I was back in the classroom on Thursday, substituting for Mr. McMenaman in our junior Morality course. We read through and discussed passages from Pope John Paul II's encyclical entitled Veritatis Splendor. My only thought after the class was, "Wow, do I miss discussing these texts with young people." I did own the fact that I came up with the idea of reading this text with this group of juniors, due in large part to their collective intellectual capacity. Tackling such a philosophical and ideologically charged text is not easy for anyone, lest an adolescent.
Twenge, in her book about iGen, discovered a rather startling reality in the rising generation: iGen is the least religious generation in the history of humanity. Bishop Robert Barron even cites this stark reality:
Whereas even twenty years ago, the overwhelming number of Americans, including youngsters, believed in God, now fully one third of 18 to 24 year olds say that they don’t believe. Her dispiriting conclusion: “The waning of private religious belief means that young generations’ disassociation from religion is not just about their distrust of institutions; more are disconnecting from religion entirely, even at home and even in their hearts.”
You would not know that to be the case if you had the privilege of teaching our junior Morality course.
We read the following excerpt from Veritatis Splendor, which doesn't sound like the lists of do's and dont's - limitations on personal freedom that we often associate with morality, failing to see the full picture: "Activity is morally good when it attests to and expresses the voluntary ordering of the person to his ultimate end and the conformity of a concrete action with the human good as it is acknowledged in its truth by reason."
And then the moment when we knew it together. As I asked them to summarize that statement, one student said, "Morally good behavior means acting according to the design for which we were created." I then recalled my favorite quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas, "As a person is, so does the end seem to him." My next question, "What are we created for?" Of course in theology class, if the answer is one of the following: "Jesus", "Love God", or "Love neighbor", then it becomes hard for the teacher to say the student is wrong; but the point remains to stay faithful to the text. In this instance, JPII expresses a most fundamental truth about us: we are always moral because we are always human; there are no actions inconsequential to our ultimate destiny, which is to know the full goodness of God and then be filled with so much happiness that we cannot contain it. It just overflows into the very lives we live and the people we touch, here and into eternal life.
For all of the verbal protesting we receive from young people, I am so hopeful and confident because they are not ignorant of truth. As John Paul II said specifically to the youth throughout his pontificate, only "the truth will set you free".
Yours Truly in Christ,
Derek Tremblay, Headmaster