March 26, 2007: Monday of Fifth Week of Lent


In the intercessions for Evening Prayer, the leader pleads:

Good Master, show young people the way you have chosen for each of them,

and the others respond:

may they walk in it, and find fulfillment.

Character can be formed or deformed. This is true also of the human mind in general. Jesuit educators told us long ago that a human being’s basic moral character is formed by the age of seven or so. Modern neurobiologists have shown us that abstract reasoning, so important for moral decision-making in a complex world, forms during adolescence.

States of life include marriage and the single life as well as religious or priestly life. Most human beings will have a vocation to one of these states of life, though some might have a more specific vocation as well, or even a vocation to a field such as teaching which over-rides other considerations. A young man or woman who feels a call to teach might choose a state of life which, under the circumstances of his or her society, will allow the fullest development of that vocation.

Vocational decisions can be made only by mature human beings, though some lives decided by rash and childish decisions might still take on a good form as that human being matures. This need for maturity tells us why so many marriages are annulled, but there are marriages contracted by an immature man and woman which do mature along with that man and woman. There are also problems in monasteries and convents and in the parish rectories when a human being starts maturing after a falsely made decision and strong doubts emerge about his or her chosen path. These problems, in marriages and in religious or priestly callings, should be rare. They’re not rare in the modern world and that indicates a problem somewhere.

The problem is that we have conformed ourselves to a marketplace world in which political and commercial powers have every incentive to keep human beings immature and dependent upon them. Worse still, we have handed over the children of our societies to the exploiters, letting them form impressionable young ones to the needs of marketplace idols which are jealous gods indeed.

Adults have to start preparing young children for the decisions they’ll be making as young adults. That responsibility might include serious sacrifices on the part of the adults. Grandma and Grandpa should think about giving up their long winter vacations in Florida to help raise the children, maybe even passing on the moral tales children so lack nowadays — the tales of brave ancestors or strong characters in the Bible or the history books. Dad and Mom should consider very carefully before they design their lives and living-rooms around a television set which more often than not brings the corruption right into the heart of the family, even teaching children disrespect for the parents sitting five feet away. And some of our so-called entertainment also teaches us to laugh at adults who insult children. It’s beyond belief that Christian parents would allow their children to spend hours watching human bodies being mutilated in various ways or watching as young women learn how to use their sexuality as an economic tool.

If we fail our children, it’s still possible they might realize that modern society has retarded their development into true adult-hood. If they choose to rescue themselves, they’ll have to go through a painful and confusing process of separating as much as possible from the marketplace society. They’ll have to rehabilitate their crippled minds and deformed moral natures — this will be still more painful than the physical rehabilitation after a crippling accident. And the damage will never be entirely undone to mutilated minds as it is never undone to mutilated legs.

We’ve acted as badly as those Israelites condemned by God’s prophets. We’ve given our society over to pagan gods. The best we can do is to start protecting the children, raising them to mature — at an appropriately early age — into God-centered adults capable of making proper vocational decisions, whether to be parents raising another generation of God-centered human beings, to be monks or nuns praying for us and teaching us in various ways, or to be priests bringing us the Sacraments and helping to guide us onto the path to salvation.

Pray for all those confused adolescents who are passing so unsuccessfully through the years in which their minds and moral natures should be maturing. Pray that God takes better care of our children than we did, that God rescues them from the effects of our greed and laziness that they might find their paths in life, paths which might take them towards eternal life rather than to a movie-theater showing the latest film about a sophisticated cannibal.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Peace of Christ, Religion

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