THE ROAD TO REALITY
| Their belief in the simple answer, put together in a visual way, is, I think, dangerous. It's as if they have too many windows open on their hard drive. In order to have a taste for sifting through different layers of truth, you have to stay with a topic and pursue it deeply, rather than go across the surface with your toolbar. –Claudia Koonz, Professor of History at Duke University
|You have intermittent, variable reinforcement. You are not sure you are going to get a reward every time or how often you will, so you keep pulling that handle. Why else do people get up in the middle of the night to check their email?-Patricia Wallace, a techno-psychologist who directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program, who believes part of the allure of email–for adults as well as teens–is similar to that of a slot machine.|
| 87% of 21 million Americans aged 12-17 go online. Internet access by grade:
Internet use by location:
Friend's House: 74%
Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, and Paul Hitlin, Teens and Technology: Youth are leading the transition to a fully wired and mobile nation (Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 27, 2005)
| Online social networks have become, almost overnight, booming teen magnets exerting an almost irresistible pull on kids' time and attention. Though both sites are only two years old, MySpace is the No. 2 most trafficked stop on the Internet; Facebook is No. 7, right behind Google. MySpace is open to anyone with an email address; Facebook requires members to be affiliated with a college or high school,...Facebook has seven million members. Like all secret societies [Facebook] has its own language, passageways and handshakes....–Time (March 27, 2006)
| ...Facebookers share their hobbies, obsessions great and small, or inside jokes. And then there's "the wall," which may be Facebook's most distinctive feature. It's the place on every member's site where friends can post messages, have conversations, and just generally keep up. The wall makes sense in one respect: it's easy and fun to spot an incoming message. But in another it's curious: you can peruse the postings of everyone else at your school. Which means the wall is one of those giveaway clues about Generation
M[ultitask]: teenagers think their lives are private just so long as their parents aren't tuning in.–Time (March 27, 2006)
|Teenagers who fill every quiet moment with a phone call or some kind of e-stimulation may not be getting that needed reprieve. Habitual multitasking may condition their brain to an overexcited state, making it difficult to focus even when they want to. "People lose the skill and the will to maintain concentration, and they get mental antsyness."–David E. Meyer, University of Michigan|
|I tell my students not to treat me like TV. They have to think of me like a real person talking. I want to have them thinking about things we're talking about.–University of Wisconsin professor Aaron Brower|
| Cell phone usage by
Americans aged 12-17:
X 57% of Americans aged 15-17 have their own cell phone
X 32% of Americans aged 12-14 have their own cell phone
X Of the approximately 11 million Americans aged 12-17 having a cell phone, 10% use it to connect to the Internet
X 7% of all teens have a personal digital device, or handheld (such as a Blackberry), and about one-third of them use it to connect to the Internet
Teens and Technology (Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 27, 2005)
| Facebook is one giant time vortex–a black hole of chatter....–Time (March 27, 2006)
| [Students] can't go a few minutes without talking on their cell phones. There's almost a discomfort with not being stimulated, a kind of
"I can't stand the silence."
–Donald Roberts, Professor of Communications, Stanford University
| The minute the bell rings...,
the first thing most kids do is reach into their bag and pick up their cell phone, never mind that the person [they're contacting] could be right down the hall.–Denise Clark Pope, Lecturer at the Stanford School of Education
| Email usage by online
Americans aged 12-17
X 93% of online girls
X 84% of online boys
X 46% of online Americans aged 12-17 prefer Instant Messaging (IM) over email and cell phone text messaging for written communications with friends1
X 36% of Americans aged 12-17 have recieved inappropriate email or chat room comments
X only 21% have told their parents about the inappropriate exchange2
1 Teens and Technology
(Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 27, 2005)
2 Web Savvy and Safety
(Penn, Schoen & Berland Assoc., Sept. 2000)
| The majority expressed concerns about how plugged-in they were and the way it takes them away from other activities, including exercise, meals and sleep.–David Levy, Professor, University of Washington Information School
| Instant Messaging (IM):
X 65% of all Americans aged 12-17 use IM (about 16 million)
X 56% of these have posted a profile (including name and other identifying information) where others can see it (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, etc.)
X 28% (4.5 million) of these have posted their phone number
X 20% (3.2 million) of these have used IM to ask somebody out
| People are going to lectures by some of the greatest minds, and they are doing their mail. [In my class] I tell them this is not a place for email, it's not a place to do online searches, and not a place to set up IRC [Internet relay chat] channels in which to comment on the class. It's not going to help if there are parallel discussions about how boring it is. You've got to get people to participate in the world as it is.–Sherry Turkle, Professor at M.I.T.
| Decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one's output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks.
–Time (March 27, 2006)
Let's begin this interview by defining, for our listeners, the definition of an idol. A false idol is not necessarily a golden calf, is it?
No, not necessarily. An obvious example of an idol is the golden calf. In other words, it's a material object which is usually an animal, whether a snake, cow, or goat. (Think of a totem pole.) These idols the devil encourages people to worship as gods. This kind of idolatry, however, is a very clear and open form. Anything, however, which people put first in their lives instead of God can be defined in a broad sense as an idol.
So money, pleasure, golf, or any inordinate attachment could be defined as an idol, then?
Anything that takes the first place in people's hearts and minds that is not God can be broadly defined as an idol. Placing these things first in someone's life to give them most honor and respect, in effect, replaces God. "I am a jealous God," says the Lord God in Scripture, "and I want no other gods before me." In other words, we must simply put God first in our lives.
Couldn't you define the whole history of the modern world in these terms? We seem to get more and more fascinated with various idols.
I think you can. It goes back at least to the 17th century when modern science "took off." Actually, it should be called 'science' in inverted commas, because true science involves saying the truth, but modern 'science' strongly suggests that only the material world is real. This is a tremendous falsehood.
What do you think of the worldliness of many traditional Catholics? Is there a danger, even for a soul that attends Mass regularly and seems to practice the Faith, to fall into a worldly mindset?
Yes, there is a great danger, especially if they read modern newspapers or watch television. This danger arises because they are essentially feeding their minds on modern newspapers and television. Through these media, they will absorb modern and anti-Catholic ideas and principles usually without even noticing it. Hence, the great danger. Therefore, the effect will be to push religion simply to a Sunday morning affair. They may go to Mass, they may even receive the Sacraments, but unless the religion of Sunday morning extends its influence and has its rights throughout the rest of the week, we are simply back to idolatry. God occupies the first place only on Sunday mornings. Thus we have the phenomenon of "Sunday Catholics," which is very dangerous.
The modern world is certainly more glitzy and glamorous every day. The modern world convinces more and more people to follow it. The modern world becomes more and more "normal" even though it's in reality highly abnormal and unnatural. But because each day it appears more natural and normal, the temptation to go with the flow becomes stronger every day. The pressure is subtle and pernicious as well as being open and blatant. Catholics face an increasing pressure to abandon, diminish or dilute their Faith. Unless they "watch and pray" as Our Lord commands us, they can easily slide into the universal apostasy with the rest of mankind.
Do you think the devil often works through distractions, then?
Very much so. The devil seeks to occupy our minds with anything except the things that truly matter. Sports are especially distracting. How many men spend how much time reading, thinking and dreaming about sports? Of course, sports are relatively healthy compared with a number of other activities, but they still consume an immense amount of both time and money. At the end of the day, they do very little in themselves for people's eternal salvation. At their best they can provide sane and healthy recreation, but they should be strictly recreational. In fact, modern-day sports heroes become essentially idols.
How is it, then, that many good Catholic men and women seem to slide into a mindset where they put much more effort into improving a golf game or hairstyle than their eternal salvation?
How does this happen?
Usually it happens little by little in everyday life. For example, you begin picking up the newspaper each morning and read it for five minutes. Then it becomes ten minutes. Then it becomes fifteen minutes. You become more and more engrossed in the concerns and way of thinking which the newspaper provides. The exact same thing is true of television. You can allow your heart and mind to be essentially swallowed up by television because it's so engrossing.
But another thing that is incredibly important is education. If a soul has never had a decent Catholic education, then it starts at a "10" on a scale of, let's say, 100, which means if it loses 10, it's down to zero. But if a soul has had a good Catholic education, it starts at a 50, let's say; 50 will normally take longer to wear away than 10. A good Catholic education is the prime way of learning how to stand up against the world. However, if you haven't been taught how to keep and protect the Faith, then you must learn by yourself. You must read.
This is a very important point: Catholic souls today must not only pray, but they also must read. They'll never understand what's going on in the Church unless they read. There's plenty of good literature concerning the problems in the Church and the world and plenty of good explanations. If souls read and continue reading, and pray and continue praying–especially for light from the Mother of God through the daily Rosary–eventually they will begin to see the whole picture. Modern life is an entire ball game and Catholic life is an entirely different ball game. The two ball games don't mix.
What books would you most strongly recommend?
There are many, so it's difficult to recommend any one in particular. Everything that Archbishop Lefebvre wrote is usually very accessible, very true, and very balanced. But in addition to the Archbishop, Angelus Press publishes many good books, all of which I recommend. Some of them are more difficult, but a lot of them are not too difficult.
If the reading life is difficult for someone, that soul must still grapple with these problems and make an effort to understand them. There's no quick fix for understanding what's going on in the Church and the world, and there's no easy solution. There's no "I'll read two or three books and understand it all" solution. No, there is a whole steady effort which must be made over even several years before a soul can grasp what is going on.
Why should Catholics place emphasis on the salvation of their souls?
Because this life is incredibly short and eternity lasts forever.
Parents, of course, realize how fast children grow up.
Yes, and this demonstrates how much of a serious responsibility parents have towards the education of their children. Those years go by very fast for parents because usually they are very happy years. As they say, time goes quickly when you're having a good time. Parents are occupied raising their children but they must do everything they can to put their children on the right path because what the children learn in their early years has an immense importance for the rest of their lives. And all of us–parents and children–are here only for the purpose of saving our souls and to enjoy being with God for eternity.
How is it that our short lives have such an impact for all
of eternity? Certainly it is one of the mysteries of the Faith.
If you stop and think about it, when we die, every one of us will have been given sufficient time–this short life, however short it is–to make up our minds whether we want to spend eternity with God or without God. Either we want to spend our own eternity without God or we want to spend God's eternity with God. That decision is such a serious decision that it takes a lifetime to make it, but a lifetime is enough. The proof is that God takes some people out of this life at the age of 5, some at the age of 15, some at the age of 25, and so on. However briefly we live, if God allows that we die at a younger age, that will have been long enough for that soul to make up his mind.
So God gives us the time that we need?
Yes, the time we need to make up our minds whether we want to spend eternity with Him or not.
And this is a very big decision.
Yes, that's right. The stakes are extremely high for the whole of our eternity depends upon this little, little life we live. And this little life, for each person, depends upon our last moment. It's how we die that matters, and all of our life is a preparation for how we die. All of our life is building that decision with which we will die.
Is St. Alphonsus's Preparation for Death a good treatment of this subject?
Yes, it's a classic. Unfortunately for modern readers, it uses 18th-century examples, but as to the content, it belongs to all time.
What are some of the things we can do to make sure that
we do keep our attention on our march towards our salvation
and on making that decision to stay with God and not get distracted?
The first thing is prayer. The second thing is reading or the sacraments. For someone who has been away from prayer for a long time, reading is the second thing in order to understand the necessity of the Catholic Church and the sacraments. But if prayer is enough to remind us of the necessity of the Church and the sacraments, then a return to the sacraments is the second thing. Of course, perseverance with prayer, sacraments, and reading is essential.
Wouldn't you also say that retreats are a good way to get back on track after drifting into a worldly mindset?
It's an extremely good way of getting back on track, especially the retreats of St. Ignatius. These came from the Lord God during the time of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which was the first half of the 16th century, precisely as a counterweight and antidote to Protestantism, which launched the modern world.
Were retreats originally intended just for priests?
No, St. Ignatius of Loyola gave retreats both to priests and laity. In fact, he gave them especially to the laity if they had a vocation. But they're definitely for both. Priests have a special need to stay in touch with the things of God, but the laity may definitely need a retreat in order to stay on track. Some laity are aware that they need to make a good, solid retreat once a year in order to stay on track.
But they were distilled to five days for the laity, were they not?
Fr. Vallet, a Spanish priest in the early 20th century, bequeathed to us the five-day version of the Spiritual Exercises. This is because most men even today can find five days in a year to get the essentials of the Exercises.
Was there not a priest who introduced the five-day version of the Exercises to the Society of St. Pius X?
Yes, Father Barrielle, a Frenchman who worked with Fr. Vallet himself. Fr. Vallet was working in France in the 1930s and 1940s, which is where Fr. Barrielle met him. Fr. Barrielle had been a parish priest who was not satisfied with his ability to reach his parishioners in Marseille. He was thus looking for some way to get to them, which is when he discovered that Fr. Vallet's five-day Spiritual Exercises were a perfect way to do this. Fr. Barrielle then joined Fr. Vallet's congregation and spent two or three years by Fr. Vallet's side in France. By the time Fr. Vallet had to flee to Spain to escape the Communists, Fr. Barrielle had already learned from him the art of the Exercises.
In the early 1970s, then, Archbishop Lefebvre invited Fr. Barrielle to come to Econe and help teach the Exercises to the seminarians. This is how the legacy of Fr. Vallet has been preserved by the Society of St. Pius X. The SSPX has been preaching these five-day retreats all over the world ever since.
It could be said that in modern times most people have a foggy notion of reality and eternity. How has this happened?
What has happened has been built up little by little over the centuries in the modern world. The devil is working towards his masterpiece, which will be the Antichrist. God is allowing it as a just punishment for a world which has turned away from Him. It is something which has been happening for a long time, which is why it's false to say Vatican II was some kind of a surprise. Vatican II was, in a way, inevitable. If men continued to slip away from God, it was only a matter of time before the Catholic churchmen would also slip away from God. The process took a great jump forward in the 1960s with Vatican II, of course, and it's been going on ever since. But it has continued to happen day by day, month by month, year by year, over many centuries.
Do you think that the mass media have played a large role in all of this?
Yes. Newspapers appeared first in the 18th century as, essentially, an effect of liberalism. They have served as an instrument of liberalism. You've asked if the Catholic Church can use television. Of course it can. Can the Catholic Church use newspapers? Yes, it can, but these modern media in themselves do not work for the Catholic Church. In themselves, I would argue that there is something in their nature which inclines them to work for original sin rather than for the salvation of souls. That's why I always say that the media of Our Lord are the pulpit and the confessional.
Do you think that television is the worst of these technologies?
Well, television is easily very bad and very easily does a great deal of harm to very many souls. But people who know both say that the Internet can be even worse. I don't know exactly why they say that, but when it comes to competition about how much harm they do to the eternal salvation of souls, I think the Internet has overtaken television.
Is this because of the large amount of filth on the Internet?
Very possibly, since the filth is more easily accessible and since there's such a vast quantity of it. But also those who use the Internet are in control of what they see and organize it as they like, whereas public programs on television are not under control, although video-tapes are. So the Internet makes those kinds of sins, say, watching and listening to impurity, even easier than television. However, there may be more to it than just the problem of impurity.
Perhaps part of the problem with both television and the Internet is that they can both be very involving, especially the Internet.
That's right, people get swallowed up in the Internet. People are more active with the Internet; whereas with television, you're purely passive. It's one of the problems with television and one advantage of the Internet, as it makes people less purely passive. At the same time, this makes the Internet more engrossing. Just think: people must have collectively wasted millions of years with the Internet and television. Besides the obvious attack on morality, the senses, and purity of thought, the factor of time wasted is a major consideration.
Could a bit of discernment be in order here?
No doubt, both television and the Internet do not intrinsically serve the Evil One. They can both be made to serve good. For instance, still now, a great deal of true information is available on the Internet which is not available in newspapers. The newspapers and television are entirely under the control of the globalists and the enemies of God. The Internet is not yet under this control. I don't know how long this will last; the bad guys most likely will get control of it at some point. But at the moment it seems very difficult. So, here and now, if you look for the right websites, you can find a wealth of information which you can'™t find in the mass media and published books.
So then would you say that the Internet is a mix of both good and bad, while the television is almost all bad or at least useless?
Even on TV, there can still be some good things. Satan is not stupid. He's going to bait the hook with a nice, juicy worm. Families, however, should undoubtedly keep the television set outside of the home. Period. Especially if there are young children. The television set must go.
I would like to discuss the subject of families and raising children. Parents say they desire that their children will practice the Faith. Have you noticed any factors which help families pass on the Faith to their children?
I think, without any doubt, that the most important thing is the personal example of the parents. For the boys in particular, the personal example of the father is decisive. If you want vocations, all you need is fathers who take the Faith seriously. Automatically, the boys follow Dad. They may not have vocations, but if you have a number of fathers who are serious about their religion, there will be vocations amongst the boys.
The father and mother, by their personal example, and by the seriousness with which they take the Faith and their own personal salvation, are the most important factor for children. If, however, they see Mom and Dad go to Mass on Sunday, but otherwise not bothering too much about the Faith–even if the parents respect God, love God, and honor God–the children will easily drift away later. This is because they will realize the parents do not take the Faith seriously. If they see the father and mother taking the Faith seriously in the way they run the home and with every situation in everyday life, that's what really helps children keep the Faith.
Dad may have all kinds of faults, but if he puts himself out for the love of God, and his boys see him doing that, the children will keep the Faith.
A very important factor in all of this is the daily Rosary, correct?
That's another element which is very important. The Mother of God, whenever she appears, always asks for the Rosary, and there is no question that the Rosary is an extremely powerful prayer. The Rosary is the best protection for the home and the family. It's much better if Dad leads the family than if Mom does. This is because God has made the father the natural leader of the family. The man should not let the weight of leading the religion fall upon his wife. The mother is naturally the more pious because women are generally more pious than men, but she is still not the leader. How many women would love their husbands to take the lead and give the example! Alas, too many husbands do not do it. When the husbands don't do it, it's very difficult for the mother to lead her boys even if she is good and pious. The boys naturally look towards their father.
There is a difficulty today in raising children in that the culture that surrounds us is hostile to the Catholic Faith and is becoming more and more rotten. How should traditional families cope with this?
I think the answer has to be that, if the children are fortified from within, the world cannot do too much harm to them from without. But if the children are not fortified from within, then the world without is going to carry them with it. And this comes back to the Rosary. Religion must be in the home, and it must not be artificial. Religion must be natural to the home, which is to say that the parents must take the Faith so for granted that it's a part of everything they do and say. If the religion is too artificial, the children will sooner or later throw it off. Unless the religion and saying the Rosary are totally natural and normal and are not an artificial and irksome duty every day, the children will drift away from the Faith. And if the children take the Rosary into their souls, the Mother of God will protect them from an awful lot of nonsense outside the home. Parents must turn the home into a sanctuary of supernatural–not artificial–faith, hope, and charity.
What you are talking about is similar to the Faith being an inoculation then?
Absolutely. It's a tremendous protection. There is no doubt that by the grace of God there are souls that can go through the sewer of modern schools and come out smelling like roses. Now, there may not be many who do this, but it is very clear that God and Our Lady can protect souls if they wish. There are souls even outside the Faith who go through these schools and come out smelling like roses. It's obviously a protection of God. What God protects, no man can harm; and what Our Lady protects, Satan cannot harm. She has Satan under her feet. If the love of the Mother of God and her holiness are in young souls through the Rosary, the Mass, the Sacraments and the example of the parents, there is a limit to what Satan will be able to do. He will throw his worst at them, but whom God protects, no man can harm.
So the Faith comes first, but nevertheless, similar to television, there are outside influences which parents ought to protect their children from?
If you want the home to be Catholic, you must not let the television in. Perhaps the parents can use a television wisely once the children are out of the house. Perhaps. It may seem a great sacrifice to some, or even impossible to others, but the television must go. The same applies to other electronics. I don't think it's wise to let children play video games because they draw children into an electronic world of little flashing screens. From video games, it's a logical step to television and the Internet. This electronic world is not the real world; it's a virtual world. And children get used to living off of virtual reality. Then they lose real reality, and if they lose reality, how can they hold on to the real God?
Electronics have become the dominant force in popular culture. Children used to gather to play football, hockey, or soccer. Today, video and computer games in addition to CDs have taken over.
Yes, and it's not good. Because things like farm animals are real. Playing soccer with other boys in the neighborhood is real. (Girls, of course, should not play men's sports like soccer.) Boys need to be playing sports with other boys where they get slugged and slug in return. That's real reality. There is a far cry between that and electronic games, whether CDs, Internet, television, video games, or even movies. At least a movie, if it's a well-selected title, may be alright once a month or so, especially for those living in the cities. But generally, a card game or board game is much better recreation for children and adults because you get to interact with other real people. This way children will become socially normal, and not used to machines or electronics. Children lose their social skills to the degree they become familiar with electronics. I've heard this observation from many, many parents and it seems reasonable.
Electronics are dazzling and glamorous; it's one magic lantern after another, each one more distracting than the last. They detach children from the real world, while children adapt to a virtual world where man is the master. We sit at our computers, masters of what we do. We become omnipotent and omniscient. We can look at anything, we can buy anything, we know where everything is at on the computer. But man is not in reality omnipotent or omniscient. Children are liable to think that they are the masters, that they can do anything or know anything with machines. And this is not a good thing for children to think. That is the opposite of an education for children. Children must bump up against and learn the hard realities which they do not learn with a computer.
Do you think that for a family to move to the country is a means of coming closer to reality?
In principle, it should be encouraged. Where there is a will, there is a way. If a family knows clearly what they want from the country and what they want to put into it for the sake of their children, and if they have the will, they will find the way. But if they go to the country with a very dreamy idea that the country is better than the city, they will come back undreamed.
So it's a move that must be well-planned, and there must be a sense of realism and sacrifice about it, too?
Yes, definitely. Cows don't take holidays. If people moved from the country to the city, there was a reason for it. The city is a softer and easier way of life, and is more suited to man's pride, sensuality, and original sin. This is the reason so many people have left the country. There's no doubt that in itself, the country is a far healthier way of life. However, it must be realized that cows do not take holidays, which means you may not be able to take a holiday. Now, this is just one example of the sacrifices which rural life may bring with it. It's exactly these sacrifices which make country life hard that make country life worthwhile and a good lesson and upbringing for children. Scripture says, let the young man bear the yoke because if he comes up against reality in his youth, he will not depart from the straight way later. The trouble with modern cities, and especially with computers, is that they both make life too easy for children, and therefore they don't get an education in real life. Therefore, they are not fitted for the rest of their days instead of being fitted as they ought.
Another thing that's happening is that many youth, surrounded by computers, are going to school for computer skills and none of the hand skills or practical skills that you've talked about before.
It's much better if the boys and the girls learn to do things with their hands. For the girls, sewing, stitching and knitting, using their hands and minds on something real and not electronic, illusory, or dreamy. Boys should handle machines, fixing bicycles and taking apart car engines and tractors, handle horses and animals; any of these real things are better than this world of electronics.
Have you noticed that, outside the corporate elites, the men who do the best financially are still tradesmen? On the other hand, many people who have good educations and are highly qualified, are unemployed.
It's a very interesting, although not surprising, observation. Today's universities are more or less useless. They cost an enormous amount of money for nothing. They don't train children for life, they give them degrees in things which are unreal. The children become accustomed to having their parents pay fabulous sums to keep them more or less idle and more or less exposed to corruption for three or four years on end, learning dummy subjects from dummy professors. Modern universities are a disaster.
Especially for the girls. Girls do not belong at universities at any time. It's a very controversial statement, but I'm prepared to back it up. A girl's place is in the home. A girl's university is her home. Her great professor is her mother. Let girls learn how to make a home, how to make a husband happy, and how to look after the children. That is a woman's vocation and a woman's happiness. This does not mean girls should be stupid, for it takes all of a woman's talents to raise and educate her children, to form the minds and hearts of the future!
There are few people who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and do real, hard work. Anybody in carpentry, plumbing, or electricity who is prepared to do real work is much more in the world of reality, and I'm not surprised if they earn more money than those who work for these artificial corporations with artificial structures and artificial CEOs. The business world is in many respects today unreal.
These people in corporations are constantly subject to layoffs.
Well, of course, that's reality coming back. These modern big corporations are living in an artificial and unreal world. And reality has a tremendous way of coming back. It takes its revenge, and if you separate yourself too far from reality, it will always come back.
Is it a solution to the corruption in our civilization for a family to move to some isolated corner of the country and keep their children totally away from the outside world?
Yes and no. It works for a time if the children in that separated home learn to handle a rejoined universe. But if, in this separated home, they learn how to handle nothing but separation, then when they have to rejoin the rest of the world, they're going to be in trouble. Again, it depends on what the children will learn to want in such a situation. Will they learn to want separation? No man is an island and no family is an island. Man is a social animal, as Aristotle taught. He's not just an individual animal, as Rousseau taught. This means that man naturally belongs to society, and that's why even a good family today is not enough on its own. A Catholic family, even a very good Catholic family, has children who still need to live in society. And if you haven't taught them to live in society, they won't be able to survive in society. Catholic parents cannot have their children learn from society by separating them from society.
Might part of the solution then be that traditional Catholic families provide mutual support for each other?
Well, in the United States, you have two big centers, St. Marys and Post Falls, where a lot of Catholic families have gathered together. And this is a great help. The whole question is whether things are natural or artificial. It must be natural. As long as it's artificial, sooner or later it will fall to pieces because nature takes its revenge and children will abandon it. If it has become a natural way of life, with families bonding naturally into a Catholic society, then children can get a good deal more of what they need. In St. Marys, many students who go to school there, stay there. Often they go into the big, bad world, see what it's like, and then realize that what St. Marys has is truly better.
This leads us to the question of what Our Lord means with the phrase "in the world, but not of the world."
Well, you must consider the context. The quotation comes from Chapter 17 of St. John's Gospel. Our Lord is praying to His Father on behalf of the Apostles, who will still be in the world after He ascends. Our Lord, however, doesn' want them to be "of the world." This means that although we are in the world physically, we are not to be of the world spiritually, in our hearts, souls, and minds. Spiritually, in our hearts, souls, and minds, we must be of God. But we must go into the world to bring our fellow men to God. Of course, this has an application to children in Catholic families. They will have to be in the world, but if the family has done its job, they will have been fortified with faith, hope, and charity. Because of the state of grace, they'll be marching to a different drum than the rest of the world.
So there is a need to instill a spirit of detachment?
Yes, detachment from the world, but not without an attachment to God and the things of God. If you are going to detach yourself from the world, you must have something to attach yourself to. The world is attractive, and it does pull souls to itself, so there must be a motive for this detachment. It does no good to tell children only "Be detached," because they must be attached to something, and if you fill them with God, they will be naturally detached from the world. God must be the reason for being detached from the world.
Would it help, to give children this spirit of detachment, to attend events like pilgrimages and ordinations?
Yes, definitely, it's a great help. For children, what it says to go to things like pilgrimages and ordinations if Mom and Dad go, is that this is what's important to Mom and Dad. To see men made priests at ordinations, or to love and honor the saints of God on pilgrimage instead of going to sports games every week will tell the children what really matters to their parents. This is not to mention the other children met at ordinations and pilgrimages, centered around God and the Faith, not the world, sports, money, or entertainment. That is where the children will learn. It will also enable children to be social and not merely familial. They will be able to make good Catholic friends amongst children of their own age.
So, in a way, it sets up not only a web of friendships, but maybe a counter-culture even?
It would go towards restoring true culture against the anti-culture which surrounds us today. True culture, which is a result of Christian civilization, has been replaced by the culture of the New World Order, which is God-less, sense-less, meaningless and immoral. But to visit these occasions like pilgrimages and ordinations rebuilds a whole atmosphere around the children in which everything is centered on God. And this is a very precious thing.
Is there a role in this Catholic culture for grandparents and singles?
Certainly. Concerning grandparents, the natural family is not a two-decker family. It is surely the three or even four-decker family, i.e., a family of three generations and not simply two. The two-generation family–Mom, Dad, and the children–is not as normal as today it looks. Coming from the three-decker family to the two-decker family, we are well on our way to the one-decker family. Even children today are mainly one-decker children. This is to say that the children listen to each other, rely on each other, but the parents hardly figure into the equation. This is the disintegration of the family. On the contrary, to go in the opposite direction not only restores the natural contact and interaction between parents and children, but also with grandparents as well. Grandparents have a lot to give to grandchildren, especially time. And the grandchildren have a lot to give to their grandparents too, blood of their blood, flesh of their flesh, especially joy and life which is so important in old age. It is amazing how grandchildren bring joy to grandparents. Ideally–although it is not easy with mentalities today–a grandfather and grandmother live under the same roof as their children and grandchildren.
So nurturing the extended family is a Catholic thing to do?
Surely, yes. Again, you can't force Catholic things upon people with a thoroughly liberal mentality because it won't work. If the grandparents want to be independent, and the parents want to be independent, it won't work. Mentalities may be too far gone at this stage. But we should at least recognize the ideal for what it is so that we don't glorify the two-decker family and pretend that it's an excellent thing for the grandparents to be pushed off into an old folks home.
Or children sent off to a day-care institution.
Exactly. The Catholic home must be rebuilt. The mother must be the heart of the home. If we had some mothers, who, with all their womanly hearts' wisdom and love, would be selfless and concentrate on looking after the two other generations, a lot of grandparents and grandchildren would be much happier.
Unfortunately, the school system has also become anti-Christian and rotten. Do you think that homeschooling is the solution to this problem?
Homeschooling is the second-best. The best situation is a good school because parents don't usually have the knowledge, time, patience, or physical ability to teach all their children simultaneously while they take care of their other duties. There are, of course, some homeschooling mothers who are absolutely heroic. But there are many drawbacks about homeschooling. For instance, boys at a certain age need to be taught by men. Even the best of mothers is inadequate to teach the boys after a certain age. Homeschooling, however, is better than corruption. Good schools, nevertheless, remain the ideal and the best situation.
So it's important for traditional Catholics to support good Catholic schools?
Definitely. But let them trust the priests and Sisters who run their schools. In the old days, if a boy came home and said that Sister Battle-axe had whopped him, the parents whopped him a second time. After that, he never again complained about Sister. Today, alas, if little Johnny comes home and complains about his teachers, the parents get on to the teachers as if it's always their fault and never little Johnny's. But little Johnny is a little monkey who has original sin, which is what foolish parents today forget.
Are we in a period similar to the fall of the Roman Empire? Are the traditional initiatives in our day, like building new chapels, schools, and communities, similar to the efforts of St. Benedict and the monks to build islands of order?
There is a certain comparison and similarity because, as you say, the world has fallen into disorder, and those who have the Faith are picking themselves up and gathering together. On the other hand, there is a big difference between monks organizing monasteries–which is a very specialized high-powered operation from a spiritual point of view–and ordinary families who are normally of low voltage, spiritually speaking. I say, normally. Of course, great sanctity is possible inside families, but they haven't got the organization, dedication, and motivation of monks. I don't know whether today if families, gathering themselves together, can achieve what the monks achieved: the creation of Christendom. But families must do what they can do, which will serve God's purposes. God will use the noble efforts of single families and joint families in order to continue Christendom. So there's a certain comparison and a certain dissimilarity.
Then perhaps part of the solution is that families work together with good priests?
Families that wish to keep the Faith certainly need priests. Only very exceptionally can people make do without priests. Therefore, people must go where the priests are, or the priests need to go where the people are. This is why we see things like Post Falls and St. Marys [and Syracuse, Kansas City, Dickinson, and Veneta–Ed.].
How important is it that the faithful support the priests, religious, and Sisters?
It's very important because if families take refuge with the priests and Sisters and then undermine them, especially in front of the children, there is little that the priests and Sisters can do. If the children see the parents criticizing priests, the children will not think highly of the priests. It's the most normal thing in the world. If they see the priests looking down on the Sisters, or the Sisters looking down on the priests, again, the children will get the message and they will not follow those vocations. It's thus necessary that there be a considerable degree of cooperation, especially for a school, between parents and priests if you want children to go in the right direction.
Is it important for the laity to pray for their priests?
Absolutely. For sure. The laity will get the priests of their prayers. In other words, the more wisely and seriously the laity pray to have good priests, the more sure they can be that God will grant them good priests. If the laity don't appreciate good priests, if they mistreat the priests, if they unfairly and unnecessarily criticize the priests, they will lose them. The laity, before Vatican II, did not really understand what the priests were doing for them, and therefore, the laity lost a lot of good priests with Vatican II. And they lost a lot of good Sisters too. There used to be a convent school on many a block, but most of those convent schools are gone because the laity did not truly appreciate them. Of course, the priests and Sisters were at fault too. Very few people really understood their Faith, which is why Vatican II happened.
This interview granted to Mr. Bernard Janzen along with other recordings of Bishop Williamson and about Catholic Tradition are available on audiotape and CD from: Triumph Communications, Box 149, Welwyn, SK, S0A 4L0, Canada. Phone: 306-733-2100. To purchase a CD recording of this interview from Angelus Press call 1-800-966-7337. US$10 plus shipping and handling.