The new June issue of the print edition of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati features a letter from His Excellency Dennis M. Schnurr urging his flock to participate in the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom. And we should. There’s an ominous feeling in the air right now among serious Catholics. Participating in an event like this one can help us experience the solidarity that goes with being a member of the Body of Christ. My family and I were privileged to assist at the Closing Mass for 2013’s Fortnight at the Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Here’s an excerpt from Archbishop Schnurr’s letter with some practical ideas:

And now a new concern has arisen. During oral arguments last month before the U.S. Supreme Court on cases related to same-sex marriage, Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrill Jr., arguing for same-sex couples, whether a university or college opposing same-sex marriage could lose its tax-exempt status. Mr. Verrill replied that “it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is going to be an issue.” If Catholic institutions lose their tax-exempt status, that will greatly reduce their ability to bear witness to the Gospel through the corporal works of mercy.

So what can you do to observe the Fortnight for Freedom?

 Stay informed. Go to www.CatholicCincinnati.org and click on “Preserve Religious Freedom” on the lower right. There you will find up-to-date information and links to the USCCB website.
 Answer the “Call to Prayer for Life for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty” from the USCCB. The “Call to Prayer” asks that Catholics celebrate Eucharistic holy hours monthly, pray the rosary daily, fast, and abstain from meat on Fridays. There is a Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/CallToPrayer.
 In addition, during the Fortnight, attend any special prayer opportunities available in your parish, and participate in Mass on July 4, the culmination of the Fortnight. Prayer is powerful!
 Display the Preserve Religious Freedom yard sign. You may have one from previous years. If not, a limited number will be available through The Catholic Telegraph at a price of two for $1. Although shipping cannot be offered, the CT will arrange pickup points in both Dayton and Cincinnati for those interested. …

Ten years after their publication, is anyone using the USCCB’s United States Catholic Catechism for Adults and the Holy See’s Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Both were released to much fanfare, especially the former, but I don’t hear much about them now. I led studies using both four or five years ago, but I profess to mostly using them for personal reading now.

The USCCB released the adult catechism in a free online version, which is very useful.

Both are also available in Kindle and e-reader versions (see here and here).

Again, is anyone using these resources, either personally or through group study?

That’s the best way to describe Catholic organizations getting involved in Protestant praise & worship events like next weekend’s “Outpouring” at Cincinnati gardens.

Contrived, emotive paraliturgies have never been our thing, nor should they be.

My second son and I were in Columbus for a lacrosse tournament this weekend and visited one of our old parishes for the first time since we moved to Cincinnati fourteen(!) years ago. It was mostly as I remembered it: a pretty church filled with nice people being fed anodyne platitudes. The deacon read the Gospel and delivered the homily, which he spent a week developing after reflecting on a line from the first reading (Acts 1:1-11): “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It somehow led him to believe the key message is “finding Christ in other people.” Really? You wracked your brains for a week, and that’s what you came up with? That same week we learned that the Church is hemorrhaging members. Another fourteen years of the Gospel of Nice and one wonders if there will be a parish to visit. And twenty years after the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it shouldn’t be this difficult to give a homily with a modicum of content. In addition to books that index the lectionary to the Catechism (see here and here), a 90-second Google search revealed these handy links that do much the same thing. To borrow from a popular meme, “You had one job this morning.”

For only $350, your high school-aged sons and daughters who aspire to be liturgical musicians can have the Worship and Youth & Young Adult Ministry offices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati teach them how to use “voice, keyboard, guitar, brass, winds, percussion or strings” at Mass — never mind that all but the first of these really don’t have a place at Mass to begin with.  Here’s a promotional video to whet your appetite:

In all too many parishes, “all-school Mass” is synonymous with “every liturgical abuse under the sun.”  Over the years, priests, principals, and teachers have been under the impression that Masses for young Catholics are exempt from the rubrics and that the best way to connect with students is to present them with the liturgical excesses of the ’70s and ’80s, e.g., recruiting them to serve as extraordinary ministers, lining them up with petitions for the prayers of the faithful, dragooning them into student choirs to sing inappropriate hymns.  If you want to know why so many Catholics have an artificial understanding of the Mass, consider that many of them spent 8-12 years marinating in bad liturgy at their Catholic school.  Not so at St. Cecilia of Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood on the near East side.  I had a light schedule this morning, so Mrs. Leonardi and I walked over for the Thursday all-school Mass at 9 o’clock, and it was a refreshingly reverent experience.  The pastor Fr. Jamie Weber chanted virtually the entire Mass in the vernacular; to the extent hymns were used, they were generally tasteful and sung well by the (smallish) student choir; the students remained composed throughout and notably didn’t feel compelled to hold hands during the Our Father; a reader handled the petitions and the two or three extraordinary ministers were teachers or adults, not students (though the EMHCs did bless the arms-crossed non-Catholic students, which is a no-no).  In short, the students were treated like worshiping members of the Body of Christ, not volunteers at a festival or attendees at a pep rally.  Kudos to Fr. Weber and the students and staff at St. Cecilia.

Today’s Cincinnati Enquirer links to a report on the latest Pew Research Center survey of religion in America.  Under the misleading headline “Christians drop, atheists and agnostics soar,” Pew finds that the number of “nones” — Americans who are unaffiliated with brand-name religion — is now at “22.8% of the U.S. (up from 16% just eight years ago) run second only to evangelicals (25.4%) and ahead of Catholics (20.8%) in religious market share.”  At the risk of playing Pollyanna here, this isn’t as big a story as it seems.  Nones were at 20% in 2012 and have definitely ticked up, but, contrary to the crowing of a mouthpiece from American Atheists quoted in the story, unaffiliated doesn’t mean atheist — or even agnostic.  Two summers ago, Rodney Stark examined the 2013 Pew numbers and discovered just how religious these nones actually are:

Consider: The proportion of Americans who claim to be atheists has not increased even slightly since Gallup first asked about belief in God in 1944. Back then, 4% said they did not believe in God, and 3% or 4% give that answer today.

Most of those Americans who are reported as having no religion are not unreligious but only unaffiliated, and some of them even attend church. They do not belong to any specific denomination, but probably most of them would agree that they are Christians, had they been directly asked that question.

A far more important indicator, as many recent studies—including the Baylor National Religion Surveys—have found, is that those who say they have no religion are surprisingly religious. Most say they pray, and a third even report having had a religious experience. Half of these respondents who would be considered by survey takers to have “no religion” believe in angels.

Regarding Catholics, Pew finds high retention rates for children “reared in the faith” but a low conversion rate.  Two other Catholic stats are highlighted in the linked report: (1) 13% of U.S. adults are former Catholics and (2) 16% of adults 18-24 are Catholic compared to 20.8% overall.  Unlike previous generations, by and large young Catholics defecting from the Church aren’t headed to a nondenominational megacommunity but are, essentially, sleeping in on Sunday, i.e., they’re becoming “nones.”  And all the Sunday night guitar Masses and clap-happy youth groups in the world won’t dent this trend.

We have been here before.  When St. Peter Canisius, S.J., was assigned to Germany in the aftermath of the Protestant revolution in the late 16th century, he found a wasteland, with 2% Mass attendance rates and widespread ignorance about the faith.  His solution?: (1) resacralizing the liturgy, e.g., through Eucharistic Adoration and faithfully implementing the Tridentine reforms of the Mass; and (2) catechesis, which he accomplished through the writing and teaching of three catechisms.  Simply and almost singlehandedly, he brought the German people back from the brink, so much so that three centuries later the catechism in Germany was called “the Canisius.”  It’s also worth noting that he always conducted himself with charity and restraint, assuming that most people had lapsed from the Faith through ignorance rather than contempt or malice.  If you’re a concerned priest or laymen, you could do worse than follow St. Peter’s example.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers