This is from a piece in America Magazine, that (in)famous Jesuit publication, where they raise some interesting points regarding the PEW and CARA research data points on American Catholicism today. Here's the extended quote I want to focus on:
"The majority of self-identified Catholics!" This is the shape of our faith today. 51% of people don't go, don't know, and don't care. They identify, but don't believe. They accept the label, but don't follow the Lord. They write "Catholic" on forms, but not their hearts.
71% of former Catholics "no longer have any religious affiliation."
Do you understand what this means? Those who were enlightened by the gift of Baptism, but probably never enlightened by the gift of a living, personal faith, are in no way, shape or form adoring Christ Jesus. They might know his name and a few scattered stories, but they are not making life decisions in order to give Him honor and glory. He is not being worshipped by these 71% anymore! This breaks my heart.
I used to think that people just needed to get motivated to go back to Mass and try to struggle through it for duty's sake. Now, no way. The reality is that Jesus wants an intimate, personal encounter with Him to form the baseline of our religious experience. For adults in my RCIA program, I require that experience this personal encounter with Christ before they receive the Sacraments. They are responding the call of their Divine Beloved and are following after Him all the way into the Catholic Church.
It is hard not to feel overwhelmed about the state of the Church today. It is hard not to be burdened by it. It is hard not to scream and yell at mediocre priests and deacons, DREs and Youth Minsters to wake up, let alone the crazies and uncommitted. It is hard not to desire to ditch the parish jobby-job and work full time in a non-parish based ministry that just evangelizing Catholics.
But then, I think I would only extend the problem.
The problem is the parish. The solution is the same. It reminds me of a Homer Simpson quote, "Beer. The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems." The Parish. The heart-breaker and the spiritual catalyst of my life.