Part 3 of 3: Differed Maturity
In fact, thanks to the pop-culture and modern education, differed maturity is so extreme that the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, redefined adolescents as the period extending from the onset of puberty (around 12 years of age) to age 30.25 The MacAuthur Foundation went ever further, “funding a research project that argues that the ‘transition to adulthood’ doesn’t end to the age of 34.”26
Diane West writes in her 2007 book The Death of the Grown-up, “More adults, ages eighteen to forty-nine, watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Readers as old as twenty-five are buying ‘young adult’ fiction written expressly for teens. The average video gamester was 18 in 1990, now he’s going on 30.”27
Even World Youth Day, whose fatal flaw is that it panders to the youngsters’ rock’n’pop-culture rather than give youngsters the reasons and tools to oppose it, has likewise redefined youth. A “youth” is defined by World Youth Day organizers as between the ages of 16 and 34!28 This is unspeakably pathetic, as it is an acceptance of deferred maturity that we must combat, not capitulate to.
What We Can Do
There is much more to be said, including further study of the grotesque marketing techniques aimed at teens and “tweens”, which will be discussed in future issues of CFN. Here I will close with the hazardous attempt at offering a series of suggestions that parents may employ.
In making these suggestions, I assume the parents are encouraging their children to attend the true Latin Mass, frequent the sacraments, cultivate the supernatural life of sanctifying grace, daily family Rosary, modesty in dress, and that parents either home- school or have their children enrolled in good private schools where the advocacy of virtue is paramount.29 Above and beyond this minimum, here are a few detailed suggestions, which are by no means an exhaustive list:
1) Graces of Matrimony
If we are married in the Church in a valid, sacramental marriage, we have a tremendous reservoir of special sacramental graces particular to the Sacrament of Marriage that we can call upon to help us live our lives as Catholics; help us raise our children in the Faith; and to give us the strength to withdraw as much as possible from the popular culture.
The Redemptorist Father T.E. Tobin, in his beautiful work, “Are You Using the
Graces You Received at Matrimony?”, teaches that Marriage gives us a special, sacramental grace. Husbands and wives have a right to call upon this grace we need light for our mind in making family decisions, strength for the will to carry out our duties of state and to carry out our duty to raise our children from the faith and protect them from bad influences.
Father Tobin writes, “…you have a right to the actual grace of God which you need to act in accordance with your vocation. The sacramental grace of Matrimony will enable you to act rightly as husband and wife, and later on, God willing, as father and mother. You will be able to depend upon special light for your minds and powerful strength for your wills in order to fulfill your duty.”30
In order to receive these graces, Father Tobin writes, we have to ask for them. We also must cooperate with these graces when they are given. Pope Pius XII once lamented that the grace of the sacrament of matrimony “often remains an unused talent hidden in the field,”31 and the Pope encouraged Catholic husbands and wives to remember this grace to cultivate it.
2) Vigilance Concerning Good Companions
Our teaching sisters prior to the Vatican II revolution always told us: seek good companions and avoid bad ones. The old saying is true, we become like the company we keep. Thus it is important for parents; especially those who have children of a sanguine temperament, to remain vigilant in assuring their adolescents form good companions, and shun bad companions. The great Master of Thomistic philosophy and theology, Father Austin Woodbury, explains: “The influence of friends is especially great upon us, and above all upon the youthful, for by the love of friendship we penetrate within our friend, making his will our will and holding him for another self. … [W]e are drawn upwards by a good and noble friend, and downwards by a base and ignoble one.”32
I am a strong advocate of having no television networks in the house: no cable and no standard antenna. This is a policy my wife and I follow since we were first married. We do have a monitor where we can view of DVD or our choice, but we can’t watch the networks if we wanted to (and who wants to). It is a magnificent freedom that I can’t recommend highly enough. Bad companions draw us downwards, and so can base and ignoble characters on television draw us downwards. If we become like the company we keep, do we want our daughters spending viewing time with Snooki and the other white trash that populate MTV’s vile Jersey Shore program?
In fact, “Jersey Shore” is only one of the thousands of television programs to be
avoided at all cost.33 For decades, the average sit-com has contained smart-alecky brats who continually sass their parents. Mom and dad are fooling themselves if they think the horrid behavior of television children will not rub off on their offspring.
4) Monitor Internet
The Internet can be a source of tremendous information, but also a moral danger unlike anything seen in history. When before was it possible to gain access to anything, including the most pornographic and vile information beamed straight into your house by the click of a mouse? Also, as we all know, the web can be a colossal waste of time. I believe high school youngsters should have limited, monitored access to the Internet and email, and that no youngster should have a Facebook account until he is 18 years old. Some families deal with web ministering by having the internet computer in a central location in the house and certainly not in the youngster’s bedroom. This is a large topic and deserves more detailed treatment. We will have more to say about Facebook, texting and Internet in next month’s CFN.
5) Rock Music
I believe rock music should not be the “soundtrack” of our homes. It should not be the music that our young people (and we) listen to on a regular bases, if at all. This is particularly difficult, as it has a way of creeping into homes even when the parents have striven to keep it out.
As has been noted earlier, rock music is a beat-driven music that centers on stimulating not the intellect, but the lower passions. Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones said frankly, “Rock music is music for the neck down.”34 I don’t believe it healthy to be on a steady diet of music that inflames the lower passion. There is a tremendous amount of terrific music available, and not just classical, that can be played in the home.
In saying this, we have to war against the superstition, sometimes found in Traditionalist circles, that “wholesome” is synonymous with “bland”. I never listen to bland music, a constant stream of which would land me to the insane asylum. Rather, as we are a musical family, we listen to quality artists who play with passion and dynamic.
6) Cheerful Home Atmosphere
I do not advocate cutting our young people off from the world, building a kind of wall around the house outside of which our youngsters rarely venture. That can do much more harm than good. I am also not advocating a stern, cheerless parental approach. The Catholic Psychologist Rudolf Allers, M.D., Ph.D., in his Forming Character in Adolescents, notes that the major component of adolescents is not puberty, but uncertainty. The youngster is now in transition to become an adult, working out who he is, how he reacts with others and what is his place in the world.
Dr. Allers recommends consistency in discipline, kindness, a cheerful approach, and primarily understanding. The understanding he speaks of is not a lax understanding that allows the youngster to do whatever he or she wants. Rather, Dr. Allers speaks of the need to truly understand each of our children, his temperaments, his individual personality, his strengths and weaknesses, and deal with each child accordingly, always for the purpose of encouraging and not discouraging. Guiding the adolescent is a delicate business, as too much discipline or too little discipline can be disastrous. Though Dr. Allers does not spell this out, it can be observed from real life experience that parents best accomplish this encouragement by cultivating a loving, dignified, cheerful and even fun (yes, fun, not lax) atmosphere at home.
7) The Adolescents’ Natural Strive Towards Excellence
It is a characteristic of many an adolescent to strive after excellence, to be part of a noble cause.
Speaking of teens in the 1950s, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen noted, “Teenagers have a potency for sacrifice that is far greater than adults realize. I think one of the reasons that Nazism, Fascism and Communism has had such appeal in our generation to youth is simply because teenagers and youths are sick and tired of a milk and water liberalism. There’s nothing evil men can fight against; there’s nothing good into which they can put their teeth. And the young are tired of them. And they want to make a surrender, a commitment, and engagement, they want something that’s worth dying for.”35
In a similar vein, the former Communist Douglas Hyde, who converted to Catholicism in the late 1940s, encouraged Catholics to harness the idealism of adolescence to a good cause.
He wrote in Dedication and Leadership that Western man often mocks the “starry- eyed idealism of youth”. The Communists do not laugh at it, but harness it, motivate it, train it, and direct it to their advantage. Douglas writes, “The Communists appeal to idealism is direct and audacious. The Communists say if you make mean little demands on people, you will get a mean little response, which is what you deserve. But if you make big demands on them, you will get a big response – you will get a heroic response. And they proved this in practice over and over again.”36
A well structured Legion of Mary, with leaders who can think creatively, could help organize young people in good works, in apologetics, in a video or audio apostolate, or in any worthy Catholic work that young people could do in groups (the Legion of Mary Handbook lists various apostolate activities, and more can be added). Granted not all teens will respond, but those who do will reap spiritual and character- building benefits for themselves and for others that cannot be measured.
I also believe parent’s should read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which presents the Christian Faith not as a shackling list of do’s and don’ts, but as the greatest adventure one can live. Absorb Chesterton’s main themes in Orthodoxy, encourage those youngsters who are so disposed to read it. This spirit of measured zeal and adventure is the attitude we can try to instill in our children and young adults.
Thus we see the modern pop culture is pagan, degenerate and artificial. For over 50 years, we have been manipulated and corrupted by Estelle Ellis and the “Merchants of Cool”.
The Traditional Latin Mass is not enough. Home-schooling or private schooling is not enough. In order to protect our youngsters, it is necessary to withdraw from the popular culture as much as we are able. Parents should think twice before allowing their children to become products of the teenage pop-culture, which can end up being the greatest influence in the youngsters’ lives.
25 The Death of the Grown-Up, p. 1. On the same page the author says, “More adults, ages eighteen to forty-nine, watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Readers as old as twenty-five are buying ‘young adult’ fiction written expressly for teens. The average video gamester was 18 in 1990, now he’s going on 30.”
26 Ibid., pp. 1-2.
27 Ibid, p. 1.
28 This means that Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross at age 33, would be classified by WYD organizers as a “youth”. I learned this age distinction while attending World Youth Day as an observer in Toronto, 2002. The predominant atmosphere of World Youth Day is not Catholicism, but the rock and roll pop-culture, under a thin Christian veneer. See brief video at www.oltyn.org/wyd.htm
29 Saint Thomas Aquinas defines education as “The making of the new man up right up to the point of virtue”. See “Education, It’s Nature and Properties”, Raphael Waters, Ph.D., Catholic Family News, September, 1999. [Reprint #411 available from CFN for $2.00 post-paid].
30 “Are You Using The Special Graces Of Marriage”, Father T.E. Tobin, C.SS.R., Originally published in the early 1950s, republished in Catholic Family News, June 1998. [Reprint # *** available from CFN for $2.00 postpaid].
32 “The Development of Character”, Father Austin Woodbury, Ph.D, Catholic Family News, February, 2011. [Reprint # RP1102- 1419 available from CFN for $2.00 postpaid]
33 Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, a company known for immoral and provocative ads, said it would offer “substantial payment“ to MTV’s The Jersey Shore’s cast members to stop wearing the brand on air. If Jersey Shore is too crude for even Abercrombie & Fitch, that’s quite a feat. See “Abercrombie to pay ‘Jersey Shore’ cast to stop wearing its clothes”, Chicago Tribune, August 18, 2011.
34 “Elefant: The Black Magic Show”, Stylus Magazine. www.stylusmagazine.com/review.php?ID=3972 (rock website).
35 VHS: Life is Worth Living, Teenagers (from 1950s’ program. Now produced by Keep the Faith, Inc. No date).
36 Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde [Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame University Press, 1969, twelfth printing, 2005]. p. 18.