I have encapsulated myself within an illusion. The illusion was that the vast majority of the young Catholic folks (let’s go with 40 and under) of today do not understand the faith the way that they should. So, what way was that? I attended Catholic school in the 50′s and early 60′s. Yeah, yeah–I’m a died-in-the-wool senior citizen, and I have been getting coffee discounts for a long time–sorry, I digress. Anyway, my illusion has been smashed to smithereens. It is not that they don’t understand the faith; it is that they just don’t give a damn. Man–that changes everything.
Look, I read this survey on “why Catholics do not go to Mass”. Back in the early 1960′s almost 75% of Catholics attended Mass on Sunday. Today we are at 23%. Dang, that is unbelievable. What happened? Here comes the smashing of the illusion, the brick through the plate glass window, the shattering of the unthinkable. According to the survey, 62% of “Catholics” who do not go to Mass on Sunday do not go because—GET READY, because they “do not care”. I was expecting job requirements, or family responsibilities, or maybe illness, or taking care of bed-ridden relatives as a primary reason for not attending Mass. Astonishingly, these reasons were in the low twentieth percentile. “Do not care”, “It’s no big deal”, “I need my sleep”, ”it is not a sin” do not simply lead the pack of reasons, they trounce the other reasons. It is like Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes by 30 lengths over 30 years ago. No contest.
So, why don’t the young folks care? All I can come up with is, They do not know. That’s right, they do not know squat. They have not been taught squat and therefore it is not their fault. Mention the word “Incarnation” to a post- 1970 Catholic and see how many have even heard of it, no less have an answer for it, and that is the central mystery of our faith. How about the difference between an epistle and a gospel, or what is the “paten” or an alb or a chasuble. Ask why we say “The Word was made Flesh”, or what is Transubstantiation? They do not have a clue and these thing are uniquely Catholic, part of our traditions, part of who we are as a faith community. We all have our personal family traditions, especially around the holidays. Marriage combines traditions. But they are NEVER discarded or ignored or, God forbid, demeaned as “old fashioned”. We cherish them and carry them onward and forward and embrace them as OURS.
Vatican II was never a call to “purge”. It was a call to “renew”. It is time to get back to teaching tradition and embracing it. We owe it to the young folks.There are over two thousand years of it to draw from, and there is so much beauty in it, and they would love it if they could only get to know it. It would be as if they went to Ancestry.com and found a great, great, great, uncle who had been a King, and now they KNEW for a fact that He was actually a part of their family. How cool would that be for someone.