Carefully with schemas

Fr. Krzysztof Pawlina

Youth is connected with hope. A taste of something new is felt in youth. Something new enlivens the old world. The old generation goes away and the new one arrives with a slow pace.
What is it like?
Some people talk about the youths badly and others defend them. How is it in real?
The man is a mystery. It is difficult to describe, define or evaluate him. We can only talk about some phenomenon, attitude, behaviour but it is only an outer look at the man.
But we try to take off our glasses and see what happens to the young generation of Poles at the beginning of XXI century.

The youths are still surprising us.

Generally speaking, the youths in Poland do not reject religion. Any kind of survey – both the nation-wide and the local ones – show that religion is necessary in the man’s life. According to this survey religion has many functions, for example senso-creative and therapeutic function. Hence, the decided majority of the youths declare to be faithful. However, it is a subjective faith, selective or doubtful.
‘I believe in God but I do not believe in hell’.
‘I believe in God but I doubt if Christ was God’.
As far as the sphere of moral life is concerned, about half a young generation do not accept moral rules proclaimed by the Church. Such an attitude is mostly seen in the matters of marriage life. Young people feel to be more creators than addressees of moral norms. In their behaviour they often use the rules: ‘because I like it’, ‘because it is convenient to me’. It is different with abortion. Life in the eyes of the young generation has a great value. Even if young people reject rules of the Church concerning intimate life, the youth group opposing to abortion has increased. Generally speaking, they do not allow for any interference into moral matters of young people: ‘Nobody will dictate me what to do’. The feature of the young generation is the so-called situationism. It lies in the fact that when young people are asked about moral evaluation, they answer: ‘It depends on a situation’. So there is not anything permanent. Everything depends on something. As far as religious practices are concerned, it should be noted that there is a serious decrease of the youths’ attendance at Holy Masses on Sundays. However, young people maintain the practice of the Easter Confession. They participate in this sacrament at least once a year. Although we cannot speak about regular practices of the young generation, religious spontaneity exist. If something great takes place, young people leave their homes and go on a pilgrimage or to a concert in the honour of John Paul II. And then they hide themselves in their own life again. Their attitude towards religious groups is reluctant. They do not find anything for themselves there. What is offered by groups, does not defy competition of offers which young people have on the market of entertainment or science. Young people accuse priests of the low level of reflections, meditation, conferences and preach. It is boring and hardly useful for most of them. What is more, they accuse priests of their lack of passion in what they do. We live in a modern society. The traditional society, in which the institutional authority was respected, belongs to the past. In the modern society, the institutional authority maintains its capacity, only if the person’s authority exists in it. The person, their charism, passion and faith are the strength of attraction. Like young people look for idols in the laic sphere, they want to see somebody in a priest, who would be impressing to them. The person’s authority is a proper key to the pastoral work among young people.

What are life purposes of the young generation?

An important life purpose of young people is gaining good education. It is an important key to the three very important areas in life and three kinds of need: safety, standard and quality of life and prestige. However, so highly respected education by the youths has been losing its significance in the recent years. Although it increases chances for a better life, it does not guarantee a success. Some young people start to notice the uselessness of too ambitious educational ideas. The illusiveness of a diploma, an educational offer not fulfilling the needs of employment market, a phenomenon of unemployment among graduates of universities, difficulty and costs of education – all this influences the change of educational preferences. Lowering of the level of educational aspirations is noticeable. Whereas there is more interest in professional education, because it is shorter and does not require too much investment. Recent survey shows that young people were fascinated by unconventional colourful examples in life and willingness to make an uncommon career. Under the influence of realities and uncertain future there appears a ‘softened’ option directed to a calm and safe life. The pillars of the option are: stable work, good and warm relations with the closest family and friends. There is also a decrease in the need of going abroad as the best solutions for the youths (17%). Going abroad is not as attractive perspective for the youths as it was 4 years ago.

Mentality in reconstruction

The youths in the beginning of XXI century are called the youth without any wings. These young people have not got any great ideals. They are not attracted by noble values of rebuilding the world, and they do not aim at setting another better social system. The youths of 90s of the last century built non-governmental organizations, took up social activities in the third sector. The youths in the beginning of XXI century are a generation which concentrates on its own future. It is not a generation which fights but omits or minimizes activity in the spheres where young people do not find any direct advantages. What is not practical or needed today is removed to the further plan. The youths of the internet century is called net generation or net-addicts, appreciate the speed of information, simple solutions and want life to be fun. Children of internet are not only consumers now, but want to co-create products and services. Internet does not form analytical personalities thoroughly. It educates people who are able to distinguish contradictions and inconsistencies, and who can easily recognize apparent actions and insincere game. Development of electric media and a new system of communication makes it possible for young people to develop their cognitive perspective inaccessible so far. There is not one proper ideology for them, or the only formal version of the reality.
Generally speaking, young people, who were born at the end of XXI century, are an anti-authority generation. In their opinion: ‘nobody can impose anything on me, and I have the right to choose and decide’, ‘nobody has a monopoly for the truth’. They highly appreciate knowledge, the openness of mind, tolerance and harmony between proclaimed opinions and actions, as the negation of hypocrisy and mendacity.
But young people also have their problems.
To the question: ‘What is the most troublesome and burdening?’ the youths answer that - school. 57 percent of secondary school students say so and 63 percents of gymnasium students.
What causes this strenuousness? In the first place young people mention education – 27 percent. In the second place as strenuousness in their life they point to the bad behaviour of their mates. It is thought so by 20 percent of students. Young people talk about their friends - ‘demoralized youths’. What irritates them is: rudeness, malice, mockery and curses.
2 percents of the youths mention that noise during lessons is sometimes unbearable. Another troublesome matter of puberty is contacts with relatives. It is all about either the lack of them or that they are improper – it is stated so by 20 percents of the surveyed. So the demand for good relations is very high.
To the question what would bring happiness the most to you, nearly 72 percent of the youths stated that meeting with another man. About 20 percent of them points to family relations.

Turbulences in the traditional model of the family

Although the family takes an important place in life purposes of the young generation of Poles, the image of it changes. The model of the traditional family has been questioned. The fact that people want to live together is obvious. But this ‘together’ does not mean a sacrament of marriage or a permanent relationship for many people. Today marriage means - several women or men in life. What is more –today the family also means several children with several fathers. This is the style of today’s life of many young people.
They say: I have my woman. Is it for ever? I do not know. We will see. Today the man cannot afford a longer relationship. Marriage has been changed into a loose relationship. Marriage is a company with limited liability. When it falls apart, another marriage is contracted. It is proved by the latest survey showing the increasing liberalisation of attitudes towards the institution of marriage. Every fifth young Pole says that marriage is an old-fashioned institution. A temporary form is offered more and more often – relationship for a trial. In the imagination of young people, marriage appears as a ‘soft’ institution, adjusting more to individual needs and expectations of partners than to social functions and needs. Relationship is created from the need of heart. It stops when heart has different needs. The style of making contacts or friendship is changing as well. A new term appeared – ‘ticking off in a list’ as a definition for a new style of contacts with people. This strange term means a new kind of making relationships, gaining a boy/ girl not only with a purpose of drawing others’ attention to oneself. Ticking off in a list is done at parties where young people enjoy themselves, drink alcohol, in order to disappear in a suitable moment and to practise sex. Ticking off in a list does not involve being interested in a relationship or further continuing it. It is rather a not obliging adventure to which no forms of sinfulness or any morality refer. The same youths, asked about their dreams, answer that they would like to have a happy family and reciprocated love. So, expectations of young people do not go together with their behaviour. There is also a danger of late entering adulthood. Generally speaking, the age of contracting a marriage is changing. The Central Statistical Office informs that the age of newly married couples has definitely increased. In the beginning of 90s in the XX century over a half of men contracting marriages, did not reach the age of 25. In 2008 - just only 1 of men; among women, the part decreased from 73% to 44%. Mostly men get married at around the age of 30 and girls get married approximately at the age of 26-27. It is estimated that in 2009 250 thousands of new marriages were contracted, that is, nearly 2 thousands less than a year before. It results from the initial data that the number of divorces increased by over 6 thousands last year. And nearly 72 thousands marriage couples got divorced last year. Observing the young generation of Poles, one can state that the period of the youth is prolonged. It starts early and finishes late. It starts between the age of 12 and 14 and finishes at about the age of 30. Young people experience their whole life in a short time. What was usually experienced after a wedding, in marriage – at the age of 20 they have it behind themselves. Some of them feel bad about it. This experience of everything did not bring them happiness. Feeling hurt, disappointed they want to start again.
It comforts – but how to live when the quality of life was damaged by the early decisions?


"Niedziela" 44/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: