W, who are young now, are living under the shadow of the Youth of Yesterday. It is the Hitless, the Mussolinis and the Stalins who, a decade or so ago, were young and ambitious as we are now who, today, threaten to take Youth away from us forever by plunging the world into another and more terrible nightmare of death.
I am twenty-four, and a clerk in the
Alan Morris Smithies
Royal Air Force. I became a Catholic about four months ago, after a period of indecision lasting for over four years.
—Or Atheism I became a Catholic because at the end of that time I could think of no rational via media between Catholicism and
Atheism. It is true that the general atmosphere of the Anglicanism which I knew was about the last thing calculated to appeal to the spirit of adventure which is inherent in Youth. I left the Church of England knowing that this institution is fast losing its hold over the young men and women of today—both those who think and those who prefer other people to do their thinking for them, that is, the small Dictators of the Press. But I did not leave the Church of England for that reason.
Everywhere I meet men and women who never go to church (except for conventional things like marriages) and who tell me that they would be Catholics if they went to church at all. As it is, they remain contentedly pagan, and watch the rise of the new paganisms which may one day sweep them out of existence, and for the existence of which their indifference and latitudinarianism are largely responsible.
There can be little doubt that Catholics are better instructed in their religion than either Protestants or Nonconformists. Yet they arc singularly unenthusiastic about the Faith, and the average Nonconformist would be utterly unimpressed by their attitude in church, at Mass especially.
have known young Baptists and Methodists, members of "Christian Endeavour " societies, and even young people belonging to the " Oxford Group." Their belief in God's guidance and of a purpose for living was like a flame. I have not so far found that flame among the Catholic youth with whom I have mixed. And I despair of ever finding it among the older ones.
It is only fair to add, however, that I am writing now of the Catholicism of small Midland towns, in Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Oxfordshire, which is the only English Catholicism I have known, and where the Faith is still fighting a very uphill battle.
I am not at all satisfied. though, with the conditions that prevail in the church which I attend now. in a Berkshire market town. No one ever bothers to sing a line of the liturgy at Sung Mass. T tried singing the Credo once. It became a duet between the nun who plays the organ. and who has a very sweet and strong soprano. and myself, possessing a voice which had better not be discussed at all! So we remain in status quo, with a solo Credo.
The attitude of many Englishmen to war amazes me. It is an astonishing combination of fatalism, boastfulness and hopelessne.ss. It is true that the man-in-the
street thinks that another war is ultimately inevitable. It is also true that he does not think that he can do anything about it.
I am not a Pacifist, because I believe in peace. Peace at all costs may well be to surrender to tyranny, which is anything but peace. But I believe that in the Youth of today there is a real desire for peace, and world friendship in the friendly rivalry of sport, when it is not propaganda devised by politicians. And I want to extend the hand of friendship to the youth of every country, for in that friendship lies a Great Hope ...
The Morals of "Brave New World" I don't know whether standards of conduct have been lowered as a result of the last war. If this is so, then another war would certainly leave men and women reduced to the level of the beasts—assuming that there were any men and women left to have been reduced.
Youth and adolescence will always have their inherent temptations and difficulties, but there exists today an insidious propaganda, unhappily sponsored by some notable scientists, whose ideology is hopelessly un-Christian. Youth is encouraged by these savants to live loosely. " Free love," "Glorious infidelity," "Companionate Marriages," and " Birth Control "_(they mean birth prevention; who ever "controlled " birth?)—all these stare us in the face. And these fancy names are ably backed up by the " Free " Press (of which we are so proud) which sensationalises sex and prints photographs and cartoons as near pornographic as no matter.
—And the Modern Standards in Art
The Youth of 1938 lives in an age of decadance in art—subtly defended by " intellectuals " who are so busy setting new
standards that they have forgotten what
principles are. Surrealism? It is just inferior bluff to me. Vers fibre? The language of great poets from Spenser to Spender has become degraded in the hands of cheap introverts. And so to "Swing " —so called " Music," but the subject is depressing enough. There are still fine artists, however, whose work inspires the youth of today. Gilbert Chesterton has left us, but T. S. Eliot remains, and, in the world of music, Jan Sibelius is still alive.
Menace of the " Isms" Christianity is menaced by innumerable " isms," all of which have one thing in common—they believe in Materialism. Fascism worships Caesar, and extols the State; Communism worships the State, and lauds various Caesars, as a new one comes along: then it reviles the old one with as much bitterness as it had hitherto praised him. So Trotsky is in exile, and it may be Stalin's turn next. In any case, he himself appears to have long since thrown overboard the principles of Marx. Then there is the Capitalism that thinks of human lives in terms of inanimate scraps of machinery to rake up or throw aside as wanted—very useful, however, to swell dividends, and create contented, smug smiles at board meetings. And inter alia, Spiritism.
The Loveliness of Life
Lik is a thrilling thing to me, however, I enjoy many things in it. The splendour of every spring in the sylvan heart of lovely England, by the river Avon, that I know so well, as Shakespeare once knew it, and Rupert Brooke.
I do not have to go outside my native Warivickshire to find beauty, and, when I travel through England, it is everywhere at hand. The haunting beauties of cathedrals and pre-Reformation churches in obscure, hidden-away villages; the lofty loveliness of Lincoln Minster, the massive majesty of York . . . the richness of the carving in the choir stalls at Chester. Modern Catholic architecture gives me a pain in the neck! I love the swiftness and grace of a set of tennis, in the heart of the countryside, with the scent of early narcissi everywhere, and the lilac trees in new bloom . . . the zip of the white ball as you hit it with flashing racket.. Richard Tauber singing Lehar or Schubert . . . Gigli singing Italian opera over the radio from La Scala, Milan.
In winter evenings to be alone before a blazing fire with the electric light switched off, and to listen to the greatest music., Mozart, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and the most perfect piece of sustained inspiration that I know—Schubert's Ninth Symphony in C Major. These things make life more than worth living; they make it a thing of romance and beauty.
One Thing is Certain . .
It is the privilege of my generation to be alive in the midst of so much uncertainty; for Youth laughs at security and welcomes the chance of adventure in every sphere. Besides, though much in life appears not only transitory but meaningless as well, and there are still oppression, exploitation, injustice and cruelty, one thing I know is certain. The Christianity which arose to supersede the Caesars and save the world from the old barbarisms, is still the greatest force, that is, moral force, in the world. It will be a power and a personality when the paganisms of today are forgotten, and their leaders live only in history books. Chesterton was right. "It is not true," he said, " that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and not tried."