When I was a young person, in my twenties, as a member of the Boomers, some pundits wrote and talked about the "vibrancy" of my generation. Firstly, there were so many of us that we could hardly be ignored. Secondly, we were the last group to get classical education in America before the rot set in, many of us having a true liberal arts education based on the Trivium and Quadrivium. Thirdly, we were fiercely competitive and "on the make" type of kids. Most of us strove after professional careers and worked hard at being the best.
The times had not seen the gross inflation which was to change forever the ideal of family life, nor the long succession of political problems such as the Iran Contra Affair and the resignation of Richard Nixon. The worst thing in our corporate memories was the assassination of Kennedy when we were kids. This "vibrancy" came from confidence and trust in the civilization, the cultural identities in which we moved and lived.
We all knew and understood that we had a place not only in the home, and school, but in the Church.
The Church experiencing a vibrancy as well, as many of us had flirted with other "isms" and come back home, happily embracing the new life of the emerging laity with joy and interest. Most of my peer group got married and started to have children immediately.
The Catholic parishes in my state were growing so fast that new schools and new churches were being built almost constantly, one after the other.
This vibrancy lasted about ten years, a decade, until the realities of political unrest, inflation, and the awareness of the quickly growing secularism which cut across religious communities became deadly obvious. By the mid-eighties, the vibrancy was fading and a new attitude of utilitarianism took the place of optimism. This utilitarianism, always an underlying current in the States, became more and more sinister with the Age of Greed and the new "Me Generation" of the Gen-Xers who lacked community and the old cohesiveness of a religious and moral framework.
I stopped teaching from the end of the summer semester of 1986 until the the autumn semester of 1996, ten full years, and I saw the huge difference in students. Cynicism and relativism, subjectivism and a lack of competitiveness marked these students. Something happened to smash any vibrancy of youth and the natural optimism of the young.
I learned quickly that the end of the Gen-X group had lost confidence and were increasingly a bunch of unhappy, isolated kids.
What had happened? The obvious answer presented itself when I took a survey in class as to religious affiliations of my students. The vast majority had never been to church, or were fallen away, or even into weird and wild New Age cults. Until I stopped teaching in December 2010, I rarely witnessed the peace and confidence I had seen in my students from 1979 on.
One thing had happened. An entire generation had grown up without a moral framework, an idea of God, a sense of religion based church communities. Ah yes community became the buzz-word, but one only talks about something after it has gone, like love.
The vibrancy of one generation had come from a sense of being children of God and heirs of heaven. People knew who they were and the ultimate goal of their lives. Happiness would be a by-product of a virtuous life.
Until I taught Millennials, who are a breed apart and very individualistic and more idealistic than their parents, I never met a class which was full of life and vigor. It was my job to instill this love of life and God somehow in my students, even without talking about it.
How did I do this, because I did and I was successful? By loving learning and teaching my students to pursue knowledge not for an utilitarian end for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I knew that the meaning of "liberal art" was not license but freedom, freedom to think, to be, to do.
Vibrancy comes from within the soul. Those who find meaning in life cannot help but share that with others. Life just spills out. The energy and activity of those days are long gone, replaced by a silent narcissism which seems to be a protective shield against the unknown. Sin kills the soul and death replaces life. The person without a live soul has no vibrancy.
I am convinced that the field is ripe for the harvest, that if we preach the Good News of the Gospel, which is our duty, and not merely a suggestion from God, there are those who do not want to curl up and die who will take in this message of life like little hungry birds.
I have seen this happen. Those geeky, computer-gamers are more "romantic" and great seekers than their jade parents. They want more than stuff, as they see clearly that stuff did not make their parents happy. They do want to recapture something, but most of them do not know what this something is.
We do. We know Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We only need to be open to these young people of any nationality who have had everything and know it means nothing.
Become vibrant if you are not. Pray for new life on this first day of the new year. Pray like you have never prayed before for eyes to see Life in all His Beauty so that you can share this with those who need and want the God of Love and Order, the God of Boundaries, Mercy and Justice.
We are the remnant, and the remnant is getting smaller daily. Time to bring in the sheaves....we need these young people as much as they need us. To be vibrant ourselves means dying to self and letting God be God in us. God brings new energy and new life. There is no other way.