Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Draws the Young to Old Things?

Vintage is in.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it never went out.

Many people under 35 are currently fascinated with everything from the vintage to the ancient. Why?  Aren't young people supposed to be wholly preoccupied with the latest and greatest?

This is not just true for thrift store shoppers and fashion bloggers. Within the Catholic Church there are many young people gravitating toward traditional liturgy and practices that, to some of our elders of the baby-boomer generation, seem a little antiquated and possibly somewhat baffling. Most of the women I see in veils at mass each week appear to be under 35.  The religious orders that are getting high numbers of vocations from the young are those with the most traditional attitudes

Oddly enough, we can turn to an antique book for an explanation of this youthful preference for tradition. As usual, G.K. Chesterton can shed some light on the matter in a single paragraph:
"To each man one soul only is given; to each soul only is given a little power--the power at some moments to outgrow and swallow up the stars. If age after age that power comes upon men, whatever gives it to them is great. Whatever makes men feel old is mean--an empire or a skin-flint shop. Whatever makes men feel young is great--a great war or a love-story. And in the darkest of the books of God there is written a truth that is also a riddle. It is of the new things that men tire--of fashions and proposals and improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and intoxicate. It is the old things that are young. There is no sceptic who does not feel that many have doubted before. There is no rich and fickle man who does not feel that all his novelties are ancient. There is no worshipper of change who does not feel upon his neck the vast weight of the weariness of the universe. But we who do the old things are fed by nature with a perpetual infancy. No man who is in love thinks that any one has been in love before. No woman who has a child thinks that there have been such things as children. No people that fight for their own city are haunted with the burden of the broken empires. Yes, O dark voice, the world is always the same, for it is always unexpected." (The Napoleon of Notting Hill, 1904)

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome.

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