Ernest Hemingway, in his book, The Sun Also Rises, said it this way, “ You are all a lost generation.”
Paul Brody, in his book, Midnight in Paris, said it this way, “In all their guises, the Lost Generation shared another thing - they experienced firsthand the seismic shift in culture that signaled the painful birth of the Modern World.”
Both writers were describing the Lost Generation- people who were born from 1885-1900 and who fought in World War One. They experienced the Great War, Prohibition, Depression, World War II, and the great baby boom after WWII. Almost everything a person could experience on this earth in one generation. However, when we look back at this generation in many cases we see that this could be called one of the “Greatest Generations.” They were the parents of the people who fought in World War II. They were the parents of the people who pushed their children to go to college. They were parents who pushed their children to buy a house and live the American Dream. They were also the parents who helped with homework, took care of all of the chores around the house on a daily basis, and went to Church on a daily basis. They were the last generation of Americans whose weekly Church attendance was over 80% and the last generation of Americans who really strived to live all of the precepts that were taught to them. Simply put we would not have had the “Greatest Generation” without this “Greatest Generation” without them and the Church has not been the same since their passing. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980’s- Church attendance in the United States began to slip and much of this could be due to the gradual loosing of this generation.
Now more than ever we need to look at the lessons of this generation because there are great parallels between the events of 1918 and today. One of the greatest minds of the Lost Generation was Bishop Fulton Sheen. He was born in 1895 and he has influenced many generations of Americans since. Even today his words on this subject are shocking and strike a responsive chord in our soul.
Compare Bishop Sheen with Paul Brody’s comments. Bishop Sheen took the opposite approach when he said, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” In a sense, many of the Lost Generation got lost because they forgot to follow Bishop Sheen's sage advice. Morals do not change because an opinion that is tied to the whims of the majority will be as fleeting as the wind. A society can not and will exist without a strong moral basis. Every civilization that has existed throughout history and has fallen- the cause was the internal loss of their moral compass. Once you lose the societal moral sense of direction anything and everything goes. This includes the society itself.
We are currently facing the biggest challenge to this generation and the Church. From the 80% mark of Church attendance, each week at Mass in the late 1930s and 40’s Church attendance in 2019 was down to a near 20% on the weekly average in the United States and this was higher than many European countries which averaged in the low single digits. Can the Church survive? Well, the simple answer is it will but it can not do so without your help.
In the last article, I explained the situation of losing people and our Religious Education problems that we are currently facing with this pandemic. We can not give in because we are fighting for the soul of our Church. We can not lose a generation of people. That is where after some prayer I was reminded of the Lost Generation of the 20th century. The generation of my grandparents. The generation that brought up the Greatest Generation. How did they do it? How did they overcome all the seemingly insurmountable problems that they faced? Their answer is both tried and true. They turned to their faith in God. Brother and sisters, we need to do the exact same before it's too late.