I read an article from the LA Times titled How millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals. And it made me angry, both with society and also how we, the Church, have failed to connect with a generation of young adults yearning for authentic spirituality. The article discusses how the under-40 crowd has replaced traditional religious practices with astrology, crystals, and tarot cards. Not only is this a shallow replacement, but it’s also a dangerous one since these practices lead towards the demonic and occult.
“This is a worldwide, but certainly American, trend toward heterodoxy — toward individuals cooking up their own spiritual or religious stew and cooking it up their way,” Burklo said. “You’re seeing an aggregation of disaffiliation, people coming up with their own meaning-making and their own personal spiritualities.”
— Jim Burklo, senior associate dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at USC
Religious stew? Cook it up your own way? To me, this sounds like code for “I want to do what feels good and everyone has to accept it.” This is like a child saying he wants to only eat candy and drink soda and his parents must agree that it’s a healthy choice. Look, I would love it if we could do whatever made us feel good. But that’s not how the world really works.
The Church knows how the world, and what lies beyond this world, really works. And that is why it teaches a very specific doctrine. This doctrine has its root in God and been interpreted over centuries by great scholars. I’m sorry, but when it comes to defining good and evil, I’ll take Saint Thomas Aquinas over what some 20 year old chooses to believe. Yes, much of what the Chruch teaches is hard to believe and even harder to follow. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Telling your child he needs to eat a balanced diet may sound harsh to him, but it’s what any loving parent would do.
At its best, these new forms of spirituality are shallow and pointless. The article talks about someone who puts on 90-minute breathing and meditation classes that many see as a cross between yoga and therapy. So, are all those people praying the Rosary and meditating in front of the Blessed Sacrament holding their breath? Prayer can have every bit of the calming and relaxing aspects of these breathing classes but it also has an extremely powerful element — God. God is listening, He is responding, and He is reaching out to you. He wants to form a close and loving relationship with you. It’s not just you breathing into a void. Given the choice between diving inward into my own thoughts through new-age breathing or venturing outward towards God through prayer, I choose God every day of the week.
Worse, these new-age, DIY spiritualities are incredibly dangerous. They are Satan’s means for luring you away from the truth; away from God. He wants people to put their faith in anything but God because he knows they’ll be weaker and more susceptible to his influence.
Think about the soldiers in the military. Their drill instructors are hard on them because they know the seriousness of the job. If the instructors let recruits do whatever they felt like and made them “happy” by telling them soft, sweet words of affirmation, those recruits wouldn’t be ready for combat. The same goes for us in the spiritual battle we take part in every day. The Chruch can be hard on us but it’s for our own good. It’s so we harden our defenses against Satan.
Worse yet, we as a universal Catholic Church need to take some responsibility for the rise in the “Nones” — those yearning for something spiritual but turning away from traditional teachings. The article talks about how people moved to new age spirituality because they didn’t like the binary aspects of traditional religion. They didn’t like how the Church told them that certain aspects of their lifestyle were wrong and sinful.
But this is our failing because that means they were never explained why certain actions are wrong, dangerous, and ultimately lead to great sorrow. They just heard “don’t do that” without context. In a way, we as a Chruch haven’t put in the required effort to explain that just because we sin doesn’t mean we aren’t loved. We haven’t shown them the vast array of tools the Church has to keep them on a path of joy such as the Rosary, the intervention of our Mother Mary, the intercession of the saints, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc.
Let us turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance when we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. We meditate on Jesus’ Baptism and recall our baptism. We recall the baptismal promises that were made and we renew at Mass. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of those who do not believe the Church has what they yearn for. We pray for priests; that they make an effort to teach the truth and reach out to those who don’t understand the Church’s teachings. And we pray for the strength to go out and live and share Jesus’ teachings so that we may also convert those who have fallen away from greatness, beauty, comfort, and joys of the Catholic faith.