Yeah. And I think the thing that, that cuts through this, that, um, you know, the Catechism both supports but also can’t accomplish is the relational dynamic. I think what, what I think, unfortunately, a lot of times our solution to all these problems is just like, well, if they just were told the right thing, if we could just get them to hear the right thing, you know? And we, because it’s in some ways simpler to separate the teaching from the relationship. And you can say, well, as long as they’re, and this is, this is the, the danger of like the, they’re catechized but never evangelized kind of thing that you’re referring to Emily, right? They were maybe taught the faith, but it didn’t make sense to them because they weren’t seeing the faith, they weren’t understanding the faith through the lens of a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Like I’ve encountered a God who loves me, who has drawn me into a new life with him, who set me free, who’s, you know, revealed the secrets of my heart to me, who’s set me on a new path. My identity was here and now it’s here. My destiny was here and now it’s here. And oh my gosh, this Lord who’s literally pouring his life into me through his spirit is now asking me to obey him. Oh, amen. I’ll do anything he wants. Like, I, I love this guy so much. He’s done so much to, to help me be who, who I’m supposed to be. Yeah. You need me to do this, Jesus, I’m all in. All of a sudden the, the rules don’t become a, you know, uh, shackles, they come become a pathway of love. They become a pathway of fulfillment. Yeah. The scales fall from our eyes and we see like actually the behavior that I was so angry that the Church didn’t want me to do was leading to my destruction. And I can see it now because the light of truth has, has entered into my heart in, through a relationship, through an indwelling of the power of the Holy Spirit. And so, and but anytime we talk about this, it can’t be an either or. It’s not a relationship and no teaching, nor is it can be just teaching and no relationship.
And this is why this project is so important, is because it’s presenting the, the deep truths of the faith in a compelling way that ideally would be accompanied by people who actually believe it, who can be authentic witnesses of the transformative power of the Cospel, who can do what all humans need, which is please like, come be with me, walk with me, see how this truth has transformed my life. One of the biggest problems my generation has is we just don’t have what we would call genuine discipleship happening, which is somebody granting access to their life saying, this is how I live. If you want to know what this is all about, actually come see it. Not, don’t just hear about it in theory. Don’t just come and sit and passively receive it in the ugly church basement, but no, like, enter into my life with me.
And I’m gonna bear witness to the truth of this in all its glory. And all of its grunge, if you will. Like, there’s the, the high points and the low points because again, our generation, you guys know this has an incredible radar for, for BS, right? Like we can smell inauthenticity immediately. And so yeah, one of the things that cuts through that though is to just be like, I believe this and this is how I’m trying to live it. And am I perfect? Not even close. And they can see it because they’re like, yeah, actually I saw you yell at your kids because you had me over for dinner. And you kind of snapped there. Good. But then at the end of the day, I also saw you apologize to your kids and ask for forgiveness. Like there’s the, the fullness of the Gospel is not to just so, um, shave off the edges of humanity so that it’s just this gleaming ball of truth. No. Like that gleaming ball of truth needs to be embedded in the messiness of humanity. Cuz then it actually makes it more salty, it makes it more compelling because it’s not just theory, it’s real… And true even.
Edmund: Thank you for throwing that. Yes, true in there. Real and true.
Emily: I love that, um, that explanation too, that it has to of course, be accompanied by that walking with people that is not just like, that sort of like, um, like separated, catechesis like is not gonna be as effective. Something that’s come up a lot in, in when we are sort of explaining this project to others as we, um, refer back to what’s been said about how catechesis is a moment in the process of evangelization. Um, because we also can’t, don’t want evangelization without also learning about the faith to then pass it on to others, right? And kind of going deeper each time. We would, I would certainly say that, uh, the same way, I don’t know what if people will, will encounter Jesus if they read the Catechism without us seeking an open heart or someone to witness it in real life. Similarly, I don’t think that you, it, it’s, I do think the Catechism is such a helpful tool for coming to know Jesus more and more and learn about your faith more to grow a deeper relationship with him. And so I guess, when you are walking with young adults, when you kind of get to those more difficult moments in kind of learning about the faith, especially if it’s someone who has been living away from the faith for a time, I think there are really important opportunities for catechesis along that process of evangelization. Um, is that something that you’ve seen with the young adults coming through the ministry that you’ve worked with or young adults that you’ve met and sort of like that balancing between evangelization as a process and then important catechesis moments along the way?
Pete Burak: I love the question because it actually brings up an opportunity to talk about, like, one of the deep ironies of everything we’ve said so far is that as much as we are rejecting institution and rejecting tradition, uh, what happens though is the natural outcome of like, I’m making it up on my own, is at some point, where do you turn? Right? And there’s these moments of like, oh man, I have no idea what to do. Right? And so then you encounter a Christian who’s messy and all in and trying to figure it out and that Christian can walk with you and in this case a Catholic can say like, Hey, and guess what? Those questions I have answers to them that I didn’t make up, that 2000 years of tradition can support that, people far smarter and wiser than you or I have come up with, with rational, reasonable, and beautiful answers to those questions. And so then all of a sudden the like, the path that started them on a, like, I can’t possibly submit to an organization or a, you know, a group of angry men in the Vatican who just wanna ruin my weekend. And then all of a sudden though, like at the natural outcome of that though is like, oh, I don’t know where to turn and wait a minute now I’m, now I’m turning back and I’m actually running towards tradition. There’s like this weird flip that happens where all of a sudden what rises up within this generation, we’re seeing it in lots of different ways, is like this pining this, this desire for state stability, for sacred, for, uh, established. There’s like this, at one hand we’re fighting the establishment and want to tear it all down. And on the other hand we’re just like, man, wouldn’t it be great if there was like something sacred? Wouldn’t it’d be great if there was something like that just transcended this experience or, and there there’s all these stats even to illustrate people coming into churches and uh, attributing their conversion to, to being in a beautiful church, like going into cathedrals all across Europe and something stirring within them, right? The transcendentals still work. And so it’s, it’s this deep irony of, on one hand, we can’t wait as a generation to kind of tear it all down. And on the other hand, as we tear it all down, we’re going, oh man, what, what do we build on? What’s the foundation of what we have? And so when that, that heart finds that place when you’re walking with somebody and they start to express that it’s actually an incredibly powerful weapon to be be like, actually all the questions you have, I have answers to, and they’re found in this book and in this book. And then, you know, the Bible and the Catechism. Hold both in both hands and let’s read ’em together and let’s unpack ’em. Let’s have a discussion about it. Let’s be honest about what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. That’s an incredibly powerful weapon.
Edmund: It makes me think of, uh, how we’re both kind of rejecting over the last couple generations, like institutions, but also we’re seeking wisdom. Like you scroll through social media and a lot of it, I mean, some of it’s inspirational and some of it’s just like, here’s how to make a million dollars. But then there’s like this kind of weird area where it’s almost mystic, almost relational, but almost like, I mean, what I would consider wisdom, like how ought you live your life? And it’s a good point you make that like people are, you know, shying away from institutional religion, but also seeking wisdom from somewhere. And what you’re saying is that through the Catechism, there’s some, there through the Church teaching, there’s a way for us to kind of, I dunno, Emily, what do you think about that?
Emily: I think that yeah, kind of what’s coming to mind through this conversation that we’re having, um, which was not necessarily a pre-planned thought, is that giving space people to kind of, to still apply it to their own lives. I think one of, and this is where that piece of walking with people can be so important, but um, even if people are kind of encountering it on their own, which certainly does happen, um, even if it’s not like the ideal path, but um, is taking that wisdom, taking that Church teaching or you’re reading something in the Catechism or you’ve, um, heard about a devotion, um, from some beautiful church and, but then the way you need to do is like to make it relevant to your own life, which is having a personal relationship with Jesus. Just because we all have the same universal Catechism doesn’t mean that we all live it in the exact same way. Right. The saints are a beautiful testament to that. Um, and so I think that what’s really important for peopleof any generation, but I think especially this one that’s sort of been weary, it’s like the Church as it grew and became more global, um, and and more established countries and lived for a long time, got good at programming, like you said, Pete. But when you’re doing, what’s good about programming is like handing on information, but then maybe you’re not giving people those space to like still apply it to their lives in a personal way, which is not the same thing as you do you like, I’ll do me. But it still needs to be personal. And I think that that’s a really important part of, um, of teaching all the faith, but especially what’s found in the Catechism.
Pete Burak: Absolutely. And I think the, again, it’s the beautiful Catholic “both/and,” Right? We gotta have the personal and we have to have the institutional, we have to have the movement of the Spirit and we have to have the stability. I mean it’s, it’s, it’s, they go hand in glove. And I think the, the other other danger that can emerge is the Church can get a little, can kind of blush at some of deamnds of Jesus and so as somebody’s on a path, uh, a journey of like curiosity and discovery and oh my gosh, I can’t believe the Church teaches this about this and wait, you mean this is what Jesus is inviting me into and all that we also have to remain, again beautiful “both/and” walking with people, but also being willing to call them evermore deeper, which is calling them into greater and greater commitment, calling them into greater and greater surrender, calling them into greater and greater submission and obedience to the Lord and to the Church, which it can get uncomfortable in this current moment. Like the idea of, of commitment is like our generation’s like allergic to commitment. We, we don’t commit to going to see a movie on Friday, let alone like my time, my talent and my treasure. You know? And so, but there’s actually, I’ve, I’ve also found ironically though, as much as we’ve, um, we’ve been allergic to commitment and we, we’ve, we try to resist too many things, FOMO and all that stuff, I gotta keep my options open. All that it, I found that weirdly it’s incredibly refreshing for young adults to be challenged to commitment. So ironically, we think they don’t want to be we shouldn’t ask too much of them. Like too often we’re like, well we can’t, we can’t expect a young at adult to do that. We can’t expect them to do this. Like, I mean, there’s no way they would commit to a weekly thing together. I mean, that’s just, that’s too much. Or, you know, and what I found ironically is no actually, even if they say no, which they do a lot, even if they say no, they respect the fact that we believe it deeply enough to actually kind of go all in on it to say like, no, the logical conclusion of this journey that is, is this type of all in for Jesus. Do you want it? And they might say, no, I don’t like, great, I still love you. I’m still walking with you. We can still be friends. But the, the invitation to greater commitment, even when rejected, I found over and over again, is actually very much respected and kind of like, Hmm, thanks, thanks for caring about me enough to, to challenge me. Thanks for caring about me enough to actually invite me. Cuz if you care, if you care about this enough, why wouldn’t you ask me to care about it?
Edmund: As we’re talking about this, you know, these dynamics of both/and, and relationship and evangelization and catechesis, like I wonder with young adults, it seems often, at least in my experience, it’s really easy to go to the practical doctrines. You know, it’s really easy to go to Church teaching on sex and contraception and, um, maybe some of these more practical things, but, uh, it’s much harder to sometimes unpack or like, how do you connect a young adult, how do you make a young adult like excited or interested in the Church’s teaching on the Trinity or the incarnation? And so I wonder like, as we’re talk in, in light of relationship and evangelization, like where you see or where you’ve seen, uh, fruit or like constructive ca you know, evangelizing catechesis when it comes to these doctrines. Cuz part of the passion of Real+True is, or the project of Real+True is like, can we get those things unpacked for people? Can we open that up? So someone is interested in the incarnation? Like for me that’s the greatest, most exciting challenge of the project is like, how would you make someone who, a random Catholic who only goes on Christmas and Easter, interested in the Church’s teaching on the Trinity, which seems like a, a big jump. Um, but I don’t know, I wonder your thoughts on, on that, cuz I don’t know if you have the same experience where it’s like, okay, we just talk about like marriage, it’s like sex marriage and like maybe some political, you know, connections, but like the deeper Church teachings, um, sometimes we like gloss over.
Pete Burak: Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, I would say probably, uh, to root all of it in testimony. So one of the things I realized a few years ago when I was reading First John, uh, is he says at the beginning he says, what we have seen, what we have heard, what we have looked upon, what we, we’ve touched concerning the word of life this we made known to you. Um, and then he goes on later to say, this is the testimony and, and all this stuff. And what occurred to me is like when the apostles went out, uh, they, they didn’t say like, Hey, you need to believe this because look at Peter or like, Hey, look at, look at Andrew over there. Isn’t he great? I know this is true because look at it transformed my grandmother, you know, no. They’re like, no, we know this is true because God has done something in me. I’m different. And, and then of course, like as they start to unpack, what does it mean that God is the word of life? What does it mean that like there’s salvation in him, all the teachings of the Church start to unpack, but it kind of is, is kind of grounded in, uh, a personal, uh, clearly like I’m different because of this. And I think that’s to your point about like you scroll social media. So many of those posts are because people wanna be different. They don’t like who they are right now. They don’t like how many pounds are on the scale. They don’t like their social status, they don’t like their bank account, they wanna be different. So they’re looking for people to help them be different. And like one of the radical claims of the Gospel and Christianity is like, you can be different. You can be free, you can be joyful. Um, there’s, you don’t have to fear death. Uh, you don’t have to wonder if you’re gonna have everything you need because, “Your Father in heaven sees you. And seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added to you.” Again, both/and I think a lot of times the doorway to being open to a greater kind of theological discussion is when they are really convinced that on a personal level you really believe this. I mean I can remember sitting in Catechesis class or you know, like, um CCD and you know, I was, I was not always paying attention. Shocker as a 5th grade boy or whatever.
Edmund: I was throwing crayons. I was in CCD throwing crayons
Pete Burak: And I remember like at one point I had one teacher in particular who every lesson was like, originated out of a personal story. He just start, it was like story time first. And as he told the story, it would connect to whatever we were supposed to learn from, you know, part of the CCD programming. And I think that’s one of the geniuses of what you guys are doing. You guys are couching, you’re framing the conversation around applicable personal and tangible real life examples that move people. And it gets them to say like, “oh, I’d never thought about it that way.” And so, but to me, the more like, I don’t, I’m not doing your project. So the more I just wanna share my story with people. I wanna share how God has changed me. I want to, I want people in my community to be just so quick to be like, God has made this difference in my life. And then as we start to talk about that, um, well what does the Trinity mean? Well, now we’re having a conversation on a foundation of relational connection, not just kind of abstract intellectual pursuit.
Edmund: That’s a good point. It reminds me like there was one time where I mentioned something offhand about praying to the Holy Spirit and this person who isn’t Catholic, but was raised Christian and not really practicing was like, “I’ve never prayed to the Holy Spirit.” And like it did bring up a conversation about the belief in the Trinity and she was just like, I’ve never, I’ve never once in my life thought about having a relationship with the Holy Spirit. And then I was like, well, “who do you pray when you pray to God? Who do you pray to?” And she was like, “I never think about that. I just pray to God. Like I’ve never thought. It’s like, wow. That’s really, uh, that’s interesting.” Emily, I wonder if at the end of this we could maybe start, uh, getting maybe practical if we could think of maybe a really practical question unless you have something else that you feel like we could ask.
Emily: No, I think that’s great. Yeah. If you, we’d love to ask you for, um, a lot of the people who are listening to this podcast are other catechists, um, people who are tapped into the mission and vision of Real+True. And what we’re trying to do and are listening to get kind of deeper insights about that. Uh, and so we’d love to get from you and your experience with young adults, um, especially if you see, what ways do you see young adult catechesis being really effective? How would they use the Catechism? Um, any sort of like practical tips that, um, a catechist who works with young adults, um, or in a parish that has a young adult community could take into their week after listening to this.
Pete Burak: Oh, lots of ideas. Um, the the first I thing is like, you can’t invite people to, to fall in love with something or someone unless you yourself are in love with that something or someone. So it would be, it’s a little bit like, “Hey, you should go see that movie.” “Oh, did you see it?” “Well, well, no, but I heard it was good.” It’s like, “Oh, okay.” So like, if you want people to engage with the Catechism, you need to know the Catechism, like, and you need to read it and you need to fall in love with it, and you need to recognize the gift that it is. And I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the Catechism is that it’s boring or it’s stale. I mean, just start literally at the beginning, read that first introduction, and if your heart’s not moved by what the, what the Church is revealing there, then there might be a deeper issue because it’s, it’s a love letter, um, a love letter that contains deep unpacking truth, but a love letter nonetheless. This is a, this is a true expression of the Church trying to love her people by um, not letting us live in the dark. But the way it’s written with the amount of scripture, I mean, just the amount of scripture in the Catechism is, is astounding. Um, and so, uh, one of the best ways actually I’ve grown in knowledge of the scriptures is by reading the Catechism. And we certainly need to grow in, uh, you know, ignorance of scriptures, ignorance of Christ. And so, uh, to be able to have within the Catechism this opportunity to not only be understanding and blessed by what we, what we believe, but also having it framed within this God’s level letter to humanity, which is the scriptures. It’s just, it’s such a powerful weapon. But the point is like, you can’t possibly genuinely say, Hey, you should read the Catechism if you yourself haven’t. So that’s a great starting point. And then the second thing is I think we have to kind of just like pop the bubble demystify just the, again, that it’s inaccessible or it’s only for intellectuals, um, and this project helps with that. But to, um, to regularly, I mean, I would say every catechist, anybody who’s who’s trying to disciple young adults, you should have near at hand the Bible and the Catechism because whatever comes up in the conversation to be able to say, and this is something I’ve started doing more and more, instead of trying to quote it, I say, “Hey, why don’t we just read it?” So it’s like they, they say something like, actually there’s a great scripture for that and I can just like give you the footnotes version of it, or actually know what, why don’t we pause for a second, let’s open up the word of God and actually read the word of God. Or, you know, that’s a great question about what the Church believes like, instead of me trying to like explain it to you, what if we, what if we read, read it, I know, crazy idea and then unpack it together, you know? So to to see it as a very accessible weapon in the, in the midst of it. Um, those are just two, uh, practical things. Um, I’m sure I could come up with more, but
Edmund: That’s great.
Emily: That is great. Thank you so much, Pete, for your time today and your insights about young adult ministry and your contributions to this project. We are so grateful. Do you wanna, um, end by telling people where they can learn more about the work that you do as well.
Pete Burak: Sure. Thank you. Yeah, it’s fun to be with you guys. It’s fun watching the videos develop and grow and Edmund be a goof and Emily be a fountain of wisdom. It’s, it’s, it’s great. So, uh, yeah, if you’d like more information about what we’re doing, you can go to renewalministries.net or intentionaldisciples.com are probably the two easiest, uh, places to get more info. And yeah, we’d love to connect with anybody who’s hungry to reach young adults.
Emily: Thank you. Awesome.
Edmund: Thanks so much. And you can go to realtrue.org to watch all the podcasts and videos. Emily, is there anything else we wanna plug at the end of this podcast?
Emily: No, thanks for your time.
Edmund: We’ll see you next time.
Would you prefer to listen to this instead?
Our Celebration series is also available as a podcast! Subscribe to bring R+T into your favorite listening app.
Also available on
Dr. Timothy O’Malley unpacks the need for developing a Eucharistic culture in order to more effectively evangelize in a world where most people are greatly influenced by a culture at…Watch
Dr. Lesley M. Rice shares about the “why” behind the Church’s teachings on IVF, reproductive technologies, end of life care, and how God’s plan for life and love leads to…Watch
This episode is a concise and practical explanation of a way to use a unique feature of the Catechism to unlock scripture. Using the index of citations, found in the…Watch
Edmund asks Mari how she’d respond to a family member or co-worker who confronts her with a difficult question related to Church teaching; her response is powerful. Learn how to…Watch
By submitting this form you consent to receive emails about Real+True and other projects of OSV.