Bishop's Blog

This has to be said:

Our youth love luxury; they have bad manners; contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love to talk in place of exercise. Children are now the tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

These are the words of Socrates, a 5th century B.C. Greek philosopher. Some characteristics and issues are indeed timeless.

However, they are us! Knowing what we know about systems, and especially family systems, we know that the most vulnerable member of the system often reflects what happening in the system and acts out for the system. We know this intuitively. Upon meeting the parents of a young person, we frequently conclude: "So that's why they act that way?"

Young people are the most vulnerable part of the societal system, and they act out for the rest of society. The question is not what is wrong with young people today. The question is what is wrong with our society that causes young people to be the way they are? And it is a trap to simply or solely respond to the symptom and ignore the problem.

It is time for all parents and adults to stop our hypocrisy and break the code of silence about the breakdown of spiritual values and parental and community responsibility to protect and nurture our children. While we decry rising youth violence, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour, the plain truth is that we adults have preached moral and family values that we have not practised consistently in our homes, schools, religious congregations, communities and national life. We need to experience a Jubilee conversion.

This school prayer written by a teenager in Bagdad, Arizona captures much of our cultural climate:

Now I sit me down in school, where praying is against the rule.
For this great nation under God, finds mention of Him very odd.
If Scripture now the class recites, it violates the Bill of Rights.
And any time my head I bow, becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green, that's no offence; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise. Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate, God's name is prohibited by the state.
We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks, and pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible. To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen, and the 'unwed daddy,- our Senior King.
It's "inappropriate" to teach right from wrong, we're taught that such "judgements" do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth controls, study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed. It's scary here I must confess, when chaos reigns, the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make: Should I be shot; my soul please take!

If we really want to impact young people with more than a Band-Aid, we must be willing to treat the cause, not just the symptoms, deal with their complex social context and ask ourselves - "Who are we becoming and what should we be doing in response to today's needs?"

We need a real Catholic education! What brings us together in Catholic education is not some political program or ideological agenda, but the Word of God, the teachings of His church, and a commitment to help people live their faith in the world. We are not the progressive movement at prayer nor the religious caucus of any group, but a community of faith called to preach, serve the least of these and build the Lords kingdom of justice and peace.

Catholic education provides a Christ-centred process of learning that includes the activities of informing, forming, and transforming. Put simply, education has to do with knowledge, attitudes, skills and their critical application. What makes Catholic education distinct from other systems is its approach to each.

Consider, for example, attitudinal development which takes place both in the classroom and within the school environment itself. In the classroom, the teaching of Catholic values is part of the formal learning process. Within the school environment, such learning often occurs in two ways.

The first is through the interpersonal relationships between staff, parents, and students. Catholic education believes that the development of a community that shares common values, beliefs, and practices is critical to character formation. For this reason, the school community provides role models who incarnate theological virtues such as faith, compassion, forgiveness, charity and hope. In turn, these role models provide witness to the kind of Christian practice so necessary for the formation of attitudes that reflect a Christian way of living.

A second way attitudinal development takes place is through the school's culture. A school's culture refers to its way of doing things in accordance with its religious heritage and identity, e.g. space and time are reserved for the celebration of the liturgical year of the church, there are opportunities for prayer and participation in sacramental preparation, how discipline and correction are managed and applied, the presence of symbols like crucifixes, religious banners, art and decorations in school foyers, etc.

Catholic education promotes moral and spiritual formation as central features of the educational framework. Transforming in Catholic education promotes a view of human life best described as a vocation and a call to ministry. It is both personal and social, moral and spiritual. Personal transformation is a calling to become more Christ-like in our relations with God, self, others, and society. Social transformation is a calling to work for the kingdom of God.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because be has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Luke 4:18-19

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Youth & Young Adult Bishop's Religious Education
Related Themes Religious Education Parenting Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Catholic Teachings

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