The Inconsequential Generation

At last, I am again posting. My school term has materially come to an end, trades are in, and having weathered Baccalaureate and Graduation, I now await the happiness and joys of a faculty retreat with the Honors College faculty and staff on Monday and Tuesday. The past couple nights I have slept great! Thursday, however, had been spent getting all my grading completed and grades submitted. In reviewing all of the grades, I am left wondering why some students are less-than serious about their lives? One reason is because they have been immunized from the responsibilities of school. It may be because their parents are paying their freight, or they have no thought on what problems debt creates for their future. In short, they live in a world that attaches no consequences to actions. This is a different world than when I attended college (I paid for everything, apart from a grant from Uncle Sam for $800, and some partial scholarships at both MD and Rutgers), and in many ways I think colleges contribute no small amount to this dereliction: they have become places of 24/7 recreation, or, as students have said of my own institution, a never-ending youth group meeting. This revolt against adulthood, this betrayal of maturity is rampant everywhere: from the enormous burdens we are placing on our children and grandchildren (the projected taxes from our grandchildren have already been spent), to the notion that our actions should carry with them escapes from responsibility (just think of abortion). Ultimately this creates people who have no concept of either commitment to a cause or to other people (e.g., their spouses and children).  I don’t wish to speak ill of my school, for I love my students, but far too many of them blithely think of life as some video game that can be reset to start over, or something akin computer solitaire: you lost that game? Let’s play another. I have students who spend hours with Xbox, but can’t get papers done.

I was thinking about this in that this past Friday, 11 May,  was the feast day of my patron saint, St. Cyril the Apostle of the Slavs (proapostle, or equal of the Apostles). He has this title because like the Apostles, he was the first to take the Gospel to new peoples. Born in Thessaloniki at the beginning of the ninth century, he was well educated (he is sometimes called Cyril the Philosopher because of his learning and erudition), and served the imperial court as an ambassador to the Khazars. About 863 he, along with his brother, the monk Methodius, were sent by Patriarch St. Photios to take the Gospel to the Moravians. It was St. Cyril (then known as Constantine) who was responsible for translating the Divine Liturgy and the Lectionary into Slavonic, and the rites of the Church were performed not in Greek but in Slavonic. Even were Sts. Cyril and Methodius in a jurisdiction that was Latin, which at times they were, they would say the Roman mass in Slavonic. This caused problems with the Frankish clergy, but the court in Rome twice declared the Slavonic the proper medium for the worship of the Moravians (once under Adrian IV, and again under John VIII). St. Cyril noted the words of St. Paul that no language is without significance, and I chose St. Cyril for this reason: a Greek who loved Slavonic, but not because it was sacrosanct, but because it was a vehicle for delivering the Gospel.

What has this to do with my students? First, St. Cyril was someone highly placed in the Byzantine aristocracy who gave it all up for a life of hardship. Granted, in a way he was acting on behalf of the empire in what he was doing (it did have enormous political implications, in that it then surrounded the pagan Bulgar nation with Christians), but this was only ancillary to the Gospel. But even were it not, St. Cyril still sacrificed his life at court for an end greater than his own interests. This reality seems largely lost to most of my students, and I think on most of the country as well. We are racing to the precipice of financial calamity and the best we get from anyone is that maybe we should shift it down into fourth. The tyranny we are exercising over our children – -because let’s face it, they are not being represented while we pilfer (i.e., tax away) their future – – is a blatant immorality. Is it any wonder why my college students don’t take life seriously if we grownups think we can have all our goodies without consequences? St. Cyril, equal of the Apostles, pray unto God for us.

About Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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