Dear Friends in Christ:
Over the years I have found myself reading more and more sociology. I recently read a study on “Former Young Catholics.” While most of the time I find the results interesting, at other times (like this one), I scratch my head and wonder why the results are a surprise to anyone. Among the findings in the report that I read concerning young adults who leave the practice of the Catholic faith were: 1) that they were far less likely to have attended Church regularly while growing up; 2) Religion and matters of faith were seldom spoken of in their families; 3) They seldom or never attended a non-worship activity at Church; 4) They do not know or understand the teachings of the Catholic faith. And to think these researchers were paid grant money to discover this! All of these findings makes sense of course but the question is, what to do?
On the face of it the answer seems simple. To increase the odds (significantly) for young people to remain faithful Catholics, they have to grow up as faithful Catholics! That means, 1) Attend Mass regularly as a family; 2) Speak regularly and frequently about our religion and matters of faith in the home; 3) Participate in Church activities in addition to Mass (regular Confession, CCE, Youth Group, Altar Servers, choir, parish social activities, prayer groups, Mission trips, service projects, parish dinners, etc.); 4) Learn and grow in the knowledge of the Catholic faith throughout their childhood and adolescence (not just to 2nd grade!). For a lot of folks, young and not so young, these simple activities can prove to be difficult or challenging. For many the question is ‘What is in it for me?’ Here too, sociologists and researchers do provide us with some insights and helpful data that is amazingly (or not) consistent with the bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The data is consistent (both secular and religious academic studies agree): Families and individuals who regularly practice their faith are happier, more content, have healthier and more stable families, happier and healthier marriages and fair better economically and educationally. Another little intriguing tidbit is that religiously faithful married couples generally enjoy a more content and healthy sex life than others. On the flip side, those families and individuals who regularly practice and live their faith are inoculated against many of the problems that cause pain and stress in life. This is not to suggest of course that religion exempts one from all problems but rather, a faith that is lived and regularly practiced gives families and individuals a road map to avoid serious problems and a means to overcome the problems of life in our often confusing world.
I reflect back on what Sr. Carita Ulm, O.P. taught me in 1st grade and what my mother drilled into us from The Baltimore Catechism: Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to Know Him, Love Him and Serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next! This is also our happiness and joy in this world! Knowing, loving and serving the Lord gives life meaning and purpose. It gives order, reason and understanding in a world filled with chaos and uncertainty. It brings joy to the most simple moments and actions and to the most profound. It gives comfort and reassurance in times of doubt, pain, sadness and grief. Why would anyone reject these beautiful aspects of faith? Because they do not know them. Because no one has shared by word or example the joy of living the Catholic faith, the joy of knowing Jesus and loving Him, the joy and peace of experiencing His love! Jesus instructs us that what we have received as a gift we should also give as a gift! (Mt 10.8) What greater gift in this life have we received than our Catholic faith! Don’t wait! Share the beauty and joy of your faith. Invite someone to Mass, talk about the joys of your faith with someone today, especially with your kids and grandkids; tell others how good the Lord has been to you. Don’t hide your blessings under a bushel basket (Mt 5.13-16). To love someone is to desire the good for them! Do someone a favor, share the faith!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately