The Heart of the Matter: The Lost Generation

Part 4 of 14 – This series of columns is based on the work of Fr. Chad Ripperger that analyzes the spirits of the past six generations and how those spirits have affected the Church.  We only ask that you consider whether his descriptions are true in a general sense, even if they do not describe you or people you know.

If the sixth generation in America is the one being born now according to Fr. Ripperger, then he is counting from the generation that grew up during World War I and lived to see enormous changes in travel, communications, industry, weaponry, medicine, and just about every other area of life.  Fr. Ripperger notes that Ernest Hemmingway called this the Lost Generation.  Many in his day were deliberately drifting away from the traditions and values of their parents and grandparents into a life of hedonism that we now call the Roaring Twenties.  “However,” he notes, “most members of this generation followed the traditions of their parents, especially in the area of religion.”

Perhaps the most important characteristic of this WWI generation “was their appropriation of suffering.” Fr. Ripperger goes on to describe this quality:

[T]his is the generation that could suffer without complaining. They went through the First World War (although most did not fight in it); they went through the Great Depression; they also went through the Second World War and most did not fight in that war either. But the ability to endure suffering and to offer it up was almost at the level of instinct. In fact, for them suffering was such a part of life that to talk about it was like talking about the rate of growth of the grass outside. Life was suffering, a valle lacrimarum – a vale of tears – and so one simply did not talk about it. (all quotes taken from Latin Mass magazine, summer 2012)

While we might admire this ability to endure suffering without complaint, Fr. Ripperger says this created a problem that would affect all the future generations to come.  Simply put, they didn’t communicate, and in so doing, they fell prey to the fault St. Paul warned Christians parents about in the first century:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)