"It’s been more than ten years since I first noticed something odd about the generally pleasant—and generally Catholic—students at the college where I teach. The boys and girls don’t hold hands.
Let that serve as shorthand for the absence of all those rites of attraction and conversation, flirting and courting, that used to be passed along from one youthful generation to the next, just as childhood games were once passed along, but are so no longer. The boys and girls don’t hold hands.
I am aware of the many attempts by responsible Catholic priests and laymen to win the souls of young people, to keep them in the Church, and indeed to make some of them into attractive ambassadors for the Church. I approve of them heartily. Yes, we need those frank discussions about contraception. We need theological lectures to counter the regnant nihilism of the schools and the mass media. But we need something else too, something more human and more fundamental. We need desperately to reintroduce young men and young women to the delightfulness of the opposite sex. Just as boys after fifteen years of being hustled from institutional pillar to institutional post no longer know how to make up their own games outdoors, just as girls after fifteen years of the same no longer know how to organize a dance or a social, so now our young people not only refrain from dating and courting—they do not know how to do it. It isn’t happening. Look at the hands."
I saw this link in my blogroll today at Seraphic Singles. I must say I find it fascinating, and a bit incriminating. While I cannot agree that being single is necessarily bad, as long as it is purposeful and not simply due to laziness or fear, there is no denying that this article does point out a real problem. Young Catholics are not getting married young, they are waiting until they get older and desperate. (Not to put it too unkindly for those of my readers who may find themselves in the older-than-they-hoped-they-would-be-and-still-unmarried crowd.)
As a member of the generation that the article speaks about I can say that the causes are many and varied. On one end of the spectrum there are the homeschoolers who were forbidden to date ever!!!! until they were ready to get married, in the hope that this would forestall the problems their parents ran into in regards to dating and the threats to chastity. "Dating was nothing but temptation for me and everyone is doing it wrong, so we'll just cut it all out entirely and that will solve the problem." Done out of love and a sincere desire to protect the youth, but often misguided in the application. On the other end of the spectrum are the Catholic young people who have gotten so sucked into the dating game that they either cannot conceive of a permanent relationship, or got so well and truly burned that they cannot trust anyone. And these are just the three options that come to mind off the top of my head, to say nothing of the effects of social media, pornography, entertainment addiction, perpertual boy/men and a whole host of other possible factors.
Whatever the causes may be, (and well worthy of pondering), the immediate fact is clear, that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed. I would go further and say that the initial impetus for solving that problem must come from the men, the side that it is least likely to come from. Pointing fingers is all very well, you know, but why point out a problem if you don't have a solution? Or aren't at least willing to work towards finding one? So my point in this post is purely practical. I am interested in answering one question and one question only: what am I (me, Ryan Kraeger) going to do about it?
I don't speak about my love-life (as it is called) on this blog. It isn't really a concern to my readers, except the few who know me in real life, and it's a bit personal. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of my history has been the result of deliberate and intentional choices. Whether those choices were wise or foolish is another question entirely, one I ask myself every day, but I have (thus far) done what I thought was right. On the other hand reading this article reinforces a feeling that I might well be part of the problem, or at least not a part of the solution.
So it is a quandrary, something I must think about, and sooner or later do something about as well. This is the first thing I am doing.
I am well aware that most of my readers (at least the commenting ones) are women, and this blog is really not addressed to you. I don't much care if you read it, but it is really for the men. You see, when I read the article above my biggest reaction was a feeling of responsibility. There is a problem, and we men are the ones who need to start the process of fixing it. I ask that you single men think about it and pray about it. I plan on sharing it with the men in my Bible Study group and discussing it with any of them who want to talk about it.
I don't think a movement is called for. I certainly don't think that what we need is a bunch of Catholic guys making a pact to go out and find steady, marriage-able girlfriends by this time next week. We don't need a club, we don't need a pledge or any nonsense like that. I think what each man needs to do is think about it and examine himself. If I am single I should be thinking about why I am single. Is it because I have a purpose best served by singleness? Is that purpose worthy of the sacrifice? Is it a sacrifice at all? Or is that purpose merely an excuse? Am I simply afraid? And if afraid, afraid of what? Or whom? Or am I simply lazy, just drifting along, not willing to put in the work, not willing to fight for a relationship?
Think and pray. But thinking and praying are not enough. If we think long enough and honestly enough, and if our prayer is listening and not merely talking incessantly, I think most of will find a call to action.
Oh, and I just thought of something to say to any women who might still be reading this:
It takes two to tango.