Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A True Legacy for our Youth

A few days back I saw the following posting on Facebook, which I reposted, and have thought a great deal about consequently: " We need to teach our daughters how to distinguish between a man who flatters her and a man who compliments her .... a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her .... a man who views her as property and a man who views her properly ..... a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her ..... a man who believes he is God's gift to women and a man who remembers a woman was God's gift to man.....And we need to teach our boys to be THAT man.”  It captured a pre-occupation that I have had for several years now.  We live in a society that teaches our young men that women are something to be manipulated into sexual activity, dominated in life, and discarded when it is no fun anymore.  It has started teaching young women the same thing about how to treat young men.  Furthermore, it teaches women that they merely have to settle for the best that they can hope to get and, if anything, treat their boyfriend or spouse to be as a reclamation project, the human equivalent of a fixer-upper.  I have rarely seen this end well.  As I have told young couples in marriage preparation, “Marriage is not a magic wand that makes all the deficiencies of your future spouse evaporate into the ether.”    By the same token, a man who would not make a good husband will not make a good priest either.
    Our children get swamped with the negative messages about human relationships and sexuality.  The way to reverse the damage is a two pronged approach: to point out and limit their diet of a poisoned message and replace it with a healthy life giving message.  Our parish and our families must act in union with each other to accomplish this.
    On the parish level, we are doing the following.  As all our 9th graders are boys this year, we are using the book, “Be a Man” by Fr. Larry Richards as the text for their education this year.  The book is a great study on what being a Catholic man is about and how being a Catholic man directly effects everything, including how we, as men, treat and view women.  It encourages an embrace of manly virtue and a courageous and selfless lifestyle.  With our confirmation students, we are using Theology of the Body for Teens with Chris Everet to talk about the same issues in a way that they understand that their being a good Catholic reflects in every avenue of their life.   We gave the parents the parents’ handbook so that they may follow up what we do in class.   I cannot encourage this enough.  I am contemplating getting the Theology of the Body for Jr. High, so that we may be able to begin this positive life affirming message earlier.  If anyone would like to help pay for the program, which would be several hundred dollars, and help buy a copy of it for the parish library. I would greatly appreciate it.  The Theology of the Body for Teens is already in the parish library and is frequently out.  Each have a 10-12 lessons set of DVDs, parents guides, and workbook for the youth.  I started using the Theology of the Body for Marriage as the primary tool for our engaged couples.  I really believe that this positive message paired with what I have been saying from the pulpit will hopefully at least provide a lot of seed which we hope will take root.
    On the diocesan level, we began summer camps for our young men and women (camps Maccabee and Siena, respectively) to help our youth understand what it means to be a young Catholic woman or man.  The topic is often brought up in our youth rallies and Confirmation Reflection Days. We believe, as a diocese, that every cent invested in our diocesan youth is a cent invested in the well being of our youth and their futures.  The well being of their future directly effects all of us as these youth will provide the next generation of priestly, religious, and lay leaders.  Giving them all that we can to promote a healthy self-identity and a healthy way of treating one another only bodes well for our collective futures.
    As I alluded to earlier, parents must be partners with the Church in this.  When your children were baptized, you vocally accepted the responsibility of bringing them  in the ways of the faith.  This is more than giving them a set of data to memorize, but instructing them in a relationship based in the love of God and neighbor.  Parents should be and can be the most effective teachers in their children in the ways of the faith.  What is provided in the home will be one of the primary nourishments of our youth.  This means several things.  First, I would assume no loving parent would purposely feed their children poison, even if that poison tasted good.  Poison is poison regardless of the way it tastes. We have to monitor what our children ingest in this culture as most of it is poisonous.  For example, I can think of two shows off the top of my head that are or were very popular: Two and Half Men and Sex and the City, both built on the premise that the opposite sex is something to be manipulated, used, and dumped at will.  So many shows on TV have the same message as do many of our movies.  The same message is dominant in music, regardless of the genre.  A steady diet of these things does have an effect on our youth in showing them what the world considers normative behavior.  It can be no surprise that our youth will act out on these premises and find out that the consequences of that acting out cannot be wrapped up quickly and without lifelong harm.  I know it is not popular, but parents must be as vigilant with what their children entertain themselves with as much as they would with what their child eats.  Poison should be recognized for what it is and dealt with accordingly.
    Along these lines, we should make sure that our youth are warned about the great scourge that is pornography.  Pornography, by its very nature, teaches to reduce another human being to a thing for self-satisfaction.  It is a cancer.  Because of the internet, it is also all too readily available.  Pornography isn’t bad because the human body is something ugly and sinful, it is wrong because the human body is good and beautiful; pornography debases that beauty, robs the dignity of another (even if they are offering up that dignity), and teaches the person to turn themselves and others into nothing more than a means of pleasure.  It is a devastating lesson that has horrible long term results.  Parents should treat porn with the ferocity they would treat a criminal trying to break into their home to harm their children.  Porn can have no harbor in any Catholic home!  I know they may not like it, but monitor what your child sees on the internet.  There are far too many wolves more than happy to expose your children to truly awful things.
    What we teach our children is the legacy they will pass on to their children.  We should want what is best for them and protect them from what would harm them.  Let us work together towards this common good so that we raise godly young men and women.  No woman or man should have to settle for anything less that the dignity that God has created them to experience.   Let us protect that dignity and raise our youth to do the same.

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