By HILARY KNIGHT
IHAVE an assortment of letters to tell you about this week—to begin with, a very cogent one putting forward reasons why the World Assembly of Youth in general, and the Young Christian Workers in particular, should participate in the Vienna Youth Festival.
Its author wishes to remain totally anonymous, alas. Here are his most salient points:
(1) The best way of converting Communist youth is by its infiltration by Christian youth. (2) The presence of Christian youth at the Festival would show Afro-Asian youth, not yet committed to Communism, that not all young people agree with the aims of the Festival, and that other opinions exist. (3) The objection that " no nonCommunising person gets an official word in edgewise " should not deter Catholics. We do not expect to get an official invitation to voice our opinions, but we can certainly voice them at question time, in private talks in smaller seminars or groups, in walking from one showplace to another, in hostels, etc. Communists cannot keep all young people quiet all the time and everywhere! (4) The Festival is being held in a country that is neutral and has Catholic influence. Surely there must be local Austrian Catholic families who, instead of dissociating themselves, should invite youths of all nations, especially those from Africa and Asia, to their homes, to lectures, to places of interest and so on.
(5) In a Festival like this there is a duty to do missionary work, to teach and spread the truth; to get into the meetings and, as it were, " break them up" by telling the truth . . in a polite manner. This Festival is not only a show of Communist strength (if so, it would have been held in Communist territory) but a bid for the youth of the uncomnzitted and free worlds. It is in view of this that the W.A.Y. and Y.C.W. should reconsider their decision and make some modification.
THE next letter, about the same subject, comes from the heart rather than the head but shall be quoted none
" I am one of those young Catholics who believes in peace and friendship with the youth of all countries, whether the Soviet Union, China, or any other nation. In your statement on the Vienna Youth Festival you have deliberately tried to undermine the purpose of this Festival, which has been organised for the express purpose of bringing the youth of the world together. By doing this, better understanding can be achieved among young people throughout the world. " I do not want to see this world destroyed by a third world war, but it seems to me that many of my fellow-Catholics are in favour of this. There is one question which I would like you to answer. namely: Is it not a great thing to see young people of all nations getting together? "
It seems to me that the W.A.Y. pamphlet I discussed the other week was precisely written for this so sincere and well-intentioned correspondent.
MY next letter harks back to the question of young people "maturing earlier" nowadays than they did 50 years ago (which, if you remember. a medical student wrote and told me was the case). My present correspondent thinks it more likely that maturity was retarded in Victoria's reign: "A curious old book—'Principles of Midwifery'—published in 1820. gives exactly the same range during which the accepted signs of maturity occur as do the 1958 medical hooks, i.e. between the ages of nine and 18. and usually at 13.
" The Church—never noted for rashness—allows girls to marry at 14, and has done for a long time, surely always keeping in sight the primary end of the sacrament .."
PEN-FRIEND FINALLY 1 have a letter from a French boy asking for a pen-friend. Here it is: " I am a French boy and 1 am fourteen. I have learn English for three years and write English a few as you can see. "I love all the animals and make a stamp collection. " I had lived in Paris where are my parents, my three sisters and my friends and many people of my family. But I have lived in Valence for eleven years in the house of my uncle and my aunt.
"Learning English which is your language, I want to communicate with a boy of your country. I want to receive his photograph and I shall send myself. I want that this boy is between thirteen and fifteen and that he has the same likings as I and that he speaks French a few.
" I thank you and forward you all my friendships from France. I read your paper and love him. "thank you in advance. I am a Catholic."
The boy's name is Jean-Pierre Bremer, and his address: Villa Madeleine. Clos Gaillard. Valence (Moine), France. Now I hope that my column, in spite of its late-teenage emphasis, still has readers between 13 and 15, and that a boy of that age will write to Jean-Pierre. If he can write in French as good as JeanPierre's English. that will he excellent (and I am sure he will see why Jean-Pierre puts "a few" when he means "a little ").