A Lost Generation

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Recently the term “a lost generation” has been popping up in many conversations, and it seems unusual now, when you think about the context in which this expression originated.

Gertrude Stein is supposed to have coined this term, in reference to people who were “lost” after the First World War. They were confused, disoriented, disillusioned, and searching for meaning in their lives.

If literature is a mirror of the society of its time, then Ernest Hemingway aptly said in the epigraph of his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, “You are all a lost generation.” That was then, but why today? The answer lies in the fact that young people like those of long ago are also searching in a world that appears upside down. Traditional values have flown out the window.

The term today is being used in reference to young adults who have wandered away from God and religion. Often, very often, people will approach me and say, “Please pray for my children. They have stopped going to church.” Or another will say in confidence, “I don’t know what happened. My children used to pray regularly, receive the sacraments, and now they don’t care.” The pain and anguish of these parents is tangible.

In discussions with the young, and not so young, the word “hypocrisy” is reiterated. They maintain that there is such hypocrisy in the church, so why bother to go to listen to some “boring” homily on the same old subjects. However, hypocrisy was present even when Jesus lived. He was constantly pointing out the folly of following the Letter of the Law, when people missed the Spirit of the Law.

Our churches today are filled with grey haired folk on their knees, praying intensely for the lost members of the congregation to return. Prayer, persistent prayer is an important way to bring the wanderers back.

A Jesuit priest once told a parent in distress, “Leave the porch light on.” The prodigals will return. St. Monica is an example par excellence of a mother who never gave up on her wayward son, and we know him as St. Augustine who said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” He regretted not coming to know and love the Lord earlier in his life. His was a dramatic move from sinner to saint, like St. Paul.

It isn’t easy to wait and pray when the situation seems desperate. In our own day, we have Fr. Donald H. Calloway’s MIC personal testimony of his amazing conversion from a delinquent to an adult faith, and then on to the priesthood. His mother never stopped praying for him.

To hear him speak, and to read his book No Turning Back – A Witness to Mercy gives one hope to truly trust in Our Lord’s mercy. He experienced what he calls a “divine detox.” He goes on to say, “God wasn’t taking a band-aid approach with me. He was acting as the Divine Physician and operating on my soul. It was painful at first. But once the spiritual operation was in progress, I realized He was healing me and that He loved me and was restoring me. I felt an enormous sense of relief.” There is HOPE.

But what do we do while waiting for the seemingly “lost generation” to return and be saved? They may not be ready to listen to us, and are too busy texting to hear the whispers of God. So, we praise God aloud, and thank him for walking with us, and awakening us to joyful hope.

Praying the Psalms gives us the opportunity to both praise, and question God, for there is a psalm for every mood. We then receive consolation in the midst of desolation, as we seek special moments with God who knows well our disappointment.

We have sometimes sung, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho…..and the walls came tumbling down.” Joshua marched around Jericho for six days believing that God would deliver the enemies of Israel into their hands. On the seventh day the Israelites blew their trumpets and shouted, trusting and praising God, and what was considered impossible, became possible.

God’s word says “Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).When the going gets tough, and we are inclined to despair, let us remember God’s goodness in the past, and sing with expectant faith:

In His time, in His time,

He makes all things beautiful in His time.

Lord, please show me every day

As you’re teaching me your ways

That you do just what you say, in your time.

Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

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9 Comments
  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 02:23h, 27 June Reply

    Viola, this is a timely, welcoming and uplifting article for all parents and those who care about the future of young people to never give up hope. The Father never gave up on His prodigal son, and in the end he saw the light and returned home!

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 02:52h, 27 June Reply

    So full of meaningful truths and so beautifully expressed. Viola rightly points out that if we pray with confidence, a lost generation will return to the fold through the grace of God’s mercy.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:23h, 27 June Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Daniel Leckman
    Posted at 11:00h, 27 June Reply

    Thanks for your Blog Viola. It’s definitely a difficult issue to address! I read Callaway’s book years ago during my pilgrimage. I deeply appreciated his own radical conversion. It was inspiring to see. I was also immensely turned off by his aversion to the work of social justice some nuns were doing. His general closed-mindedness towards contemporary culture was not very edifying to me. The challenge for us Catholics I feel is that we need to engage with the culture, not point a finger at it and cry out ‘sinner’. I think that’s the hypocrisy young people see in us. They see us judging others of being sinful when we ourselves are not free of sins, obviously! But how to engage with modern day culture and still maintain our Catholic identity…that’s the challenge for the 21st century Church!

  • Carol von Zuben
    Posted at 11:35h, 27 June Reply

    Viola, this is absolutely beautiful ! Thank you so much.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:08h, 27 June Reply

    This message of yours Viola, brings much Hope to us. Your words are so succinct and exactly the experience we are witnessing in our present days. Well put Viola, this awareness is vital and our answer is persistent and consistent daily prayer for the “nones” of this generation.
    Bishop Robert Barrons recent book Letter to a suffering church, provides us with support and hope that we need as well. Thank you Viola!!

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 12:14h, 27 June Reply

    Your article on the coined phrase “the lost generation”is very interesting and thought provoking Viola.What came to mind for me was the epidemic of aids in Africa, and how grandmothers stepped in to raise grandchildren. We are all searching which can bring transformation. Sometimes tradition through the trans-formative process of searching is the vitality of newness realized through the blending of the young and the old. It is often difficult to see God’s way in our pain.

  • Christine Domingo
    Posted at 13:16h, 27 June Reply

    Dear Viola … thank you for this beautiful reflection … a teaching in itself! Yes, we are living in a day and age fraught with turmoil at all levels and ages. Your article is inspirational and provides much food for thought. God bless you and thank you again for sharing. Christine

  • Paul M Howard
    Posted at 16:18h, 03 July Reply

    Hi Viola…in the midst of rushing around, e.g. visiting Jean’s family in Cincinnati, I missed your post. You are such a good writer, who is able to summon up much from your leading Scripture in the parish and Windows on Theology at Regis. Jean and Paul

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