I was privileged to be joined on the Catholic School Matters podcast by my old friend Roy Petitfils, the TEDx speaker, youth minister, counselor, speaker, and podcaster. Petitfils is plugged into the problems of today’s youth through his clinical practice.
Petitfils begins by talking about the anxiety epidemic which is affecting our young people. The demand to be always connected raises a level of arousal that is unhealthy. Coupled with the pressure to succeed, we are seeing a rise in the number of adolescents afflicted by diagnosable anxiety. Petitfils isn’t just a critic, however. He offers a solution—the Sabbath. We need a day to unplug and be present to one another. Our adolescents need real human connection and a Sabbath day teaches them to take a break.
His ideas have implications on how to design a better school. “Hold up a wider variety of individuals to model a wider spectrum of success,” said Petitfils. He is arguing for a different measure of success that isn’t always tied to success and power. The high expectations we place on every students (college, money, status) adds to that anxiety epidemic.
Catholic schools are set up to teach a more student-centric view of life and he argues they have a responsibility to speak to a more Catholic view of life. “What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to be happy?” Petitfils asks. This view shouldn’t hold up material success as the pinnacle, rather it should value a life of integrity. He argues that his Catholic school background gave him a unique view of life that would value the poor and marginalized and the reason he sends his boys to Catholic school is to train them to see the world and teaches them how to think and how to love.