My family has a glorious custom of watching “Christmas Vacation” every year on Christmas Eve. Without fail, when we return home from Mass, we have a pizza cook-off and settle into a few hours of ridiculous Christmas antics. Anytime someone suggests a different movie, there is a small revolt because we always prefer to sink back into what we know and love. After all, what is Christmas Eve without Clark Griswold?! (And, let’s be honest, to hear my father laugh during the movie makes the entire thing worth it.)

Why are we so insistent on this? Because this tradition – and any tradition – reminds us that we are a part of something bigger than us.

Looking back at these last several years, there are certain traditions that have been consistent guideposts in my life encouraging me along the way. Whether it has been late night breakfasts during finals week in college or family reunions every other summer, these things that I have grown to know and love have comforted me time and time again. In the craziness of life, having things to look forward to with hope, and back upon with gratitude, has been a huge gift.

More important than these small traditions (small t) is the Tradition (big T) of the Church. In my life and ministry, I have found unbelievable solace in what the Church offers us. This Tradition finds its source in Jesus through the Apostles and is safeguarded by the Magisterium (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). By diving headfirst into the wellspring of this Tradition, I have been able to experience the joy that exists in “that something bigger”, and comfort in knowing that I don’t have to have it all figured out.

Tradition, Tradition!

The same goes with the high schoolers that we serve – in a world and culture that can so often make them feel so small; it’s crucial for them to know that they are a part of something bigger. As people who work in ministry, we can facilitate this by sharing with them both the Tradition of the Church and specific traditions within our programs.

When the youth ministry program I work with kicked off in the fall of 2014, I told myself (and Jesus) that I would do anything to get these teens in the door and to encounter Him. Although I could have never predicted how much cold pizza that would entail, one of the most important things we have done has been to create some traditions to which the teens could cling.

Some have been established as yearly things – bobbing for apples (complete with me wearing a trash bag around my head) and an ugly sweater Christmas party. Some occur on a weekly basis – starting every meeting with the “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer, and always offering a Capri Sun to each teenager. Others? They have developed organically. For instance, I get made fun of on average seven times per Life Night for my Minnesotan pronunciation of the word “bag”.

In addition to these traditions, we have shown teens the beauty of the Church’s Tradition through frequent reception of the sacraments, celebrating the liturgical year, and coming to know the lives of the saints. All of these have turned our program into a place of familiarity and comfort.

Upon this Rock

We don’t have to look further than the Gospel of Matthew to see that Christ intended for us to have the Church as our guide in this life and, ultimately, as our Heavenly home. The world we live in is always trying to sell us something new or convince us that we need something different than what we have. Our teens hear and see it everywhere – consistency is seen as boring, or worse, weak. By engaging and encouraging teens (and each other!!) in real traditions that build authentic community, not only will they grow in the knowledge of the beautiful Traditions of the Church, but they will arrive at the ultimate goal – knowledge of their Creator.


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About the Author

Lauren Scharmer

At the Catholic University of America, the Lord led Lauren Scharmer to give up her bright future as a professional pole vaulter in favor of dedicating her life to bringing teens to Jesus. She serves as a youth minister with Saint Louis Life Teen, where she uses her signature “Scharmer-isms” to form one community out of teens from 13 parishes. In her spare time, Lauren seeks adoption into large families so that she can have the catharsis of screaming her head off at children’s sporting events and crying at Christmas concerts. Her love languages include text message prayer chains, mediocre watercolor cards, and personal visits for all major life events. Follow along @laurenscharmer to see how much coffee she really drinks.

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