In the first chapter of Hold On To Your Kids, Dr. Neufeld describes what sounds to me like the impending implosion of an entire culture. Peer orientation has reached pandemic levels and unless parents realize soon, and begin to take their children back from the world, our country is headed for disaster.
In the section, Normal But Not Natural Or Healthy, I had the certain realization that what he is describing is exactly the problem we're facing in the Church today--a problem of orientation, not just of the priest facing the people, although that's certainly part of it, but a problem of the orientation of mankind in general towards God. Man has turned in on himself, away from God for God's sake (literally), and we see it even in the liturgy, in liturgical music, in church architecture, etc. The sign of peace between all and sundry immediately following the consecration; the priest facing the people, engaging them, making eye-contact with them, instead of leading the people facing towards God, eyes uplifted to the tabernacle and the crucifix; lyrics such as those of "Gather Us In;" churches in the round, where the laity gaze at one another and the tabernacle is nowhere to be found, are all symptoms of a trend toward man-centeredness, a distinctly horizontal orientation, as opposed to the vertical orientation of God-centeredness. In the Advent/Christmas 2007 issue of Latin Mass Magazine, in the article entitled, "A Crisis of Meaning in the Sign of Peace," Dr. Michael P. Foley writes, "It is now more difficult to trace the link between the risen Eucharistic Christ and the peace He diffuses to His Church, for the 'chain of love' has ceased to be visible. The vertical mediation of Christ's peace has been replaced by a horizontal immediacy."¹ On page 10 of Hold On To Your Kids, Dr. Neufeld writes, "Essential to any culture are its customs, its music, its dress, its celebrations, its stories. The music children listen to bears very little resemblance to the music of their grandparents. The way they look is dictated by the way other children look rather than by the parents' cultural heritage. Their birthday parties [liturgies] and rites of passage [sacramental rites] are influenced by the practices of other children [religions] around them, not by the customs of their parents before them. If all that seems normal to us, it's only due to our own peer orientation. The existence of a youth culture [new Catholic culture], separate and distinct from that of adults [traditional Catholic culture], dates back only fifty years or so. Although half a century is a relatively short time in the history of humankind [the Church], in the life of an individual person it constitutes a whole era. Most readers of this book will already have been raised in a society [Church] where the transmission of culture is horizontal rather than vertical. In each new generation this process, potentially corrosive to civilized society, gains new power and velocity." (empasis mine). I know this may sound like sacrelige to some readers, but it really isn't hard to see given an honest look.
Dr. Neufeld decries the current trend as unprecedented. Similarly, the crisis in the Church is like none other she's ever weathered. Her traditions, as with those of the culture of our grandparents, are being rejected outright, and replaced with novelties and aberrations even our own parents probably could never have imagined-- gay priests and gay marriage; the acceptance of contraception by over 80% of Catholic couples, and the rapidly rising teen suicide rate; the acceptance of wiccan practices as a legitimate form of religion on our military bases and the desecration of the Holy Eucharist through the common practice of Communion in the hand are but a few of the fruits of mankind's new horizontal orientation.
In chapter 9, Stuck In Immaturity, he discusses the need for human beings to cultivate attachments in which they can rest secure in order to mature emotionally and psychologically, much the way a plant needs to grow a strong, healthy root system before it can get down to the business of growing bigger and flowering. I believe that Catholics, like children, need to be able to rest secure in the truth, in customs and disciplines that demonstrate the truth, and in a hierarchy that can be trusted to lead us in the paths of righteousness, in order to mature spiritually. But that is another post entirely!
It wasn't my intention here to dive into a subject Catholics have been debating for the last 40 years--I have neither the time nor the desire to attempt that feat. (If you wish to arrive at a better understanding of why the orientation of the priest matters I recommend reading Turning Towards The Lord, published by Ignatius Press.) I only hoped to convey my sincere belief that whether it be sexual orientation, liturgical orientation or peer orientation, we're dealing with a crisis of orientation that has permeated practically every facet of our culture.
It may be bold of me to say, but I think it could be argued that Hold On To Your Kids is to families what Summorum Pontificum is to the Church--a long overdue wake-up call to adjust our orientation and to restore the order God bestowed on His creation--God over Man, Man over Woman², Parents over Children, all stumbling back toward Him in imitation of His beloved Son under the weight of the Cross. I can never forget the scene from the Passion in which our Blessed Mother tried desperately to reach her Son through the throng of people in the streets. And when she did, just after He fell again, she asked to die with Him, to suffer what He suffered. At the same time the scene flashes back to when He fell as a child, skinning His knee, and she flew to Him to comfort Him. Back in the street He says to her, "Mother, I make all things new."
In order to hold on to our kids we have to try something "new." We have to try to feel what they're feeling--to suffer with them, rather than tell them their suffering's not all that much to fret about³. We have to learn to empathize with them. Then, by our example--as by our Blessed Mother's example, they will learn to empathize with others, and in so doing, share, if ever so slightly, in the sufferings of Our Lord on His road to Calvary.
¹ This is interesting when one looks at the sign of peace as a sort of symbolic "attachment ritual," the loving embrace between man and his God, collecting and connecting with one another physically and spiritually.
² Dr. Neufeld does not address the issue of God and Man or Man and Woman in his book. This is my own conclusion based on my understanding of the problem of orientation.
³ At 5:10 minutes into the video Brian Regan explains it like only he can.