At one lunch early this year, talk turned to the growing incidence of depression, even suicide, among teens and young adults. But why? The women wanted an explanation.
One said, “But these kids have everything, know everything. Gratification is so instant.”
Another said, “That’s why they have no fear, no fear even to take their own lives.”
I said, “Perhaps it’s like a video game to them. Zap! Game over. They’re so desensitized even when it comes to violence, even to ending their own lives.”
Then still another said, “They know everything. But they don’t know mortal sin, or venial sin.”
Obviously that table was filled with women who graduated from private Catholic schools. One added, “Our youth was spent distinguishing between mortal and venial sins. We had to avoid mortal sin so we could take Holy Communion.”
It was then I said, “Perhaps unlike us, today’s kids have less fear of God, or even no fear of God, so they do as they please with everything, even their bodies. So smug and all knowing. They’re not afraid to commit mortal sin, unlike us.”
Then somebody cut in, “Yeah, that’s why our minds got all screwed up. This religion of fear.”
Silence. Change topic. Even before dessert.
But even if such discussion continued, there could have been no resolution to it.
There’s no denying that today’s kids grow up not only pampered and comfortable; they also have and know everything. Gadgets shape them, their peers direct them or raise the bar in life for them.
To those who go to nonsectarian schools, religion is optional. God is a distant concept—He is some theory. Worse, He may not be cool.
What I would have wanted to say at that lunch was, perhaps if today’s kids had an ongoing relationship with God, they wouldn’t feel so alienated and alone. If they couldn’t talk to their parents or friends, they could have at least a spiritual being to talk to. Or, at least some fear of God.
Trust in a power greater and more loving than yours. I believe it’s called faith.
We grew up in an environment where, if all else had failed, just pray and believe that things would be all right. That was how I survived Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry—and a perfect teacher who taught perfect Algebra/Geo/Trigo. I prayed, on my knees, in our grade school chapel way into dismissal time, promising to pray the novena to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (I forgot the reason for the choice of veneration) regularly if my Trigo grade would go from 70 to 75. Yes, that would be quite a leap—in the final grading period, which could determine whether or not I passed grade seven. I did—make that miraculous leap to 75. Turned out, Trigonometry (or was it Geometry) was a piece of cake compared to what would come later in life, and I’m talking not only of Physics. And I’ve kept my promise to Our Lady.
I’m not sure if my sons have made similar pacts with God. As they were growing up in a sectarian school, I just provided them the similar structures of religion I had in my youth—going to Mass every Sunday, praying the rosary (or at least having it around), observing liturgical rites. What some call showcase Catholicism. Well, if not genuine faith, at least piety.
I like to think that somehow these rites and rituals—the liturgy—have given them habits that provide them stability and predictability in their daily lives. And that somehow, through the years, they have developed a relationship—a very personal one—with a spiritual being, where not even I could intrude.
The joy of faith
My sons are grown up. Too grown up for a mother to dictate to (not that I don’t try).
The Gen Zers, however, are a different breed altogether. Their world has everything—one hopes it includes parents and true friends.
They have it easy. Even giving up is easy for them. A friend introduced me to the notion that, if their older generation was noted for not having enough EQ (Emotional Quotient), this Gen Z is known for not having enough AQ (Adversity Quotient). The Gen Z couldn’t face adversity.
The irony is, these kids are growing up in a world facing not just crisis—but even contagion.
Perhaps today’s kids already know everything there is to know about COVID-19, just like they do about robotics and all the apps. All sorts of experiences are just a click away from them.
Yet knowledge and information are never enough to give children a sense of security and comfort.
Parents must introduce children to the joy of faith. They must know the feeling of peace and calm emanating from their trust in a being more powerful than they are. Kids must learn to trust not only in their peers or elders, but also in a divine being. I asked a friend suffering from depression if, after talking to his shrink, he could try talking to Our Lady, for a change. He did. And he told me that praying the rosary has helped him.
The more kids see of the world—and the thrills it has to offer—the greater alienation they feel. They have a fear of missing out, thanks to social media.
Now that their world of abundance also teems with COVID-19, children are locked down at home, like everyone else.
They need a God they can come home to every day. Believe me. INQ