It’s a wonderful thing when a teenager is your teacher! I met a young man named Paul Balderamos. He’s 16 and a musician/songwriter. I asked him, “What is the biggest thing that gets in the way for teens in becoming faithful, moral people?”
He didn’t say, “Peer pressure, global issues, drugs or promiscuity.” He didn’t say, “War. Fear of terrorism,” or anything else that might have been expected.
Instead he said, “We are always connected to others and you can’t turn it off because it [social media] is everywhere and people expect you to respond...immediately! They get hurt if you don't. You end up comparing yourself to others. You think everyone else is having fun. Everyone else has excitement. You don’t have any quiet time.”
Now THAT is profoundly true! One of the biggest issues in the world today is that we are all so busy filling up our lives according to modern expectations, that we don’t empty ourselves to receive Jesus!
There is a deep need, and glaring absence, of silence in today’s world.
But Paul’s words also touched on something else. There is a sense of emptiness that makes people run away from silence. The emptiness comes in part from the many ways our world externalizes everything. For example:
- Schools no longer require the memorization of spelling words because the words don’t have to be internalized (or so it is said)—after all, there is quick access to them externally.
- Schools no longer teach much history, which means the roots of our lives are not internalized.
- Schools no longer require memorization of many math concepts and certain devices are even allowed for some testing. Children no longer internalize what was once a given: “There is only one right answer in this equation.”
- And our churches no longer require memorization except for the very basic prayers. Thus children haven’t internalized the tools which they would have been able to call forth in times of darkness.
For these very reasons, I started a column for Catechist magazine called “Learning by Heart.” Kids should memorize Bible verses, the mysteries of the rosary, some important faith words and some Baltimore Catechism answers.
In the time of Jesus, young people prided themselves on memorizing large amounts of information in order to pass on the faith. It is the stuff that is in our brains at a subconscious level, which will rise up in the silence. And it can be meaningful or meaningless. It would be far better for our young people if what came to mind was an icon and the Memorare, rather than the latest jingle for McDonald’s.
So, I am using this column to reiterate two things:
- Help your kids fill their lives with prayers, with EWTN, with memories of family fun and stories of saints. Ask them to memorize the Magnificat and the Canticle of Zechariah.
- Then make sure there is time for silence. Take kids to Adoration. Have a moment of silence at dinner time prayers. Unplug all devices an hour before bedtime. Suggest the beauty of silence.
Then, in the silence and the emptiness (which is no longer a “void”), God speaks to us. Then the problem, identified by Paul, the young musician/philosopher, begins to be answered.
(Oh yes, and for MOMS, I have created "Sacred Images: A Coloring Book for Prayer." More on that coming soon! Visit me at www.unwindstudio.com.)
Copyright 2015 Judith Costello
Photo: "New Mexico skies with balloons" copyright 2015 Judith Costello. All rights reserved.
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