A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, OR, for Sunday, November 18th, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Homily: Generational Afflictions and Graces
A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, OR, for Sunday, November 18th, 2012
Dominica XXXIII Per Annum, Anno B
A glorious future awaits us. We are called to heaven. But God has warned us through the prophet Daniel of tribulation to come. Our Lord Himself tells us that before His glorious second coming, there will be tribulation. And “after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Matt 13:24ff).
But there are many things that must happen before “heaven and earth will pass away.” We do not know the time for His coming, but He warns us to be vigilant at all times. “When you see these things happening, know that he is near” Not only must each of us be vigilant and open our eyes and ears to these things that are happening, but as a Catholic people, we must be vigilant, especially when we see that the moral and spiritual state of American society has fallen and is falling so quickly. The moral foundation of thousands of years of Judeo-Christianity has all but crumbled in the last 50 years. These are the signs of the times that we must be paying attention to. How did this happen? What were the warning signs and what are the warning signs today?
I do not mean to give a complete answer to these questions, but I recently read an article by Fr. Chad Ripperger called “The Sixth Generation” (Latin Mass Magazine, Summer 2012, pp. 34-38) in which he explores the last six generations and what each has, or has not, passed on to the next. In this article, he says that “Each generation has a ‘vocation’ of a sort”, meaning that they are “called by God to accomplish certain tasks, fight off certain evils, achieve certain perfection, etc. God assigns an angel to protect that generation and sometimes the angel is one who is given to help the generation overcome the problems it faces.” (35). “But demons, by the permissive will of God, also afflict a generation.” Fr. Ripperger refers to these demons as “generational spirits” (35).
We need to remember that “Not everyone in a particular generation will be affected by the particular generational spirit of that generation.” But we can identify how each generation has been afflicted and what they have passed on to the next generation. First, let us “go back to the generation which came of age during and shortly after World War I; this generation became known as the ‘Lost Generation,’ a term popularized by Ernest Hemingway…” (35). Some of this generation “indulged in hedonism…[but] most members of this generation followed the traditions of their parents, especially in the area of religion” (35). “(T)his is the generation that could suffer without complaining.” They suffered through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. For this generation, “suffering was such a part of life that to talk about it was like talking about the rate of growth of the grass outside. Life was suffering…and so one simply did not talk about it” (35). Here lies the problem. The generation spirit can be identified as a “spirit of non-communication.” That generation simply did not talk to their children or communicate to them the ability to embrace their cross, nor to appropriate one’s suffering for virtue’s sake, in the way that they actually did it.
So their children, the so-called “Greatest” Generation, who grew up in the Great Depression and fought in World War II, “did not embrace their cross in the manner that their parents did. They fought the Second World War, but they came back determined that ‘this would never happen again.” They knew how to deny themselves, but did not want to pass this on to their children. Their generational spirit was a lack of mortification” (36). They knew how to work hard. They knew how to sacrifice. They knew how deny themselves but “their goal was not to attain spiritual perfection by the perfection of virtue. Rather it was to obtain something materially better, primarily for their children. They indulged their children” (36).
Their children were the baby boomers born after World War II. This generation was completely different from any that had come before. As a generation, they were indulged. Their parents “did not pass on the traditions of their fathers which required discipline and self-denial” (37). So, they engaged in “various forms of intemperance.” drugs, immorality, pleasure, pride. It is said that, aside from those who went to Vietnam, the only hardship this generation encountered was annoyance at their parents. “[I]ntemperance led to indocility. Docility is the virtue by which a person is able to be easily led by someone who knows more or who is above him. Due to the fact that the appetites, when left to themselves through intemperance, will not tolerate being denied, the Baby Boomers became indocile because to be led, again, requires self-denial” (37). “Also, intemperance affects judgment by making one think that what is, in fact, sinful is morally acceptable. Saint Thomas observes that one of the effects of lust is hatred of God because He forbids the use of the generative faculty in a disordered way. Hatred of God is simply the extreme of indocility in which one must put away what one wants in order to do what is right” (37). What their parents, “the ‘Greatest’ Generation failed to realize is that by not embracing their cross, one of the greatest crosses they would have is to watch their [Baby Boomer] children who would be undisciplined, disrespectful to authority, and licentious” (37). Remember that as I speak of each generation that there are certainly many families and many individuals from each generation that did not conform to these generalities. So, these are broad societal observations to help us see the path more clearly.
“The children of the Baby Boomers [born from the late 60s into the early 80s] are known as ‘Generation X’ and ‘Generation Y’…This generation is also known as the ‘Me Generation’ because (they) are noted for their narcissism. They are often hallmarked by their entitlement mind set. The generational spirit of Generation X and Generation Y is a spirit of amorality or the absence of religiosity. The members of this generation are often hallmarked by nice personalities, somewhat easy to get along with, and are not mean spirited” (37). They are not necessarily immoral, but rather amoral. In other words, they are not concerned with the morality or immorality of something. “They tend not to see the point of religion and this was the generation that was first allowed ‘to choose which religion’ it would follow” (37).
Their children are commonly referred to as “Generation Z.” These children were born in the 1990s up through the mid-2000s. “This generation is one that is completely plugged into technology. It is the generation that has gone without a coherent moral code, religious doctrine, or societal norms. This generation is also the one that was left at daycare where no moral training was ever given them. Unlike Generations X and Y, who may have been spanked or reprimanded when they did something wrong, even though not much was taught to them as to why it was wrong, this generation received no moral formation at all from their parents. If they did receive moral formation, it tended to be what is in the general culture today where sins are often described more in terms of how one hurt the environment than how one offended God” (37). “What they consider acceptable… is the inverse of what the ‘Greatest’ Generation would have considered acceptable, everything from living together as a norm before marriage to viewing same-sex ‘marriage’ as a ‘non-issue’ because they cannot see why others are hung up with it. This does not bode well, because the younger members of this generation are starting to show the signs of a spirit that will become full blown in the next generation” (37-38).
The Sixth Generation (pause) are those born within the last 5-7 years and continuing for another decade or so. “This generation will have a spirit that is not like any of the other generations” (38). It is a spirit of paganism, fueled by the licentiousness and depravity passed down from the last couple of generations. There is also the vice of curiosity. This is not meant in the way of “someone who simply wants to learn more. Rather, (curiosity) is used to indicate an intellectual vice in which a person seeks after knowledge that is not suited to his state in life. We need only look to the drastic rise in the practice of witchcraft, curiosity in the occult, and the popularity of Harry Potter, the Twilight saga, and other vampire and werewolf movies (cf. 38). “The trajectory of moral depravity and curiosity in occult matters will result in the next generation wanting or actually having open worship of other ‘gods’”(38). This is a bleak picture that I have painted. These are the signs of the times. When the fig tree’s branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that that He is near, at the gates.
I have been describing broad trends in the secular world around us. We are part of that world; affected by it, but not bound to it. We are in the world, but not of it. It can be a discouraging picture out there. But in here, all is bright with heavenly light. The Holy Spirit is at work among the young generation today. Many who are coming of age today recognize the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith in all its richness. They readily see how the rejection of traditional, orthodox Catholicism has deprived them of their spiritual inheritance, but they are claiming it back. Each generation is called by God to accomplish certain tasks, to fight off certain evils, and to achieve certain perfection. The Holy Spirit is now giving this generation what was not passed down to them. They are receiving Catholic tradition and they love it. Some among their elders are dumbfounded. They say, “How can the young generation love what we discarded?”
The Popes have continually called us to restoration and Pope Benedict is a reformer denouncing the abuses that have been inflicted upon the Church falsely in the name of Vatican II. The youth are leading this reform and revival. We as a Catholic people need to see this as an olive branch from God. We need to encourage our youth to embrace discipline, obedience, and docility in the face of God and Catholic tradition. The restoration of the Catholic faith and culture, of Catholic liturgy, and sacred music from the devastation of the last 50 years is our source of hope for the future of the world and especially for the future of America. And so we must be vigilant and not lose hope. “God will not abandon man; extraordinary graces appear to be given to the children of the younger generation which have rarely been seen” (Ripperger 38).