Updated: Nov 25, 2019
“All that God ever does is forbid things. Don’t do this; don’t do that. And it’s the same with His Church. We’re always being told that these pleasures are unlawful and those gratifications are off-limits. And then, to make things worse, they tell us to be happy and free. None of it really makes sense; I’m confused, and often unhappy; perhaps God doesn’t really love me as much as they say He does…”
Perhaps you have heard somebody speak with this tone of voice. Perhaps you have heard yourself think such things. This negativistic and legalistic mindset, which focuses exclusively on the prohibitions and commandments and separates them from the context of our faith taken as a whole, can be paralyzing. It will take the wind out of a person’s sails as they attempt to move ever forward on the path towards virtue. It can make men and women have nothing but spite and anger towards the God who commands such things, His Church which embodies those teachings, and His representatives who pass it on to them during their years of formation. If this mindset is developed within them, they will want nothing more than to cast off such restraints as soon as they can, and to plunge headlong into the world of the forbidden fruit. Again, perhaps you have felt this in yourself at times…
The answer to this problem is to give youth the full picture of the Catholic life. What is that picture? One of beauty. One of worship. We are attracted and drawn to what is beautiful, and we have a compelling need within us to worship what is true and beautiful. The Catholic life is beautiful. Our God and the truths He has revealed to us are beautiful. For example, nobody in their wildest dreams could have come up with something as beautiful, and ennobling, and awe-inspiring as the Incarnation. The more we see the beauty, the more we will want to worship. The truth is beautiful, and the Catholic Church is the Teacher of all things true, and it is this truth which will set us free. If we would pass this spirit of beauty and freedom and worship on to those around us — especially to the youth, who are not only the most impressionable but also the most drawn to beauty — then we must be convinced of it ourselves. We must see and study the beauty of our faith, and we must love it as such. It is only by living in this spirit of beauty and adoration that the youth will be drawn to imitate such a lifestyle; only then will they care about what you want to say to them.
“It is quite the easiest thing in the world to show the beauty of Catholic doctrine. Free will is certainly marvelously beautiful by comparison with any doctrine of slave will or brutal necessity. The fact that God wants to remain in the world in the Blessed Sacrament is beautiful. The whole theory of grace, our sharing of the divine life, is, even taken just as a theory, remarkably noble and inspiring. The Fatherhood of God; the Motherhood of Mary; the beautiful security one finds in following an infallible teacher and not a blundering, hesitating one; the way in which the sacraments supply our needs at every stage of life; the fact of an eternal reward — all these things are exquisite. It is true that the parodies on religion are notably ugly — as ugly as a Puritan church or as the dour face of a Calvinist minister. But we can take the doctrine which the young person finds difficult and show him that, difficult or not, it is a marvelously beautiful doctrine. And one does not mind accepting a difficult thing if it is a beautiful thing.” (Fr. Daniel Lord, Some Notes on the Guidance of Youth)