Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I was involved in a discussion about what the Church should be doing for young people, with a group of priests recently, like so many of those discussions, we didn't get anywhere, it is sad depressing thing about the Church: the status quo remains, even if it is not obviously not working, or is actually damaging!

Da Mihi Animas has this video on "male spirituality" - men above all seem to want to march in step. Someone, a little dismissively, said, "young people always want to know "the rules"". I am convinced confusion doesn't help, "the rules" at least give a basis for action, young people seem to crave action rather than theory. They want to live the Gospel rather than speculate about it.

Young men especially seem to want defined structures, the spirituality of the Centurion, Matt 8:8ff, seems to typify the attitude of many young men, there is a real desire to be under authority. The young men who followed Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, Philip chose join a brotherhood and wanted a Rule, in the same way as young men joining the army both want and need a very definite structure, in many cases the tougher and more demanding the better. Such structures are often used to define one particular group against another, in a competitive or tribal way; Franciscans versus Dominicans, Jesuits versus Oratorians or Royal Marine Commandos  versus the SAS. In the past the Church used that youthful sense of competition to stress an orders distinctive charism, the Carthusians stressed their solitude, the Trappists their silence, the Franciscans their poverty, the Jesuits their obedience, the Dominican's their learning etc.

Older religious communities of both men and women that have thrown off the habit and mitigated their Rule are dying and lost any sense of distinctiveness, whilst new religious communities that  have a distinct identity and make great demands on their members are growing, this is certainly so with the Missionaries of Charity, Opus Dei and, I have to admit, the Legionaries of Christ too, the same can be said of those communities that use the traditional Rite, indeed they seem to be filled with young.

A liberal might suggested Rules and rules tend to crush and institutionalise the individual, I am sure they can but they can also strengthen the individual and provide a scaffolding that enables a spiritual life to be built on firm foundations. They provide a common platform for living, delineating at least a minimum of behaviour.

The Archbishop of Dublin said recently that Irish young people are possibly the best catechised but least well evangelised in Europe, I am not sure quite what that means but I suspect that one of the problems in the Irish Church which is reflected in the UK and elsewhere is a profound confusion in how to live the Gospel, the last forty years have seen a serious confusion precisely over the "rules" of how to live the Gospel. The Church as an institution and even often especially as a "local community", now seems to insist on no minimum expectations. Liberalism thought was a help, now it seems to be a disaster.


gemoftheocean said...

"Rules" and or a "discipline" aren't necessarily a burden or a curtailment given that in this case they would be freely chosen by the individual.

RJ said...

I would have thought that catechesis was a stage of evangelization. This is what Pope John Paul stated in "Catechesi Tradendae". Not only that. He also wrote: "Let us first of all recall that there is no separation or opposition between catechesis and evangelization."
However, I guess the archbishop is saying that there has been too much emphasis on theory in the classroom.
Being fairly familiar with one of the textbooks used in a Catholic school in the Dublin diocese ("Exploring Faith"), I think it might be a good idea to have a look at the quality of the materials. I would question whether this textbook is actually faithful to Catholic teaching, specifically the Church's claim to be the one in which the original Church subsists (Lumen Gentium 8). No surprise if pupils don't persevere in the practice of their faith if they are not actually taught it.

jangojingo said...

Sometimes, the problem with young people not living the faith is because the parents do not. I think the real problem may be within the family. Perhaps if Priests visited people in their homes to encourage the family in living the faith the "status quo" would change.

RJ said...

I take it that attending Mass is an essential indicator of fidelity to the Catholic faith (the liturgy is, after all, 'the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows' (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)) (with the proviso that ignorance excuses)
But how can parents convince their children to attend the life-giving mysteries if they themselves have not been taught their significance?
Was there not a failure of catechesis in the previous generation?
The Church's disicpline also plays a big role here: after all, who is to say that we should attend Mass at least every week? If we deny or downplay the Church's authority, we can hardly be surprised if the discipline of the sacraments is ignored.

Et Expecto said...

One thing that you could have suggested is encouraging young people to go on the Chartres pilgrimage next week. It may be too late to organise that, but what about the one that Coung Catholic Adults are organising in August from Ely to Walsingham?

Dilly said...

The young Irish were certainly catechised - but not necessarily into the Catholic Church.

Mulier Fortis said...

In my experience as a teacher, I would say that young people like to have rules and to know clearly what they are.

They might not like the rules, they may kick and scream against them... but they like them to be THERE to kick and scream against!

Young people always push the boundaries, it seems to be part of growing up. The trouble starts when the boundaries move or aren't there to begin with!

Our Voice said...

I hear there is a pilgrimmage to Canterbury in July.

Volpius Leonius said...

It is a well known fact that children crave STRUCTURE and SECURITY.

They want a guide to show them the way, a Captain, a General, a King to follow, Christ is that ultimate King but among today's priesthood infected with liberalism anything to do with monarchy, majesty, honour or glory is treat with open disdain, they are even jealous of God's majesty as anyone who goes to mass on the Feast of Christ the King can witness in most parishes.

Today liberalism has gone to far and has resulted in children been left to just get on with life on their own, parents who parrot the liberal idea of not influencing their children's decisions in favour of letting them make the decision for themselves do the greatest harm to their own children and are guilty of neglect in the social order and sins of omission in the spiritual.

Its right in the scriptures:

"He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes." Proverbs 13:24

God's rules are an essential guide that direct the soul through a world clouded in darkness and chaos along the path of glory to salvation.

Without them, or rather without following them as the divine commandments they are all the souls will be scattered like so much chaff in the wind and will all be utterly and completely lost for all eternity.

Finally let us not forget that the arch liberal Satan introduced original sin into the world precisely through encouraging man to disobey the divinely given command not to eat the fruit of the tree.

Adam and Eve were perfectly catechised, they knew all the rules and all of the divinely revealed truths at that time, yet it was not enough to allow them to resist the snares of the devil, the people must also be imbued with the spirit of the laws, they must identify with the Faith become one with it, it must become their identity, this is why it is essential that we rediscover the true spirit of Christianity and our true identity as Catholics who are in the world, not to befriend it but to subdue it(Genesis 1:28), to conquer it in Christ's name for the greater glory of God.

It is not enough to teach the rules you must teach a love of the rules, but how many priests love the rules? How many Christians love the rules of God? How many would gladly accept martyrdom rather than break even one commandment of our God, the Almighty and imperishable Lord and King of the Heavenly Host who conquered death itself?

Because it is not possible to pass on to others that which we have not obtained ourselves.

To many I fear serve two masters wishing always only to maintain a peaceful, easy and decadent existence, afraid of making themselves figures of hate such as was Christ Himself when the mob called for his death.

Volpius Leonius said...

"Oh, sweet and true knowledge, which dost carry with thee the knife of hate, and dost stretch out the hand of holy desire, to draw forth and kill with this hate the worm of self-love--a worm that spoils and gnaws the root of our tree so that it cannot bear any fruit of life, but dries up, and its verdure lasts not! For if a man loves himself, perverse pride, head and source of every ill, lives in him, whatever his rank may be, prelate or subject. If he is lover of himself alone--that is, if he loves himself for his own sake and not for God--he cannot do other than ill, and all virtue is dead in him. Such a one is like a woman who brings forth her sons dead. And so it really is; for he has not had the life of charity in himself, and has cared only for praise and self-glory, and not for the name of God. I say, then: if he is a prelate, he does ill, because to avoid falling into disfavour with his fellow-creatures--that is, through self-love--in which he is bound by self-indulgence--holy justice dies in him. For he sees his subjects commit faults and sins, and pretends not to see them and fails to correct them; or if he does correct them, he does it with such coldness and lukewarmness that he does not accomplish anything, but plasters vice over; and he is always afraid of giving displeasure or of getting into a quarrel. All this is because he loves himself. Sometimes men like this want to get along with purely peaceful means. I say that this is the very worst cruelty which can be shown. If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it....This is the reason that all the subjects are corrupted by impurity and iniquity. Oh me, weeping I say it! How dangerous is that worm we spoke of! For not only does it give death to the shepherd, but all the rest fall into sickness and death through it. Why does that shepherd go on using so much ointment? Because he does not suffer in consequence! For no displeasure visits one and no ill will, from spreading ointment over the sick; since one does nothing contrary to their will; they wanted ointment, and so ointment is given them. Oh, human wretchedness! Blind is the sick man who does not know his own need, and blind the shepherd-physician, who has regard to nothing but pleasing, and his own advantage--since, not to forfeit it, he refrains from using the knife of justice or the fire of ardent charity! But such men do as Christ says: for if one blind man guide the other, both fall into the ditch. Sick man and physician fall into hell. Such a man is a right hireling shepherd, for, far from dragging his sheep from the hands of the wolf, he devours them himself. The cause of all this is, that he loves himself apart from God: so he does not follow sweet Jesus, the true Shepherd, who has given His life for His sheep. Truly, then, this perverse love is perilous for one's self and for others, and truly to be shunned, since it works too much harm to every generation of people.... But there is a remedy for this, father: that we flee the love spoken of above, for ourselves and every creature apart from God. Let no more note be given to friends or parents or one's temporal needs, but only to virtue and the exaltation of things spiritual. For temporal things are failing you from no other cause than from your neglect of the spiritual." St. Catherine of Siena to Pope Gregory XI

Martin said...

I think the Archbishop is badly mistaken if he thinks the Irish youth are the best catechised in Europe. I left my Northern Irish schooling with very little knowledge of the Catholic Faith.

Just another mad Catholic said...

I thoroughly agree with you Father, as a young man who is hoping to start seminary in 2011 I can't stress how the challange of the 'rules' inspire one, having said that love and relaxation are also importent (the Oratorians appeal to me because they come across as being an excellent place for those who want to bring Christ to the laity whilst maintaining a semi-monastic structure in their lives).

Btw Father thankyou for your fine priestly example and presence here on the web - inspiring.

Young, Male and Catholic said...

Absolutely spot on Father, and I say that speaking from a position of some authority being a young, Catholic male.

Lack of rules means that there is a lack of certainty and confusion easily sets it. I think that as youngsters grow up, we need to know boundaries and limitations and then they can feel free to expand into the space thus created, knowing all the time where the edges are.

Its the same as when you try and train someone to do something. If so many things are conditional and uncertain, the training will not breed much success and in my experience people will lose interest. On the other hand, if there is certainty about what is expected from the outsetthen it becomes a lot easier.

I think that a fear in our parishes that rules and regulations will scare young people off is unfounded. I have recent experience of a group of children who had just received their First Holy Communion and they were exposed to Benediction for the first time. Told in advance how the ceremony would proceed and what they were expected to do, it was a joy to see them dutifully and reverentially "comply." My point is that if they hadn't been told what the done thing was then they would have done their own thing, but always with a degree of uncertainty about what was right.

GOR said...

Well I don’t know what Ab. Martin meant either, but from anecdotal evidence I would say that catechesis in Ireland – and most other countries too – has not been up to snuff in the past 40+ years! Since the 1960s there has been a move to “throw off the rules” and this has infected catechesis also – not just the Liturgy.

If people are taught that all religions are ‘equal’ why be a Catholic? If they’re taught that you “don’t have to go to Church to pray” why bother going to Mass? If they have not been taught the meaning of the Sacraments, that objective Good and Evil exist, why bother with Confession - not to mention the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Yes, we need rules – and we have them: the Ten Commandments, the Commandments of the Church, the Corporal Works of Mercy, etc. etc. But if they are not taught, how will anyone know them? I think Ab. Martin needs to revisit how catechesis is taught in Ireland – and not just him, but bishops everywhere!

Jacobi said...

I think your analysis is spot on. Young men need structure, discipline - and demanding standards to live up to.

For young men, the interest in religion and the supernatural comes second, admittedly a long second, only to sex, if my recollections of late night discussions in the solidly male setting national service, many years ago now, are correct.

But all three are missing in the church today, particularly the expectation of high standards and that is because the concept of sin has been quietly dropped (even, I suspect, for those highly cathechised Irish), as a result of the pervasive relativism which has so seeped into the thinking of clergy and laity alike.

We catholics have become a relativised "Holy Elect" as is demonstrated by the rarely used confessionals but the 100% turn out for Holy Communion.

It has all become too easy - and young men are simply not interesed in that sort of thing.

Ma Tucker said...

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is not speaking the truth regarding catechesis in Ireland. The Iona institute has done an excellent survey that presents the pathetic and damning reality of the collapse in catholic education here in Ireland.

Iona Institute results:

"In Ireland, once renowned for its Catholicity, a poll revealed that 95% of adolescents could not name the First Commandment.
The results showed that knowledge of Christianity is highest among those over 65 and lowest among those in the 15-24 age group. For example, 77% of the over-65 group could name the authors of the four Gospels, but only 52% of those 15-24 could.

When it came to naming the three persons of the Holy Trinity, 76% of those over 65 got it right, but this dropped to 47% among those aged 15 to 24. Asked how many sacraments there are in the Catholic Church, 63% of the over-65 group correctly answered 7, but only 38% of the 15- to 24-year-olds got it right."

The Pope is right and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is wrong. Irish Catholic schools need to RETURN to the teaching of the faith.

Sharon said...

When the state of Catholic religious education here in Australia is criticised a section of the Catholic community chants the mantra "the Faith comes from the home". This is true but unless someone gave the parents catechesis in the Faith they have nothing to pass on to their children; you can't give someone a drink if the jug is empty.

Open dissent within the Church by priests, sisters and laity has so undermined the truths of the Faith that young people don't know who or what to believe and end up believing the one who shouts the loudest; usually the MSM.

The Raven (C. Corax) said...

Well said, Father.

The basic problem is the abdication of authority in the Church and in wider society: no-one wishes to set themselves apart by exercising authority in modern society, which means that rules are neither enforced nor set.

With many parents wanting to be "friends" and not parents, stern words and kindly rebukes are not the lot of the modern child. And how our society is suffering for it.

In my (increasingly) distant youth, I remember that the most dedicated members of my cub and scout groups were the lads from the most disrupted homes: the discipline and order that they experienced there was something that they relished and thrived on.

The Raven (C. Corax) said...

Forgive me for the slightly off-topic request, but, on the subject of rigorous traditional orders, may I ask for prayers for the community at Papa Stronsay, who seem to be having a jolly tough time at the moment and are finding the process of erection as an institute of religious life tough going.


Joseph Shaw said...

Excellent post Fr Ray! But it requires a degree of cultural / moral self assurance to give rules and structure to young people who *say* they'd rather be doing something else. It is this self assurance among Catholic parents, teachers and pastors which has disapeared.

Btw those seminarians in the second picture - are they processing into the FSSP church in Rome, Sta Trinita dei Pellegrini? I think I recognise the square from my visit in November.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, they are at ST, last year.

SPQRatae said...

Father, you've hit the nail on the head. I try and attend EF Mass as much as possible these days, and two things always strike me: the high number of young people, and the high number of men. I'm sure the discipline, order and clear hierarchy have a big role to play in this, as well as the beauty and God-oriented worship (someone really should do a study on this).
I try and avoid OF Masses not for ideological reasons (I can only dream that the worst of them will one day respect the rubrics and the *real* instructions of Vatican II); rather out of sheer embarrassment at their naffness.
Such Masses tend to be dominated by bossy passive aggressives, with unusually high numbers of late middle-aged women and men who can only be described as...well, I think Schwarzenegger had the right name for them.
I know which group is more important for the future of the Church.

parepidemos said...

SPQRatae: You write that Ordinary Form Masses "..tend to be dominated by bossy passive aggressives, with unusually high numbers of late middle-aged women and men who can only be described as...well, I think Schwarzenegger had the right name for them."

Before I ask 3 questions, I would like to point out that, by definition, a passive-aggressive cannot also be "bossy" as this would be a contradiction in terms.

My questions:

First, apart from the fact that it is a sweeping generalisation, pray tell exactly how it is that you know those people who attend the Ordinary Form Masses are "bossy passive agressives"(sic)?

Second, do you have something against women who are in late middle age? If so, please elucidate. If not, why do you employ the term in an insulting manner?

Third, in another generalisation you imply that those men who attend the Ordinary Form are effeminate (which is how the governor of California referred to men with whom he disagreed). By extension, are you saying that those who attend the EF are heterosexual and 'manly'? If so, this is utter nonsense and totally lacking in evidence. (You should meet the 8-9 friends of mine who attend only the 9am EF at London Oratory; they are as 'camp' as Graham Norton).

SPQRatae: Your insinuations and comments are disgraceful, not only in the social, but also theological, sense. To use your expression, they are "naff" i.e. lacking in taste.

Peter said...

May I add a thought to the wise comments made?
Those who are informed of a rule may be curious and wish to understand why it exists. So to apply rules, such as the detailed rubrics for Mass, may serve as a means to teach the faith.

Independent said...

Rules are among the means by which a group differentiates itself from others. When it gives up its rules it loses its identity.

Jews who abandon the law of Moses regarding what they should eat often cease to be Jews.

What a pity that Friday abstinence from meat is no longer obligatory for Catholics. It provided an automatic marker, as did attendance at mass on Days of Obligation (even when they fell in the week ),or the eucharistic fast from midnight.

Nowadays as in the days of the Judges, when "there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes", rules would seem to be essential to maintain a specific identity.

Independent said...

Sorry - I did not intend to imply that Days of Obligation had been abolished, merely that they were now often moved to a Sunday and thus ceased to be a mark of obvious differentiation.

Dominic Mary said...

One of the most enjoyable things I do is spend time with the Dominican Students at Blackfriars, Oxford.

There you will find young men who prove the point that rules create quality : for you have a dedicated, committed, group of young men who are thoroughly committed to the way of S. Dominic, and who worship, study, and play, hard - and I know that this is by no means an unique case in England today.

Let us pray that, whatever the wider Church may do or think, the traditional Religious Orders may continue to demand much from their members, so that they give much to the Church.

SPQRatae said...

Thank you for providing a perfect example of the sort of bossy passive agression I was talking about.
I couldn't have done it better myself!

RJ said...

The Rule of a religious order is a particular (tried and tested, meritorious and grace-filled) way of living the Gospel.
As St Albert wrote in his rule for the earliest Carmelites:
"Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ —how, pure in heart and steadfast in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master."
There are rules and there are Rules.

Young Catholic Adults said...

Hi Fr.,

There is an International Juventutem Conference run by Young Catholic Adults on 10-12th Sep 2010. It is aimed at younger Catholics and used the Traditional Mass. For more info see http://www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk/events.htm

Savonarola said...

I believe you are right, Father, in saying that rules can provide the necessary framework for living the spiritual life, but rules are not enough. Rule-keeping needs to be accompanied by a real knowledge of God. The prophets before Christ and Christ himself pointed out that rules easily become external whereas God looks at the inner heart. And Christ directed his fiercest criticism against those who mistook rule-keeping for genuinely knowing God. In one way it's quite easy to keep rules, but allowing yourself to be transformed by God is another matter - maybe that is why people and the Church always tend to emphasise rules, but do not place as much emphasis on the transformational journey of faith.
The RCIA programme stipulates a period of evangelisation and precatechumenate in which enquirers can be helped to know God and Christ before they begin the formation and catechesis, for without that the catechesis will be echoing in a vacuum, but only one page of the RCIA book is devoted to this time, even though it is so critical.

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