The Heart of the Matter: The Not-So-Greatest Generation

Part 6 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.

The World War II generation has been dubbed the Greatest Generation, but some have questioned whether that title is deserved.  On a purely material level, they perhaps were the greatest generation of Americans.  They did, after all, stop a madman from taking over the world, rebuilt their economy after the war was over, and even rebuilt the countries they devastated in the war.  But we must understand that on a spiritual level, why we do what we do something is more important than what we do. 

This generation endured much suffering, but because their parents never communicated to them the value of suffering, they viewed it merely as something to be avoided and overcome. As Ripperger says, “Their generational spirit was a lack of mortification, an inappropriation of suffering.”

. . .[T]heir goal was not to attain spiritual perfection by the perfection of virtue. Rather it was to obtain something materially better, primarily for their children. They indulged their children, as we shall discuss in the next generation, to the degree that they could within the confines of decency, but indulged them nonetheless. . . giving them things which prior generations would have warned against, and they indulged them by removing any obstacle to their indulgence.

We have only to look at what the Catholic Church in America looked like at the end of this generation’s leadership to understand Fr. Ripperger’s point.

Let us not forget that this is the generation which blocked the passing on of Tradition in the Church. Why? Because following Tradition requires self-discipline, self-control, and, above all, self-denial. (all quotes taken from Latin Mass magazine, summer 2012)

 For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul: (Mark 8:36–37)