Tuesday, January 26, 2021


I received this comment on another post:

Most young people I know, family members, their friends, co-workers, if they were baptized as Catholics and raised as Catholics, have left the Church. It is not part of their lives and when it comes to moral teachings, they have made up their minds long ago on particular issues and the "teaching of the Church" does not play into it. Like most people who have responded, I know young Catholics, individuals and families, who go to the Traditional Mass, but they are in the minority. 

And this comment just came in on another post but is pertinent to this one:

 Most Catholics, old or young, are not obsessed with interior church design, which direction the priest is facing, debating church music or art, intramural church politics, English vs. Latin, etc. Amazing but true: This discussion group of elderly Catholic white men in no way represents the laity as a whole. Young people, especially, are concerned about how Church policies affect them, their families, their friends and their real life in the real world. They often care more about doing good in the world rather than making a full-time vocation of condemning “bad” )meaning different) in the world. If they feel that the Church has essentially written them and their concerns off, then traditionalism is a tough, tough sell. The Church is in the same difficult situation as many corporations and institutions. “Because I said so,” and “Because that s the way it was 100 years ago” doesn’t really work as moral suasion or a practical argument. That just the way it is.

It depends on what part of the country or the world one is, but we know that participation at Mass and those who no longer see themselves as practicing the faith with no intention in the immediate future of returning have left for a variety of reasons. In some places maybe 12% of Catholics attend Mass on Sunday. I think in our diocese, pre-pandemic it would have been 30% or slightly lower.

The secular culture has been their primary formation in terms of worldview and morality. And the morality they profess is one of love but not in the traditional sense. It is a love that respects individual choices especially in the area of sexuality, abortion, marriage, no marriage, monogamy or no monogamy. 

The transcendent for the most part is kept out of the picture. Truth is one's own version of that. 

Catholics young people who stay may want a more contemplative, tell me how to live approach to Catholicism with social gatherings a part of it but not high on the list of priorities. 

Time will tell what toll this will take on these individuals and society in general who have become nones and rely purely upon their own truth.

Given the fact that we are writing off those who have left the practice of the Catholic Faith, how do we keep those who are coming and may be looking for something counter-cultural or something deeper and transcendent?

In my diocese, the EF Mass attracts a small number of Catholics when compared with the number of Catholics in our diocese who actually attend Mass. I don't think that is a realistic venture to think the EF Mass alone will keep young Catholics.

Many parishes have worship and praise music at their Masses. I have no idea how music keeps or repels younger Catholics. I know that music in the Mass in general is a point of contention for many people.

Good preaching can keep some. But good preaching that is counter cultural today, what is called prophetic, also turns many people off especially in the area of sexual morality.

What to do? What to do? Oh, what is a pastor and a bishop to do?


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"What to do? What to do? Oh, what is a pastor and a bishop to do?"

Quoting the Fathers isn't going to cut it. Involve them in Social Service projects that combine good formation and outreach to those in need.

The teacher who sold me on biology was a great in the classroom, but then we headed out to the local islands for beachcombing, creeks for canoeing, lakes for sailing, woods for building nature trails, etc. He connected the classroom with lived experience.

"Prayer and Action is a summer program that offers high school students a mission experience in their own diocese. This low-cost mission trip experience offers students an opportunity to dive deeper into their relationship with Christ while serving people in their own community and growing deeper in faith with peers from around the Diocese of Savannah and beyond."

Also, respect their questions and, if they have them, objections to aspects of the faith. Some teenagers like to shock, so when he/she says "I don't believe in the Resurrection," don't have a cow, don't retreat to the church to light a candle - TALK to the kid about his/her questions.

Don't give in to the ones who want to puch and push and push and push, just becasue they can. Show them that they can push all they want, but you won't become angry or lose your cool. (It's a game most of us played in one way or another when we were teens.)

Introduce them to saintly heroes they can relate to. I credit Classic Comic books with making me familiar with Fr. Damien of Molokai, Joan of Arc, and others. They have to be introduced to the idea that saintliness is possible.

There's a good start.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think the Alleluia Community with its school, high religious commitment and sending their young children to work with Mother Teresa's sisters in the Bronx (helping, feeding and caring for the poor) does a lot of what you write, FRMJK.

But in those places where there are EF parishes, not just an ef Mass here and there, they seem to be keeping their young people too with tried and tested and a very transcendent liturgy, spirituality and traditional catechisis and devotion. Like the Alleluia Community, these intentional EF parishes are producing vocations galore.

Can it be that our post-Vatican II Liturgy and spirituality suffers from a lack of the transcendent and a cohesive approach to parish life, spirituality and devotions not to mention religious education?

Ordinary Form Catholics don't care about architecture or the transcendent, they are more secularized and the Ordinary Form has pushed them to it?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Again, I think your suggestion that the OF has caused this drift away from the trasnscendent is wrong. Your prescription for a cure - give them the EF mass and make them wear "Sunday Best" to church - is the wrong treatment for the ailment. The drift away from the transcendent has been society-wide, not just in this or that religious community.

St. Pope John Paul II spoke often of this matter - that consumerism tends to lead to materialism - a denial of the spiritual. Adevertisers have done a superb job teaching us to be dissatisfied. "Advertising is the “organized creation of dissatisfaction. Happiness is good for us, but it is bad for business. Hence we have to be induced to see it as always lying just around the corner, immediately after the next product we buy. A consumer society, in short, encourages us to spend money we don’t have, on products we don’t need, for a happiness that won’t last." (Jonathan Sacks, 'Morality,' pg 117.)

Young people who are involved in living the faith, who encounter hardship in others and develop a strong sense of empathy, who understand that Faith is meant to be lived outside the walls of the church, are more likely to endure. They come to understand that spirituality is a way of life, not something experienced almost exclusively as mass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

My comment had to do with Alleluia Community in Augusta and full-blown EF parish which both attract more highly committed members compared to a run of the mill OF parish.

But the bottom line or the elephant in the room is the loss of faith and even a belief that Jesus Christ and the Church He founded and the Sacraments He established are necessary for one's personal salvation.

The question that isn't proposed, is do I want to spend an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell. There's only one way to heaven. If you don't take the medicine or think a witch doctor is just as good, well, you get what you deserve.

Anonymous said...

When you have confused "catholic" leadership which does nothing about societal evils like abortion and even have bishops and priests support politicians who support abortion, it is no wonder Catholics are walking away.

There is basically nothing transcendent in the typical OF Mass - it is boring and banal beyond belief - another reason people have walked away. And a transcendent and counter-cultural Church would serve as a bulwark against the highly secular world we find ourselves in.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

If you think you can get young people back in church by asking them, "Do you want to spend eternity in heaven or hell," you will get laughed at. And rightly so.

Anonymous said...

Promise them peace and quiet joy in this life and into the next and for eternity, and then show them how.

But priests and bishops would first need to be holy themselves to pull that one off, which is the major sticking point.

Nothing draws people more than someone who walks that walk as a true follower of Christ. But, they gotta do it themselves, first, to be able to teach it, and if they want anyone to listen to a word they say.

Anonymous said...

“Father” K,

That last statement is evidence of the shallowness of your vocation and faith. Maybe you should learn to code

ByzRus said...

We have to face the facts: The world and society has changed. The secular is glorified and the sacred is to be hidden away outside of church which is mostly limited to Sundays. I'm not saying give up, I'm just stating how it is. We do not live in Russia where religion and culture are so intertwined. Even there, and despite all the gains of the last 25 years, the churches aren't packed on Sundays. Agreed, the TLM won't be the answer but, I don't think the NO is either. Also agreed, it is a smaller minority that's concerned about bas-reliefs, antependiums, the pros and endless cons pertaining to eucharistic towers, how much lace Fr. is/is not wearing, why Fr. McHippie won't stop wearing the burlap chausable with fish and muffin appliques etc. I'm not sure what the perfect answer is except to start with authenticity and work from there. The Church has become so balkanized I believe was the term we were floating to describe the current situation in recent months. Why does our church have people who feel the need to create Facebook pages pertaining to ugly vestments and ugly churches? Please note, not all Byzantine Catholic churches are Currier and Ives post card perfect. Even our ugly ones are beautiful in their own way and can't hold a candle to the really ugly Roman ones. I've never seen an entity have such an iron-fisted grip on a market. Lets stop torturing those who are left with shlock.

Parishes have tried every approach it would seem. Add TLM (very few), add Worship and Praise, lock-down pizza sleepovers in the parish hall, Life Teen, Fr. trying to relate to the youth by wearing a fleece vest with a popped collar and on and on. I suppose some/all have merit but, it doesn't seem like it is translating into a long-term commitment, at least not up here in the northeast. Compound this with COVID and the suspension of the attendance obligation, probably many who have drifted away in the last year won't been seen again until the next family baptism/wedding/funeral if ever (what's the stat, 50% of Catholic funerals are bypassing the funeral mass now?) To me, that's just reality.

Part 2 to follow. I evidently hit some character max.

ByzRus said...

Part 2

All that said, I think Fr. MJK makes some good points. They are realistic relative to our modern society (as opposed to the ideal that we here hope for). Among those that resonated:

*"Quoting the Fathers isn't going to cut it. Involve them in Social Service projects that combine good formation and outreach to those in need." 100% Young people are action oriented.
If they are offered a way to contribute for the good, they will make time.

"Prayer and Action is a summer program that offers high school students a mission experience in their own diocese. This low-cost mission trip experience offers students an opportunity to dive deeper into their relationship with Christ while serving people in their own community and growing deeper in faith with peers from around the Diocese of Savannah and beyond.""
Again, agree. This would be relevant to students living where service projects are required for graduation. Students would be receptive and then, some not just from the perspective of checking a box on their transcript.

*"Also, respect their questions and, if they have them, objections to aspects of the faith. Some teenagers like to shock, so when he/she says "I don't believe in the Resurrection," don't have a cow, don't retreat to the church to light a candle - TALK to the kid about his/her questions." Agree. To me, one of the toughest jobs in a parish is Parish Youth Coordinator. I feel for them trying to come-up with ways to sell our message to youth. They won't win over everyone but, it seems they really do try.

Some will likely disagree with me but, the current approach is clearly not working. I obviously favor tradition but, I am realistic to know and accept that I'm in a fringe market. Be the authentic Church, be real with those who have fallen away and with engaging the youth that Fr. MJK mentions and, maybe we'll have a fighting chance.

Finally - I'm not yet elderly as the commenter branded this blog's participants.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that Novus Ordo Catholics don't care about architecture and design. Evidence seems to indicate that American Catholics prefer "churchy" looking Churches and are willing to pay for them. I know of several parishes that have done costly restoration work or renovations to make them more traditional, and all were enthusiastically paid for by the congregants. This preference for stained glass, devotional statues, and murals doesn't even alighn with liturgical or musical preference, meaning it isn't just trads or conservatives who want it. Perhaps aesthetics may not be the number one factor whether or not the young stay, but I think one can argue that having spaces people like and want to spend time in don't hurt.

I've also read studies indicating that people subconsciously find modern spaces uncomfortable.

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

You might initially get laughed at, but, you'll never see them again. I appreciate where Fr. AJM is coming from but, the Byzantine marketing anthem of "Come and See" sounds more inviting. Get them in then, scare the hell out of them.

Seriously, that's probably a very relevant question to be explored during this discussion: How do you get lapsed Catholics to "take their medicine" without risking having many go to the evangelicals as has happened up here principally because of that?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, two Fathers, I think the problem and the solutions are far more complex than you make them out to be. But I also think you both make good points. I’d give anything to have access to an excellent EF Mass (but I’m a old lady of 73). My grandchildren in Catholic schools, and their parents, not so much. Summer 2019, Norte Dame University (alma Mater for Son in law) offered a family mission project with on-campus projects and fixing food for local community poor. My daughter was thrilled that her teenagers really responded well despite initial objections. She and her husband (who is not particularly given to charity work despite 16 years of Catholic education) were both fully involved and it was very rewarding. They have access to EF Masses in Charlotte, but are not at all interested. Our second daughter and her family love the EF Mass and say it really has awakened them to a better appreciation of the OF Mass they also attend locally there. Our son in CA is a revert to the Faith of his youth. He left the Church for ten years, but began to see life didn’t go very well without it in his life. His reversion had nothing to do with Liturgy style or charitable projects. He is now just grateful to have a Mass commitment for his wife and family. His life is way busy to worry about much else.

Could it be that there is more than one solution to this very large problem? Perhaps God is bigger than single solutions? We are a Church universal with many, many different people and views. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so “one size fits all”? Just wondering...

Anonymous said...

Pope John Paul II started WYD and the mega Masses which were intended to draw Catholic youth into the life of the Church, and address the secular mega concerts that were the hallmark of that time. To some extent it has been successful, but Churches are still predominately grey. Youth ministry,and Masses designed around the youth of the parish have had the same success. From what people have written, the traditional has also been attracting youth. It seems to give reason to let priests that see the value in tradition, to run parishes based on tradition. That doesn't state that the contemporary Vatican II parishes should be abandoned. Each seem to attract different youth for different reasons. There are people that are drawn to traditions and customs that are a part of Church history. Sometimes I think bringing back an authentic Catholicism and Catholic culture to all Catholics is more important than trying to create a Catholicism for youth. I think authenticity and culture might actually be a big draw for youth. No, that does not state that all parishes need to be TLM parishes.

Anonymous said...

Question: Oh what to do, church patriarchs? Simple: Follow St Joseph’s example of what it is to be a father.

Who are the primary teachers of children? Public educators or parents?

Who should teach our young the faith? Volunteer parishioners or well formed parents?
(You need a masters degree to teach in public schools but we’ll take anyone to teach the faith in parishes.)

Answer: well formed priests need to instruct parents in the faith so they can then teach their children.

98% cessation rate in Europe after teens/young adults make their confirmation. Why? They don’t know what they are leaving. They have been fed a watered down faith. The Masses they attend are hardly different from Protestant services. The faith they were taught lacks depth. Nobody showed them how to fall in love with their faith, their God.

Well formed priests who love the Mass, love their faith, love their God and who openly demonstrate it by their fatherly example is the beginning of the answer. What follows next is strong, benevolent heads of households working together with their wives to raise a family in the domestic church. But, they need their lamp filled... they need their wells filled... they need the instruction, confidence and example that they didn’t get from their parents. They need to hear loud affirmation of what it means to be a Catholic from the pulpit, not confusion and ambiguity. They need examples of how to be a father in this world and not excuses that kid will laugh at you for speaking the truth.

Bishops and Priests: consider how to best mend the chain of faith succession that has been broken in families. Consider focusing your homilies and parish events on sharing the gift of your education and formation with adults and parents especially. Take this year of St Joseph to begin to win back the faithful from the snares of the devil. Start with a top down plan for how to best execute your responsibility for every single person in your diocese or parish. We are poorly formed... we are desperate for spiritual fathers. If you are a priest or father and you are not plumb wiped out at the end of your life, emptying everything you have, “leaving it all on the field” striving to bring your team across the heavenly threshold, then you may have missed the mark.

Anonymous said...

The Father K priest is not the answer, but the recipe for disaster and decline. At least Father M is trying

JR said...

In my grandsons' Catholic parish, the youth program revolves around two families: seven kids in one and five in the other who also do a lot of stuff socially. My grandsons felt like "outsiders" and joined the youth ministry of their Methodist church friends and go every Wednesday evening and seem to be getting a lot out of that. They say it's more "relevant" than the one at their Catholic parish. My fear is that eventually, they will be "won over" to the Methodist church.

Anonymous said...

Faith is a gift of God. He offers it to all of us. God offers salvation to those who look to Jesus Christ, imitate him, love him, and hope to spend eternity with him.

Others accept consumerism, communisms, fascism, and currently the very popular "wokeism." The latter replaced the Book of Life (Bible) with Face Book. They do not believe in heaven or hell only in cyberspace which is a kind of hell. There they form hate -communities, consuming communities, and just generally loose themselves in an artificial nirvana. This new kind of existence is all consuming, leaving no room for forming authentic human relationships, or time to contemplate creation, eternity, or the meaning of life, or what is true or what is false. As a society, and I would include the Catholic Church, not its written theology but its current public face as represented by Pope, bishops, religious and very public lay members beleive truth (dogma) is relative. There is nothing special there. Catholic truth is equal to atheist truth because who are we to judge?

Unless the Church is willing to offer a more compelling alternative to secular fashions of the day it will continue to loose. And it should as it is currently dominated by apostles more in sympathy with Judas than with the other 11.

Anonymous said...

Attract the young women. Once you get a lot of young, you'll get the young men...

ByzRus said...

Anon @ 11:43 -

Probably better that the focus is on attracting people, of all backgrounds, cultures, economic statuses etc. - all who seek truth and salvation. We are unified during divine worship and we can celebrate our differences as we enjoy fellowship outside of the liturgy.

Anonymous said...

Just saying, that's why bars have Ladies Night, get the Ladies in and the boys will follow.

Anonymous said...

I think one thing you have to realize is that young people aren’t drifting away from the Church, they are actively being driven away from the church. Everything they read or watch on television or gather off the internet or are taught in school is against the church. If you want to keep youth in the church, you have to confront all of the other information they are exposed to. You have to convince them that what the church offers is infinitely better than what contemporary society is trying to sell them. They have to be challenged with Apologetics and critical thinking.

Brideshead Revisited said...

Anon: “ Attract the young women. Once you get a lot of young, you'll get the young men....”

That wouldn’t really work for the Traditional Latin Mass though, would it? I mean from my experience the TLM tends to attract young men of a particular variety, if you get my drift? At least that’s what I’ve noticed at the Brompton Oratory and other similar venues in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Brideshead Revisited,

Engaging in slander and innuendo, I see