A Millennial's Perspective - Samuel Klumpenhouwer

I belong to what is called the millennial generation. Some people like to tease us by calling us the “snowflake generation.” This generation is now in their twenties and early thirties. Most people aren’t sure what to make of us, or how we will turn out. We are currently studying in university or struggling to find a career. We are no longer children, but we don’t like to think of ourselves as adults either. We are often entirely unsure of what to do with our lives. Over this past year, the final year of my own graduate studies, I found myself reflecting more and more on the difficulties my fellow millennials are faced with. I was also interested in how the Newman Centre could address the crisis of my generation. 

There are a few significant things about millennials that I’ve noticed. Most importantly, we are very sensitive to the worldly chaos surrounding us. For it is chaos, not stability, that has characterized our lives up till now. Far too many of us were raised in broken homes, with our weekly schedule divided and torn between each parent. We never got to witness the harmony of a husband and wife coming together to raise a child. Although we always had lots of material things, none of these were particularly special or sentimental. We thoughtlessly threw out our old iPhones and Nintendos as soon as the latest version came out.

We also had no experience or conception of the sacred. Everything had already been demystified. Consumerism told us there was nothing sacred about tradition or culture. Pornography and fornication told us there was nothing sacred about sex. Abortion and euthanasia told us there was nothing sacred about life. Faced with this experience of chaos and meaninglessness, there are two main responses that millennials have given. The first is that many of us became cynical and nihilistic. We believed the lie that there is nothing permanent or eternal. And so we gave ourselves over to momentary pleasures and did not care about either the future or the past. All of this made us into ungrateful and atomized individuals.

However, many of us chose a different path. We rejected that cynical and nihilistic attitude. We began to search outside of ourselves for something stable and meaningful, something to provide a center for our lives. In other words, we became very attracted to sacred tradition. When I became a Catholic several years ago, one of my main reasons for converting was that the Church was something stable, beautiful, and sacred.

It is for these reasons that I am very thankful to the Newman community for the chapel restoration project. It is a gift to everyone, but especially to millennials. As one walks into the chapel, a silent answer is given to the question many millennials are asking. What I mean is that the architectural design, the direction of the pews, the centrality of the tabernacle, all these things silently point us to the only true and stable center for our lives. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that

the Eucharist is “the Source and Summit of the Christian life.” This is what the chapel building also teaches us as it naturally directs our eyes and attention to the tabernacle where the Eucharist is held. By focusing first on Christ, we as individuals and a community are then able to let Him be the center of our lives. This gives us the strength to go out into the world and be a witness for Christ amidst all the chaos. 

Samuel Klumpenhouwer converted to the Catholic Church in 2010. He later served as one of Newman's Student Campus Ministers. He is now in the final year of a PhD program in Medieval Studies.

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