Photo: Felix Carroll
They Know How to Reach the 'Lost Generation'
By Felix Carroll (Apr 26, 2010)
Since January 2001, Dave and Joan Maroney, known as Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, have traveled more than 250,000 miles to give their multimedia presentations that go to the heart of The Divine Mercy message. While they gear their presentations to all ages, Dave and Joan consider their work with youth to be the most crucial.
Why the youth?
Dave: We've never seen a generation so lost, without a moral and spiritual foundation, and without any concept of sin. So many of the youth today are bombarded by temptations, by pornography, by the media, TV, films, the Internet, cell phones, you name it, and in the process, they've become products of a very hedonistic culture. Really, through little fault of their own, that's their life experience — seeking pleasure rather than holiness.
Joan: Also, many of them just simply lack love and a sense of family and community — a sense of meaning in the world. They see the wars and terrorism. They experience the chaos because it extends into their own families. They're scared and angry. They lack hope. If they feel there is no meaning, then they figure "Why not have sex? Why not do drugs?" They have grown up without God.
So how do you get through to them?
Dave: We have to meet them where they are. That is to say, this is the "digital age," and handing kids the Diary of St. Faustina is not the place to start. That comes later. First we have to pivot toward new technology and ways of communication that the youth have embraced.
Joan: This has become a big goal for us. We've seen though the Marians' website, thedivinemercy.org, how stories become "viral" and are forwarded from one person to the next and are picked up by blogs and now reach thousands of people. We need to capitalize on what we know works, and so we're turning a lot of our attention, for instance, to getting videos out there, including on our own website, thedivinemercy.org/momm. We have to reach kids where they are at. When Jesus told St. Faustina to "speak to the world about My mercy" (Diary, 848), she could never have imagined our digital age and our modern means of mass communication today. We have a huge opportunity to change lives.
But how can you compete with all the other things vying for their attention?
Joan: We've seen through our programs to youth how ready they are for something real and something positive. Think about it: A hundred kids commit suicide each week in our country. This is an epidemic and a symptom of the culture of despair, the culture of death, and the culture of distractions.
Dave: They know, deep down, that something is not right in the world and in their lives.
In your programs to youth you don't mince words about hell, Satan, the temptations of sex and substance abuse. Clearly, this message gets through to them. They line up for confession after your program. Does their reaction surprise you?
Joan: It continues to amaze us, because this runs contrary to the notion that our youth have no interest in religion, that it just isn't "cool." One of the main reasons why we continue to do what we do — to travel all over for months on end spreading the message of The Divine Mercy — is because it works.
But why does it work?
Joan: Because once we do the walking, Jesus does the talking (laughs). The thing is, this is so true. For so many kids, they have had no exposure to eternity, nothing that shows them the glory of God. And furthermore, because many of them are living in a state of immorality, they don't feel as if God would want anything to do with them. That's where we have to stress that, no matter what they've done in the past, Jesus is not mad at them. He wants them to turn away from sin and come into His loving arms. Christ says, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 723). Without even knowing it, so many of them have longed to hear this. It surprises us to this day, but they quiet down during our program. They are really into it. You can tell by just looking in their eyes. When they learn that God is not some far-off guy with a white beard, that He's present and with us and wants to comfort us, they love that, they need that, they want that, and they want to know more.
Dave: Once their eyes are open to the evil or to the discord and lack of love, once they identify it, then we stress the promises Christ makes to us through St. Faustina — that His mercy is greater than our sins. He wants to help us overcome our sins and fears. It doesn't mean these kids won't get wayward. It doesn't mean they won't stray. We are all sinners. But if and when they ever hit rock bottom, they'll know that they can turn to Him.
Are you hopeful that — through technology, through the growing network of Divine Mercy apostles, and through the work you and the Marians are doing — some sort of critical mass can be reached to turn our youth around?
Joan: I really am. Right now, as bad as things seem, I believe we are on the threshold of a backlash against this culture of despair. We've seen what the message of The Divine Mercy is doing in people's lives — how it's given people true peace and healing.
Dave: I agree. Jesus is history's greatest radical. He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He embraced the poor. He continues to transform the hearts of sinners. He exhorts us to love our enemies. He continues to be a healing, truth speaking, loving, sacrificing, and merciful radical. No one could ever top Him. Once we expose the youth to this, everything can change.
Visit MOMM's homepage for more information. MOMM also has a new Youth Matters web page with events listings and materials for students in age groups from kindergarten through high school.