“I’m going to talk about thinking, about the importance of being intelligent and using your mind,” he said.
“I think some people in the past have had the view that the Catholic faith is about what you are feeling and your connection with other people.
“I think that is part of faith but I think before you give your heart to anyone or anything you want to think very carefully and get to the truth about that person or that thing.
“What I’ll say tonight is that while young people are energetic and their mind is still growing and looking for answers … to use their mind.
“Faith isn’t just about how you feel, faith is (also) about what you think.”
Hayden, who’s been in Australia since 1994, said we “do young people an injustice” when talking about faith in only an emotional way – that it also involves an intellectual connection.
“I think if we give young people the view that faith is about having deep feelings, making emotional connections, they will say, ‘Why should I have faith? … because I sometimes feel very deeply angry and I make emotional connections anyway?’
“(They’ll ask) Why do I need Jesus Christ? Why do I need the Catholic Church?’
“I think the difference that faith makes is that with a little bit of knowledge and understanding the mind opens up a whole world to young people.
“(And) once the mind has opened up you start to think there’s so much out there.”
Hayden said an inquisitive mind leads to seeking answers about life and existence – when considering questions like “Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why did my girlfriend leave me? Why did my Dad die? Why did my Mum get sick?” and “Why can’t I find a job?”
“When you start using your mind that’s when these why questions pour out,” he said.
“Now that’s what someone with the training I have calls philosophy.”
Hayden said when he started considering those “big questions” as a young adult he found the answers talking to members of the Domincian community, chaplains in his university in Scotland.
“Dominicans are great believers of using your mind to get to the truth,” Hayden said.
“(But) the divine truth doesn’t come and hit you in the head you have to pursue your own mind to get there.
“(And) that’s what happened to me … a lot of thinking and a lot of praying.”
Hayden is spurred to live, breathe and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ “because of young people”.
“I have a profound sense that the previous generation owes a huge amount to youth,” he said, adding, “Youth recognise Christ in a special way.”
He also believes youth groups and experiences “based on emotional highs” are baseless saying, “The problem is, if you base anything on emotion, emotion fades and goes down.”
Hayden said the most vivid and lasting memories of World Youth Day “are not the emotional buzz”.
“What stays in the memory is quiet time talking to God, encounters with the people, prayer in front of the (Blessed) sacrament, hundreds of sessions with bishops using dance, drama, music … to feed the mind.
“Emotions don’t stay … you need something real to carry you through until the feelings came back.”
The former staffer of the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne encourages the Church “to have more trust in young people” as “the Holy Spirit will breathe and grow and take the young people with them”.
This trust, however, “doesn’t mean youth is infallible”. “It doesn’t mean the older generation has nothing to say, it doesn’t mean ‘new’ is good … it does mean if it isn’t taken up in the hands of the young it probably won’t survive,” Hayden said.
Knowing the Bible intimately, mostly because of his upbringing within a Pentecostal movement, Hayden also encourages all people to consider studying philosophy.
“This doesn’t mean everybody should do a degree,” he said. “(But) we need to be intellectually leaner, slimmer.
“We need to go on an intellectual diet … we’re probably a bit intellectually fat and morally fat.
“We need to be intellectually fitter.”
The study of philosophy, which he describes as “thinking about the best answers ever given to the deepest questions ever asked”, has led Hayden to be certain of faith.
“I believe that Christ really came, really died, really rose and really will come again,” he said.
“I’m more certain of that after studying than anything.”
A number of other certain truths were also revealed.
“The other thing I feel absolutely certain about is that there are some things that are deeply intrinsically good and some things that are deeply intrinsically wrong … moral horrors like abusing a child or torture or blasphemy against God – nobody could persuade me these things could be good.
“(And) young people need to get themselves the very best education they can.
“The Church needs people who are extremely intelligent … engineers, builders, doctors, lawyers, politicians and above all, priests.
“There is sacrifice involved but the result of that sacrifice will be a very happy life and a huge contribution.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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