But Not Lying Down
SOME forty or so representatives of the Catholic youth of the country have spoken during the past year through the columns of the " Catholic Herald." More than two hundred would have spoken had space been available.
The voice of Catholic youth has never before been heard, at any rate in this country, either so representatively or so widely. Both sexes and members of practically every profession or calling have been heard. In spite of a certain amount of inevitable repetition, there has been individuality and genuine personal interest in every one of the articles published.
The Editor assesses the value of these articles in the accompanying article. He finds it harder to write about articles by women than those by men.
ANY of the would-be contributors took the opportunity of generally airing their views about the world in which they found themselves, but for the most part we selected for publication only those accounts in which the writers' standpoint was clearly the consequence of the experience they had already gained in their different callings. The more cautious and bounded conclusions of those who have described for us the nature of their particular struggle to live fully and Catholicly in the modern world have proved to be far more interesting and valuable.
Life—Work and Play
The great majority of articles have naturally been the stories of men and women in their first years at a routine job which falls far short of their own interest and imagination.
With a few exceptions, their outlook has been pessimistic.
They already realise that their life is divided into dull routine work, with little prospect of promotion or widening scope, and an equally meaningless and uncentred leisure. Unable, generally, to afford early marriage and thus realise their natural tastes and interests in that many-sided organic thing, family life, they have little opportunity for doing anything more than mentally drift.
Many of them—as it is natural for such to write in a series like this in a Catholic paper—are keenly interested in looking to their Catholicity for that interest and direction which their lives lack.
Most have discovered that the corporate and social functioning of their Catholicity, however great its spiritual help to them may be, offers them little scope. They contrast what it ideally stands for with what it does in fact accomplish in a secularist environment. Because they are very young, and see life as a great possibility, they are discontented with this state of affairs. Such Catholic activities as they come across seem to them uninspired and petty. There is no will, no great master idea behind them. They cannot help contrasting them with the enthusiasms of their young contemporaries who have devoted themselves to Marxism, and the opportunities which the latter gives of organised activity and work.
A few have made attempts to break away from such an uninspiring prospect. Some of them do so just by refusing to be downhearted.
Echoing the words of the Holy Father, they see the world into which they have been born as a world of Christian opportunity more insistent and immediate than any world that has gone before. Whether they despair of the world as it is, or think that on the whole there is a good deal to be said for it after all—and both outlooks seem fairly represented—they are determined to make of their lives a Christian adventure. They do not sec how exactly it can be done, but they are determined to try, at any rate, to keep their spirits fresh and full of hope.
It may be that the more prevalent mood of despondency and frustration will come over some of these in time, but those who go on escaping it may well prove the Catholic leaders of the future—leaders who, instead of waiting for others to prepare the way for them, will see to it that the great inspiration and resources of their Catholicity are, before they die, translated into practical organisation and work that will overcome the Marxist at his own game. A few others are already well on this way.
We have had writers connected with such exciting and hopeful organisations as the Y.C.W. and the House of Hospitality, and each of these has been full of the highest Christian optimism. There is no lack of opportunity and action for them, and consequently no frustration or despondency.
Another set of writers has come from nearer the working classes, many of them telling us of their hitter experiences as unemployed. The spirit of Christianity is every bit as strong in them, but with it goes a more insistent demand that something should be done, and done soon, to make the voice of Catholic people heard.
One or two have described their wanderings from one set of subhuman conditions of life to another, ultimately to find happiness in an activity that is close to the spirit of Christianity, whether on the land, or in working for others.
But, taking the men writers as a whole, their voice does seem to point one way. Some are optimistic, and more pessimistic, but all are agreed about two things : the fact that in their Catholicity they find the real, often the one, inspiration of their lives, and the fact that they, at the same time, find it hard to give expression to that inspiration, to make use of it and to exploit it fully in their secular Jives. There is a fund of goodwill and sincerity, a readiness for action, which demand only that a way of self-sacrifice, work and action shalt be presented to them.
Every ounce of the idealism and keenness which have been used to create a Hitler youth, a Fascist youth, or a Marxist youth, is to be found also in Catholic youth. But we have not yet succeeded in this country in harnessing this potential enthusiasm, and providing it with means of expressing itself in action.
Catholic life seems to stop at the church door, or if it goes beyond it, it deteriorates into mere social funetion or half-hearted and uninspired attempts to organise something on a very small scale indeed. This lack of leadership, drive and courage, in its turn, reacts upon the potential good will of youth, and in time we fall back again upon the vicious circle of nothing to do, nobody really keen enough to do anything.
Even on the purely religious side, we have had in these articles a considerable degree of complaint of lukewarmness towards that liturgical revival which, because of the unity, regularity and rhythm behind it, could do so mi.mhi to create a Social or corporate sense founded in the worship and teaching of the Church, and automatically spreading itself over the whole Ives of Christians, whether spiritual or temporal.
The contributions of women writers were not perhaps so easy to describe as a whole. The strongest line musing through them is prob ably the v(a)se of lack of preparation which they have received for the kind of world in which they have to live.
The greater number of • young women of to-day do, in fact, begin their adult lives by working in the world in very much the same position as men. Whether they be typists or nurses or civil servants or girls behind the counter, they find themselves thrown into exactly the same environment as their brothers. Yet for the most part they have received, both in their homes and in their convents, a type of education more suited to prepare them for a continuing Catholic atmosphere.
In some ways women find themselves more closely in touch with modern paganism. Some of them at an earlier age than their brothers find themselves as nurses or secretaries, for example, very much behind the scenes of modern life. How important it is that they should be objectively and fearlessly trained to make use of their Catholic opportunities and to defend themselves against the infiltration of lax ideas.
We cannot discuss here the dozens of subjects, ideas, suggestions put forward in the articles. A great many papers, most of them unpublished because the same arguments were used in each, dealt with war at the rate of about one pacifist article to five which accepted the inevitability and justice of modern war in defence of the right.
Intellectuals, i.e., schoolmasters and undergraduates, are keenly sensitive to the triviality of most of the subjects which have to occupy their
Your last chance to read an " Under Twentu-Five" —Pape 9
attention. A very few contributors had definite criticisms to make about the clergy, but then a greater number were much more critical of the Catholic Press, including ourselves : just as we could tell them quite a lot about our difficulties, so could the clergy enlighten them about theirs I
To sum up : there can be no doubt that this series of articles furnishes evidence. that Catholic youth to-day fully shares the feeling common to all the younger generation that we are in a world loudly crying Continued at foot of next column.
Continued from previous column.
for radical reform and the remedying at any cost of social injustice. But Christianity has not only given them the clue to the real nature of the evil and the only lines upon which successful reconstruction is possible, it has given them a certain sense of grim and sometimes rather humorous realism. They can take it themselves and they can keep their heads about others; but this is very far from meaning that they are ready to take it lying down.
Some of them are waiting for a lead; a few are already giving it. Living, as they have to, in intimate contact with a world whose heart is considerably stronger than its head, they are determined to emulate the keenness of those who see less clearly than themselves. The only resources they lack are organisation and encouragement : will their elders see that they get it and are free to use it, fully, courageously, Catholicly