The Stumbling Block
By Fr. Lorcan Murray OP
About forty years ago, ago a young man went to see his Parish Priest, and told him that he felt he had a vocation to the priesthood. The Parish Priest (P.P.) was very happy, and chatted for a while with him about his family, his education achievements, his hobbies etc. After awhile, the young man said: “Father, I have just one little problem.” “And what is that?” asked the P.P. “I have a girl friend,” he answered. The young man took his advice and –in due course- the P.P. presided at their wedding. Thirty years, and four children, later, the wife died, and -after a reasonable period of mourning- the man (no longer young) presented himself to the now very old P.P ., and told him: “I still think I have a vocation to the priesthood.” That is the true story of a priest who is now working somewhere in Canada.
If, today, we were to give the same advice to every young man who said: “I have a girl-friend,” we could safely close down all our Seminaries and Religious Novitiates, planning to re-open them again around the year 2,032 –forty years hence! For the fact of the matter is, there are very few young men to-day who do not have a girl friend, and very few young women who do not have a boy friend. If A boy or girl in Form 4 or 5 of a Secondary School does not have a steady date, he or she is regarded by their classmates as somehow odd, if not totally crazy. I am told the same is true even of youths in Forms 1,2 and 3 (11+) in many schools. This is what we call PEER pressure, with a capital P. While it is good for youths of both sexes to mix freely and enjoy themselves in groups, it is utopian to imagine that they can fall into serious temptation, and, unfortunately, sometimes into serious sin.
If adolescents could only be persuaded that there are so many wonderful things to learn about, and experience, in God’s wonderful world, besides sex, they would grow up healthier and more mature in every way, with well-rounded personalities, as we say. But it is very difficult for them to understand this in a world which seems to be saturated in sex. St Paul advises us: “Among you (Christians) there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity; this would hardly become the saints.” (Eph. 5:3). Paul is reputed to have been bald, but I am sure he would manage to pull out his hair if he was alive to-day. Not only are these things mentioned, but they are energetically promoted in every possible way, by the mass media. Homosexuals and lesbians clamour, with marches, huge meetings, lobbying of M.P’s etc., for their rights, including the right to live together like a married men and women. Women demonstrate for their right to choose abortion for their unborn child. Condoms are now available- like sweeties and cigarettes- form slot machines.
Young people are advised-from all quarters-to have SAFE sex, which happens to be very DANGEROUS advice! As many have found out to their cost, too late. It may sound old-fashioned to repeat that God intended sex to be used ONLY in marriage-but many old-fashioned sayings still contain sound wisdom, because wisdom doesn’t change. And , if steady dating is intended to be a preparation for marriage, then it should not begin until both parties have the prospect of getting married within a reasonable time. Parents today have a much tougher time than parents in the past. But it is largely their own fault!
If they are too busy to spend TIME with their children-one of the best ways of showing, and growing in, love-they cannot complain when these same children PREFER to take advice, and example, from their peers, who Do spend a lot of time with them: If they encourage their children to spend plenty of time in front of the T.V., so that they can have the opportunity to relax in their own way, or even to get through all the work of a normal household, they can scarcely be surprised that the same children will develop attitudes very different from those the parents would wish them to have. If young people are involved in steady dating from early adolescence, it will be very difficult for them-if not well-nigh impossible –to consider the possibility of a celibate life, still less to accept the challenge of celibacy. Celibacy can have no meaning in a society where SEX is GOD! To-day we are beginning to see the devastating effects of the sexual revolution which began in the late sixties-the things St. Paul said we should not even mention are paraded before us in every possible form, and at every possible opportunity- “in season and out of season,” as Paul himself would have put it. Somebody has to apply the brakes, or steady dating will soon begin in the cradle! “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” goes the old proverb. It’s about time fathers and mothers begin to rock the cradle once again. It’s about time parents begin to take on the responsibility of satisfied just to bring them into the world. The glamour of sex among youths must be shown up for what it really is-the age old serpent whispering in their ears: “Did God really say you were not to have sex before marriage?”... “No, you will not suffer from AIDS, or the trauma of abortion, or some form of venereal disease. God knows in fact that on the day you have sex, you eyes will be open, and you will be like Gods, on top of the world.” (Adaptation of Genesis 3:1-5). When Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, but all they could see with those opened eyes was their own nakedness, their own helplessness in the face of disaster. (Gen. 3:7).
Steady dating at too early an age-which will almost inevitably lead to sexual intercourse-is the great stumbling block for many young men and women, who might otherwise consider becoming priests or religious. It is also the worst possible foundation for a happy and lasting marriage. Either way, it is you young people who are the losers.