The answer to the question, “Do teens have a spiritual life?” is, of course, YES! At times, however, it may seem to us as though teens do not have the capacity for spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they often do not have the capacity for is the ability to articulate their spirituality. Likewise, a spiritual life is not to be confused with a pious life. In his classic book, The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, describes spirituality as the way we channel “the fire that burns within us” and concludes that everyone has a spirituality. Teens are at a stage in their lives when they are channeling that fire within, in a multitude of directions. Spiritual maturation is learning how to channel that fire within so that it focuses on giving life to others.
In a fascinating article from U.S. Catholic (“The Spiritual Life of American Teenagers,” by Jessica Mesman Griffith), Dr. Lisa Miller, Columbia University professor and psychologist, reminds us that teens experience a surge, not only in hormones, but also in “their capacity and desire for connection with others and God.” The article’s author, Jessica Mesman Griffith, emphasizes that the decline in religious practice among teens is not so much a rebellion against a negative experience of church but simply because they are “too busy”—they are involved in so many activities that they come to see church as just one more activity. Griffith goes on to assert that, in order for teens to develop a healthy spirituality, they need, among other things, a supportive community as well as a place and a way to pray.
What’s your experience of the spiritual life of teens?