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A Plea to Youth Ministers: Give Up the Past and Embrace an Ageless Tradition

Some time ago, a Catholic priest wrote me a wonderful letter about tradition and youth ministry, which turned into a correspondence that struck me as worth sharing with a wider readership. So many of us face the issues discussed therein, week in and week out. I asked the priest his permission to include some of the text, and he gave his consent.

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Dear Dr. Kwasniewski,

I just read Tra le Sollecitudini [Pope St. Pius X’s 1903 motu proprio on music in church] and have a couple of questions. They mainly circle around the weight of the document, and how it interacts with other documents of the Church – questions of authority.

It seems as though any attempt to use the document authoritatively runs the risk of the claim that it’s been superseded by Vatican II. For example, when it says sacred music “must be holy, and must exclude all profanity,” that is of course not merely a disciplinary matter (one subject to change), but a normative one (it is true in the order of being). One the other hand, because some of the disciplinary matters have in fact been superseded, it seems that it might also allow the rejoinder: “Yes, the music must be holy and must exclude profanity, but just as it’s wrong about the use of Latin, and wrong about women singing in the choir, so, too, is it about what counts as holy and profane.” Another way it might be put: you once pointed out that sad, sad line in Sacrosanctum Concilium about “useless repetition.” You assigned it as disciplinary and therefore prudential and changeable. Might not someone say the same about using profane music? It could be prudential to use, if it draws someone in.

That claim essentially challenges Benedict XVI’s claim that what was sacred for our fathers is sacred for us. I think he’s right, but it isn’t obvious that he’s right. He may be right in the order of being (it’s sacred for us whether we realize it or not), and he may be right for people who still believe that the preconciliar church of their fathers is their own church. It isn’t clear, however, that the average Catholic in America holds that Latin, Gregorian chant, communion on the tongue, saints’ days, fasting, penances, facing the Lord to pray, beautiful vesture and architecture, etc., that we’ve received from our fathers, is sacred. In fact, at least a small number actually hold those things in contempt.

And I think one of the challenges is to face up to the fact that to some degree, what we find holy does change! Think of the human body. It was held in contempt by the ancient pagan world, and after having been sanctified by the Lord’s Incarnation, it is again held in contempt in this neo-pagan culture.

These are things I’m dealing with in my position as youth minister of a huge Catholic parish, where the unspoken expectation is that I’ll encourage “youth Masses” and “praise and worship.” To me, Pope Pius X offers clear, understandable principles that are obviously expressive of a once common and universal understanding of the liturgy. But you once wrote that the encyclical Mystici Corporis reads today as if it had been written in another universe, and I feel somewhat the same way about Tra le Sollecitudini. Indeed, the very idea that there’s a tradition to refer to as an authority seems a universe away.

Can you tell me how you wade through these matters?

Yours in Christ,

(Father N.)

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Dear Father,

Thank you for your honest and heartfelt letter. I understand the problems you’re talking about. It’s by no means easy to navigate what we are supposed to do when there is so much dissent, contradiction, amnesia, and just plain ignorance. And yet I believe that if one studies what the Church has taught over the centuries and especially during the past 100 years, one can find a deep continuity there, in spite of the surface squalls. That’s what I was trying to get at in this article.

Moreover, I take it as a given that if a Church document is promulgated with the force of law, as Tra le Sollecitudini obviously was, and as Summorum Pontificum is in our own day, it remains in force except in those provisions where it has been abrogated. So while the prohibition of women in choirs was, in fact, lifted later on, the ban on pianos and bands in church was never lifted, and for good reasons. (See here; that article, in turn, has links to a few other pieces that explore the issues. You might also check out this interview, where I go into the nature of sacred music and make practical suggestions.)

Another thing I think is important is distinguishing between prudential, contingent judgments – e.g., “the office of Prime needs to be abolished,” which may or may not prove a good idea in the end – and matters of principle, such as “the Church offers to God the sacrifice of praise in the Mass and the Divine Office.” The latter is something the Church must always do. When one examines the documents on sacred music, one finds a remarkable consistency of principles, albeit different degrees of tolerance or flexibility regarding what corresponds with (or at least does not conflict with) those principles. Here, too, is where a certain amount of philosophical and theological training is simply indispensable – training, regrettably, very few people have. One who has studied Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Ratzinger, thinkers of that stature will understand where the principles are coming from, and that they are rooted in the nature of man, the nature of music, the mystery of the Incarnation, the stages of the spiritual life (purgative, illuminative, unitive). Then it’s a matter not simply of swallowing a magisterial statement, but of seeing that the magisterium is enunciating, for our benefit, something that must be so. It’s like St. Thomas saying that God reveals His existence to us, even though we can demonstrate it by the use of our natural reason, because most people won’t, in fact, reach it that way. But they could.

As to your more specific situation as a youth minister, I think we have made a serious wrong turn in assuming that what young people want is a second-rate version of what the secular world gives them. The Church cannot compete with the entertainment industry. She is in the business of winning souls for Christ with the proclamation of a beauty they will never encounter in the meat market. This demands a certain otherworldliness, a countercultural challenge, an exposure to our own rich heritage. It is a dead end to pander to the lowest common denominator.

In years of working with college students, I have seen that those who are serious about their faith will get more and more serious if they are fed nourishing spiritual food, which includes a more traditional style of liturgy and music. Conversely, they will stay superficial and a bit bored if they are given the usual
“fast food.”

You’d think the American bishops would try to find a serious answer to the question: why do we lose a vast swath of young people after confirmation? It clearly can’t be the lack of youth ministry programs, which exist in their thousands. It is because of an outdated and ineffective paradigm.

I’ve recently written a few articles specifically about praise and worship music and what the problems are with it, as well as the notion of inculturation it depends upon. People have found them helpful:

Sacred Music vs. “Praise & Worship” – Does it Matter? (Pt. I)

Sacred Music vs. “Praise & Worship” – Does it Matter? (Pt. II)

Is “Contemporary” Church Music a Good Example of Inculturation?

If I may add a word about one difficulty you raised – namely, that Pope Benedict XVI might be too sanguine when he says, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too” – I think he is saying not that our current generation already holds it to be sacred and great, but that it remains such in itself for anyone who discovers it with an open mind and heart. Hence, he says almost immediately afterward: “It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” This is as if to say: the sacrality and greatness of Catholic tradition places certain demands on us here and now. We are obliged to hold on to these things, to rediscover them if they are in abeyance, and to pass them on to the next generation.

So I see Pope Benedict making a judgment based on the principle of conservation of tradition and of the guidance of the Church by the Holy Spirit, which cannot be contradicted by any later developments. It’s one thing to expand on what you’ve got; it’s another thing to reject it.

Thank you very much for your encouraging words. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be able to address these topics and correspond with good people about them. I wish you all the best.

God bless,

Peter Kwasniewski

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Dear Professor,

Thank you for taking the time to write a thorough reply.

I had not read the piece on judgment, but I think it touches the nub. Cardinal Newman saw it coming – the rise of private judgment. One of the mantras of my superiors is, “Let’s do what the kids want,” to which I reply, “It isn’t clear their desires are well formed or should at all be determinative.” The exchange presupposes the difference between private judgment and conscience. The Great Tradition does, or should, serve as a sounding board for our judgments. If the notes of our judgment are discordant with the Tradition, we, not the Tradition, must become better tuned.

But why are so many consciences discordant with Tradition and its beauty? What has caused priests and people to belittle Latin or ad orientem or chant? These attitudes and others like them should be warning signs that something has gone very wrong. Cardinal Ratzinger puts it concisely: “The guilt lies then in a different place, much deeper – not in the present act, not in the present judgment of conscience but in the neglect of my being which made me deaf to the internal promptings of truth.”

Our problems, it seems, lie within the very reaches of our being. So back to Cardinal Newman, and to a famous passage:

The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion. A conclusion is but an opinion; it is not a thing which is, but which we are “certain about;” and it has often been observed, that we never say we are certain without implying that we doubt. To say that a thing must be, is to admit that it may not be. No one, I say, will die for his own calculations; he dies for realities. This is why a literary religion is so little to be depended upon; it looks well in fair weather, but its doctrines are opinions, and, when called to suffer for them, it slips them between its folios, or burns them at its hearth[.] …

Logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude; first shoot round corners, and you may not despair of converting by a syllogism. Tell men to gain notions of a Creator from His works, and, if they were to set about it (which nobody does), they would be jaded and wearied by the labyrinth they were tracing. Their minds would be gorged and surfeited by the logical operation. Logicians are more set upon concluding rightly, than on right conclusions. They cannot see the end for the process. Few men have that power of mind which may hold fast and firmly a variety of thoughts. We ridicule “men of one idea;” but a great many of us are born to be such, and we should be happier if we knew it. To most men argument makes the point in hand only more doubtful, and considerably less impressive. After all, man is not a reasoning animal; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal. He is influenced by what is direct and precise. It is very well to freshen our impressions and convictions from physics, but to create them we must go elsewhere. (The Tamworth Reading Room, Discourse 6)

The vast majority of the faithful should be able to hear the music of the Church, have it resonate deeply in their souls, know that it’s true, and never need to give an account of why. This is where the problem lies. The vast majority can’t give any account of the whys or the wherefores. Confusion has sedated them.

Cardinal Sarah points this out in incisive remarks in his recent interviews about silence. Catholics are losing the poor. So Newman again:

Obedience is the test of Faith. Thus the whole duty and work of a Christian is made up of these two parts, Faith and Obedience; ‘looking unto Jesus,’ the Divine Object as well as Author of our faith, and acting according to His will. Not as if a certain frame of mind, certain notions, affections, feelings, and tempers, were not a necessary condition of a saving state; but, so it is, the Apostle does not insist upon it, as if it were sure to follow, if our hearts do but grow into these two chief objects, the view of God in Christ and the diligent aim to obey Him in our conduct. I conceive that we are in danger, in this day, of insisting on neither of these as we ought; regarding all true and careful consideration of the Object of faith, as barren orthodoxy, technical subtlety, and the like, and all due earnestness about good works as a mere cold and formal morality; and, instead, making religion, or rather (for this is the point) making the test of our being religious, to consist in our having what is called a spiritual state of heart[.] (Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 2, Sermon 14)

His fear would be even better founded today, for the danger is now almost entirely realized. People in fact don’t know what to be obedient to.

So how did we get here? The other way to ask the question: What has made the Church so deaf to the internal promptings of truth? This is a pressing question for me. It’s one that’s at least, but not only, historical in nature. I do think Catholics in America found false friends in the Founders. Enlightenment rights language corrupts Catholic rights language. But surely there has to be more to it.

This long missive ends by connecting what I said with your reflections on youth ministry in particular. We think we can offer degraded versions of the secular entertainment industry, and somehow (by magic?) their hearts will be converted. I have been pressured to do a great variety of things that could be done whether or not Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and almost nothing contingent upon that reality.

We’re working under a false premise: “We will do anything to get the youth to see how much God loves them.” Nearly everything I’ve encountered in contemporary youth ministry is based on this premise. If it takes playing crappy music, fine. If it means having dull, short sermons, fine. If it means making everything as easy and as convenient as McDonald’s, fine. So long as they realize “God loves them.” But it’s faulty because we’ve lost the resonance with the internal sound of truth. We want to allow the children’s private judgments to rule – but not really. We let the adults’ assessment of children’s private judgments rule. Thus, God, Truth in Person, is evacuated, making it impossible for the sentence “God loves you” to resonate. The term “God” is empty.

It doesn’t matter if you know that God loves you if you don’t know who God is. And if you don’t know who God is, then you can’t possible know what love is. So we build an entire edifice (at great cost!), desperate to convey to the children that,“[Empty term] [empty action]s you.” Little wonder the children lose interest! And a large wonder some stick it out.

May all the saints keep us in prayer.

Yours in Christ,

(Father N.)

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Dear Father,

The issues you are struggling with are the same ones Cardinal Newman was facing, except that in his day, everything was cinctured about with a sort of Victorian respectability. Still, he saw the revolt against Christianity in his time, and he predicted that it would accelerate and degenerate. Your reductio ad absurdum of the “[empty term] [empty action]s you” captures the vacuity of a faith without roots, without heritage, without clear compass points and anchors. We are floating adrift, and desperately clutching at the flotsam and jetsam of popular culture to see if anything will hold us up and keep us from drowning.

On a more hopeful note, I think the emptiness of the self-referentially modern approach is becoming more and more evident, at least to those who were not brainwashed in it back in the ’70s and ’80s. A shift in mentalities takes a long time, but consider the fact that healthy families and a large number of priestly and religious vocations are coming from those parts of the Church that have resisted mindless modernization to one degree or another (one thinks of Poland, or of traditional monasteries and convents, or parishes affiliated with the Latin Mass). God’s victory unfolds over centuries, not over decades, and it always happens in surprising ways.

What made the Church so deaf to the internal promptings of truth? This is a most difficult and painful question to ask. It’s hard to set a point in time, but one wonders if there was not a form of rationalism and worldliness that crept in during the Enlightenment period (with obvious exceptions – God raises up saints in every age) and reached its peak in the middle of the twentieth century, when it seemed at last as if man had entered a new age, the age of love, peace, unity, human rights for all. It was the most seductive trap that could ever have been set up: a secular Gospel dressed up with the ideals of Christianity yet without the Cross, without Christ. The rupture with tradition happened at this point in a dramatic way: all that old medieval stuff, asceticism, the sacrifice of the Mass, the Latin divine office, scholastic theology, it all had to go; it wasn’t futuristic, transhistorical, metamorphic, optimistic.

It is not going to be easy to rebuild, as the monks in Norcia are experiencing. The earthquake tore down all the churches, and there are piles of rubble everywhere. But there are still people of faith who are determined to rebuild Norcia, to revitalize its economy, and to make it as beautiful as it was before. This seems to be a perfect parable for the Church in general. When you rebuild, it’s not a case of nostalgia, because no one can re-create the past, not even God; but one can create the future to be in continuity with the past, to be its new likeness. That is not nostalgia, but wisdom, humility, and trust in Providence. That is how I understand my vocation as a tradition-loving Catholic.

Thanks again for your probing questions.

In Domino,

Peter Kwasniewski

40 thoughts on “A Plea to Youth Ministers: Give Up the Past and Embrace an Ageless Tradition”

    • That’s great. Best animated comedy series ever, in my opinion. Even though King of the Hill is a secular production each episode has a good moral dimension to it.

      • And that episode had several lessons about Youth Ministers.
        I think there may be a sin against the Fourth Commandment that they are encouraging

        • About a year ago I went to mass at a parish that is for historical reasons primarily an African American parish and I skedaddled promptly after the gospel reading. I couldn’t take it. There was nothing holy about it frankly. It was a complete theater production with a gospel choir, a youth choir, and the pastor was calling out visitors to stand and introduce themselves etc. I ducked down in the back. I’m sure in the parishioners’ minds they’re keeping the day holy but it’s clearly one major liturgical abuse after another, probably approved by the bishop.

          • If it’s something offensive to the Almighty, better not take part in. If you really can’t reach a normal NO mass, or a TLM for that matter, which would be better, better than to go to that kind of a travesty, just pray the Rosary devoutly and pray the orations of the Holy Mass at home. But really strive to find a good place to go to Mass! This is in no measure a solution to the problem, not going to Mass that is. We really have a pickle on our hands.

          • Boy of boy, you’re telling me we ‘have a pickle on our hands’! I worry about the possible changes in the Mass that may be coming, but at least we have found (it seems) a more traditional Catholic parish about 30 minutes away from us in a different Diocese. They do have the TLM every Sunday, and once during the week. We went last night for their N.O. Vigil Mass and I was so pleasantly surprised when they actually had a Communion Rail and used it!! Everyone knelt down to receive on the tongue. (at least those that could kneel down did, there were some elderly that couldn’t) It seems like a small thing to get all excited about, but I was absolutely ecstatic after so many years of empty error laden Masses that do precious little in the true worship of the King of Kings. I can’t wait to go to the TLM there!

          • To paraphrase Shakespeare: Get thee to a TLM!

            And as I’ve posted elsewhere, if I couldn’t attend the Divine Liturgy, I’d definitely go to the TLM.

  1. I never cared for “Praise and Worship” music at Mass. First of all, it was the same music that the Protestant church I was raised in had. A Protestant service is a very different event than a Catholic Mass, so it seems very unfitting that the music written for the former would find a place in the latter.

    Second, and this is a problem I have with the Novus Ordo that goes beyond just music, that kind of music lends itself to the idea that we must always be saying or doing something in order to praise God. There is no time for meditation between all the clapping and swaying and crooning and drumming. Chant reminds us that we’re a part of something that is very different than our everyday lives. Chant elevates us, reminding us of God’s glory and of His desire to save our souls and to give us a share in His glory. Such a truth inspires meditation beyond speech, and my favorite thing about going to the Tridentine Mass is that I feel free to be silent, and meditate on God’s majesty and goodness while the priest and server speak the prayers.

  2. That song Morning Has Broken made popular by Cat Stevens (who later became Muslim as Yusuf Islam) is not an “entrance hymn”! If you can picture lifted beer mugs swinging side to side during a song, it has NO place at any Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially for what is supposed to be the Sanctus. This is so painful to endure. I so desire a true daily Mass.

  3. Bishop Fulton Sheen, in one of his Life is Worth Living episodes, said that teenagers WANT to be challenged. They want high ideals to strive for – not mushy, watered-down stuff.

    In the episode, he mentioned three boys. One was thrown out of church, one was thrown out of the seminary for having revolutionary literature and one dropped something in church, upon which the priest told him to get out and never come back. History doesn’t record the names of those men, but they remember those boys: the first was Hitler, the second was Stalin and the third was Tito.

    Then he mentioned about a boy who dropped a crystal cruet during a Pontifical High Mass. The sound of crystal breaking upon the marble floor was deafening. The Bishop stopped the Mass and helped the altar boy clean up the mess. He then asked the boy if he would like to become a priest. He did. Bishop Sheen was that boy.

    I want to post the YouTube video of this episode, but couldn’t find it. If someone does, please post it. Thank you!

    • Hi Margaret – That is a beautiful story, and to read that story, as myself and my family spend an hour in prayer to prepare for Sunday Mass, is a great gift. Thank You Margret.

  4. My son-in-law says: “The Novus Ordo is a terrible attempt to make the Mass ‘cool’.”

    Priests, Bishops, Liturgists, Theologians, Folks, POPE:


    • So true!

      Martyrdom isn’t cool. Taking up your Cross every day is not cool. Selling everything and giving it to the poor is not cool. Offering up and embracing your suffering is not cool. Giving up your favorite vices is not cool. Leaving a comfortable convent in Ireland for permanent suffering in fetid Calcutta slums is not cool. Spending your life for the sake of others (charity) and God (purity) is not cool.

      Our Faith means nothing if it does not lead us down those paths. I want what Jesus wants. I want nothing more than He chose; suffering, sacrifice, death. “Cool” is a trademark of Lucifer. I avoid “cool”.

  5. I have had the privilege of working with a ‘youth camp’, for about 8 years. Praise God, the Pastor of the camp and the parish ‘youth minister’ didn’t go in for modernistic BS. The camp is based around prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession and the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, Novus Ordo, but with Latin, Ad Orientem and Holy Communion via kneeling and on the tongue. (along with several spiritual talks throughout the day.) The fruit of it has been forming a youth Latin/English Schola Cantorum for the principle Parish (alas, not my parish) and several vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. No guitars, no piano, no phony praise and worship banana picking songs and no soft pedaling the Teaching of the Church, ever…EVER. The camp started with about fifteen kids, now there are two camps every summer with multiple bus loads at each camp (80 to hundred kids per camp) and the sponsoring parish only has about 350 families…

  6. It was the most seductive trap that could ever have been set up: a secular Gospel dressed up with the ideals of Christianity yet without the Cross, without Christ.

    Or as H. Richard Nieburh devastatingly glossed Liberal Protestantism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

  7. “We should not offer a second rate version of the secular.”

    Because that is pathetic. If we are trying to be a secular Church, we will never “compete” with the real thing. We will be but a sad wannabe, always one step behind in the race to the bottom.

    If we actually believe we are a conduit to heaven; holder of the one answer that matters; worshipping with word, deed and music on earth as in heaven; redeemer to a sad, fallen, pathetic and hopeless secular world, then we will stand in confidence separate from the world with the Light held high and let people come to Him. Or not.

    Light and Truth are all that matter. “Relevance” is irrelevant.

  8. This article hits home in a lot of ways. I have done a LOT of time volunteering for youth groups, heard lots of praise and worship (used to like it, now I can’t stand the stuff. Give me chant!), even worked as a parish youth minister. There’s a camp that’s started in my diocese that started as a couple parishes, now includes over a dozen parishes, spread out over several weeks and a couple thousand youth in 2 states. It has born a lot of fruit, but it’s full of praise and worship, Novus Ordo, liturgical abuses… I can’t imagine how much more fruitful it would be if it was run according to the tradition of the Church. The parish I’m volunteering with has a Youth Director who’s very friendly toward tradition and is annoyed with all the Protestantization of the Church. Unfortunately, the parish is a home for religious orders, and there are 8 priests, 7 who are heretics and 1 who is mostly orthodox but weak (this one is the pastor). Not much hope for Latin Mass this year.

    • Wow.

      I wonder where it is all going.

      The more I hear these stories the more I am thrilled to be where I am.

      I think I’ve mentioned it before, but our FSSP parish since its start has produced more priests than all the rest of the parishes in the DIOCESE combined.

      So why don’t the Bishops look at success and start moving the Church in that direction?

      Heck, we have a Pope that even disparages growth of religious orders. No wonder people quit the Catholic Church. There are times when I think our leadership is consumed with a spiritual suicide complex…

    • The popular method of Youth Ministry is completely bankrupt, it leads to emotionalism that quickly fades with age (except for those few aging hippies who love to strum crappy folk hymns in front of everyone to be applauded) and becomes bitter cynicism when they are faced with the difficulties of reality.

      We don’t need anymore ‘cool’ priests! They are a pox upon the Church for they primarily draw the youth to themselves via Jesus Christ and not to Jesus Christ via their priestly ministry.

      • Debates about the appropriate music aside, it seems to me the elephant in the room is the artificial invention of “teens”, of adolescence as a trivial, dumbed-down, fun time. My mother tells me that North Carolina once had their 16-year-old public high school students driving all the school buses!

        What (I maintain) will get “youth” to respond is treating them substantially as adults, giving them adult challenges, responsibility, information, information about the human story, about the history of thought, philosophy, the search for the Good and how Christianity fulfills the psychic, intellectual and practical needs of the human family, about Heaven and Hell. The problem here is pastors who are like “teens” themselves, casual, irresponsible. Yes, they should indeed be open and approachable, friendly but never frivolous. If our leaders would lead, by, say, talking frankly and honestly about life-and-death issues, for example, inviting the parish down to the abortion clinic to pray and offer help and grace, the “youth” would be drastically better informed as to what sort of universe they’ve been born into, and what sort of enterprise the Church is.

        G.K. Chesterton:

        “When we returned to the house, we found it was full of visitors, and fell into special conversation with two hearty and healthy Cambridge undergraduates, who had been walking or cycling across the moors in the spirit of the stern and vigorous English holiday. They were no narrow athletes, however, but interested in various sports and in a breezy way in various arts; and they began to discuss music and landscape with my friend Father O’Connor. I never knew a man who could turn with more ease than he from one topic to another, or who had more unexpected stores of information, often purely technical information, upon all. The talk soon deepened into a discussion on matters philosophical and moral; and when the priest had left the room, the two young men broke out into generous expressions of admiration, saying truly that he was a remarkable man, and seemed to know a great deal about Palestrina or Baroque architecture, or whatever was the point at the moment. Then there fell a curious reflective silence, at the end of which one of the undergraduates suddenly burst out,

        ‘All the same, I don’t believe his sort of life is the right one. It’s all very well to like religious music and so on, when you’re all shut up in a cloister and don’t know anything about the real evil in the world. But I don’t believe that’s the right ideal. I believe in a fellow coming out into the world, and facing the evil that’s in it, and knowing something about the dangers and all that. It’s a very beautiful thing to be innocent and ignorant; but I think it’s a much finer thing not to be afraid of knowledge.’

        To me, still almost shivering with the appallingly practical facts of colossal and crushing irony, that I nearly burst into a loud harsh laugh in the drawing-room. For I knew perfectly well that, as regards all the solid Satanism which the priest knew and warred against with all his life, these two Cambridge gentlemen (luckily for them) knew about as much of real evil as two babies in the same perambulator.”

      • That sums it up for me, I couldn’t put my finger on it but it is the affection of emotionalism onto the faith. Its false, in fact, it acts as a stepping stone out.

      • One of the problems is older priests just dont feel up to leading a youth group, and who would blame them for that, and so they appoint an adult in the parish but its a demanding task because youth are poorly catechised to start with, and the adult also needs help. It often ends up as a democratic mix of everyone putting in their bit.

  9. When Father N. criticised making everything easy about faith, this came to my mind:
    We should not forget the scriptural injunction: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it.” The faith of our people is not going to be enhanced by making its practice easy. Spiritual muscles, as well as physical ones, are developed by exercise, not by indulgence. Look about and see where the faith is strong, and you will find a deeply rooted conviction of the need for penance. Conversely, where luxury and ease are cultivated the faith is moribund. The kind of devil that besets our world today can be driven out only by prayers and fasting. Let us not forget the influence in his world of the Poverello. Our age needs another Francis. This era needs to be made conscious that heaven belongs to the strong. “Per aspera ad astra.”
    Bishop Russel McVinney, 12 November, 1962. Quote taken from “American Participation in the Second Vatican Council, 1967”, page 168.


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