It is a great joy to introduce Fr. Theodore Young as a help in writing these blogs. Fr. Theodore, now in his late 80’s, is still known to his friends as Theo – he works as a chaplain in a High School, and has the distinction, I presume, of being the oldest priest in the world to be a chaplain in a school! For those who do not know Theo, he was in Leyland for 25 years, and among many things he did, his work among young people up to 1982 is still remembered. Every now and again there is a chance for me to visit him in Liverpool, and the joy and happiness of those conversations remain in my heart.

I would like to add a little ‘rider’ to what Theo writes; so soon after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit ‘looms large’ in the minds and hearts of those in tune with the life of the Church. One of the aspects of the Holy Spirit is to help us ‘grow up’ and learn to be the people we are meant to be. My own observations in life make me realise that adults, all too often, need to discover who they are – and some adults never grow up. Some young people are mature and whole, even in their youth. So what is written below is certainly of great interest to me.

Fr. Jonathan

“Growing Pains”

When I was in my teens and complained of pains, the answer was always: “Don’t worry, they are just growing pains.” They probably were and I have come across them many times since in my dealings with young people, but I try not to give that same answer!  I remember one sad occasion when a lad, whose dad had left home, came down the stairs for the first time in long trousers; he looked so proud until his mum looked at him with disgust and shouted: “Get them off at once – you look just like your dad.” I have never forgotten the look on that lad’s face. I wonder how she expected him to look?

When I read the paper or watch the TV news and hear of just another horrific murder of a young person by teenagers, I wonder what sort of home they have – from what sort of home they come? Have they experienced any real, genuine love or discipline, at home? Have they ever been treated with respect by their parent, or guardian, or teacher?

The present ‘craze’ with teenagers is to have what goes by the name of  ‘Attention Deficient Hyper-Disorder’ or to give it its initials, ‘ADHD’.  To put this into plain English, it means that they are likely to go ‘off the handle’ if they think they are being treated unjustly. An increasing number of teenagers in school, have a ‘pass’ which allows them to leave class and to see either their Year Tutor, or myself. Often, I find they need to talk and to say what it is that has made them so angry. Sometimes it is a misunderstanding of what has been said by the teacher, or perhaps, they feel that they are the ones who always being blamed.. Once they have ‘cooled down’, it helps to ask them what they would do if they were the teacher, and they had a room full of twenty or so pupils to deal with?  Perhaps there was a ‘row’ when they were leaving home and lots of hurtful words were said by both parties. Of all the methods for dealing with this problem, the one I have described seems to work the best because by meeting regularly, a sense of respect, friendship and trust are engendered. The signs of improvement in their behaviour in the classroom, tend to show when they come to see me less frequently.

But, for many of them, things are not so easily dealt with.  Perhaps, dad has left home for good and the young person feels it is his / her fault. Worse still, dad’s place is taken by mum’s partner who thinks he has a right to act as the ‘man of the house’ and can tell the ‘kids’ what to do and what not to do. Consequently, it is not surprising if the young person strongly resents his interference.

Another example comes to mind – that of  a lad I had known when he was at High School, because he was in a ‘band’ and they used to practise in our hall. When leaving school, he was courting a Catholic girl and one day she came to see me – in tears – to say that he had failed to turn up as arranged, and there she was, dressed up in all her splendour – and all for him! Eventually, I managed to track him down and gave him a piece of my mind. I ended by saying: “The problem is that you are having difficulties in growing up”. He replied: “It’s blooming hard growing up – does it get any easier as you get older?”

To ‘cut a long story short’, I eventually married them.  They were very happy and eventually had a daughter , but, alas, just a year ago he died of cancer. His wife told me that he was a wonderful husband and father; not bad – considering that his mum was often out with a ‘partner’, and so also, was his dad. On one occasion, when his dad came home, the lad said to him: “Are you coming in for keeps, or not; if not, go out – and stay out – and stop behaving like a blooming teenager!”

People tend to look at all this as a 21st Century problem, but you only have to look at the Bible to see many examples of problems between teenagers and their parents. Take the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary – ‘The Finding of Jesus in the Temple’.  For three days, Mary and Joseph searched for him everywhere, and only on the third day, in desperation, they returned to the temple. There he was, as ‘happy as Larry’, having the time of his life:

“Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astonished at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him and his mother said to him: My child why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you. Why were you looking for me? He replied: Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs? But they did not understand what he meant.” Lk.2:46-50

William Barclay writes in ‘The Daily Bible Study’:

“As the years went on he must have had thoughts; and then at this first Passover, with manhood dawning, there came in a sudden blaze of realization the consciousness that he was in a unique sense the Son of God. This discovery did not make him proud.” (Luke p.300)

Jesus working as a carpenter with Joseph

He went home and he was obedient to Mary and Joseph.  The fact that he was God’s Son made him the perfect son for his human parents. He spent the next 18 years leading a family life; we know it as the ‘hidden’ life, presumably spent doing the things children of his age do – going to school, playing with his friends, doing jobs around the house and learning the carpenters’ trade, with Joseph.  What better preparation for all that lay ahead? And, who better than he, to understand the problem of discovering who you are, and what God has in store for you?