Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Human life is such that we all seek a place of rest and contentment. We endeavour not to put much pressure on ourselves. Deep within us is the desire to accept things as they are, rather than confront them. We spend our lives looking for comfort zones and embrace friends that tell us that we have nothing to worry about, for all is well. Now and again someone arises who endeavours to fire our imagination and shakes us from our comfort and inaction. But we often resist and boast of our firmness of purpose. We shall not be moved!

History teaches us that the greatest danger to civilisation is not that ambitious and deranged men stand ready to destroy the fabric of human life, but rather that a large number of people stand by and do nothing at all. Admittedly, whenever we dare to challenge anything fundamental, we take a huge risk. However, a life without risks is not worth living.

Recently, in an address to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis spoke of "the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West." This is a very pathetic situation when we bear in mind that European civilisation has played a tremendous role in the shaping of the modern world. It is all the more unfortunate because Christian missionaries have gone from Europe to all parts the world.

Large numbers of people in the West are looking for their satisfaction in narcotic drugs, alcohol, huge salaries, sexual pleasure, luxurious homes, flashy cars and yachts. Some, in a fit of desperation, see suicide as their only way out. This marks the agony and death of a society. This is the kind of world which is being created at the heart of Christianity!

On Sunday, September 4, 2016, the Catholic Church declared Mother Teresa of Kolkota to be a saint. Indeed, she was a prophetic voice in a world often seeming to be barren of ideals. Her influence throughout the world has had tremendous proportions. Her main thrust was not what the world could do for her but what she could give to the world. Among her most relevant statements recorded is this:

The biggest disease today is not leprosy, cancer or tuberculosis, but the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.

Awareness of this reality was at the heart of the mission of Mother Teresa. She identified the evil of society and sought to address it.

If this statement is taken seriously, it could have tremendous consequences for the transformation of society. Not only would those who are abandoned benefit, but also young people seeking a new focus in life could experience a revolution of values.

Young people are, generally speaking, very idealistic. They are well-meaning and tend to embrace constructive ideals and take on new challenges. Society in the West, including the Caribbean, does not often promote these ideals. The result is that, increasingly, many of them look elsewhere for inspiration.

One Caribbean priest, Fr. Trevor Nathasingh of Trinidad and Tobago, says:

The Church has failed its people in Europe; it has grown cold, lifeless and voiceless so that many young Europeans –Germans, French, Dutch - are gravitating towards fundamentalism.

What is particularly troubling is that most of the nationals of Trinidad and Tobago fighting with ISIS (Islamic State) were once Christians. These people were nurtured in a Christian Church. However, they have abandoned their religion in search of what they consider more meaningful ideals. In an article, one author writes:

No intelligent contemporary is spared the pressure exerted in our world by the void, the absurd and the anti-meaning.

There are several contradictions in society- even among religious persons - which often baffle young people. It is not a just argument that they themselves fall into the same trap later in life. Society has prepared them for this predicament. We must give them the proper example and guidance.

We are placed in a world which is not of our own making. But we are called to work hard at its transformation. It demands our efforts. It is a hard road. But we are empowered for our journey. Let us accept and embrace the challenge.