Up Front and Personal

50 Years Later, Summer Of Love Is Still Relevant

by Rita Piro

Fifty years ago this month, America was in the midst of the Summer of Love, a morally repugnant source of anxiety for most adults, but a new and exciting concept of freedom for most young people.

From June to September 1967, approximately 100,000 high school and college students flocked to San Francisco, Calif., as part of a new countercultural movement against the staid lifestyle of the 1950s and ’60s establishment. The movement featured the practice of peaceful anarchy, creative expression, anonymous sex and psychedelic drugs set against a soundtrack of heavy metal rock provided by then little known musicians such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

The Summer of Jesus

Organized religion and traditional religious observance were quickly eschewed by the hippies, yippies and flower children of the time. Though their methods of sit-ins and bed-ins seemed nonsensical and their lifestyle of free love and free drugs was definitively dehumanizing, at its core the Summer of Love could also be called the Summer of Jesus.

The youth of 1967 are now the retirees of 2017. Ask those who wore flowers in their hair and love beads around their neck just what they were trying to bring about and they would most likely say they were simply promoting peace, justice, joy, love and nonviolence. Sound familiar?

Such was the sentiment of those who heard Jesus preaching in the synagogues, in the towns and in private homes more than 2,000 years ago. Could the Sermon on the Mount be considered the first – and greatest – Love-in? More than just a few people walked away that day eager to do whatever they could to spread the mission of love proclaimed by this man called Jesus.

To be sure, there was much about the summer of 1967 and the years that followed that cannot and should not be trivialized or recalled with any amount of fondness. Many lives and futures were lost to drugs, heartbroken parents searched for years for runaway sons and daughters, and violent protests across the country brought death and injury to many.

Whether you are able to remember the 1967 Summer of Love firsthand or you’ve just heard stories about it from your parents and grandparents, ask yourself right now, What can I do to make this summer – and this fall, and this winter, and this spring – a season of real love, one that is rooted in the mission of Jesus to heal, to redeem and to liberate all people.

Any parish would be able to direct you to numerous projects around the diocese in need of help and support, with many being right in your own neighborhood.

And don’t worry, love beads and hair flowers are optional.

Piro is a freelance writer for Catholic publications, and a native of the Diocese of Brooklyn.