“Ask a Priest: What If We Millennials Are Blamed for Everything?”

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Q: I’m a millennial, which means just about everyone I talk to who isn’t, accuses my generation of being what’s wrong with the world (and I’m tired of it). Our grandparents and parents are disappointed that so many of us are atheists or “nones” (to quote Bishop Barron), yet they didn’t teach us about God or take us to church (what did they think would happen?). They are unhappy that so many of us don’t want to marry or wait until our 30s to marry — it doesn’t occur to them that half of us come from divorced and dysfunctional homes. The previous two generations have almost singlehandedly destroyed Western civilization and yet they have the audacity to accuse millennials of being what’s wrong with the world! My parents and grandparents either don’t respect me or they resent me, and I don’t know what to do. My religious beliefs are arrogant, wrong, close-minded, etc. (according to my dad). A college education is nothing but a waste which results in a “piece of paper on the wall” (my dad again). The fights, divorce, and just general not caring about their children that my parents are guilty of, have nothing to do with how my sister and I turned out (my sister is a drug addict). We just made bad choices (according to my dad and grandmother). The previous two generations failed and now they want us to answer for their crimes. I’m tired, Father, please help. – J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about all the inter-generational infighting in the family.

In times like these it might be good to remember a villain lurking in the background: the devil. He loves to stir up antagonism among people, especially family members.

The problems you mention are real, though the devil isn’t the cause of all of them. People make their own mistakes. Lots of them.

What we are seeing today is the harvest of a lot of bad seeds sown over the centuries.

Some of the problems are philosophical, traceable back to the 14th century.

Other problems – ecclesial, social, political, theological – sank roots in varying degrees in various centuries.

And from the 1950s into the 1970s the rise of pornography, contraception and abortion, etc., ate like termites at the moral structure of marriage and family life.

Moreover, your dad’s generation and to an extent your grandparents’ generation were probably exposed to weak catechesis as well as a rising secularization. Then came the anything-goes Internet, which turned up the heat on a nasty stew of pornography, misinformation and vindictiveness.

At this point in your life you could consider yourself at a fork in the road.

The sign for one side road says, “Blame Game This Way.” To go down that road means spending a big chunk of your life either defending yourself or blaming others for your problems. This road ultimately leads to a dead end.

The sign for the other road says, “Solution Ahead.” This route demands that you focus on your relationship with Christ, your prayer life, your sacramental life, your works of charity, and your willingness to try to promote the Gospel and build the Church. On this road you don’t have time to point fingers at others — you are too busy trying to do things for the glory of God and the good of others.

The world has long been a mess, and it always will be. The relevant question isn’t “How can we fix it?” but rather, “What is Jesus asking of me?”

Our Lord doesn’t want you to get bogged down in assigning blame for the world’s woes to this or that generation. Rather, he wants you to live the Gospel fully and to bring his light to others (beginning, perhaps, with your own family members).

To this end, you might want to take some quiet time to reflect on our do-it-yourself retreat called The Complete Christian: A Retreat Guide on the Calling of the Twelve Apostles.

Also, you might find some inspiration in my friend Father Bartunek’s new book, Spiritual but not Religious: The Search for Meaning in a Material World.

Perhaps this is something to take to prayer. For you want to be sure to take the right road.

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