In 1994, a long time ago for the modern era, Blessed John Paul II's Crossing the Threshold of Hope was published. At the time, the book was highly read and successful, especially in the United States. I returned to it yesterday and today as I wanted to refresh my mind on two poignant selections from the book. The first is an entire chapter on youth and the hope of the youth. I return to this theme as I see so many youth without hope. When I get together with people of my generation, at least those of us who were NOT hippies, we saw ourselves as energetically inspired by hope. We were a generation of optimism. We could to things, and be someone, be helpful in the world. I had leadership training in high school and in college. We were told point blank that as special students in private institutions, we were the future of the Church and of society. Some of us took these words and skills seriously, as we wanted to “make a difference”. We had hope, and for some of us, this hope was based on Christ and His Gospel.
That some of us fell into Liberation Theology or communism was a result of the misinterpretation of the Suffering Servant, Who is Christ. Some of us repented and started over, in the Truth of pursuing personal holiness before attempting to change the world. This decision was our salvation, as it brought us back to the Church, to the Sacraments, to God.
But, our hope was not misplaced. Focused on Christ, and not ourselves, we could understand the real Gospel message. That youth today lack hope is because they lack Christ. Period. So many of the parents I talk to discuss the lack of hope in political terms, in the language of utopianism, the great brainwashing of the Left. They speak of the lack of hope in the youth as if material goods could change their entire outlook.
Hope has nothing to do with status or material wealth. It has everything to do with being one with the Creator. Now, this may seem like an adult act of the will or spiritual wisdom, but more than ever, the youth among us need to focus on Christ....and His Church.
What I have seen in almost a year in Europe is the lack of hope in the youth, who content themselves with instant gratification and temporary numbing of the mind and spirit. Those anarchists who are so active in the European Union, and are, ironically, highly organized anarchists, are youth who have no hope but in destruction. There is really nothing to take the place of the very structures they are denying and trying to destroy. Such a lack of positive political planning is a lack of hope. Part of this lack is based on ignorance and very bad educational systems removing the ideals of Western Civilization, including Christianity, from the curricula of the past 50 years.
Going back to Blessed John Paul II's work, I see his comparison of the youth who grew up in World War II, or under the tyrannies of communism as strangely archaic now. The youth to which the Pope was referring are my parent's generation. The youth of which he refers in 1994, are the generation beneath me. We baby-boomers had hope, and the generation after us placed their hope in materialistic dogmas and materialism. This new generation of youth, no longer the “John Paul II Generation”, as those are married and having children of their own, has a different set of problems.
As I have written many times before here and elsewhere, the youth of today are so individualistic and separated from real relationships, they have no hope in society and fall naturally into either anarchy or complete isolationism.
I am currently travelling in Ireland, as you know from this blog. This country is the suicide capitol of the world, and many who destroy themselves are youth. They have lost hope. Their idols of sex, drugs, drink and success have let them down. Their repudiation of the Church, the very link to Hope Himself, have left them without the anchor they need in their lives. They have chosen these ways. No one has made them leave the Church or society. No one has purposefully cast them out. They are not victims, but have chosen to leave the mainstream of civilization. That socialism and communism have worked to undermine the family, even in Ireland, is a factor. But the greatest danger for the youth are their own peers. No longer looking for heroes or role models among the older generations, and there are many, they look at each other in a strange idolatry of self-the same idolatry which causes homosexuality and lesbianism. This love of self, this narcissism, has destroyed the hope of youth. As long as they only look towards each other, they are doomed to unhappiness.
Let me quote the book mentioned in this post, a selection from Blessed John Paul II: This danger (Pelagianism) already existed in the time of Saint Augustine, and seems to be surfacing again in our time. Pelagius asserted that even without divine grace, man could lead a good and happy life. Divine grace, therefore, was not necessary for him. But the truth is that man is actually called to salvation; that a good life is the condition of salvation; and that salvation cannot be attained without the help of grace. Ultimately, only God can save man, but He expects man to cooperate. The fact that man can cooperate with God determines his authentic greatness. The truth according to which man is called to cooperate with God in all things, with a view toward the ultimate purpose of his life—his salvation and divinization—found expression in the Eastern tradition in the doctrine of synergism. With God, man “creates” the world' with god, mane”creates his personal salvation. The divinization of man comes from God. But, here, too, man must cooperate with God.
That we have a generation of youth who do not cooperate because they do not believe either in their own responsibility to cooperate with grace, or that they do not believe in grace, is the tragedy of their age. That they have given up responsibility for creating the person God created them to be is the tragedy of their generation. We are witnessing the lost generation. One does not have to be old to be a saint...