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Saturday 10 March 2012

Pelagianism and the Youth Culture

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...

Perfection Nine--Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God

A few days ago, I wrote of the lack of the work ethic. What I did not elaborate in the post was the downside of the Calvinistic idea that if a person is saved, one of the elect, that person is blessed materially in this world. The entire Protestant heritage is imbued with this falsehood, but if pervades the Western world, or more correctly, America, Great Britain and Ireland, those countries which inherited Calvin's hatred of poverty and symbol of grievous sin. Now, growing up in an area of the Midwest where Catholics still are and always have been since Columbus, the minority religion, the Calvinist idea of the blessed elect was in the very air. Comments from adults and even skewed teaching taught us children that to be poor was not only a great shame on the family, but a curse from God.

Does this sound familiar? How Catholics feel into judging those less fortunate than themselves can only be attributed to this encroachment of the Calvinist idea of the material elect. However, I have seen this heresy grow as the faith of Calvin dwindles on the fact of the earth. Something else is pushing the agenda that poverty is to be eradicated at all costs and is an evil in and of itself.

Christ never said this. Christ Himself chose poverty and the call to radical holiness in the world demands a certain detachment from the things, and more importantly, the status of this world.

I do not want to hear about suffering! I do not want to hear about the poor!
How many times do the Gospel writers quote Christ and His parables about not preferring the rich man to the poor man. But, the politics of envy contradict Christ. And, the socialist and communist agendas hate both the rich and the poor. How convenient.

But, what is worse, are the Catholics who hate the poor and do not want to admit such people into their society, homes, conversations. It is as if poverty were some sort of disease, like the measles, which one can catch from a poor person. They do not want to hear about poverty.

And, yet, Mary, the Queen of the Universe married a poor man and bore the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in a stable. I am convinced that people really do not believe this, or somehow have brought antiseptics and central heating into the cold, dank and dirty place where Christ was born. I know a couple who are probably the holiest people on earth I can call friends. They live in poverty. They never have new clothes and eat the same thing every day-cabbage, turnips, fish, potatoes, tea. They have a car which is twenty-two years old and runs because the head of the house is a genius at mechanical things. They rent a house which is partly over a pub and put up with smoke, horrible language and music, until early hours. They always wanted their own house, but now, as they aregrowing older, they are seeing this may not happen, ever.

And yet, they are content. They go to daily Mass and pray the fifteen decades of the rosary daily. They fast for souls and pray for the dead. They do missionary work quietly and consistently. They help those poorer than themselves. For such humans is heaven waiting.

But, they are judged mercilessly by others. They are considered low class, unhealthy, uneducated. They are scorned and thought odd. They are judged as having some horrible sin or failure in their lives which must account for their lack of financial success. Their fellow Catholics see them with the eyes of Calvinism.

Even their families betray them and think them “too poor and too proud”, that is, taking pride in their poverty. This is not true. They have no pride, only a simply humility which shows that they know God and God knows them.

And yet, people prefer others to their company. No one gives them meat to enhance their diet. No one notices that they use firewood and not their central heating. No one notices because the poor are invisible. And, already, I know that some of the readers will be saying, “Why didn't the man do something else besides carpentry?“Why don't they move?” “Why doesn't she get a job? And, why doesn't the family help” Simply because he wants to live near his old mother until she dies and because the building industry is at a stand-still. Because they cannot afford to move, because the woman was ill and whether one believes it or not, people who have been ill, especially with cancer, do not get hired. And, some families either do not help or cannot help. It doesn't matter what the reasons are, these good people are very poor. Judge not...

Mother Teresa made the dying of Calcutta visible to the world. No one makes the poor visible, unless there is an underlying, heretical agenda. That the poor remain invisible is the largest sin of the Catholic Church. And, they are in our midst, daily. Only, we do not see them. We do not want to see them. Our blindness is our judgement and death.

It is not for governments to help the poor, but for the Catholics who can to do so. Such is the call of holiness for those who have riches. Such are the words of Christ.

What does it take to give to the poor? It takes humility to see that someone actually has a need that one may not have, and that there is a duty to respond. It takes humility to reach out and be involved with someone different, someone vulnerable, someone outside one's comfort zone, someone who does dress like you or talk like you. One must become “personal” to help the real poor. Throwing money at charities is not what Christ had in mind.

This Lent, I challenge my fellow Catholics not to just see the poor in the desperate third world countries, but to see the poor down the street, waiting for the bus, sitting near you in Church at Mass. We shall all be judged on what we saw and what we did not want to see, and therefore ignored. Could it possibly be that God allows poverty for our holiness? Could it be that the poor are always with us for our own benefit so that we come to see Christ in all men and women? The answers are yes and yes.