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Virtue is NOT Ageist!

Anecdote: I write this opinion piece with never being a parent but having worked with and watching young people.


Through a century from 1923 to 2023, the differences between generations is obvious. There's no denying everyone faces and indulges in more temptations than ever, especially young people. What happened? How did we get here? What happened to our expectations of our youth?

The Evolution of Virtue

Over the past century, we've had the industrial and technological revolutions. Life has never been so easy and painless for an average person than today. Additionally, traditional values of hard work and raising a family have fallen out of popularity in favor of more self-serving lifestyles. This has left us with a lot more extra time on our hands, much of it we don't spend constructively. We also had better role models in our parents, community, and the culture. Lastly, we've forgotten or don't believe in the point of life: to live an eternity with Christ.

For our youth, add in raging hormones, degenerate cultural influences, an underdeveloped decision-making brain, and inexperience of life. Our culture’s expectations (and respect) for young people has unsurprisingly declined, probably because the bar has been lowered for broader society.

The Point of Life

If you are a Catholic Christian, you understand that the point to life is to spend an eternity in Heaven with God in Paradise. We believe to get there is through faith and works. It matters what you do on this earth. While God's mercy is never ending, we know the saints Heaven are those that lived particularly virtuous lives. So basically, live a life of virtue to help you get to Heaven.

It bothers me to no end how we are not guiding our youth to this fact of life.

Nurturing the Potential of Today's Youth

All adults, especially parents and youth ministers, hold the key to unlocking the potential of today's youth. I would argue we have an obligation. Why are some apathetically allowing our youth to fall into the snares of the devil when they have the potential to live a saintly life right now? Maybe we think it's just too difficult. Maybe we think young adulthood is too late to instruct virtue. Maybe it's because we ourselves don't know how to live it ourselves.

Regardless of the reason, we can still guide and encourage people toward virtue even when they’re hormonal and emotional teenagers. While the practice for virtue has seemingly ceased, the capacity for virtue has not changed. Everyone has the potential for sainthood regardless of any demographic. Age, Sex, race, income, neighborhood, political affiliation, height, eye color, favorite flavor of ice cream, addiction, habitual sin, mistakes you've made... Christ calls all of us to greatness. It's up to us to remind teens of this fact.

Don’t think “virtuous” and “teenager” belong in the same sentence? I have three examples to prove you wrong.

Inspiration from Young Saints

Blessed Carlo Acutis (Died at 15)

Blessed Carlo Acutis, an inspiring Italian teenager, lived a life of deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist. At the age of fifteen, he created a website documenting Eucharistic miracles, showcasing his love for God and his fellow believers. The book, Carlo Acutis - A Millennial in Paradise, countless peers testify to his infectious love for Christ. Tragically, he passed away at the young age of fifteen due to leukemia, leaving a lasting legacy of faith and holiness that continues to inspire people worldwide.

St. Joan of Arc (Died at 19)

St. Joan of Arc was a peasant girl from France who fearlessly answered a divine calling at just seventeen. Her courage and unwavering faith led her to lead the French army to victories during the Hundred Years' War. She even got shot by an arrow during a battle and lived. At the conclusion of the war, she faced persecution from British authorities (some even clergy from the Church!). St. Joan was accused and “found” guilty of heresy, and was executed by burning at the stake. Her story remains a powerful symbol of bravery and faithfulness that continues to inspire people to this day.

St. Maria Goretti (Died at 12)

St. Maria Goretti, a young Italian girl, lived a life of exceptional virtue and purity. At the tender age of twelve, Alessandro Serenelli attempted to sexually assault Maria, but she resisted, begging him not to endanger his soul. He instead stabbed her several times before she escaped. She later died of her wounds but not before she chose to forgive her assailant. Alessandro underwent a remarkable transformation. During his imprisonment, he saw a vision of St. Maria with the Blessed Mother, sought forgiveness for his heinous act, and reconciled with Maria's family. He even attended St. Maria’s canonization. St. Maria is a prime example of the power of forgiveness.

How to solve this problem?

The only possible answer I will discuss here is that we must address the role models of our youth. Who are they paying attention to? What are their friends like? Who are they following on Instagram? What music are they listening to? Have their parents demonstrated what striving for virtue looks like? Who have their parents encouraged their children to look up to? What is the measure of virtue of each group of these people?

What I'm trying to say is monkey see, monkey do.

I'll leave the official, more extensive answer to my friends at LifeTeen, Ascension, and other stellar faith formation organizations.

The journey towards virtue is a path for everyone of all ages, even though we all struggle with brokenness and sin. This is especially true for young people, who are capable of tremendous growth and positive transformation with empathetic guidance. By acknowledging the potential for greatness within each young man or woman and providing them with the tools to cultivate virtue, we empower them with tools on the journey to sainthood. Let's embrace the responsibility of fostering an environment that encourages young individuals to strive for virtue, enabling them to make a positive impact on society and lead lives filled with purpose, compassion, integrity, and Christ.

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