BY CARDINAL TIMOTHY M. DOLAN
“Oh, for the good old days!”
Do you say that a lot? I admit I sure do.
In the midst of all the troubles in the world—the devastation in Haiti, the violence in Afghanistan, the despair of Lebanon, the Covid, just to name a few; the worries in our country—political division, resurgence of the virus, turmoil in our cities, again, to list only some; and, yes, the challenges in the Church, we can be tempted to exclaim, “Oh, bring back the ‘good old days!’’’
That’s not even mentioning the anxieties so many of us have personally, within our families, and among our friends.
Some nostalgic day dreaming for these “good old days” is natural. For most of us, these days we recall as carefree and happy, were when we grew up. One of the most treasured gifts God can bestow is that of growing up in a loving family, in a safe and supportive home, surrounded by a sustaining neighborhood, parish and school.
Two significant points, though, to smack us back into reality when we are hypnotized by memories of “the good old days!”:
For one, a lot of people do not have fond and pleasant memories of childhood. I remember once spending Christmas with a wonderful priest. The table was reminiscing about uplifting past holidays, smiling and laughing. A bit later, in front of the fire, the priest confided in me, “Do you realize how lucky you are to have such pleasant recollections? For me and my siblings, Christmas as a child was something we dreaded,” as he then went on to describe the poverty and devastation of abuse, alcoholism, and violence sadly within his family.
You can bet my prayers before bed that night were a big expression of thanks to the Lord for my childhood, and a stark admission that not everybody had those.
Point number two…let me say it bluntly: there really are no “good old days.”
Historians remind us that each era of history—including now, and when we were kids— had terrible crises. To think that today’s are worse than ever is a mistake.
Saturday, August 28, is the feast of the great St. Augustine. This towering intellect got it right seventeen centuries ago!
“You hear people complaining about the present day and age because, they claim, things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors. Would we still hear them complaining? You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.”
Augustine’s remedy? “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!” Sufficient is His grace for the problems of the day!
These “lazy, hazy days of summer,” with vacations before “back to school and work,” will be looked upon as “the good old days” in the future. As a grandpa once commented to me, “Every parent must try to assure that the kids look back on growing up as ‘the good old days.’”