Category: UK


AMDG

Adolescence, the phase of life which marks the transition between childhood and adulthood, has officially been extended – at least according to UK Policy Makers – from 10-24.  This takes into account earlier puberty and a delayed transition into adulthood.  According to  Laurence Steinberg, in the western world adolescence is now three times longer than in the 19th Century and twice as long as in the 1950’s.  So this new official ruling means in the UK, statutory care for care leavers is now extended to the age of  24. Children in ‘care’, usually provided by foster parents,  leave home at the age of 16-18 and have a more abrupt transition into independent life.

The human infant is a helpless creature at birth, virtually immobile and unlike other primates,  cannot even hold on to or cling to his mother. Seventy-five percent of our brain develops after birth,  as is described in David Brooks fascinating book, ‘The Social Animal‘. We require years of development before we can care for ourselves, well into adolescence.  If for whatever reason a mother or father can’t provide this and the government needs to step in, statutory care involves support with housing, health, education, employment and many other things that a family would usually offer support with.

The age at which puberty begins is fairly simple to understand the physical changes that happen are easily observed. It seems that the body changes earlier in societies with better nutrition and health. So the recognizable biological indicators of the onset of puberty often occur around 10.  However, adolescence encompasses elements of biological growth and major social role transitions, both of which have changed in the past century.As regards social role transitions, the digital age has unleashed unprecedented social forces, which are affecting health and wellbeing across these years. So this expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence is essential for the framing of laws, social policies, and service systems that are developmentally appropriate. The end of adolescence is more difficult to detect, and can have dangerous consequences – you may think because someone is in their late 20’s this is an adult where you a really dealing with someone who still a little child, but they mask it very well.  In religious life, someone can be in their 60’s but you suddenly realise that their behaviour at times is still adolescent.

These changes are important for all institutions to understand, particularly those institutions that need to recruit new members.  In the Catholic Church we joke about confirmation as being ‘the sacrament of exit’,  and often we go all ‘starry-eyed’ about young people, throw a lot of money at pastoral initiatives that have a limited success rate. We often also shut our eyes to the dark side of adolescence, or what Bill Plotkin calls patho-adolescence.  Religious orders that are facing a crisis in attracting novices, often operate out of models of vocation promotion that still are targeting school or college leavers. It usually isn’t even on their radar in our very utilitarian- education factories. However I think the real rich picking grounds now are in the late 20’s /early 30’s when the first career is coming to an end, a re-evaluation is happening hard-earned earned wisdom is starting to sprout.

Which is why I think we have a lot to learn from the Mormons.  I really admire the way that they prepare their young people to be self-sufficient. As a community, it seems that they have painfully had to realise the importance of self-reliance and I think they transmit that brilliantly to their youngsters.  I have only worked with the Mormons through a visionary friend of mine, Brian Grim.  I asked Brian last year what he would say to the Pope, when he next met him and he thought about it and said,  ‘Wouldn’t it be great if every young Catholic was invited to serve a period of mission like young Mormons do?” ‘ Brian has had a fascinating experience of mission himself and an amazing faith-story. The website ‘Faith Counts’ has a series called ‘Holy Envy’ asking different Christians what their tradition could learn from one of the other groups of Christians.  Brian has just written a piece about this and I recommend reading it if you have the time – click here .  He goes on to say,

It’s not just the time young adults spend serving a mission and the lives they impact that makes a difference. It’s also the years of spiritual, financial, and psychological preparation supported by friends, family and congregations that make a difference. This all adds to the spiritual and temporal strength of the LDS Church itself.

It’s not that Catholics don’t have mission programs. They do – FOCUS Missionaries (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and Maryknoll Mission Volunteers to name a few. The difference is that serving a mission tends to be the exception for Catholics rather than the rule.

 

Miss me, but let me go!

AMDG

At a funeral yesterday, one of the family read out this poem at the crematorium – which I thought was very helpful.


When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
– why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
– miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,
and each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
a step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me – but let me go.


Why was is to so helpful?     

We know that grieving is a process…. according to Kubhler-Ross

And many things have to die in our lives (not just people)

Maybe it helps us keep moving on that journey

Funeral Speed

AMDG

A while back I had the unusual experience of a 45-minute journey, in a hearse, to a graveyard after a requiem mass,  longer than usual.  Often it is a much shorter journey to the place of committal from the church.  In this instance, the person had insisted that their funeral take place in a church that was precious for them, that they frequented even though it was about 12 miles from where they lived.  They also wanted to be laid to rest in the local graveyard where it was easy for family and friends to visit and tend the grave.  So his final journey was longer than normal.

The journey in the hearse was quite a revelation. Whilst on duty, a funeral cortege usually moves slightly slower than normal traffic, as a sign of respect.  I was told that this is known in the trade as ‘funeral speed’.  Sitting in the front of the hearse, I was shocked by how impatient some of the other drivers were.  Some people were irritated, occasionally overtaking in an aggressive manner,  we were even ‘honked’ a couple of times.  I was shocked although the chauffeur seemed calm.  On the way back, without the coffin and family in the back, driving at normal speed – he admitted that this insensitivity by other drivers was becoming more common, ‘funeral etiquette’ was certainly on the decline. We both agreed that ideally, you would want the procession to take place in a stately way, you can’t legislate for other drivers. I was impressed with how calm he was but sad about how the family must have felt with the ignorance on display.

A school I used to teach at, was close to a big crematorium. This meant that the students were often waiting at bus stops to come home when a funeral procession would pass by.  It was a great credit to them that they would always stop larking around, bless themselves and bow their heads when a hearse passed.  The headteacher told me that he would occasionally receive letters from families who were very moved by these schoolboys showing such respect.   These things leave lasting impressions and speak more than anything about the ethos of a school, and the culture in which someone is brought up in.  You notice when people stop out of respect when a hearse passes…. I still bless myself when an ambulance roars past.  When you are in raw grief, you are hyper-sensitive to whats happening around you, I still remember as a teenager…  the night my nan died, I needed to take a walk and felt angry that normal life was going on, people were enjoying themselves in bars, out shopping etc…..  How dare they!  As W.H.Auden memorably said…

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.