The following comes from Roman Catholic Bishop David M. O'Connell, C. M., Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, NJ:
There is a show on Broadway titled “Dear Evan Hansen.”
It tells the story of its title character as he struggles with
the anxieties and confusion that sometimes accompany
high school teenage years. Dip it in sympathetic
sentimentality, and the end result is a musical that tugs at
the heartstrings of most audiences.
Isn’t that, after all, one of the things that draws us to the
theatre in the first place? The music and its lyrics are
catchy and clever. The characters are believably familiar
– if you know the high school teenage scene at all – and
the central figure is a lonely misfit desperately seeking to
belong and be accepted by his peers – by the world,
The underlying moral theme is not so positive; Evan
Hansen creates a deceptive imaginary relationship with a
popular classmate who has died in order to draw attention
to himself. “Does the end justify the means” taunts the
mind, as the lie turns into something “tear-jerkingly”
positive, and the music is hard to resist. For the rest, go
see the show. It won the 2017 Tony Award for Best
Musical along with several other Tonys.
As Bishop, I often worry about the future direction of the
Church in our country at large and in our Diocese in
particular. Where are the young people? Why do they
seem disinterested, hard to engage? I don’t think it is the
Lord Jesus or his Gospel. They never lose their appeal or
relevance in any time or place. As is often the case in life,
regardless of age, it’s not so much “what” we say in the
Church but “how” and “why.” Ah, the perennial questions
that maybe – just maybe – we don’t get right when it
comes to translating Jesus, his message and mission, his
Church into real life, especially for young, inquiring
minds and longing hearts pulled in a million other
When I was young, there wasn’t a whole lot of
competition for my attention: no unrelenting schedules,
no excessive demands or expectations, no technologies to
replace imagination, no Snapchat or Instagram, no
alternatives to just being a kid.
Times have certainly
changed, and chances are pretty good that they won’t
change back. So what do we do?
Instead of wasting time and energy and emotion
lamenting what isn’t anymore, perhaps we should devote
our attention to what is and what needs to be “now” as the future unfolds in the present.
Yes, we still have to identify
the “what” in life and in the Church, but, more than ever
before, we have to get the “how” and “why” right.
It begins in the family first and foremost. It travels next to
school and neighborhood. It also has to consider and
include Church and its community of faith, which
reminds us that the whole thing has its source in God, who
knew and named us before we were born, who created us
in his image, who loves us as we are, who binds us
together, who never leaves us alone – young or old – on
the journey, who leads us to eternity.
The fact is that life today is not simple, is not gradual or
slow, is not without distractions or demands. In the midst
of it all, we can feel lost, unimportant, disconnected,
alone, even invisible. I believe that can certainly happen
... without faith, without hope, without God.
Back to “Dear Evan Hansen.”
He sings a song that,
when I heard it, struck a chord and offered a message for
everyone, but especially for the young starting out in life
(you can hear it on YouTube):
Have you ever felt like nobody was there
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere
Have you ever felt like you could disappear
Like you could fall and no one would hear
Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be ok
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
And, oh someone will come running
And I know they’ll take you home
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found.
(“You Will Be Found,” music by Benj Pasek and Justin
Paul, book by Steven Levensen, 2016)
In God you will be found.
In God you were never, will
never be ... lost.