Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Complete list of all articles by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/04/24 at 12:00 AM

The whole series:

01 Is It Just Semantics? – Love

02 Is God God or Are You God? – Purpose & change

03 Contemporary Mischief – Same-sex “marriage”

04 Correct Answer? – Divinity of Church

05 Abortion, A Realistic Viewpoint – Abortion

06 Moslems/Muslims – Islam

07 What is Truth? – Truth

08 Being Objective About Being Subjective – The difference between the two

09 Catholic Christians? – Are Catholics really Christians?

10 What is in a Name? – True Christians

11 Baal and the Tooth Fairy – False gods

12 Rest in Pieces? – Societal decline

13 Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin – Blessed Virgin Mary

14 “Now Let’s Not Be Judgmental” – What is true judgment

15 Art of Conscience – Correct conscience

16 Is That Fr. Phillis? – Women’s ordination

17 The 800 lb. Gorilla – Secularism

18 Some Truths About False Gods – False gods

19 Is Any Religion True? – Man is religious by nature

20 The Dropouts

21 The Great Deception – Sin

22 The Unpreached Sermon: “a layman thinking like a priest” – Christmas/Easter Catholics

23 Let’s Get Real – Reality examined

24 The Siblings of Christ?

25 What Could Have Been – Christmas

26 Coming Storm – Coming persecution

27 The Mythical God – False ideas about God

28 And The Blind Shall Lead – False ideas

29 Freedom, A Paradox – Free Will

30 A Helluva Place – Hell & Damnation

31 Consequences – World without God

32 Mind Over Matter – Truth

33 Life in a Mirage – Effects of immorality

33 A Trilogy of the Unreal – Separation of Church & State; Taking “offense”; Necessity of Morality

34 Signs For Our Times – Introduction & Part I: Unity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

34 Signs For Our Times – Part II: Holiness of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

35 Signs For Our Times – Part III: Catholicity of the Church; Part IV: Apostolicity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

37 Semantics of Easter – Easter & Christmas Catholics

38 Another Easter? – Easter Sunday

39 The Bible – A Perspective

40 Abstractions? – Liberal/Conservative

41 The Wanderers – God

42 With All Due Respect – Morality

43 Good Intentions – Moral illusions

44 Ideas and Consequences -Illusions

45 Searching For What Is Not Lost – Lapsed

46 Taking Chances – Mercy

47 Dabbling With Dogma

48 What Did You Expect?

45 Deceptive Labels

50 Forgotten, But Not Gone





Christians must guard against slyness of the devil

In Uncategorized on 2014/10/24 at 12:00 AM
ROME, ITALY(CNA/EWTN News)  The Holy Father warned of the discreet presence of the devil, exhorting those gathered to be astute in their spiritual lives.“We must always be on guard,” exhorted the Pope to those who attended Mass in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, “on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”Referencing the day’s gospel reading, in which Jesus has just healed a possessed man and is accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil, the Pope noted that often in history there have been those who wish to “diminish the power of the Lord” by offering different explanations for his works, urging that his is a temptation which has “reached our present day.”“There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: ‘But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness.’”“It is true,” he affirmed, “that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter. No!”“The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”Observing that the Lord has given many criteria in order to “discern” the presence of evil in our lives, the Pope stressed that “we should not be naïve,” and that one of the criteria which has been given is “not to follow the victory of Jesus” just “halfway.”“Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me” he said, noting that Jesus came to conquer the devil and “to give us the freedom” from “the enslavement the devil has over us,” which he cautioned, is not “exaggerating.”“On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation; eternal salvation.”

He exhorted those in attendance to question themselves, asking “Do I guard myself, my heart, my feelings, my thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I guard the presence of the Holy Spirit in me? Or do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well?”

“If you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come,” warned Pope Francis, “But if someone stronger comes and overcomes, he takes away the weapons in which one trusted, and he shall divide the spoil.”

“Vigilance…Do not confuse the truth!” stressed the pontiff, giving three criteria of his own to use in the spiritual combat.

“Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day.”

Pope Francis recounted the biblical analogy of the impure spirit who leaves a man, noting that once the spirit is gone “it wanders in deserted places, and seeking rest and finding none, says: ‘I will return to my house, from which I left.’”

When the spirit returns and finds it “swept clean and adorned,” he explained, it then “takes another seven spirits worse than he, who come and make their homes,” and in that way “the last state of man becomes worse than the first.”

“Vigilance,” he stressed, “because his strategy is this: ‘You became Christian. Advance in your faith. I will leave you. I will leave you tranquil. But then when you are used to not being so watchful and you feel secure, I will come back.’”

“The Gospel today begins with the devil being cast out and ends with the devil coming back! These are not lies,” he urged, “it is the Word of the Lord!”

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil! He seeks to return home, to take possession of us… Do not relativize; be vigilant! And always with Jesus!”

National Catholic News Agency

American Women and the Culture Wars

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2014/05/16 at 12:00 AM

The twenty fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of women (Mulieris Dignitatem) is upon us. The apostolic letter was given in Rome on August at St. Peter’s on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 1988, the tenth of the reign of the soon-to-be Saint Pope John Paul II — and what a document it remains!

I have been asked to write a few words on the letter to see if anything has changed vis-à-vis Catholic women in the Church’s teaching on women and their role as a result of the past 25 years and as a result of the document. I will only attempt to speak about the United States, even though I have traveled to a good number of at least nominally Catholic countries since the apostolic letter was published.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the teaching of Blessed John Paul’s letter.

We are told in Genesis 1:27 that God created man in His own image—and that He created them male and female. As Pope John Paul II put it, “This passage indicates that men and women are essentially equal from the standpoint of their humanity, they both reflect the likeness of God.” However, sin entered the world (no finger pointing at who is to be blamed!) and destroyed the unity that man and woman generated in the state of original justice; it also damaged the relationship of man and woman as a community of persons.

Continue reading…

The Wanderers

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2014/03/07 at 12:00 AM

In the long history of the human race, never have humans been as conflicted as they are today.  Technology has made the whole world accessible to almost anyone.  Yet, in spite of this new familiarity, there is hardly a section of the world not in some kind of turmoil from wars, terrorism, civil unrest, etc.  There is a widespread attitude of “What’s next?”.  Modern man is miserable and frustrated.  He does not know where he came from, why he is here, and where he is going.  In a word, he is alienated from himself, from people (often even his own family), his work, his civic responsibilities, his past, and his future.

The root cause of his problem is that he is first alienated from God, without whom life is meaningless.  Because he has rejected God, man has lost the standard of rational thinking and his ability to deal sensibly with his world and the world of others.  Without God, there can be no rational or moral standards beyond those made by the “movers and shakers” of society.  We know how well that has worked over the last 60 or so years.  What are the causes of this human upheaval?  How did modern man lose sight of what is so vitally necessary to his well-being?

The first cause is SIN . . . sin in the traditional sense of the Ten Commandments, not the politically-correct sins of racism, sexism, and homophobia to the exclusion of the Commandments.  Habits of serious sin break any connection we might have with God because He is a holy God, and He and sin are incompatible.  Sin alienates the sinner from God.  Those who never or rarely attend worship services, those having affairs, those promoting abortion,  the promiscuous, by their actions, have objectively separated themselves from God.  We saw the effects of sin in the story of Adam and Eve.  We cannot serve two masters, God and Devil.  We must choose by our lifestyle.

Some people sense instinctively that they are living immoral lives, and to make themselves feel better, they grasp at false teachings of the incompetent in order to be able to keep their pet sins.  For example, the false doctrine that there is no hell or if there is, it is not eternal.  Very comforting to the sinner and very false.  Then there is the common idea that all religions are pretty much the same, and all the sinner needs to do is find a religion that approves of his immoral life.  If one wishes to live the gay lifestyle, it is easy to find a church that will accommodate that wish, forgetting or ignoring the fact that no Church or no human being has any authority to veto a divine command.  (A human may announce a veto, but God does not ratify it.)

The ultimate purpose of human life, believe it or like it or not, is to be reunited with our Creator after death.  Our souls come from God, and we are meant to return to Him.  Habitual serious sin makes that impossible and makes life an ultimate failure.

Another cause of alienation is the CULTURE we live in.  In the story of Noah, we are told that God destroyed most of the human race because they were so immoral.  What does that say about us?  Those people did not have anywhere near the means to sin we have and which some use without a second thought.  The result has been chaos because sin, by its very nature, is irrational and unnatural.  To indulge in it habitually is to act abnormally.  “Right is right even if no one is right, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is wrong.”

The contemporary culture of the Western world is Godless and immoral.  The culture advocates sin; it applauds it; it invents new sins of which earlier people could not have conceived.  The chief movers of society show a disdain for God in the sense that they do not consider religion to be of great importance beyond a person’s private “hobby.”  The film and TV industries are always extending the range of vulgarity, and the internet generates a multi-billion dollar porn output.  The print media is seen as so biased that they have become a joke.  Fair reporting died long ago.  Democrats can do no wrong; Republicans can do no right.

Education at all levels is atheistic in practice.  Schools do not teach about moral right and wrong.  (One could wonder if there is a connection between that and the increasing disciplinary problem at all levels.)  The ACLU lies lurking somewhere to catch some child doing something religious.  (Their venom is aimed mainly and mostly at the Christian religion.)  We don’t want religion in school because someone . . . whoever that is . . . “might be offended.”  The irrational rationale is usually the so-called separation of Church and State, an idea found in neither the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution.  Our culture is awash in sin.  There is no charismatic voice to object to any of this.  Those few who do express opposition are vilified because those on the wrong side cannot justify their positions with any convincing arguments; it is easier and more effective to call your opponent names. Global warming, like evolution, has been declared a proven fact (neither one has actually), but to go counter to these prevailing orthodoxies is to risk at least ridicule, but never a counter-argument.

The reason is the culture does not believe in objective truth.  Truth is what the individual says it is, and that’s final.  Applied to morals, the result is moral chaos and cannot be other than that.  Humans devise laws because too many people cannot be relied on to use common sense.

It is not easy to resist a culture because it impinges on so many aspects of life.  It makes demands; it makes judgments; it censors.  But cultures come and go.  God is still God; Truth is still Truth; error is still error.  We will be judged by our attitude to Divine Truth, not cultural truth.  Modern man has allied himself with the culture, a totally selfish and false ally.

Modern man is a wanderer.  He has no guide, no map, no compass.  He has decided that he can walk through life using his own skills.  The result is a life of doubt, fear, uncertainty and apprehension about the future.  He wanders in his alienation.  He has no idea where he is going or where he should be going.  Unless he realizes his folly, he will wander right over the cliff.

Remember the lament of the unrepentant sinner: “The past has deceived me; the present torments, and the future terrifies me.”

I Told You So

In 13 History on 2014/02/07 at 12:00 AM

PAUL-VI-243x300A recent perusal of any social networking site has probably led you to realize that that Pope Paul VI has again been justified in his predictions about contraception’s impact on society and culture. Especially when he stated,

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” (from Humanae Vitae)

No, it wasn’t Miley and Robin’s “performance” at the MTV Video Music Awards (although that’s a pretty good sign of the “general lowering of moral standards”, too).

It was a very sad piece from a blog dedicated to “heterosexual, masculine males” who represent a “small, but vocal collection of men in America today who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine” ironically called, “Return of Kings.”

National Catholic News Agency

The title of the article?

“How To Convince A Girl To Get An Abortion”

That’s right. There’s nothing that defines a dude as a “masculine male” like someone who impregnates his girlfriend, “long term booty call”, or “ONS” (one-night-stand – as the author so tenderly puts it) and then lies and uses manipulation to force her to kill their child.

The author suggests a few tactics for the poor, oppressed bro-choicer who, unlike women, lacks “reproductive rights in opting out of being a parent.” Since the male version of the Pill doesn’t exist yet, the author explains, he’s left with no option to maintain his lifestyle but abortion. (In another post the author reveals that he’s undergone a vasectomy, so he no longer has to worry about the natural result of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman interfering with his game, but before that, these tactics worked for him).

I won’t bore you with any more of the sociopath-esque tactics or even link to that particular article – it’s already received a bump in web traffic because of all the controversy – but what I will mention is how pleasantly surprised I was when I read the comments from some of the readers who’d most likely found the page because of a post on a like-minded friend’s Facebook or Twitter account.

The first comment that caught my eye was from a man who said, “Everyone has the right to live, ideal conditions or not. Even a child born into poverty can make a huge impact in society. They deserve an opportunity.”

Others chimed in below with some great thoughts like, “A ‘masculine man’ does not deceive. Does not cheat to get his way. Does not disrespect a woman. Does not abuse or belittle the disabled.”

(Part of the article suggests lying to the woman by telling her that although he would “love to have children” it would be unfair to the child because he is the carrier of “a rare genetic disease that is common” in his family.)

Another commenter expressed regret over having taken his girlfriend to get an abortion 15 years ago and that the decision “still haunts me til this day.” Another agreed with him saying he also made that decision and, “It ruins so many lives. Not just the unborn.”

A couple commenters even linked to post-abortion help websites like Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More, encouraging those men to seek healing and forgiveness for their decisions.

One commenter replied to the article saying, “Any man who does not understand the joys of having a child in marriage and how children are a real blessing, watching them and knowing that they are part you and part the woman you love and care for (which make for far better intimate life) really does not know how to live.”

Some of more of my personal favorites were the following:

“We were never meant to kill our children.”

“Everyone will experience suffering in their lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to murder them.”

“I know plenty of men and women who weren’t wanted as children, some were abused. They grew to be happy, well adjusted adults. This excuse is a cop-out and quite frankly, a lame and desperate stand for abortion.”

“Learn something beautiful about human life and sexuality. This culture is killing you.”

“How about someone write an article about how to convince your girlfriend to give up your unwanted child for adoption?”

“Good relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. Abortion requests destroy that trust!”

I wouldn’t recommend reading the article or diving into the comment board (it devolves into name-calling and crass language pretty quickly), but I would recommend being a witness to life on the internet when things like this hit the mainstream.

If you’re really looking for something to explain the reasoning behind this article, you should click here. Apparently these “kings” would like to take down all the “white knights” (men who treat women as more than sex objects) because upstanding men are “a worm that eats at the apple of masculinity.”

Sadly, this too is not satire. Again, Paul VI was right.

“Culture of Death”

In 07 Observations on 2014/01/24 at 12:00 AM

While the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

Source: Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae #12

For the whole article, please go to   http://www.vatican.va/index.htm

The Pope Emphasizes the Importance of Education in the New Context of Our Age

In 07 Observations on 2013/03/01 at 9:11 AM

The Pope focused on the theme of education, one of the principal challenges of our times and which today is located “in a context in which the evolution of ways of life and forms of knowledge create human, cultural, social and spiritual ruptures hitherto unknown in the history of humanity”.

In this regard, he also mentioned that social networks “tend to substitute natural social and communicative spaces, often becoming the only point of reference for information and knowledge. The family and schools no longer appear to be the primary or most natural fertile ground where younger generations receive the lifeblood of their existence. … Schools and universities seem to have become incapable of creative projects leading to a transcendental teleology able to attract young people in the very depths of their being. … Today’s world and its responsible adults are not able to provide them with the necessary points of reference”.

The Holy Father asked whether the dysfunction of certain institutions and services, both public and private, can be explained “by an inadequately provided and received education”, and went on to invite the governments of the nations represented by the ambassadors “to contribute courageously to the advancement of humanity, favouring the education of the new generations through the promotion of a healthy anthropology, the essential basis for all true education, and consonant with our common natural heritage. This task must take as its starting point a sober review of the various problems that exist within your respective countries, where certain political and economic policies may risk a gradual erosion of your anthropological and spiritual heritages, which have been refined through the centuries and patiently constructed on foundations that respect the essence of the human person in all its variety and in perfect harmony with the cosmos”. The Pope continued, “I again urge your governments to have the courage to strengthen and consolidate the moral authority – the call to a coherent way of life – necessary for a genuine and healthy education for the younger generations”.

“The right to an education in correct values can be neither denied nor neglected. The duty to educate in these values must never be limited or weakened by any form of national or supranational political interest. Therefore it is essential to educate in and about the truth: … the truth about mankind, about creation, about institutions, and so on. Alongside education in the righteousness of the heart and mind, the young also need, now more than ever, to be educated in the meaning of effort and perseverance in the face of difficulty. They need to recognise that all human action must be responsible and coherent with the desire for the infinite, and that this action should form a part of their growth, with a view to developing a humanity that is increasingly fraternal and free from the temptations of individualism and materialism”.

Vatican Information Service #121213

Man is a Seeker of the Absolute

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2013/02/28 at 11:11 AM

Benedict XVI, continuing a series of catecheses on the subject of Catholic faith, focused on what, he said, “is a fascinating aspect of human and Christian experience: the fact that man carries within him a mysterious desire for God”.

Such an affirmation, the Pope went on, “may seem provocative in the context of secularised Western culture. Many of our contemporaries could, in fact, object that they feel not the slightest desire for God. For large sectors of society He is no longer awaited or desired; rather He leaves people indifferent, something about which they do not even have to make an effort to express themselves.

“Yet the fact is that what we have defined as ‘desire for God’ has not completely disappeared and still today it emerges in man’s heart in many different ways. Human desire always tends towards certain concrete things which are often anything but spiritual, yet it nonetheless has to consider the question of what good truly is, and this means facing something other than itself, something man cannot construct but is called to recognise. What is it that can truly satisfy man’s desire?

“In my first Encyclical ‘Deus caritas est’ I sought to examine how this phenomenon is realised in the experience of human love, which in our time is most easily recognised as a moment of ecstasy and abandonment, a place in which man has the experience of being overcome by a desire greater than himself. Through love a man and a woman, the one thanks to the other, enjoy a new experience of the greatness and beauty of life and reality. If what I experience is not a mere illusion, if I truly wish the other’s good, also as a way to my own good, then I must be ready not to focus on my own self, to place myself at the service of the other, even to the point of self-renouncement. Thus the answer to the question about the meaning of the experience of love involves the purification and healing of desire, which is a requirement of the love we bear the other.

“We must exercise, train and correct ourselves so that we can truly love others”, Pope Benedict added. Yet “not even the beloved is capable of satisfying the desire that dwells in the human heart. Quite the contrary, the more authentic our love for another person is, the more it raises the question about the origin and destiny of that love, the possibility that it may last forever”.

“Similar considerations could also be made about other human experiences such as friendship, the experience of beauty or love of knowledge. Everything good that man experiences tends towards the mystery which surrounds man himself. Each desire that arises in the human heart is an echo of a fundamental desire which is never fully sated”.

The Holy Father went on: “Man is well aware of what does not satisfy him, but is unable to imagine or define that which would make him experience that happiness for which his heart longs. We cannot know God on the basis only of human desire. Here there is an abiding mystery: man is searching for the absolute, but his search advances with slow and hesitant steps”.

“Even in our own time, which seems so averse to the transcendent dimension” it is possible “to open the way towards an authentic religious sense of life which shows how the gift of faith is neither absurd nor irrational”, said Benedict XVI. In this context he proposed “a pedagogy of desire, … including at least two aspects: Firstly, the acquisition or reacquisition of a taste for the authentic joys of life. Not all satisfactions produce the same effect upon us; some leave positive traces and are capable of pacifying our hearts making us more active and generous. Others, on the other hand, following the initial light they bring, seem to delude the expectations that aroused them and sometimes leave bitterness, dissatisfaction or a sense of emptiness in their wake”.

A second aspect of the pedagogy of desire consists of “never being satisfied with the goals we have reached”, said the Holy Father. “It is the most authentic joys which are able to liberate within us that sense of healthy disquiet which leads us to be more demanding, to desire a more exalted or more profound good, and at the same time to becoming increasingly aware that nothing finite can fill our hearts. Thus will we learn to tend, unarmed, towards that good which we cannot construct or procure by our own efforts, without allowing ourselves to be discouraged by the fatigue or obstacles that come from our sin”.

Finally the Holy Father noted that “desire always remains open to redemption, even when it takes the wrong paths, when it seeks artificial paradises and seems to lose its capacity to desire the true good. Even in the abyss of sin man never loses that spark which enables him to recognise and savour what is truly good, and to start along the path of ascension on which God, with the gift of His grace, will not fail to give His aid”.

“This does not mean, then, smothering the desire that is in man’s heart, but liberating it so that it can reach its true height. When desire opens a window to God this is a sign of the presence of faith in a person’s heart, faith which is a grace of God”, Benedict XVI concluded.

VIS 121107

The Wisdom of the Aged: Finding God In All Things

In 10 Colleen Carroll Campbell on 2012/08/24 at 9:11 AM

“What you have not saved in your youth, how will you acquire in your old age? How becoming to the gray-haired is judgment, and a knowledge of counsel to those on in years! How becoming to the aged is wisdom, understanding and prudence to the venerable! The crown of old men is wide experience; their glory, the fear of the Lord” (Sir. 25: 3-6).

Reading those lines, one wonders what the author of Sirach might have made of American society today, where an old man’s crowning glory is no longer his experience or wisdom but his refusal to grow old. I considered that question recently while perusing the website ofAARP The Magazine, the official publication of the American Association of Retired Persons. Last February, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the magazine’s website offered its older readers such feature stories as “Appetite for Seduction,” an article detailing the aphrodisiac powers of chocolate and chili, “Modern Love,” an advice column written by a sex therapist, and “Sex in America,” a survey-based report on the romantic exploits of American elders. For those swinging older singles who wanted to put this information to use, the website also listed guides to matchmaking services, personal ads, and even libido-boosting drugs.

Once upon a time, such content would have been deemed too frivolous and risqué for a magazine marketed to the elderly. But today it is commonplace. We live in a culture that prizes pleasure over wisdom and youthful indulgence over the contentment of old age. Our cult of youth has convinced older Americans that the only way they can be fulfilled is to look, live, and love as if they are young- forever young.

The Cult of Youth
The pressure to remain forever young manifests itself in many ways, but it is most obvious in our society’s frenzied pursuit of perfect health. Scientists make daily headlines with their ever-evolving prescriptions for avoiding the mental and physical decline of old age. Do crossword puzzles, they tell us, practice yoga, eat carrots. Live the right way, they seem to say, and you can cheat old age, maybe even death itself.

Our popular culture concurs, and offers us plenty of models to imitate. The older adults celebrated in our movies, novels, and news stories are not those who gracefully accept the limits of age, but those who transcend them: septuagenarians still addicted to marathon running, grandfathers who swap iTunes with their pre-teen progeny, surgically enhanced and scantily clad sixty-something actresses who sprawl on magazine covers and confess salacious details about their love lives. The message is clear: It’s fine to be old, as long as you don’t think, look, or act like it.

To be young at heart is not a bad thing, of course. The positive qualities we associate with youth-love and longing, energy and enthusiasm, joy and spontaneity- are worth preserving well into the twilight of life. And as many happily married couples attest, the romantic love associated with youth can be preserved, as well as deepened and purified, through the decades.

But there is a downside to our society’s fixation on eternal youth. What we miss when we exalt health, pleasure, and perennial youthfulness as ultimate goods, and when we segregate the frail elderly from everyone else, is the joy of learning from those elders who no longer aspire to be superstar athletes or sultry pin-ups, those who have stopped worrying about fitness and have started preparing for death.

The Big Questions
Death is a dirty word in our culture, one we try mightily to avoid. But death will come someday for each of us, and no crossword puzzles or carrot diets can change that. Nor can they answer the ultimate questions posed by our exit from this earth. Those questions-about life’s meaning and purpose, about sin and salvation, redemption and life after death-are precisely the ones that the diminishments of age force us to ponder.

In a report released last fall by the President’s Council on Bioethics, “Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society,” some of the nation’s leading thinkers considered the questions facing America as the 78-million- strong Baby Boomer generation retires. Though we are living longer than ever-a Stanford biologist recently projected that the average American will soon live to be 100-the report cautioned that we must find a better way to grapple with the inevitabilities of aging and death. As the authors note in their first chapter, “. . . aging and dying-even with the progress we can still reasonably expect from medicine and social change-will not yield to either the genius of the manager or the utopian hopes of those who pretend that, by change of attitude, old age is somehow avoidable. . . . As individuals and as a society, we will need deeper wisdom and resources of character if we are going to age well in the years ahead.”

Eternal Horizon
Aging well is no easy task in America today. Though Americans ages 85 and older comprise the fastest growing segment of our population, our dominant cult of youth all but ignores their existence and offers no meaningful answers to the questions posed by their suffering.

As people of faith, we are uniquely equipped to address those questions. The deeper wisdom that springs from faith insists that the human person is made in the image of God, endowed with a dignity and a destiny that do not depend on his ability to compete, produce, or romance. This wisdom tells us that there is more to the good life than good health and more to the self-emptying process of aging than physical and mental decline. Drawing on that wisdom, we can see grace and beauty at work in the lives of our aging loved ones, and we can help them prepare for a peaceful, prayerful death.

We can also find answers to our own questions about death. When we draw close to our suffering elders, we see the truths that become clearer as death looms: that this life is finite and fragile, an utterly gratuitous gift. And true wisdom lies not in clinging to its passing pleasures but in contemplating its eternal horizon.

From the May/June 2006 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Colleen Carroll Campbell is a fellow at theEthics and Public Policy Center, a research institution based in Washington, DC. Author ofThe New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, Campbell has served as a speechwriter to President George W. Bush and as a commentator on religion, politics, and culture on FOX News, EWTN, and PBS. She speaks to audiences across America. To learn more about her work, visit her website at http://www.colleen-campbell.com/.

Growing Old in the Culture of Perpetual Adolescence

In 10 Colleen Carroll Campbell on 2012/08/17 at 9:11 AM

Aristophanes, the ancient Greek dramatist, compared old age to a second childhood. If writer Diana West were to update his analogy for the 21st century, she might say that it has become a second adolescence. And that, she would argue, is not a good thing.

Author of the provocative new book, “The Death of the Grown-Up,” West contends that American adults are trapped in a state of arrested development. In a nation in which the Cartoon Network has been known to attract more viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 than CNN, the average video gamester is 33 and 60-something rock stars still prance onstage in leather pants crooning about their sexual frustration, West sees more than nostalgia for the carefree pleasures of youth.  She senses a cultural shift that has elevated the decadence, aimlessness and self-absorption associated with adolescence into cornerstone virtues for all ages.

West focuses her analysis largely on indulgent parents more concerned about appearing “cool” than disciplining their children. But equally interesting is how our cult of adolescence affects the elderly.

Aging gracefully in a Peter Pan society is no easy task. Older Americans are remaining active and living longer than ever before, but they no longer enjoy immunity from our culture’s forever-young demands. In place of blatant age discrimination, there is a new ethic of exaggerated non-discrimination that says older Americans must meet the same standards of physical health, sexual allure and perpetual hipness as everyone else — or die trying.

This notion permeates publications and products aimed at the older set.  Visitors to the AARP website find ads for an elder model search and tips on losing “belly bulge” along with stories on aphrodisiacs, “hot new sex drugs” and a profile of a British biologist who regards aging as a disease to be eradicated.

Image-conscious readers who consider AARP’s bench-press guidelines too soft can find more challenging workouts in the studiously hip GeezerJock Magazine or join the growing ranks of Americans over 60 investing in pectoral implants, thigh lifts and tummy tucks.

Those hoping that old age might exempt them from the same superficial pressures that consumed them in high school will find little reassurance from the mainstream media. The older adults celebrated in today’s movies and magazines are not those who accept gracefully the trappings and limits of age but those who defy them: septuagenarians addicted to marathon running, celebrities who refuse to answer to “Grandpa” or “Grandma” when their children’s children call and surgically enhanced, scantily clad 60-something actresses who sprawl on magazine covers in sex-kitten poses. Their defiant message is clear: It’s fine to grow older, so long as you don’t think, look or act like an old person.

Some welcome this blurring of generational lines as evidence that elders are accorded equal treatment in our cult of youth. But the preoccupation with proving that Grandma’s still sexy and Grandpa’s still got game contributes to the very fixation on youthful vigor that marginalizes our elders.

It also blinds us to their unique contributions to our culture. The lives and stories of our elders remind us that today’s tragedies may become tomorrow’s triumphs and that tasks that consume us now may count for little at life’s end.  Elders can testify from experience that the pleasure of earning a few more bucks or turning a few more heads fades much sooner than the peace that comes from comforting a dying parent or living by principle, regardless of fashion.

That hard-won wisdom accrues with the passing of years. Although it can be glimpsed at any age, it is possessed fully only by those who trade the heady thrills of adolescence for the richer rewards of grown-up life.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH Thursday, Sep. 13 2007  Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television host and St. Louis-basedfellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her website is www.colleen-campbell.com.