Marjorie Corbman

Marjorie CorbmanThe first thing one notices about Marjorie Corbman is her age, or rather her youth. At 17, this recent high-school graduate is among the few writers who have been published before reaching adulthood. That notable distinction is soon surpassed, however, by Corbman's depth of insight. Here is a young woman who has explored her faith more deeply and more intentionally than many people do during the course of a lifetime.

Corbman's book, A Tiny Step Away from Deepest Faith, recounts her search for meaning, truth, identity and connection, both as an individual and as an American teen growing up in our materialistic culture. Through her own experiences and those of her friends, she depicts young people today struggling to find authenticity, yet often characterized by adults as shallow and jaded.

In the essay below Marjorie talks more about today's youth, its contradictions and its yearning for a meaningful way to live.

Young people… do not allow your youth to mislead you and give you the false hope that you might be able to realize your freedom and your happiness on your own. Be aware that other people are your brothers and sisters and your fellow sufferers in the struggle against death, but also be aware that this struggle will not bring freedom. No one can liberate us from death except Christ, Who is the communion of love in the Holy Spirit.
—Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, 2004 Paschal Epistle

I am a new freshman in college, and, perhaps more importantly, I am a person who was transplanted from one place to another. I am going to a Catholic college, a Jesuit school. Not just a nominally Jesuit school, but a school where faith is expected to be part of everyone's life, and it generally is. Ten p.m. Mass on Sundays essentially empties out the hall of my dorm. People here talk about God, and in terms I am completely unaccustomed to hearing. When we went around the room in my religious studies class, explaining our personal religious background, everyone had pretty clear convictions, and, to my shock, generally a strong rooting in the Christian faith. I realized then how provincial my thoughts were on youth spirituality.

Moving from one place to another, touching different parts of a whole, allows for greater insight into the essence of a phenomenon. I had thought of youth today as being obsessed with hating "organized religion" and dogma. But how does that characterization jibe with these devoutly Catholic college students?

There are matching strands. For one thing, there is a desperateness. Teenagers today live desperately; this is our spirituality, how we approach the world, how we open ourselves to what is beyond. The problem lies in the older generation’s insistence on compartmentalizing life—in putting "spiritual life" in one spot, "academics" in another and "having fun" still someplace else.

In other words, the modern world has managed to completely disassemble the experience of the sacrament— of the spiritual and the material as one, of God coming to us in bread, of the Spirit moving us through every moment of our lives.

Perhaps the good news is that we recognize the disconnections. A thick cloud of boredom has settled over our age bracket, and so we grope out through the mist. We reach out at extremes, and pull back, disillusioned.

We know that we want our lives transformed. We know that we are hungry, and we know that there is a way to appease that hunger. Some of us even believe in traditional theology, where God feeds our whole lives in the Eucharist.

We know that what surrounds us is diseased, yet we cannot fix it. How can a generation avoid feeding off the culture that envelops it? How can those coming-of-age create a new milieu? What have we to work with? We recognize the things that are poison to our souls but that is all that society provides for us? We cannot simply walk back into a pre-modern culture. We are desperate for purpose. Without that we are left with no alternative but spinning in the cycle of buying and being bought.

Yet, I am optimistic. I strongly believe that young people can reject society, despite the money we give and the shows we watch. Being here at school undergirds that hope. Walking beneath the striking blue sky, through the sun-pierced pines, looking at the ivy-covered buildings with their gold crosses glowing in the light, I am surrounded by beauty just like that of my tree-filled town at home. Like always, the majesty of God's Creation reassures me. But something else here helps my faith: the fact that we all talk about God. Oh, if only we could just keep talking about Him, part of me believes that we won't forget Him.

I am not blind. I am well aware that we sway in the winds of whatever fad blows our way. We can be mindless pack animals, slaves to death and instinct. Yet every Sunday at 10 p.m. when my hall becomes deadly quiet, I know that the feast that so many have joined affords the ultimate transformation. The victory over death will not and cannot be won by us. It has already been won for us, finally and irrevocably. Such is the mystery of faith, and such will win out in those who reach out desperately, no matter the darkened mists surrounding them.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.
 —Luke 6:21

A Tiny Step Away from Deepest Faith by Marjorie Corbman
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