Monday, January 10, 2011

Tomorrow's Crosscurrent: The Ipod Generation and the JPII Generation

There are two younger generations to look out for; and to be sure they will be at the forefront of tomorrow’s culture war: The Ipod generation and the JPII generation. To be fair, I should include the “Ben XVI generation” to signify the demographic of young Catholics in this blog; but for brevity sake, I will simply make reference to the “JPII generation.”

In any case, the JPII generation is comprised of young, well formed Catholics who have witnessed the disappointing aftermath of watered-down Catholicism. Empty churches and seminaries throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are the only things to show for the fifty-plus years of half measures. Having learned and experienced the fullness of the Catholic Faith, they want little to do with what the Baby Boom generation of Catholics has bequeathed to them.

It is true that in recent decades the Catholic Church has lost scores of young men and women to the world through poor catechises and lackluster sermons. To be sure, the full effect of these losses is yet to be felt. Nevertheless, the JPII generation, having benefited from the genuine fruits of the Second Vatican Council, is arguably the best formed youth the Church has had in centuries. With the advantage of hindsight, they learned key lessons from two extremes which occurred in the twentieth century: The first, having preceded Vatican II, was a mechanical-like formalism which had seeped into the spiritual life of many Catholics. The second extreme, which followed Vatican II, involved a relativistic, worldly kind of Catholicism which likewise affected many Catholics. Needless to say, the pendulum had swung from one extreme to the other within a short period of time; that is, between 1960 and 1970. This latter extreme, unfortunately, is still with us today. However, it is being challenged by the JPII generation of priests and laity who possess a balance which has yet to fully express itself in key leadership positions. Albeit, this younger generation of Catholics is only a remnant now, but in the near future they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Consider the counterpart of the JPII generation: It is interesting to note that the younger generations in society (outside the Church) are statistically more socially liberal and want less to do with organized religion than the older generations. This is something that the New Evangelization will have to factor in its mission. But within the Church, the younger generation of priests being pumped out of seminaries is more orthodox than their predecessors. What is more, they have a love and respect for the institution of the Church which was relaxed in previous generations.

The point is that there is now beginning to emerge a crosscurrent of younger generations; one being shaped by society and the other by the Church. For instance, the younger our civil leaders are, the more socially and morally liberal they are. On the other hand, the younger our Church leaders are, the more orthodox and solidly grounded they are in the moral law. Indeed, these two demographics are moving in opposite directions. With what could arguably be an ever sharpening tension between two generations, the following words from our Lord will take on greater relevance: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”

Over the next ten to twenty years, the Ipod generation will bring a whole new set of social challenges to the culture and to the Church. The social habits they are beginning to practice today will create a new dynamic in relationships tomorrow; this will especially be the case among family members and more importantly, between the individual and God.

More on the next blog-