Author Topic: Adolescence and the Pride of Life  (Read 729 times)

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Offline Matthew

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Adolescence and the Pride of Life
« on: January 13, 2008, 01:53:55 PM »
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    By Rev. Fr Nicholas Mary, C.SS.R.

    It is of Faith that in becoming truly man, Jesus Christ, Who is truly God,
    "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant" [Phil. II, 7]. "Is it
    possible", asks St Bernard, "for men to be proud after seeing the life of
    Jesus Christ?" Reflect that God Himself lay in a cradle, God Himself died on
    a cross and God Himself awaits us in the tabernacle in order to win the love
    of the creatures He called from nothingness; can we then be proud?

    The answer, of course, is that men are proud because they forget who they
    are and Who God is. They do not meditate on the sublime truths of Christmas
    any more than they do on Our Lord's Passion or His Real Presence. They are
    too "choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life" [Lk VIII,
    14]. They are caught up with this world, and "all that is in the world is
    the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the
    pride of life" [I Jn II, 16].

    To set concupiscence and the pride of life at naught and breathe instead the
    pure night air of a cave outside Bethlehem takes wisdom, that gift which
    enables the soul to consider the eternal truths, judge all things by them,
    set a right value on salvation and the means to it, and relish the things of
    God. By it our intellect is illuminated; our passions curbed; our affections
    well ordered; our will rightly directed. The wise have vigour and energy of
    soul; they live united with God; they find it easy to do what is right and
    overcome temptations.

    All men at all times have associated wisdom with age. It is not that a long
    life confers the gift of itself - would that it did! - but rather that both
    natural and supernatural wisdom are found more often, though by no means
    exclusively, in the old than in the young. Grace builds on nature, and our
    experience of life and its betrayals, the natural extinction of our
    passions, and the gradual growth in our understanding, perspective and
    knowledge all play a part in disposing our souls to wisdom as our physical
    powers begin to wane.

    But if we associate wisdom with the old, we associate innocence with the
    very young. A precious gift to be preserved throughout life, all too often
    it is lost at the first stirrings of adulthood.

    Between naturally innocent childhood and naturally wise old age lie the
    years of our physical prime, years so often devastated by concupiscence and
    the pride of life. And how often do the effects of that devastation not last
    into old age! The same holds true on the supernatural level, which alone
    avails to salvation. At the first seductive beckonings of the world and its
    pleasures so many young Christians lose their baptismal innocence. Very few
    find grace again through wisdom and penance; some, indeed, only at death's

    It is not difficult, accordingly, to understand that the devil, the
    adversary of our souls who "as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he
    may devour" [I Pet. V, 8] waits impatiently for that moment when a child
    will first be vulnerable to his attacks. That turning point comes with the
    age of reason, but by reinforcing the child's baptismal grace through the
    sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion and Confirmation and by the grace of
    living in a good Catholic home and attending a soundly Catholic school,
    innocence can be safeguarded and the reign of grace extended.

    There comes a time, however, where each young person must make the Faith and
    the battle to keep and live it his own. At that moment the pride of life
    presents itself in its full force and concupiscence makes its first attacks.
    This onslaught can be withstood by God's Grace and with parental help, but
    the adolescent must actively resist on his or her own account. Passive
    resistance combined with active assistance will not be enough; the moment of
    decision has arrived. Either adolescents will give in to temptation, ease,
    peer and social pressure and fall into sin with a shrug of the shoulders and
    a word of blame for the parents who "forced religion down their throats", or
    they will survive their first battles in the fight for salvation, and remain
    true to the promise once made for them at their baptism: to renounce "the
    devil, his works and pomps". Perhaps they will fall, and even fall often,
    but if they are fighting on their own behalf then there is hope that they
    will persevere past the ravages of adolescence. If they put up a token
    resistance merely to please their parents, or by way of laying a plaster on
    a conscience still tinged with a guilt that is disappearing along with the
    faith that produced it, then they will succumb to the pride of life. All
    which they have hitherto accepted on the authority of their parents and
    educators must become the faith of an adult or it will perish. They must
    nourish it by reading, study and reflection, and their interior life by
    mental prayer, or else they will go on to face adult difficulties with a
    faith that is not childlike in its simplicity (as it must remain) but merely
    infantile in its weakness.

    There is a modern idea - widely current even amongst nominal Catholics -
    that children should not be brought up in the Faith, but rather decide the
    great issues of life for themselves "when they are older". This is a
    diabolical trap. All children who have inherited their parents' faith will
    have to choose for themselves to persevere in that faith sooner or later,
    but those who have inherited nothing will have nothing to choose, and
    nothing to come back to if they fall away. This poisonous notion is worlds
    away from Catholic wisdom, which knows that one cannot do enough to prepare
    the young adult for the moment of choice. Those who seek to emancipate the
    child are "miserably deluded", Pope Pius XI taught; "in reality they are
    making him the slave of his own blind pride and of his disorderly
     affections". On the contrary it is absolutely necessary "to direct and
    watch the education of the adolescent, 'soft as wax to be moulded into vice'
     removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his
    recreations and social intercourse; for 'evil communications corrupt good
    manners'" [Divini illius magistri, 1929].

    Such is Catholic realism motivated by true charity and a desire for the
    salvation of souls. Its opposite is naturalism, which, as Pius XI says,
    "grievously errs in refusing to recognise the inborn weakness of human
    nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of
    the mind; and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is
    clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not
    so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to
    dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace."

    Fathers and mothers who think that their children will win the first great
    battles against temptation as a matter of course are sadly mistaken
    concerning the effects of original sin. It is not merely those modern
    Catholics who do not even believe in original sin who are here worthy of
    blame. Often enough, traditional Catholic parents will underestimate what is
    required of them where their adolescent children are concerned. How many
    sacrifices they have made in order to bring these children into the world
    and even send them to a traditional school! Indeed, and in this they are
    worthy of nothing but praise; yet if they think that their responsibility
    ends there they are wrong. The primary responsibility for educating their
    children and setting them on the path to Heaven, our supernatural goal lies
    with them, not with schools or states. Where catechism lessons and the
    family rosary sufficed to keep their seven-year-old in fine spiritual form,
    Sunday Catholicism will not be enough to tip the balance in the war waged by
    the devil, the world and the flesh on their 17-year-old. Parents must ensure
    that, whilst they still have influence over their teenage sons and
    daughters, they communicate with them about the Faith. An adolescent may be
    driven to the Mass of All Time every Sunday; this does not mean that he has
    an interior life. Another may have been to a Society school; this does not
    mean that she can coherently defend her faith to others or even to herself.
    Parents must make the difference by discussion, debate and common prayer.
    Otherwise they will soon join the ranks of those good parents who, now wise,
    but no longer able to influence their children, spend long decades in prayer
    and generous sacrifice for them that they might return to the practice of
    their religion, a conversion often made all the more difficult by a
    disastrous marriage.

    To realise this as a young parent is a gift, the gift of wisdom. This
    Christmas, dear young parents, watch your infant children before the
    nativity scene and reflect how they still possess that other gift, holy
    innocence. Now resolve to beg the Divine Infant daily to preserve that gift
    in them and to do yourselves whatever it takes to give them the best
    fighting chance to overcome the pride of life.+
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    Offline JoanScholastica

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    Adolescence and the Pride of Life
    « Reply #1 on: January 13, 2008, 05:46:28 PM »
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