Opinion6 170224

Youth Was Made for Heroism

Evening shadows deepen as darkness falls. The heat of the day is fading before the refreshing coolness of evening. The sound of many feet on the gravel road causes us to turn, and we see a column of young men approach, their voices blending harmoniously in the recital of the Holy Rosary. They carry a statue of Our Lady, which seems to hover gracefully above their heads.

Their gazes are calm and express a seriousness mixed with a joy that is not often seen in youth today. From the steadfastness of their bearing and their purposeful gait it is obvious they are absorbed in the profound meaning of what they are doing.

While many other young men their age are beginning their evening with only fun and entertainment in mind, these young men are beginning it by praying.

Yet they are not weird young men. As dusk gives way to night, they will relax overboard games, read, enjoy each other’s company around a campfire, and renew their energies for tomorrow.

Young people have a spontaneous idealism that predisposes them to be enthusiastic for great causes and great enterprises. A good Catholic formation will know how to foster this idealism and channel it constructively.

When reinforced by virtue, this idealism can lead to heroism. Idealism is, in fact, the springboard to heroism. If allowed to flourish and guided properly, it produces great vocations to religious life, as well as Catholic laymen whose example and leadership edifies all those around them. It produces saints.

In today’s world, both boys and girls are told they were made for pleasure. They are encouraged from their earliest years to believe the sole reason for their existence is to have as much pleasure as possible. They are encouraged to satisfy every desire for fun and entertainment. They are told that to be ‘spontaneous’ they should repress none of their bad tendencies nor exert any self-control over their whims and caprices. If there is a principle, a guiding philosophy, which typifies this sort of youth it is: “I want everything; I want it now; and it want it forever.”

The tragedy is they are not told this craving for constant fun, entertainment and pleasure will not give them self-fulfillment and happiness – but only frustration.

Their frustration is seen in their boredom with every pleasure almost as soon as they have it. Their souls, starved of idealism and heroism, turn away from the tediousness of their materialistic lives to escape into a make-believe world of fantasy. When the fantasies wear out they seek escape in drugs.

It is a mistake to think that which satisfies older people will also satisfy youth. Security, comfort, and social status may matter to them. But far more important to them is a challenge, the sort of challenge that gives them an outlet for their idealism; the challenge that causes virtuous souls to become heroes.

As the writer Paul Claudel tells us, youth was made for heroism not for pleasure!

Opinion piece written by Paul Folley.

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