There is a general trend with folks who fall into mortal sin. First, there is stress and temptation. Then, as one fails to adequately observe and process that stress, eventually it begins to take shape into venial sins. This falling into sin takes place because the will is weakened and no longer able to maintain control. This lack of control continues to build as the will is weakened to the point that it gives into mortal sins.
Where this pattern helps us to understand the education of children and teenagers is in a notion that was an integral part of Patristic and Early Monastic spiritual theology. For them, one could not adequately understand the divine mysteries until one had mastered and educated the bodily passions. Thus, in their thinking, the person who was still under the domain of mortal sin could not understand theology because the foundation for true understanding was moral conversion.
With this notion in mind, I am currently working with kids around topics that relate to educating one’s interior life. This week we covered how to deal with stress using mental prayer and meditation. The hook to help them enter into the conversation was an investigation of the experiences of “zoning-out” and “zoning-in.” Their written feedback of the discussion was positive, and they like the idea of having 5 minutes of meditation integrated into our future gatherings.
My philosophy moving forward is that as the teenagers begin to experience freedom around their interior life through on-going formation and regular confession, other aspects of faith will begin to take hold and inspire them. Such a thesis has its roots in a sound theology of theosis, or divinizaiton, whereby personal transformation leads to a deeper form of understanding and wisdom.
Along these lines, the goal of our formation of the youth must be leading them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, to help nourish such a relationship, young people must be taught the discipline of Christian asceticism because it is not until an individual has been set free from the snares of sin that they can fully embrace Christ.