by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion
Two national studies produced by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), based at Georgetown University, finds that young Catholics are abandoning their faith starting around the age of 10, and certainly by age 17 (Confirmation catechists, please note!).
Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they no longer identify themselves as Catholics by the age 17, and another 23% said they stopped regarding themselves as Catholic by the age 10.
Of those who had left the faith, only 13% said they were ever likely to return to the Catholic Church.
The reason most often given is the tension young people perceive between faith and religion. While this factor is highest among students at public school, it is also remarkably high among students at Catholic schools.
There is an emerging profile of youth who say their religious formation is incompatible with what they are learning in public high school or university.
Dr. Mark Gray, a senior researcher with CARA, speaks of an unprecedented “crisis of faith” among youth. “In the whole concept of faith, this is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.” There is a severe compartmentalization between education in faith and in science. The fundamental problem is that youth may go to Mass once a week but spend the rest of the week learning “how dumb” their faith is.
On a positive note, Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame University, states that there are three factors that yield a high retention rate among young Catholics. The first is that the young people have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study, or youth group. The second is the availability of adults (not their parents) with whom they can discuss their faith. The third is the possibility of providing “deep spiritual experiences.”
I am no sociologist of religion, least of all of that which deals with youth. But my own experience tells me that besides the three factors mentioned here, there are the three additional factors: There is daily prayer in the home, parents and children talking about their faith, and some kind of weekly charitable service made possible for the young people.
Some (like me!) worry about the quality of religious formation of children and youth. Things have improved a lot since the horrid days of religious formation in the 70s and 80s. But, having kept an eye on the kind of texts being used, even the better ones are inadequate. If you want your child to be well informed in the faith, then don’t look at the typical text available. We have a long way to go in this area. For one thing, we need to bring back a thoroughly updated question-and-answer catechism.
There is also the question of parish religious education teachers and Catholic school teachers. Would you be surprised to know that many of them do not go to Sunday Mass regularly and have “difficulties” with the Church? Surely this has to have a disastrous effect on the students for whom they have responsibility. I have seen no data on this, so I am basing what I say on what I have observed and read over the years and what other pastors tell me.
Finally, there are the parents, who rarely if ever talk to their children about the faith and the necessity of growing strong in it. And do parents, even of Catholic school children, go to Mass on Sundays? The vast majority, I fear, do not.
Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. Reprinted by permission of Catholic News Agency.
MY COMMENTS: The elephant in the room is a "spirit of Vatican II" mentality which refuses to look at what was good and timeless, and let me underline timelessness, of the pre-Vatican II Church, especially her experience in the 1950's.
There needs to be a study of the timeless quality of Catholic life and how this life strengthened Catholic families. Then there needs to be a concerted universal thrust or catchesis to shape the culture of the Catholic Church and her members.
Let me list my wish list:
1. Bring back the Baltimore Catechism and make it the catechism of our country. It might need some minor tweaking but leave it as it is with some updated examples. It's simplicity but depth forms a foundation for Catholics even if they stop going to religious education after they are Confirmed. It is simple enough for them to use as a reference book even later in life. Theolgically it only needs some minor post-Vatican II updating as it concerns ecumenism and the liturgy (without doing away with the chapters on the Tridentine Mass but simply adding the reformed version.
2. Bring back the culture of Cathoicism lived at home and the world, especially a more rigorous fasting and abstinence as in the 1950's or early '60's. This extends Cathoicism into the home and work place and identifies us as Cathoics to a secular culture. Bring back ember days and all of the Holy Days of Obliagation as in the 1950's without silly exceptions like it falling on a Friday or Monday and thus not obligatory.
3. Instill a sense of obligation as the basis for religious practice even when religious practice doesn't seem personally satisfying. This ties into "suffering as a virtue" and the need to see suffering as a good when it leads us to faithfulness.
4. Focus on the Liturgy in either form as instilling depth to faith, seriousness, piety and reverence.
When I visit various classrooms and teach, I use the Baltimore Catehcism and tell the kids there will be a test at the end. I use the fill in the blank and true or false questions provided by the Baltimore Catechism. We do it out loud and it is fun and engages the children. We need a recovery of this. It is possible but there has to be national and universal leadership which is lacking. It is pre-Vatican II phobia!
It is 'old' - The Holy Ghost, God made me, the Church teaches, etc - it is 'faithful' - it requires both learning and teaching, the Creeds, God and His saints, et al - it is 'Catholic' - e.g. like the Holy Trinity, Sacraments, the Four Last things .. erm, do today's 'c'atholics need anything more to reject it: It isn't Modern (whatever 'modern' may mean).
'.. the tension young people perceive between faith and religion ..'
This has been the heart of the problem always and everywhere, it is, therefore, as catholic as the Catholic Church - and not a spiritual malaise specific to 'modern' youth. The young far from being tolerant and open-minded and merciful - as the Flower-Power generation still clings to erroneously as if a self-evident truth - tend to spot 'hypocrisy', or rather weakness, and pounce on it rapidly with greater vigour than older, wearied souls; so when there is a difference between faith and how faith is lived out (especially among leaders) .. stand back, the reaction can be devastating. That is not a 'bad thing', it ought to keep the responsible 'adult' wide awake and actively engaged; but look at Augustine and his parents before leaping to conclusions .. his dad was a shuffler, his mum a saint .. he was a sinner who received divine favour; being taught and learning the catechism is a very good framework on which to build, but that is all it is meant to be - it is not a replacement for grace, or seeing divine favour at work, or actually experiencing it in one's own life .. it is how Catholics allow/ encourage grace to be built into our lives that reveals the results (as Augustine, and very many others, found out in practice).
"Religion is what happens to a man when he falls from Grace." Karl Barth
The Baltimore catechism informed the most faithful and vibrant generations of Catholics that this country has known. But ours is not a catechetical church, but a liturgical church. If Sunday Mass does not form Catholic identity, all else is in vain. So . . . Restore the Liturgy, Restore the Church.
The future of the Church is the SSPX. Because they are actually living the Catholic Faith.
The Baltimore catechism is so un-pastoral. Being un-pastoral goes against the spirit of Vatican II. It does does not meet people where they are, and accept them that way. Does this sound familiar? Clearly, you reap what you sow.
There are two issues in Fr Mannion's discussion that need to be addressed immediately. One is that people, not just the youth, will spend about an hour in church a week and then the rest of the time they are bombarded by godlessness from everywhere around them. It does not take a brain scientist to see the results. Clearly the Chruch has to be a definitive counter-culture preaching an alternative lifestyle, and challenging people to do so, and not slowly accepting the ways of the world as has been done for the past 50 years. Solidarity in a group intensifies one's commitment, by the way. But the Church is too fragmented for that, allowing all sorts of opposing opinions about doctrine and faith that the youth does not know what the Church is about anymore. The leaders have not reigned in the flock because the leaders themselves are fragmented.
The other is the very important opportunity for providing deep spiritual experience. That one hour at church should be the place to start. Most readers here would know what I mean when I say that the Novus Ordo is all about the intellect, and offers little for the heart where the faith lives. It works against a deep spiritual experience.
What these clerical ignoramuses fail to recognize is that you need baby steps first. You don't take calculus in first or second grade. When the Baltimore Catechism's use was widespread, we had a common vocabulary and the necessary building blocks for a deeper understanding of the Faith. The Mass was also a means for instructing us in our Faith. But until the last of the clerical jackasses are gone, the doubleknit dinosaurs, we will continue walking in the desert except for the few of us who have traditional pastors who care enough to instruct.
Put simply, the restoration of the Faith throughout the West boils down to three letters:
Please pray for our (persecuted) sister in Jesus Christ, Asia Bibi. Her appeals case will be heard the second week of October 2016 A.D.
Anonymous said..."The future of the Church is the SSPX. Because they are actually living the Catholic Faith."
Anonymous, I believe that, in many ways, the restoration of the (Latin) Church resides in the "Super Diocese" (Bishop Fellay's term) that Pope Francis intends to establish.
Bishop Fellay said that a bishop from the SSPX will serve as the Super Diocese's Ordinary. "The Faithful (who) will belong to this body, will have the strict right to receive all the Sacraments from priests of the Society. All Sacraments, Marriage included. The bishop will have the right to have schools, seminaries, ordinations. Even to make new religious congregations."
What is also of great importance is that Bishop Fellay said that Catholics beyond the SSPX will be free to join the "Super Diocese."
I am certain that the Super Diocese will abound with young Catholics.
Deo gratias for His Holiness Pope Francis and his determination to establish the Super Diocese.
Here is an uplifting story about a Catholic teen who loves Jesus Christ and His Church.
Father McDonald said..."2. Bring back the culture of Catholicism lived at home and the world, especially a more rigorous fasting and abstinence as in the 1950's or early '60's. This extends Catholicism into the home and work place and identifies us as Catholics to a secular culture. Bring back ember days and all of the Holy Days of Obligation as in the 1950's without silly exceptions like it falling on a Friday or Monday and thus not obligatory."
Father McDonald your desire to promote fasting and abstinence is important should the Church wish to establish a strong sense of Catholicism among her youth. I may be alone in that among the most powerful memories that I have of the "old" Church was Friday abstinence.
As a young Catholic, a million years ago, I sensed that as Catholics we were different, in a positive way, from other religions via our fasting and abstinence practices. I sensed that we belonged to a Church that was special.
Father McDonald's comments spurred my memory in regard to the following column from then-Archbishop Dolan.
Perhaps the following passage from Fr. Z's wdtprs.com commentary today--on the collect for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (EF)--is so directly en pointe here that it would be alright to copy-paste it here (despite its length exceeding what is ordinarily tolerable in a comment):
I was called to a hospital to assist in a man’s difficult death. I gave him Last Rites and talked with the family as they struggled with the end of their loved-one’s life. An estranged daughter, beyond her middle years, which had clearly been pretty rough, was severely bitter. She cursed life, fate and God for the cruelty her father’s dying. She shouted at me, “Why did God make us if this is ALL THERE IS?” I responded asking, “You tell me. Why did God make you?” She became very still. Then she said, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” I continued, “What must we do to save our souls?” On cue she responded with something that she hadn’t probably thought of for decades: “To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity. We must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.” “Did your father do that?”, I asked. “Oh, yes”, she said, “…. oh yes.”
She had been taught well as a child. Someone loved her enough to din that into her, perhaps even under protests. Without question there were times when she had to be forced to learn and to repeat over and over what seemed boring and pointless. She had been drilled at school, perhaps, by the Sisters, the sort in habits with rulers, whom we now see mocked in the media by ungrateful cads who benefited from their dedication. Her parents did their duty and gave her what she would one day need.
By the grace of God the gift her dying father pressed on her years before was rediscovered – in the moment when the battle over her soul was joined.
Of course, the italicized questions and answers are straight from the Baltimore catechism, quoted by the daughter verbatim many years later, as any run-of-the-mill Catholic--whether a good, bad, or indifferent student--could do back in the 1950s could do when I (as a young bible-Belt Methodist) first encountered such folks.
FrAJM, at St Joseph you renovated the Liturgy and, it appears energised that parish in that way. Perhaps the spark for this parish is through the renovation of the Catechism in the lives of the people and discovery, possibly for the first time, of the benefits of fasting, novenae, and ancient prayers. Just a thought.
In the 1990's I spent some time at my parish serving as a catechist for religious education. Over the years I taught 4th grade, 6th grade and 8th grade.
My experience was this. Some of the kids (over 1/2) were woefully ill prepared for catechesis. There was a marked contrast between those whose parents were living the Faith (going to Mass, emphasizing and teaching morality at home, praying with and teaching their children about God) and those who were not. The ill prepared children were ones who usually could not recite an Our Father or Hail Mary. I knew my teaching for them was seeds falling on the dirt road. But I gave it my best anyway, knowing they had very little chance hearing it anywhere else.
I knew what I faced and that the culture these kids were dealing with was no longer even nominally Christian. I knew in school and all around them they faced the literal anti-Christ - not the caricature of the hoofed bi-ped with red skin, a goatee, horns, tail and a pitchfork, but institutions and media that were intent on eliminating Christiaity from the culture.
So I gave it to them straight. The book we taught from was adequate but not great, and I wish I could have had the Balitmore Catechism instead to give them a foundation. But in any case, I used the text as a jumping off place, and then I gave them apologetics appropriate to their age.
For instance, I addressed science, and how atheists say there is no God, and say only science matters, because it is evidence based. I gave them the basic counter argument, that life only comes from life - and we can infer the existence of a living God from that fact alone. We can also infer the existence of God from creation. I did this with a different topic each week, knowing how we are being attacked by the culture (it's worse now) and giving the Church's counter argument in a nutshell.
I did my best in the hour and a half I had them. I knew it wasn't enough, but I prayed to the Holy Spirit to bless them their whole lives so they would find others to teach them what I could not, and to their Guardian Angels to inspire them and protect them and help them against the enemy of souls.
So, Fr. McD, yes to the Baltimore Catechism. In fact, I think the older grades (6, 7 & 8) should use the Catechism of the Catholic Church (promulgated by St. John Paul II) as a text. Yes to youth groups (remember CYO?). But I'm not sure we are going to get anyone to revive the counter-cultural life of fasting and abstinence, Holy Days of Obligation, or increased Liturgical piety. Heck, even most priests don't want to do that.
And the anti-Christ culture not only has the kids 6 or 7 hours a day, but has their voice blasting away in every living room/family room in the country, hours and hours a day, spewing out the message loud and clear; not to mention how now they have been able to put themselves into the hands of every man, woman and child glued to the "phone" in the hours they are away from T.V. What a great tool to keep everyone on message.
I fear this age is an age of the anti-Christ, and I'm not sure it's reached its climax, let alone its end. It's like a hurricane that started in the 1960's, and instead of weakening, it seems to be ramping up (the evidence being the kinds of new policies by the government concerning education (Common Core), sexuality (imposition of LBGQT in every institution where they have authority), abortion (HHS Mandate), euthanasia (it's coming)and defiance of the rule of law (Supreme Court decisions.)
The question becomes, how do you raise kids as Catholics amid the pagan culture, when even within your own Church that paganism is gaining inroads?
P.S. I don't lose hope because I know who ultimately wins. :-)
Well, those who were born in the 1960s and after won't even know what the Baltimore Catechism is (or in the UK, the Penny Catechism). I only know because...goodness knows why; it wasn't anything I encountered in Catholic schools in suburban Boston.
It's time we face up to facts: Vatican II was a failure. Instead of messing about with the liturgy, our hierarchy should have been focusing on getting its own house in order--like addressing the homosexual child abusers in their ranks. While we blame 'the culture' for imposing 'LGBTQ' ideology on us, this wouldn't be possible if the church hierarchy hadn't led the way with their own sexual perversions.
I'm a scientist, by profession if not by inclination. I go to OF Mass with my family--but if we got on a Saturday evening, I go to the local SSPX Mass on Sunday morning. I wouldn't dare tell my pastor--he's got a thing about them. But I thank God that they've stood up to the madness and cowardice that has possessed the hierarchy since the 1960s.
Tony V said..."I go to the local SSPX Mass on Sunday morning. I wouldn't dare tell my pastor--he's got a thing about them."
His Holiness Pope Francis is fine with Catholics who attach themselves to SSPX chapels. He has referred to such Catholics as "faithful" Catholics. He has noted the SSPX's "good faith and sacramental practice." Pope Francis has recognized the legitimacy of the SSPX's administration of the Holy Sacrament of Penance.
What does your pastor have against the Catholic SSPX?
What is wrong with the Baltimore Catechism...it teaches actual belief and moral behavior based upon that belief. We cannot have such nonsense in our sophisticated post-Vat II world.
Everything was better 100 years ago. Everything.
Inhave had to rethink my following comment a few times mainly because it can easily be construed as critical of Pope Francis. I do not mean it to be. We are in a year of mercy but, based on the above comments and so many that have gone before, it seems we are almost totally unable to have mercy on anyone because we have no idea what we are doing, what is right, what they s acceptable, or what is forgivable or worthy of mercy. How can we have mercy if we cannot identify what needs it? We are treating mercy like paint in a decaying house, covering everything in sight and hiding serious problems that need structural changes.
Fr. Nostalgia said...Everything was better 100 years ago. Everything.
I wasn't here in 1916, but the first half of the 20th century seems generally regarded as a halcyon era in the U.S. Catholic Church, so it would be interesting to see a list of the things in the Church that were not better then. Anyone?
Don't forget to tune in to the debate. Only an hour away. I think that Donald Trump can save the country, save the Church, save the world. Don't you?
Let's keep penicillin and flush toilets and go back to 1850.
I was born in 1962 and was lucky or blessed enough at my Catholic school for there still to be enough though only a few brave brothers or priests to teach us from the penny or green catechism.
What is so bad to remember at 54 and after a stressful few months and a bottle of red wine tonight that I was made to know love and serve God in this life and be happy with Him in the next life?
After more than 40 years that stays stuck in my mind in words that still resonate and have even more meaning as I approach 55, technically retirement village entry age here..........how do such beautiful timeless truths compare to what was really at times at least the manifestations of a mindless and naïve sell out to the spirit of a superficial, self indulgent, man centred not God centred generation?
And of course, for example, the 19th century was not perfect; far from it......
But even honest secular thinkers and historians can admit that the evils and traumas in societies, communities and nations in the past hundred years have in many ways been the worst ever since the beginning of human history.
Well if you were a left-wing loon, faithless Catholic, you didn't have any clout!
It seems like people come to God when times are hard. But that said, kids are easily distracted. This is a what's in it for me society, if Mass doesn't excite then kids don't get it. They go with the crowd. If it's not cool, then there is nothing in it for them.
We don't need to make Mass or the Church cool but somehow redirect their thinking that Church is interesting, because it is. When the Church tries to be cool, it is lame and transparent like a bad sales pitch. It shouldn't even be attempted.
Maybe each parish could have some sort of breadcrumb path toward Churchly writings knowledge for a sort unofficial higher education. A library or reading list, building a foundation, while getting progressively more deep. There are libraries of information but where does one begin? Maybe make a tutor or mentor for questions.
Also, I think more attractive is a strong, masculine priest than a overly introspective, holy persona. A lot of priests try to be so holy that they are just unreal and kind of hard to accept. A real person for a real world could make a kid see how Christianity really works.
Go BACK to 1850? Many of my friends here....maybe three quarters, would have to go FORWARD....maybe a thousand years, to get to 1850.
I recently came across a photograph of myself, taken by my father in our back garden, in cassock and cotta having just served my first Mass, aged eight. The year was 1959. I had recently been confirmed and questioned by the bishop on the 'Penny Catechism' which we had all learned at school.
That, and learning the Latin responses to the Mass, and the familiar vernacular prayers including the Rosary, was the Catholic formation we had and we learned it literally at our mother's knee.
Of course later, as a teenager, I went through a sceptical and rationalist phase (who doesn't?) but read myself back into a faith (which in truth I had never left) when at university. However, this coincided with the destruction of traditional liturgy and practice which characterized that era. I could not reconcile this with what I knew to be the truth and was probably on the way to becoming an intellectually committed but non-practising Catholic until I discovered that there were places that still offered the liturgy in a traditional way, in particular the London Oratory.
Now that I have the opportunity to attend the Tridentine Mass every Sunday and Holy Day I feel that I have come full circle. Most of those who attend are too young to remember it first time round so it is interesting to enlighten them! Still, it puts the nonsense of the last half century into perspective.
I admired Pope Benedict XVI and like many others felt let down when he suddenly abdicated. I think that Francis's papacy is seriously dysfunctional but I doubt he is unorthodox and even if he were he knows that as pope he can't alter doctrine.
In my neck of the woods there is more demand for the Vetus Ordo than there are priests to offer it, servers to serve it and singers to sing it. But this is changing rapidly, and the younger generation are leading the way. Deo Gratias!
Completely off topic question:
Granted that most of us are anonymous (by design) what are the chances of organizing a face to face Blog party sometime at say, a rifle range? I figure it would preclude all but the NRA/GOA/USCCA members among us to come for the show and tell.
Gob says Donald Trump can save the country? Save it from what? Putin? Save the Church? What, this thrice-married New Yorker who says he has never felt the need to seek forgiveness from the Lord is going to save us? Politics does not save us, only the Lord does...at best he is the lesser of evils;' I wish we had "none of the above" as a choice and could start over....
Anonymous, 4.48, Gob is tongue-in-cheek, but he's right about one thing, Trump can help prevent the setback to the pro-life movement and the Church that will surely happen if Clinton gets elected.
"When asked by CP about how Trump can close this gap in Catholic support, [Fr Frank] Pavone replied that he believed one way for Trump to do so was to focus "on the ways in which the Democratic Party contradicts Catholic teaching on so many essential points."
"When it comes to the sanctity of life, marriage, family, and religious freedom, it is not only that the party has the wrong policies, but it abandons the principles underlying those policies," said Pavone.
"The fact that the Catholic Church -- and groups like Priests for Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor -- are fighting the Obama Administration against the HHS mandate can be a strong wake-up call for Catholics concerned about the Church's freedom to carry out her mission."
Priests for Life National Director Fr Frank Pavone also says in the article that he plans to vote for Donald Trump.
The Baltimore Catechism is a children's book. I read it and Dick and Jane in the 1930s. Then I grew up and neither of them was suitable any more.
Tevye, You might have read the St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism, with the illustrations that were Dick and Jane like, but that one takes the original Baltimore Catechism and made it for children. Other than those, the Baltimore Catechism like any other Catechism is straight Question and Answer, no pictures. There are varying levels of difficulty, Volumes 1-4. The is link to what the Baltimore Catechism Volume 1 looks like with no pictures.
I'm pretty sure that the "original" Baltimore Catechism....all editions were aimed at children.
Father, What are your thoughts of the YouCat Catechism. I gave one as a gift on Confirmation. It seemed pretty good and up to date as far as style.
Belated reply to Mark Thomas's question, 'What does your pastor have against the Catholic SSPX?'
Our pastor's a good man, but--and I'm guessing this is true of the vast majority of parish clergy--he's no friend to the SSPX. I'm not sure where Pope Francis really sits when it comes to the SSPX, but I suspect most UK bishops aren't that keen on them either.
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