In this era of point-and-click, swipe-and-tap fingertip convenience, you can readily read it for yourself. “European bishops summit makes appeal to jaded youth” — so goes the headline (or title) of a news article in the Catholic website Crux, dated March 29, 2017. When I saw it first, it made me smile. But it also triggered me to do some more research.
“Jaded youth” — a quick check at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gives the following definition: “made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by surfeit.” That last word begs a further search: “an overabundant supply, an intemperate or immoderate indulgence in something . . . [a] disgust caused by excess.”
Now we’re able to put together the puzzle and see a clearer picture. For one thing, I always thought — and perhaps I still continue to think — that young people are (or at least, supposed to be) idealistic, enthusiastic, and energetic. To call them jaded is surely an oxymoron (at least for me!). The article mentions the Brexit factor, as well as “sky-high unemployment rates, an aging population heavily relying on a crumbling welfare state, staggering poverty, and exclusion rates leading to increases in drug abuse and suicide numbers.” Add to this the too-much-too-soon outlook of society, and youth’s penchant for instant gratification and trying to experience everything all at once. The result is indeed disenchantment and jadedness on the part of the young.
As you can easily see, the geographical and cultural contexts are crucial. In Europe, it seems understandable: the post-Christian, postmodern, and post-truth societies therein surely give rise to such apathetic youth. Over here in the Philippines (or in Asia and Africa), we can only hope the situation would be better.
In fact, this coming Holy Week (specifically on Holy Thursday evening, until Good Friday morning), young people by the hundreds of thousands (estimates of the total go up to well over millions, young and old) will flock and trek along Ortigas Avenue and Sumulong Highway, heading to the Antipolo Cathedral. This annual “Alay Lakad” has been the subject of the recent MATh thesis of Rev. Juvelan Samia, SDB, which I mentioned in a previous entry. (I sat as a panelist in the oral defense.) We look at this sociological and religious phenomenon as in a way indicative of religious and spiritual zeal on the part of Filipino youth, and therefore a cause for hope and optimism for us.
Regardless of the context, in any case, is the applicability of the exhortation of Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera (the Archbishop of Valencia and Vice-President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference). He said that young people “must perceive our love for them, that we put faith in them. They have to feel welcomed, that the Church wants them and receives them with open arms, that she believes that young people can build the world of the new millennium . . . They need to feel they are the hope of the world and the hope of the Church.”
Enough of the lip service we youth ministers and church people have been doing perhaps. We ought to put a stop to our motherhood statements, pious exhortations, and hypocritical attitudes. Concreteness, practicality, and perception are needed. As Don Bosco already put it more than a century ago, “[Y]oungsters should not only be loved, but . . . they themselves should know that they are loved” (from the famous “Letter from Rome,” which he wrote in 1884).
Otherwise, young people will be, indeed, jaded.
MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.