I suppose everyone is familiar with this phenomenon. In the face of something new, our immediate reaction hovers first in the level of our senses and emotions. Then it goes to our intelligence.
Only with some conscious effort can we start reacting in a spiritual and theological way.
We need to give more thought to this disturbing fact, so we can have a more appropriate response to it, especially when it involves something important in our life.
Very often, what we see are people sensually aroused or materially enriched but spiritually made numb as they make the quest for progress and development. We should not be surprised by this turn of events, but neither should we do nothing about it. In fact, we have to devise a serious plan to counteract this trend.
My experience with students confirms this observation. While they are still in school, relatively simple and innocent, and subject to a more controlled environment, they can behave very well.
They look more relaxed and able to communicate with others easily.
It's when they get exposed to the industry, when they start doing their on-the-job training, and they experience new things, that they start behaving erratically in the spiritual and moral sense.
Many find themselves unprepared, with their pants down, highly vulnerable in their new but confusing milieu. They find themselves facing many crossroads, and they don't know exactly which path to take. Most likely, they are simply led by what they call as “what comes naturally,” a very dangerous choice to make.
This is obviously a great challenge for any chaplain who tries to be serious with his task of helping students sustain their spiritual life as they move on in life. But it's one that carries its own rewards too. It's worth all the sweat and blood involved.
For certain, the first thing to be done is to keep the communication lines open. Everything has to be done, like cultivating real friendship with them, in order to maintain contact with the students and to facilitate transparency. With the new technologies, like the social media, this need should not be difficult to handle.
When the idea of spiritual direction is explained well, then appreciated by the students and then implemented, the battle is already half-won. It's in an atmosphere of confidence and loyalty that the laborious and meticulous task of sorting out things can take place effectively. This bond of trust has to be maintained and enriched at all costs.
This point is, I think, crucial, precisely because one characteristic of the present scramble for new things is to make people lose confidence and trust in others. The relationship hardly goes any deeper than mutual exploitation of one another. People are reduced to objects. They lose their personhood, their human capacity to communicate with others as persons also.
Very often, people are pressured to be individualistic in their lifestyle, isolationist in their ways, guided only by transitory worldly values like practicality, profitability, convenience, etc.
They are often mesmerized by instant pleasures while neglecting to take care of the foundations of human relations that can only be based on love, trust, complete self-giving, etc.
This can be seen in many ways. In the area of recreation and entertainment, for example, we can see a proliferation of people hooked to their gadgets, lost in their own world, unmindful of others, even those right beside them.
The movies, the songs nowadays cater almost exclusively to the appetites of the flesh, starving or giving little nourishment to the soul. They pander to the base instincts of men, to their whims and caprices that gratify them in a selfish way. Many are actually in a state of addiction, incapable of thinking, judging and reasoning properly.
Even in our social and political life, we can see a significant shift, for example, in our understanding of leadership.
People are now discarding the refinements of charity and embracing the logic of instant results even if pursued with violence or immorally.
We have to face this big challenge of these days. While it's true that we have to do some kind of a massive campaign to re-educate people to help them cope with the new developments, we should not forget to do, even in a more massive way, a personalized effort to give spiritual direction.
This will require a lot from parents, teachers, priests and others engaged in counseling work, but this simply has to be done if we want to keep our sanity and humanity intact. There's always hope as long as we do our part. God, for his part, has already given us everything that we need to carry out this duty.*
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