Bottom line: The most effective thing we can do for others is to accompany them, to be with them; similarly, Jesus asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit to be with us always.
You may have seen the headlines which proclaimed that abstinence education does not work. According to some studies, abstinence education did little to help young people delay sexual activity until marriage. If these studies are accurate, it is of course a disappointment. However, there was something which the media did not widely report. The same studies which indicate that abstinence education doesn't work, also showed that "sex education" does not work. Although sex education teaches children all the methods of contraception, it does not reduce the rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The natural question is: If neither abstinence education nor sex education work, what does work? Is there anything we can do to help our young people and to protect them from harmful activities?
Well, there is some good news. The studies show that two factors can protect our young people against destructive behaviors.* The two biggest protective factors are (pause) parental involvement and religious practice. I know that a lot of parents might not believe this, but children in general strive to live up to parental expectations - especially if their parents are involved in their lives: That is, if parents know where their children are, who they are with and what they are doing. Children want to honor their parents. I have had gang members break down and cry in front of me. Why? Because they realize they brought shame to their parents. All of us want to honor our parents - even if we know our parents are not perfect. The greatest thing that parents - and other adults can do - is to be involved in the lives of young people.
Now, I know that I have often failed in this regard. I was not enough involved with my nephews and nieces in their more difficult years. This came home to me in humorous way. When the first Toy Story movie came out, I saw a trailer and said to myself, "I'd like to see that movie. Maybe I will take my nephews." Then I remembered: they are in college now. They are not going to want to see Toy Story. Okay, I was a little late, but, you know, it is never too late if we are parents or grandparents, uncles or just family friends. The best thing we can do is accompany our young people, be with them.
This brings me to the theme of this Sunday - Pentecost Sunday. Jesus tells us he will ask the Father to send the Advocate...who will be with us always. The Greek word for Advocate is Paraclete. It means someone who is called beside another, an attorney. We need someone next to us. Before the Church had the New Testament, she had the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
I read the Bible every day and I hope you do too. But the Bible is kind of like the user's manual you get when you buy a car. If something goes wrong, I don't pull out the manual; I ask my brother for help. The Holy Spirit is like that. He shows us how to keep on the road - and what to do when something breaks down. The Holy Spirit guides by way of the Church which Jesus founded. He is always with us. And he invites us in turn to accompany our young people - and other who need his guidance.
*"the biggest protective factors for delaying teen sex are married parents and religious observance...what is going on at home completely dwarfs anything that is going on at school. As Dr Trevor Stammers, a wise British commentator put it: 'Much teenage sex has little do with sex itself, but is connected with searching for meaning, identity and belonging.'"
Naomi Schaefer Riley: Sex-Ed Cliffs Notes (Do women get pregnant because they lack information?)
From the Archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Improving Sunday Music, Final ACA Push, Pope's New Book)
Crossroads Pro-Life Walkers at Holy Family
Pro-Choice Vandalism (Holy Family Parish, May 21, 2007)
If you are still giving to PBS, you might want to read Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on The Secret Files of the Inquisition (the second part of The Friday Potpourri)
Bishops’ Conference Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope
my bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Footnote to comments on World Civilization Course: There is a lot one could say about this high school textbook. It purports to be comprehensive, but it leaves a lot out. For example, its ample index does not have an entry for Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II. Even from a secular point of view they are two people who had a deep and ongoing impact on our world. By way of contrast, the textbook did have a section on Betty Friedan! Subsequently I came across this quote from University of Wisconsin Professor Stanley Payne about the current state of history studies:
Major themes are replaced by comparatively minor considerations, which emphasize small groups, deviants and cultural oddities. Most studies are required to fit somewhere within the new sacred trinity of race, class and gender - the new "cultural Marxism." Research that does not conform to these criteria is increasingly eliminated from the universities, where hiring practices in the humanities and social science have become blatantly discriminatory. (from "Controversies over History in Contemporary Spain")
Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastors. (For pdf format click here)