Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Much of what I read in Catholic blogs is intelligent and fervent, but also callow and vulgar. Some words by the Cistercian monk Dom Armand Veilleux may shed light on why this is so.

I had been asked to speak on the "spirituality" of the religious life, a very vast subject. During the preparatory meetings it was decided that each conference could follow a different pattern, and that mine would be more of a "meditation". It seemed important to me that this meditation should be substantial in content, and above all that it should give a consistent overall-vision of all aspects of the vocation and spirituality of the religious life. I must say the young people listened very attentively, with patience and charity, but I do not believe—and I say it without false humility and without any other complex—I do not believe that what I said left much impression on them, except among the older ones. Which makes me realize that perhaps I no longer speak the language of the young.
—Armand Veilleux, “What We Learned from and about the Young People at the Congress [of Young Women and Men Religious in Rome on October 1, 1997]”. See the text of Dom Armand’s “meditation”: “Guided by the Spirit Meditation on the Spirituality of the Consecrated Life”.

Dom Armand continues:

It must be said that my meditation was followed by four testimonies, which were all of a very high standard, and which certainly impressed the young people much more than my profound meditations! Independently of what my ego could have felt or not felt about it, this led me to reflect—precisely—on testimonies and reflection. Young people show a great sensibility, a great capacity to let themselves be moved, roused to enthusiasm; but much less to make a deep reflection, either on what is said to them or on life itself.

This is my impression of blogs, which are deficient by the following test:

To listen to these descriptions is captivating and encouraging, this is obvious and a very good thing. But, except in rare cases, will it have a lasting influence on the lives of the young people, without some effort of reflection? And, obviously, the reflection cannot focus on the experience itself that one has just heard described and which one can only know partially—the testimony of those who live with the witnesses has not been heard—but on the basic questions posed by these witnesses.

Now, I did not perceive in these young people at the Congress—and this is probably characteristic of young (and not so young) people in general today—a great capacity for reflection, for analysis of situations and aspects of their religious life. It seems to me that we have here an important concern for formators. The support and encouragement that comes from examples and testimonies is important, but it is no longer enough in times of great difficulty. It is necessary to habituate young people to analyze situations and constantly reflect on the meaning of what they are experiencing, so that they can continue to experience it when perhaps they no longer feel anything.

We must know that only in and through Jesus are we sons of the Father, and that we have no right to say “Our Father” unless Jesus is Our Lord. (See Matthew 5:44-45).


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