Holy Mother Church teaches:
The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God ; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment By his deliberate actions the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth. With the help of grace they grow in virtue, avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven. In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.
Like many people my age I am shocked by the number of attacks on children by other children reported in today's media. It feels as though there are tons of kids being beaten up or killed in school bathrooms, on playgrounds or in classrooms all across America. Any given day, the landscape seems to be littered with the broken bodies of our kids and it always seems to be the face of another child being paraded in front of the television cameras, being proclaimed as the reason another young girl or young boy is lying in a casket.
While I know that feelings are NOT reality and that the issue of school bullies and fights is not a new one I honestly do not remember children being beaten to death by five or more classmates because of jealousy when I was in school. I just don't remember having to worry that my classmates - even the ones who made fun or me and hurt my feelings on a regular basis - would surround me and beat me to death. Shun me? yes. Talk smack about me behind my back? Of course. Aim a baseball bat at the base of my skull because I spoke to their 'boyfriend' during recess?
Oh hell no.
Yes, I understand that I grew up in the suburbs and attended Catholic Schools. I understand that I was, essentially, a farm kid without a lot of animals to feed and that I grew up during a time when life was relatively simple.
I remember girls being mean to me at school and being told that it was because they were jealous. I also can tell you that I did not understand that at all (I still don't, to be honest with you, despite the fact that it is the explanation I am handed today when 'mean girls attack'). What I do not remember is being surrounded by all of them at once in the girls bathroom at Christ the King and having them take turns punching and kicking me.
I have male friends who, because they were different in junior high or high school, got their head dunked in school toilets or their butts covered in tape or other horrible things but honestly that was the kind of stuff restricted to boys....it was awful and it was stupid and it caused my friends a lot of pain...but it was the anomaly rather than the norm.
Part of that, I believe, is because the world still accepted the idea that life is precious. Someone's death, especially a young person's death, was more than a tragedy - it was a horror because it didn't happen on a regular basis. For the majority of us, going to school did not include the fear that we would not make it out of the bathroom alive. We might not be popular and we might be called names and excluded or otherwise tortured by the mean kids but those same mean kids would have no more tried to strangle us or beat us to death than they would jump into the local Canal.
We can blame social media or reality TV or drugs and alcohol but I think the reason we have become so violent towards each other is simple: We have rejected God's Authority and decided we can make our own decisions about how we will live our lives...and if that means I get to get to take a swing with a tire iron at the head of an older lady who took my parking spot at Target or get into a fist fight in the aisle at WalMart with the man who took the last toaster oven off the shelf, so be it...I get to do it. I get to take my frustration and rage and self importance out on you.
The first lie told to Eve was that God did not have her best interest at heart. He didn't want her to do something because it would mean she would be like a god. She would be able to determine for herself what was right and what was wrong. I believe we have bought into that lie. The results are all around me - and our dead children (whether through abortion or a beating on the playground) attest to the ultimate fallacy of this belief. Let's face it, people. When we decide to play god, we make a mess of everything.
For the Catholic the idea is to want to be LIKE God as opposed to LIKE A GOD. If we make the decision to try and attain the perfection of God (be Perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect) we bind ourselves to Truth. We have to show mercy, be just in our dealings with each other, care as much about our neighbor's well being as we care for our own. We have to serve - to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, counsel the doubtful and visit the sick.
Catholics are not immune to the Great Lie told to Eve. What we have, however, is the antidote to that Lie. We have the ways and the means to develop the grace necessary to walk as a people set apart in a world where fifth graders beat up six year olds because they think the younger, smaller and vulnerable being did something to deserve a beating. Through the Sacramental Life of The Church, we can resist the temptation to assert what WE want and to do it through violence. By receiving the grace afforded through regular Reconciliation and The Eucharist, by praying in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, by reading Scripture and honoring the teachings of Holy Mother Church we can build up the spiritual muscles necessary to resist the lie. We won't find it necessary to stop a car and fight the guy who cut us off. We won't find it necessary to have our girlfriends record us beating up another girl because she is dating our ex-boyfriend. We won't need to have a fist fight at WalMart.
As Catholics, we are bound by certain beliefs. The belief in the fundamental and inherent dignity of every human being is a belief all Catholics are to hold. We might not want to and we might be tested in that belief, but unless I am willing to open my mind and my heart to Truth I become vulnerable to the Great Lie and go from trying to be like God to thinking that I can be like A god...and make my own rules.
Today I am traumatized by the events I see unfolding and I am frightened for the future of our young people and my country. My only hope lies in the knowledge that God wins in the end.
I have read the book. I know He will triumph...I just wish everyone knew and believed it.
Maybe if they did, our kids would be safe at school.