This post will not be about the Holy Rule. However, neither will it be about all the madness that’s been going on in recent weeks; there are enough professional worriers writing about it as it is, who can do a far more competent job than I ever could. No; the unbelieving and perverse generation I am thinking about is not this current generation, in a horizontal sense, but every generation, in the vertical.
As some of you may (or may not) be aware, my family hails from a traditionally Catholic country. Due to what I call an Old Testament sized miracle in the first half of the 20th century many foreigners seem to naively assume that said country is a bastion of holiness and catholicity. After all, Our Lady appeared there and worked this prodigious sign, so it has to be a holy nation, right? Yet as an acquaintance of mine recently commented “There is more Sinai about Fatima than there is Assisi.” Fatima was more a warning than a reward for the people’s faith.
Listening to family stories over the years I found countless examples of relatives who abandoned the Faith in one way or another, or who even led others away from it. I recall a tale of a father who was a sacristan for most of his life. After his son’s first communion he told his son he no longer had to come to church; that he had “seen too much in the sacristy that was unbiblical”; what mattered was to pray to Jesus no matter where one was. The father still continued to serve at Mass (until eventually falling away completely), but his son fell away from the Faith. Here one sees the influence of parents’ practice of the Faith on their children. Another story involved a relative who grew up being taught to respect priests as God’s representatives. When she moved abroad as a teenager she witnessed predatory priests in her school. She could not make sense how this class of men who she had been taught to respect could sink to such levels, and so eventually fell away from the Faith. There are other stories of pious relatives who mixed folk religion with Catholicism and seemed to find no contradiction with it. Stories such as these abound, and I’m quite sure not only in my own family.
Going back through parish registers and documents across the centuries I found an enormous amount of illegitimate children, people who lived in concubinage, fighting in churches/chapels, assaulting members of the clergy, etc. On the eve of the great 1755 earthquake that virtually levelled the capital on All Saints Day, the state of religious life – at least in the capital – was a sad one. There was one convent which the nuns were especially known for entertaining men, and the king was well known for his predilection of women of the cloth. It says a lot when about a culture when there is a term for men who make a habit of visiting convents with improper intentions. This Catholic nation had in each generation at least one great preacher decrying it as unbelieving and perverse.
Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but I no longer buy the “previous generations were more moral/pious” story that some attempt to sell. Perhaps people knew the difference between right and wrong better than in these latter days, but knowing does not necessarily mean that they acted on it. One need only look at Church history. I recall many years ago a friend making the observation that perhaps in each generation those who were truly faithful were a minority; that others were just content to get by.
Each generation, each one of us, that comes into the world is perverse in the etymological sense of the word – “turned away”, turned away from God – and needs to make the Gospel its own. Only through the mystery of Baptism can we turn again to the Lord. And there is no guarantee that the following one will hold the Faith just because the culture is a Christian one. If that were the case, how did we get to where we are? A superficially lived Faith is a Faith that is not lived at all, that can not be handed on. It is seed sown on stony ground, withering away. As parents we need to show our children that the Faith does matter – that it is the lynchpin of their whole lives. We need to share with them the Gospel – that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and bestowing life to those in the tombs. If we love the Lord we will keep His commandments. They need to see this witness in our lives, manifested in the way we relate to them and to others. We need to show them that Christianity is not just another ethical system, that it is not merely “rational”. At it’s heart, Christianity is about Mystery. It is an encounter with the living God Who in the beginning created through His Word and walked with Man in the Garden. Christianity is about Man’s return to that Garden, to be able to walk with God once more, though not restored to his original glory, but now as a partaker of the divine life.
If, through God’s grace, we can help our children grasp even the slightest glimpse of the Truth, then maybe, just maybe, we and they will not be part of this unbelieving and perverse generation, condemned to wander aimlessly, all the while seeing the Promised Land but never entering.