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Many Millennials Embrace the Church

Matt Archbold / July 10, 2018Commentary

A few years ago, my nephew was playing a video game which had Gregorian chant playing as its soundtrack. I asked him about the music, and he said he didn’t know what it was, but it was “really cool.” I couldn’t help but notice the irony. For years, we’ve been told by a certain aging demographic that we must get rid of everything in the Church like rosaries and old-timey music because it isn’t cool. Because, as you know, “cool” outweighs appropriate or meaningful.

Most Americans and even many Catholics, in our schools and our parishes, have swallowed that lie. But young people, when given the opportunity and a proper formation, are attracted from deep within their souls to Truth, Goodness and Beauty. It’s high time we acknowledge it.

I bring this up, because a funny thing happened at the annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, which claims to be “the largest, most inclusive association of priests in the United States.” Its mission is to “promote the vision and values of Vatican II.” To give you a sense of the priorities of the organization, they passed resolutions on border separation of families, LGBT ministry, gun control, ordaining married men, and—last but not least—”the Importance of Dialogue in the Life of the Church.”

Franciscan Sr. Katarina Schuth, professor emerita at The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn., monologued about the challenges in reaching millennial Catholics and said they tend to “consider personal, subjective experience to be the basis for authentic religious truth.” Hmmm. I wonder where they learned that? If you know the state of much of Catholic education today—and the fact that most Catholics go to public schools—you won’t have to “hmmmm” long to figure that one out.

Certain baby boomers have worked very hard to place feelings over Church teaching for years, and sadly they’ve succeeded in large part. Mass for many Catholics has become a communal event where we celebrate togetherness or something. Yet something funny has happened along the way, according to Schuth. Many of today’s young Catholics seem unimpressed with the “cool” experimentation of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations—what Schuth calls the “older Catholics.” Instead, young people are looking to the older, older Catholics for substance.

National Catholic Reporter:

“The Second Vatican Council is as distant [to millennials] as the Council of Trent,” she said, and millennials offer “new interpretations” of devotional practices like praying the rosary or practicing Eucharistic adoration. Millennials, she explained in her presentation, “do not and cannot look at the Church, the Mass, the hierarchy, the sacraments, devotions and other aspects of Catholicism with the same cultural mindset of older Catholics.”

“Thus, what older generations may consider ‘retro’ Catholic practices such as the rosary, Eucharistic adoration, Gregorian chant or religious habits, [these] may be attractive to young Catholics,” Schuth said.

In short, the traditional faith is rising again among some in the younger generation. Not because of their elders. But despite them. I actually think that the Catholic faith has been maligned so much that it seems cool to some millennials seeking a counterculture. I’ll tell you a quick story. I was kind of meh in my faith when I entered college. While there, I had a Jesuit priest explain to the class why the pro-life position made no sense. It inspired me to counter him, so I began reading what the Church taught on the issue. I read everything including the Church fathers, and then I was hooked. That’s how I became a serious Catholic. To counter the apparent nonsense that I’d been taught. It is nearly axiomatic that wherever the faith is attacked, the faith grows. It’s counter-intuitive, I’ll grant you, but I’ve got 2,000 years of history to show you. Look at the state of Catholic education. Nowhere is Christianity more maligned than in the hallowed halls of higher education. And yet, what do we see rising up in response?

The March for Life has only grown. Millennials, who are consistently polled to be among the most liberal on all issues, are increasingly saying that life may not be as disposable as they’ve been taught. That’s a thought that the left cannot tolerate. That is the crack in the cement that a flower can spring up through. Similarly, despite the wild goings-on at most colleges, we are also seeing a rebirth in Catholic education with many faithful Catholic colleges experiencing boosts in enrollment.

It seems the more extreme those on the left become, there is a response. Terribly, the only response the left seems to understand is to push back even harder. Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter wrote a piece this week excoriating so-called pro-lifers who support President Donald Trump. He concludes with this frightening graph:

Normally, when I get into a debate with a conservative friend and we are at an impasse, with no hope for resolution, I try to ease the tension with levity, and say, “Well, when the revolution comes, I will put in a good word for you and your family.” To my friends in the Republican political and legal establishment who have not stood up to Trump: When the revolution comes, you are on your own, and I will be clamoring not for mercy but for a seat next to the guillotine, where I can do my knitting.

It was only a matter of time before the truth came out. While some erstwhile revolutionaries reach for implements of torture, I believe that increasingly the faithful in this country will reach for rosaries. If one is looking for the fate of America, look to our Catholic homes, parishes, schools and colleges. If they are thriving and faithful, this country has a prayer. If not, prepare for the guillotine.

Matt Archbold is a fellow of The Cardinal Newman Society. This article is reprinted with permission fromThe National Catholic Register.

Copyright © 2018 The Cardinal Newman Society. Permission to reprint without modification to text, with attribution to author and to The Cardinal Newman Society, and (if published online) hyperlinked to the article on the Newman Society’s website. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Cardinal Newman Society.

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