Youth Is Wasted on the Young?

Here is my October column that appears in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here.

Like many moms, mine loved great maxims born of wisdom and long experience.  Because she had a great sense of humor, these sayings would sometimes morph, Mrs. Maloprop-style, to something like my personal favorite, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.”

One she never changed, but still intoned in her best mock-serious mother-knows-best voice: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Now that I close in on the half-century mark, I begin to understand what that really means.

Yes, youth is wasted on the young.  All that free time!  All that energy!

I recall saying–more than once–to ungrateful, nap-resistant toddlers:  “I promise you, someday, someone will say to you, ‘why don’t you go take a nap,’ and you will say, ‘Thank you!’ instead of fighting it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my maturity and experience, even as I might covet what the younger me took for granted, like naps or a faster metabolism.

“Youth is wasted on the young” occurred to me as the fall books from Catholic publishers began to arrive, and with more than the usual number for teens and young adults.   I wish I could have had read these when I was 15, 25 or 35 for inspiration, for spiritual growth, or just plain fun.  So youth, don’t waste it, but take advantage of these great books, vetted not just by me but younger readers, to enjoy this fall:

*He Speaks to You by Sister Helena Burns, FSP.  Sister Helena is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author.

This book is a deceptively simple prayer/reflection book for young women.  Each page corresponds to a day of the year, with Scripture, reflection and action and journaling ideas.  It may sound basic, but He Speaks to You offers substantial, meaty topics in the context of consistent themes that run through an entire month.  For example, “His Will” in April, covers topics like discernment and vocation, and “In His Image” in August, focuses on body image and sexuality.

Sister Helena writes in the introduction, “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share …basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”    With the wisdom of the Daughters of St. Paul, mission accomplished.

*Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez.

This is a sweet volume–all from a Catholic perspective–about loving yourself, overcoming setbacks, and recognizing what makes a person unique.  23-year-old Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare medical syndrome, and she writes candidly about her struggles and how she has used them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Lizzie’s stories, journal and ideas offer a much-needed antidote to our culture’s obsession with perfection and ways to overcome that.

*Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith by Matt Weber.

Matt Weber is a Harvard grad and practicing Catholic–not at all a contradiction.  Fearing the Stigmata is his charmingly earnest and witty take on living as a Catholic young adult in the modern world.

I didn’t include this book simply so young men wouldn’t feel left out, but because it is a genuinely funny and spiritually edifying book.  I found myself laughing out loud at many, many vignettes in the book, from his love of the restaurant Olive Garden, to “nun volleyball,” to “the Dominic Code.”  You have to read Fearing the Stigmata to find out what those mean in the context of our Catholic faith, but you’ll thank me.