Boys all smartly turned out in their Eton collars
My Lord Gladstone, justifying his name, has contributed thoughts on The Youth, which I am just now reading.
Oh dear. How gloomy my generation is, by his account.
There are so MANY things wrong with today's youth, that I barely know where to begin.
Even to my socially liberal eyes, that dance floor appeared as a modern day Sodom or Gommorah to me.
Sex, Drugs and Alcohol are the Holy Trinity for these teenagers, Apathy is their Messiah, Kanye West and Lady Gaga are their Prophets. They have no reverence for anything, not their parents, nor their elders, nor their teachers, nor their country. They are interested only in themselves, and their hedonistic pleasures.
Well, yes, quite.
But however justified Mr. Gladstone's complaints, let us try and go a bit further.
Is it that my generation "has no reverence" and is interested "only in ourselves?"
Or is it that we have formless hopeful and compassionate impulses, which have failed yet to find an expression?
Church attendance is declining. As a confirmed, Mass-attending High Anglican, the twenty-something Dr. Swift blames not a decline in spirituality among his peers (crackpot religion has never been more popular). Rather, he fairly and squarely blames anaemic clergy, and spineless spiritual leaders.
God is attractive. Even His Church has moments of good press.
It's baby boomer clergy of the generation above me that make me feel like sleeping in on Sundays. As the wonderfully acid Alice Thomas Ellis put it, "the liberal clergy, confronted with the Cities of the Plain (Sodom and Gommorrah), perambulate about wringing their hands and intoning "We are all guilty..." The sermon at Evensong last week was ostensibly about Advent--Incarnate God, the Wrath To Come, the Great Deliverer.
What did we get?
Multiculturalism, and a few nice thoughts on Depression.
Could do better, one feels.
Likewise, there is a deep desire to serve others in my generation--they don't join the Scouts, or the Christian World Service, instead they shop at Trade Aid, they're deeply worried about African poverty--in fact, volunteerism is rising among the young--we're deeply worried about our fracturing society, just not sure what to do about it.
It's our parents who ran off to Woodstock.
Yes, of course we have too many people blown about by our feelings, and forgetful of our duty. But, for a generation raised on bromides about following our hearts, we aren't doing too badly. It's the Baby Boomers who knew what the Right Thing was and thought getting stoned was more fun.
Yes, there is too much promiscuity--but on the other hand, a deep desire for love, for sacrifice, for hope. Having been raised on Free Love, my generation now looks for the ties that bind.
Marriage is still an aspiration.
Period Dramas like Pride and Prejudice have never been more popular.
Even trashy novels like Twilight speak to the misdirected hope that there might be someone to love you forever.
ANZAC and Rememberance Day Services here have never been more popular, or more youthful.
There is a lot to criticise about The Youth Of Today, to be sure--and Mr. Gladstone is right about most of it. But given the culture we had to start with, the aspirations we have are good ones and noble ones, however incomplete.
Pope Benedict encouraged the young people of Genoa in these terms--his prescription is for youth and goodness to be joined together, for strength and energy to lie down with service:
To be young means to have discovered the things that do not pass away with the passing of the years. If a young person discovers the great and true values, then he will never grow old, even if the body follows its own laws.Stay young in your heart and you will radiate youth, which is to say, goodness. Yes, because goodness escapes the grip of time. That is why we can say that only he who is good and generous is truly young.
I wish you all to remain young, but not as fashion goes. Fashions fizzle out in a heartbeat, they burn out in frenetic pointless succession. But youth - the youth born of goodness - will remain. Indeed, it will be perfect and resplendent in Heaven, with God.It is beautiful to be young. Today, everyone wants to be young, to remain young, and many masquerade as young people, even if their youth has gone - visibly gone. But why is it beautiful to be young? Why this dream of perennial youth?
I think there are two decisive elements. One is that youth still has all of the future ahead. Everything is the future - the time of hope. And the future is full of promise, although today, it is also full of threats, especially the threat of great emptiness.
That is why many want to stop time, out of fear for a future of emptiness. They would want to consume all at once everything that is ‘beautiful’ in life - and so they burn out the candle at both ends even if their life has just begun.It is important to choose the true promises, those that will open up the future, even if it means renouncing certain things. Whoever chooses God will have, even in old age, a future without an end, and will fear no threats ahead.So choose well - do not destroy your future.
And the first choice should be God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the light of this choice which offers us a reliable companion on our journey, one can find the criteria for the other choices that one must make.To be young, as I said, means being good and generous. But once again: the true goodness is Jesus, the Jesus you know or that your heart is searching for. He alone is the friend who will never betray. He was faithful up to giving his life on the Cross.
Surrender to his love!
By the way, the open-air Mass for Young People at which he said this was full.
Golden Youth indeed.