Page 4, 8th August 1941

8th August 1941
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Page 4, 8th August 1941 — NEW WORLD FOR NEW YOUTH
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People: W. Malone
Locations: Hexham, Rome, Newcastle

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Catholic Youth

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NEW WORLD FOR NEW YOUTH

Spiritual Strategy Of New Christian ensive

IN recent weeks there have been a number of reminders of the paramount importance which we should attach to the problem of youth training and education in a world whose directive influences are clearly non-Christian. The most important pronouncement is evidently the allocution of the Holy Father, addressed to university and college students in Rome, wherein the appeal is made for a more serious consideration of the difficulties which the Catholic student will meet in his studies and among the circle of his fellowworkers, and, therefore, for a Christian training, spiritual and cultural, that is adequate for modern needs. The Hierarchy of England and Wales, without condemning many of the secular youth movements (the danger of some of which they, however, clearly point out), have also appealed for a higher standard, spiritual and material, in our own youth movements. And in an interesting paper, the Rev. W. Malone, speaking for the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. has pointed out the acuteness of the danger incurred by our youth in the years that immediately follow formal Catholic training in our schools and in the home. Lastly, a secular priest, in an interview. has gone further back still and declared that the root of the trouble is to he found in a defective early training of young Catholics who are taught their faith as an imposed doctrine and discipline rather than as the whole Ineaning of their life and activities, secular as well as religious.

COMING OUT OF AN ABNORMAL PERIOD IN all these pronouncements there is clearly a vivid awareness of the peculiar conditions under which the present Catholic generation has to live its Christian life, but one doubts very much whether the average Catholic has appreciated the point. We are the heirs of an abnormal period in the Church's history, the post-Reformation period. After the Reformation the Church ceased to be generally accepted as the source of spiritual and moral truth for an ordered society and came to be regarded as a religious sect. offering its own way of life to those who chose to submit to her authority. It was all the easier to slip into this point of view, because the teaching of the Church, being God's teaching, was based upon the Natural Law and the immediate normal promptings of the human conscience and--one might almost say—common-sense. There seemed to be then no particular difficulty in separating the Church's spiritual superstructure from the State's natural foundations, retaining the latter as the norm for Western civilization and tolerating the former as an idiosyncracy for the devout or for those with a vested interest in the ecclesiastical establishment. Moreover, this movement set the Church herself a very difficult practical problem. For the Church could not roundly denounce the claims of the secular world. " Render to Caesar " had always been part of her own doctrine, and her philosophy was based on that very reason and nature to which the world appealed. Because of all this, one reached in practice a sort of dualism. The secular world was allowed to go its own way (though often formally condemned for this and that) and the Church concentrated more and more upon individuals whose full faith was preserved or to whom it was taught.

Gradually, however, the secular world lost its inherited Christian capital and found the bare-bones of the Natural Law inadequate for the purpose of solving its problems. Men came to see (as the Church had always taught) that they needed something more: a faith. And so there sprang up a host of faiths, genuine faiths in so far as they were visions illuminating the whole of life and giving an inspiration and meaning to all activities: the liberal vision of progress towards a harmonised, kindlier and much more comfortable world; the socialist vision of an economically just world; the nationalist visions of the successful domination of a race or empire, and the like. These faiths, though they may have started in a way theoretically compatible with Christian teaching, very rapidly developed into rival and fundamentally hostile quasi-religions, and it became more and more difficult to maintain the post-Reformation dualism of a morally neutral world and a supernatural Church for those citizens who were interested. This is the point which we have reached.

POPE CALLS FOR COUNTER-ATTACK MOST of us are still persuaded that the post-Reformation dualism can still be made to work, and, of course, it does still remain true that we can be good citizens of the modern State and good Catholics. We can still pick and choose among the doctrines of the day, more particularly in countries like Britain and America, where freedom of conscience is respected. But with every year that passes the problem becomes more difficult for three reasons. The first is the strengthening hold of the rival doctrines. The second is the enormous power of modern propaganda at the disposal of the purveyors of false teachings. The third (and the most formidable) is the gradual increase in the actual power and claims of the modern State over the individual—and the modern State's values are derived from these false teachings.

It is, we repeat, the awareness of these novel dangers which is stimulating the great Catholic movements that are characteristic of our times, notably the revival of the doctrine of the Mystical Body and the social unity of Catholics in the all-comprehensive Church. Catholic Action, the Liturgy and the like. Through these movements we are being gradually made aware that our life can no longer be half given over the world, but that if we want to remain Catholics we shall have to derive all our values from Christ to Whom the modern world is opposed. In the pronouncements referred to above we find the same emphasis. The Pope sets before Catholic students the ideal of reestablishing in the world the balance between the spiritual and the temporal 'characteristic of the Catholic community in the apostolic age and of Europe in the Middle Ages. It is no longer sufficient to achieve this balance in the private individual who may happen to keep himself unspotted in an un-Christian environment. The Pope calls for counter-attack, not a treaty. The British Hierarchy, likewise, are clearly anxious about secular youth movements (even though many of them are still satisfactory) and desirous of a Catholic youth offensive which shall create " a new world for a new youth." Father Malone sees hope only in the undertaking of a great home and parish campaign for living, working Catholicity in the critical stage of adolescence when the first real contact with the world is made. And Father Flanagan radically calls for the integration of the Catholic person and the Catholic society in a vision from the very beginning of the Faith as permeating the whole of life. By the right approach and by a hundred per cent. Catholic environment he would hope to bring up our children to feel themselves as alien from the values of the contemporary world as. for example, Nazi youth is brought up to feel alien to the " demoplutocracies."

TAKING OVER FROM THE WORLD BUT it is equally important to note in these pronouncements, and especially in the Pope's allocution, another emphasis—what may be called the emphasis against narrowness or sectarianism. During the post-Reformation period there were always many Catholics who felt dissatisfied with the practical dualism, and they tended to express this dissatisfaction by retiring into their shell. Out of this there grew what has been called " the state of siege." Behind their ramparts Catholics were often content to live their lives in a narrow and negative way, more anxious to arm themselves against the temptations of the world and to rescue individuals from it than to reChristianise the world. By doing this, they left the world in possession, as it were, of the greater part of God's creation. In learning, in science, in statesmanship, in sociology and economics, in art, the world was allowed to set the pace, and the Church too often came to be despised as second-rate, other-worldly (in the wrong and narrow sense), retrograde and reactionary. The accusations were often highly exaggerated, but in fact the Church allowed itself to be despised as a mere sect, and many of the more talented and energetic Christians felt bound to escape from this ecclesiastical and devotional fortress to become Sunday Catholics and week-day worldlings, thus emphasising the dualism.

But under present conditions there is much less excuse for taking refuge in a state of siege. Then (as we said above) it was still possible to take the view that the world and its activities, though dangerous, were at bottom morally neutral. One could persuade oneself that the world as such still had the first claim to learning, science, art, diplomacy. social reform, etc. One could argue that this was the world's business—if it seemed dangerous to the faith, then the best thing to do was to turn one's eyes away. But today we realise only too well that the world is consciously exploiting these riches of human talent and Divine wealth for definitely anti-Christian ends. Science, learning, art, are being ever more openly used to achieve false quasireligious ends, and there is less and less pretence—at any rate among those who are politically minded—of art for art's sake, science for science's sake, learning for learning's sake. Hence the Church is being openly challenged, and the only adequate answer is to be found in Christians beating the world at their own game. This is what the Pope says: "Force yourselves, in whatever direction your talent and ardour impel you, to make yourselves the best—the best students, the best professors, the best jurists, men of letters, doctors, engineers, physiologists, and the best investigators of the matter and spirit of real individual and social welfare."

OUR YOUTH MUST BE PROUD OF ITS ROLE AND we should be deeply grateful to the world for setting us this challenge, as the post-Reformation dualism, the sectarianism, and the state of siege mentality are utterly unworthy of the Christian Faith. Our claim is that the Faith is God's revelation. How then can we allow it to be thought in any respect limited? How can we be content with a department of life? Today we are coming to see with the vision of the early Christians. We see that it is a battle between God's ordering of His creation and the world's disordering of that creation. There can be no fundamental division of labour between God and man.

Surely, as time goes on, we shall come to see these things more clearly. We shall see the need, on the one hand, to hold ourselves together, organically united with one another in the Mystical Body. conscious of our common mission, proud of a calling to work for the re-establishment in the world of the order and values of the Middle Ages, adapted to modern times; and we shall see the need, on the other hand, to avoid any narrowness, any negativeness, any acceptance of voluntary catacombs. We go into the world. We work with the world. We conquer the world, but always through that inner and all-comprehensive loyalty to the social unity of which we are whole-time members, the Mystical Body of Christ. In a word, while we refuse to belong in spirit to the modern world and remain separated from it, we remain trained at any moment to take it over and make a much better job of it, and we try to do this in our own sphere all the time.

It seems to us—however the concrete difficulties are faced and solved—that the problem of Catholic youth training at all its stages today consists in instilling from the beginning this understanding of and pride in the Catholic mission. Unless we can train the younger generation to see themselves as members of the Mystical Body privileged to be in the front rank in the struggle to re-shape, according to God's truth, goodness and beauty, a world that is caving-in, we shall remain on the defensive, offering but a pale reflection of the Christian ideal as it ought to be, and perpetually wondering whether in painfully taking two steps forward we have not slipped back three steps.




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