Where are all the young Catholics? Admittedly, I feel a little sheepish asking this question. I just turned thirty. If I recall correctly, this puts me somewhere near the end of Generation-X and the beginning of Generation-Y. According to various pollsters, my participation each Sunday at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is somewhat of a statistical anomaly.
Yet I hardly feel alone as one who is both young and Catholic nor should I according to a forthcoming title from Sophia Institute Press. As a quick aside, most of our readers at the Wanderer should already be familiar with this publisher of orthodox Catholic books.
The title of the book is Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church. I was blessed with the opportunity to review an advance copy of the manuscript. Timothy Drake, the author, is a regular correspondent for the National Catholic Register. “In preparation for writing this book,” Tim states in the introduction, “I spoke to more than 300 young people from across the US and elsewhere.” What becomes apparent in reading the book is that each of these young people takes an orthodox stance towards the Catholic faith. Thus orthodoxy is on the rise among Catholics who fall within Generations X and Y.
Undoubtedly, Tim’s analysis seems optimistic. Yet his book proves that such optimism is well-founded. Reflecting upon my own experience as a young Catholic, I agree with the author. For instance, I attend a parish across town where the FSSP administers the sacraments according to the old Latin liturgy. Many envision our parish as a refuge for both the elderly and the nostalgic. However, this stereotype of the traditionalist movement is probably as outdated as the membership of Call-to-Action and the editorial positions espoused by the National Catholic Reporter. Our pew count on any given Sunday easily shows young families outnumbering both the Boomers and the World War II generation Catholics.
Moreover, this phenomenon is hardly restricted to the traditionalist movement. Our local (Novus Ordo) parish is administered by the Companions of the Cross an orthodox society of priests that grew out of the Catholic Charismatic renewal. The Companions have never shied away from preaching Humanae Vitae to young families. Thus parish functions are bursting with children.
Earlier this evening, our family attended the local parish’s family soccer night. Everyone who attended was under the age of forty. While the men and children played soccer, the moms sat on the sidelines and chatted among themselves. A baby and carrier accompanied each mom. The only exception was my friend’s wife who carried their baby in utero. And with only two children in tow Sonya and I would like to have more, but we’re waiting for God to do His part we happened to be the smallest family in attendance.
In reviewing Young and Catholic, I discovered these experiences have become common across North America. Whether the purpose is prayer, catechesis, or socialization among young Catholics, Tim documents several examples of young orthodox Catholics banding together. “Teens gather by the hundreds to attend special youth Masses in parishes around the country,” he shares, “often on Saturday or Sunday evenings…. Young adults get together to discuss theology on a Saturday night in Newark, Ohio, and to study the Holy Father’s encyclicals in New York, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Young Catholic leaders gather annually in Chicago and in Canada to network and collaborate with one another.
“They are converting to the Faith in large numbers on both secular and Catholic college campuses in California, Texas, and Illinois. They are swelling the ranks of religious orders in Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, and New York to such an extent that some orders don’t have space for all of the new members. They are also being ordained priests in dioceses such as Denver, Baltimore, and Lincoln, Nebraska.”
In what will no doubt give Andrew Greeley ulcers, Tim spends the rest of the book documenting and supporting the above claims. Thus I cannot recommend Tim’s book highly enough. Young and Catholic gives hope to Catholics who have spent the last couple years suffering from the scandal caused by sexual misconduct among the clergy. It also provides the perfect rebuttal to Fr. Greeley’s nostalgic jeremiads against “Young Fogeys,” which have become as predictable as the plots to his novels.
(Pete Vere, JCL, earned his ecclesiastical licentiate in canon law from Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. In his spare time, he volunteers as a Deputy Regional Director for the International Order of Alhambra a Catholic family organization dedicated to serving the needs of the mentally and developmentally challenged. This article reprinted with permission of the author and first appeared in The Wanderer).