how did it get so bad?
The previous post suggested the young have left the faith due in part to their reluctance to believe in a moral framework for thousands of years which protect the person and their sexuality. Many of the young have renounced those principles altogether as irrelevant or simply wrong. So, what does it mean to them to be spiritual?
“Spiritual but not religious” means I can create my own religion where I am in charge. It means I get to do anything I want and still feel good about myself. Millennials especially have redefined what being spiritual means. It can be of yoga sessions, aromatherapy, scented candles, and social justice. Surprisingly, being a spiritual person can have nothing to do directly with God in anyway. How can there be such a dramatic change in our young who were ostensibly raised in the faith? There are many factors, but the biggest it seems is an ill- formed spirituality continually being tainted by our culture, secular education, bad catechesis, and weak parenting.
To no one’s surprise, Hollywood and popular music has for decades celebrated and glorified immoral behavior in movies and song. Pop culture has elevated a series of “stars” who have multiple partners, multiple marriages as well as children out of wedlock. These are the people our youth aspire to be – rich, beautiful, free from any restraint or personal responsibility.
The entertainment elite are portrayed as being happy, kind and caring. No one seems to talk about the alcohol and drug abuse prevalent among many celebrities or the series of broken and dysfunctional families left in their wake. What is highlighted is the stars’ secular social advocacy. These stars are billed as our moral superiors who are truly virtuous using their huge megaphones to lecture to the rest of us.
They are canonized by the media as the new saints who we should listen to, adore and worship. Even Pope Francis has been caught up in celebrity adulation as he has meet with and included in Vatican conferences the likes of Sting, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and more.
The Church as well as Catholic schools and religious education programs have done a poor job catechizing the next generation of Catholics. This 2016 article by Catholic News Agency (CNA) remarkably states that, “Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they [young people] no longer identify themselves as Catholics by age 17 and another 23% said they stopped regarding themselves as Catholic by the age 10.”
A child at the age of 10 is not capable of critical thought sufficient enough to make such a decision. What kids do say is that what they are learning in school is incompatible with the faith – even in Catholic schools. In addition, many Catholic school teachers and catechists themselves do not follow the teachings of the Church and unduly influence impressionable students. These educators embrace the social justice doctrine and some actively advocate the philosophy of “tolerance” which is really code for accepting any behavior of others, even if it is morally reprehensible like adultery, homosexuality, pornography or abortion.
Weak parenting has also contributed to the religious decline of our youth. Many families even pre-Covid were not regularly attending mass or receiving the sacraments. One often hears a parent say in conversation that they just want their child to be “happy” and that although they don’t personally agree with their child they will, “support their choices.”
Does happiness include a depraved lifestyle without any moral restraints? Does happiness include the hook up culture, addictions to substances, anxiety and depression? Parents are also either too naive or busy to inquire what their children are learning in school. As long as their kids get good grades and stay out of the detention room, they feel all is well. It is not.
All is not well with the so called “spiritual” millennials. They are suffering from depression and anxiety disorders more than any other generation in history. According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield Study, “Major depression diagnoses are increasing faster in millennials and teens more than any other age group.” What millennials and people of all ages are really longing for is a deep connection with the Divine. Nothing in this world can satisfy this inherent need. As St. Augustine famously said our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.
what you can do
What can parents and families do to foster the faith and form lifelong Catholics?
There is no guarantee because each child has free will, but these ideas might help:
- Keep the depravity of Hollywood out of your house including music and movies. Cancel Netflix and other streaming services that promote immoral content.
- Get involved in the education of your child. Don’t assume just because they are in a parochial school that traditional values and the faith are being taught with fidelity.
- Monitor social media sights and limit the secular content your child is exposed to.
- Create networks with like-minded parents for support and encouragement.
- Tell your child the truth even at the expense of hurting their feelings. If you don’t, who will?
- If all else fails, pray as only God can bring harmony and peace to a broken and fallen world.