Lauds in the old Divine Office of today, the first Sunday in Passiontide, says we life in a “shipwreck of a world” (mundo náufrago) here on earth. This seems like a very negative world view to the modern Christian who is repeatedly taught that God wants him happy on earth.
There is some truth to that (that God wants us happy on earth) but the old Irish-Catholic worldview was that our pilgrimage on earth was actually escape from a wretched “shipwreck” to just get to heaven. People nowadays liken this worldview to Jansenism. But I’m going to propose in this blog post that putting the emphasis on original sin in children’s catechesis actually produced more joyful kids not only in heaven, but even here on earth.
When modern Catholic parents tell kids “I’m okay and you’re okay” and that they need only strive for a world of better “progress” (a word Gaudium et Spes uses ad nauseum) this philosophy actually leads kids to think that lack of success or happiness is their fault. But when all the old Irish taught their kids about original sin ruining this earth, it actually produced happier kids and it was one reason among many that there were less suicides among Catholic teens 100 years ago because:
1. It puts kids’ eyes on Christ alone and heaven. As Mary said to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, “I can not promise you happiness in this life, only the next.”
2. Kids who expect little happiness from this life are actually thrilled when the rare good things do happen!
This sounds dark and negative, but psychologically this is actually brilliant, because when kids expect little from this life, they are essentially underpromising and overdelivering to their own hearts. When we tell kids today how happy they are going to be if they succeed in this sport or get into that University or tell them they can be anything and anyone they want, what happens when they fail? They think, “I am the problem, not this world.” And they kill themselves. At least, this is one contributing factor to Catholic depression being almost as high as everyone else today.
I am not saying you should produce lazy kids who strive for no excellence, success or happiness. I am just saying you have to make it clear that none of those things will bring them the supreme happiness as God can in heaven, and that this earth is full of people who will break their heart. And when they finally meet that one person who will not break their heart, it will be all the more reason for glory and praise to God.
Because when we teach kids that this earth is a “shipwreck”(like Lauds said today) ruined by original sin, this is not Jansenism. It tells kids to hold onto nothing but the Catholic Church. It teaches kids to put their trust in nothing but Jesus Christ. It’s reality, not psychology like I wrote earlier. And when the Irish kids of the past expected nothing from this earth, then the natural joys of life that fell upon them were nothing short of spectacular gifts for which they would give glory to God: a horseback ride, a honeymoon, a sunset, a beer, a party.
Maybe this is why GK Chesterton said we Irish were those whose “wars were happy and love-songs were sad.”