Church Life

Just Soak This In and Tell Me We Don't Need Drastic Change

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:

That still leaves the majority of self-identified Catholics out there on the periphery, some 51 percent, with much more distant stories. Among this majority there are distinct sub-groups as well. Some attend Mass at Christmas and Easter only. Some have not attended Mass in years, but nonetheless consider themselves as Catholic as anyone else who has been baptized Catholic.

Even further out in the orbit—away from the core Catholics and the mainstream Catholic life of Mary’s and Maria’s families—are the former Catholics. About two-thirds of those raised Catholic in the United States continue to self-identify into adulthood; a third do not. Most leave in their teens and early 20s. Yet even among these former Catholics, something remains.

Pew Research Center surveys of former Catholics indicate that about half of those who leave become Protestants. Only 12 percent of the people in the other half are atheists and 16 percent agnostics. Most, 71 percent, no longer have any religious affiliation. The only faith they still likely know is Catholicism.

Graphic from America Magazine, 2015

Graphic from America Magazine, 2015

"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.