Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The JPII Generation.

Over at Sparks and Stubble, Fr. Griesbach has a beautiful reflection on the coming-of-age of the "John Paul II Generation." I usually roll my eyes and sigh when I hear that phrase: it conjures up for me images of bubbly, emotive co-eds waving copes of Humanae Vitae in the air before heading back to the dorms for a night of orgy. We are the children of the 60% divorce rate, MTV, "Eagles' Wings," and the stoned-out Woodstock hippies. Feel-good retreat weekends once a year have not been enough for so many of us. But Fr. Greisbach gives hope and makes me proud once again to be in the JPII Generation.

This paragraph describes so perfectly the pre-9/11, pre-scandal Church in America:

"We were basically taught that the heart of the Gospel was to love others, and that that meant we should always compromise conviction in favor of the person. The only virtue I recall being drilled into my head was that we seek to be on good terms with everyone, regardless of their point of view. To be likable. It was the underlying subtext in most moral narratives: the protagonist gives up his or her convictions or preconceived notions in order to love the antagonist."

Then he brings it home. That summer of 2003 (the summer I married Scientist Dad and we went on pilgrimage to Poland, land of the pope):

"It was all coming down around us in that summer of 2003, the summer of World Youth Day. And I think it was then, as we looked upon the humble yet strong frame of that man of God, John Paul II, that many of us realized that the generation before us had sold us a useless bill of goods, rather than the Gospel. We had not been taught the fullness of the faith, we were not given adequate tools to handle real life – to deal with evil, to seek what is good. We were not trained in the virtues, we were not given a solid foundation in logic and critical thinking, we were not exposed to the cultural and religious treasures of our western heritage. Instead, we had been brought up by a generation that was convinced that the way to show their love for us was by being likable and entertaining us. The youth ministry mantra was, I’ll never forget, the “4 F words”: food, fun, friends, and faith.

But in the face of terrorists trying to kill us, criminal priests, divorce, substance abuse, psychological illnesses, violence, and promiscuity, the 4 F words just didn’t cut it... Many of my peers left the faith, tired of being around a bunch of people who seemed obsessed with being likable, rather than being good. Who didn’t have any answers for the larger questions of life. Who didn’t seem to want to talk about suffering and death and desire and addiction.

But there were some of us who, through God’s providence and grace-filled guidance, were able to hold on to our faith. And with much struggle and prayer, we began an arduous transformation, a fundamental shift in the understanding of what it means to love and be loved as Christ has shown us. To this day we are trying to make that shift, even as we remain a conflicted generation, this JPII generation."

Sanctity is swimming against the tide for every generation. All generations shall call Her Blessed, but all generations shall curse His name. For every conflict, though there is hope.

"Slowly, and with God’s grace, many are breaking free of the appetite for a Church experience that is characterized by a warm and fuzzy group hug among people who like each other, and instead developing the desire for a new and more profound ecclesiology that is rooted in a common fidelity to Christ and sacrifice for the sake of what is true and good and beautiful. This conversion of appetite in my generation has been largely due to the reforms undertaken during the last 25 years to some of the fundamental structures of the Church. Doctrinal soundness and rigor in formation has been restored in seminaries for the most part. Core doctrines of the Church have been clearly expressed in the Catechism and in many wonderful encyclicals and other papal teachings. The liturgical excesses of the 70s and 80s have for the most part been cleared up and the new translation has brought us into greater continuity with our tradition. Bishops are for the most part speaking with one voice and in union with the Holy Father. The basic structures necessary for the continuation of Christianity in the West have been buttressed in recent decades, and the JPII generation is the first to really experience the fruit of these reforms. Thus we really bear the name of the great reformer: John Paul II."

He perfectly articulates that unbearable tension between the converts to the Church and our parents' generation:

"Yet as much as the JPII generation has been graced by the reforms of these last years, I pray that the hell that is fermenting in the West does not break lose until our children come of age. They will be much more competent to handle the wiles of the evil one. They will have had the advantage of clear Catholic teaching from their youth, of being formed by a reasonably intact liturgy and reconstructed domestic ritual of prayer. And they will not have to contend with an older, ideological and jaded generation that second guesses every effort at holiness and is threatened by any attempt at human excellence."

I pray, too, that the persecution does not come until I am buried and looking on from purgatory. I pray for my children with such great fervor now--they will suffer greatly for their faith--and I pray for the children who will persecute our children's children. How can we do anything less than give them the fullness of the faith, a constant experience of the prayer, and a knowledge that they are never alone, for the entire communion of saints is theirs?

Pope John Paul II is theirs, too. He may very well have saved my generation from hell--his soul will continue to bless my children and give them glory.

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