The Trends in the Church in the USA

I was born in 1970, so my understanding of the Catholic Church before that comes from various media and talking with people from that time. However, I think it can be said that the average Catholic in the U.S. in the early and mid-20th century followed the basic precepts laid down by the Church authority and dutifully attended church on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The Baltimore Catechism provided a simple and straightforward teaching that explained the basic dogmatic and moral teachings. Vocations tended to be strong and plentiful

At some point, however, it seems these basic structures collapsed. It seems to me that the most serious collapse involved the first generation to grow up with television. If Bobbie was born in 1945 and his family got at TV in 1950, then Bobbie grew up with TV for all intents and purposes. He was 20 in 1965 – the beginnings of rebellion as more of a norm than an exception among youth. There were many older people who were also spurring on such a collapse, but I think they were in the minority overall.

What kept the Church going? As the collapse seemed to engulf many during the days of mass rejection of the teaching of Humanae Vitae, something new was occurring – the Catholic Charismatic Movement. In the 1970s, it spread like wildfire, growing from 10s to 100s attending meetings in a short time. The tremendous zeal it spawned fell on good soil, but also plenty of rocky soil. By the 1980s the results were mixed, but they had produced such good fruits as Franciscan University of Steubenville and (to some degree) EWTN. It should be remembered that Mother Angelica was very pro-Medjugorje and pro-Charismatic Movement in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

As the tremendous spread and zeal of the Charismatic movement began to cool in the 1980s, a new trend was building – alleged apparitions in Medjugorje. As a priest, I make no official official declaration for or against these but instead look to the day when there is an official position, but I cannot help notice the tremendous effects (which includes effects on yours truly) that these events had. We cannot ignore Medjugorje as a major “trend” in the Catholic Church in the U.S. in the 1980s, and a trend that had many positive effects. As mentioned previously, EWTN had many pro-Medjugorje programs on for a number of years. Pope John Paul II gained some ground in stabilizing the Church and ending (or at least trying to end) times of “experimentation.” He was supportive of the Charismatic movement and other young movements and started to hold the now famous World Youth Days which would have tremendous impact in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, there is a glut of alleged apparitions, and devotions such as Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary start to make a comeback in part due to focus on the alleged apparitions. Such organizations as the “Marian Movement of Priests” become, in some cases, meetings made up entirely of lay people, but powerful places of prayer and solidarity. Charismatic Catholics and more traditional Catholics find greater solidarity in such groups and team up in ministries. The pro-life movement has been building, but it starts to take on new and more focused approaches in part due to Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae. Vocations that had been declining so badly for years now start to see some increase, particularly among dioceses and religious communities that are faithful to the Magisterium.

The first decade of this century showed something of a decline in the Charismatic movement, or at least in the form it had in the 1970s and 1980s. Now the term “Praise and Worship” seems to include a wide variety of youth gatherings which may include traditional devotions and the latest praise and worship songs from both Catholic and Protestant sources, but less raising of hands and speaking in tongues. The “energy” in the Church is among the devout young, and they include a larger “traditional” element but also a larger “modern worship” element, which is now bridged by some young people who like both. They are very pro-life and pro-family, even if the culture around them is very pro-neither. Vocations are taking off, but not enough to replace the tremendous numbers of priests and religious that are no longer in active ministry or have died. Still, vocations in some countries are so plentiful that we will see more priests and religious coming to help out with the shortages.

These are some reflections I’ve had recently.

A Mysterious and Wonderful LP

Lourdes LP Cover

Westminster Records released classical music for the most part. Here, however, is something quite Catholic and quite unusual for the label. “A Day of Pilgrimage at Lourdes” is a sound documentary, without commentary, of various events and celebrations that occurred on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in either 1954 or 1955. I’m not sure how this record ended up being released by Westminster Records, but I’m sure there is a story behind it.

Lourdes LP Back Cover

Mary at Mass

Fr. Charles De Keyser, S.S.S., wrote years ago that “Our Lady understood the primacy of the Mass more perfectly and participated more fully in the Mass than any other creature.” This makes sense. She would have had a great understanding of what was happening at those early Eucharistic celebrations–the greatest of anyone, in fact. “Being the perfect model of Christians, her love for the Mass caused her to prize it above all other forms of devotion, while it satisfied the fervor of her declining years.” The Mass is above all devotions, for it is the offering of the one sacrifice of Christ–the sacrifice that is satisfactory.

Quotes from “Mary’s Primacy at Mass” found in the June/July 1950 issue of Our Lady’s Digest.

Pope John Paul II at Knock – 1979

A favorite talk of mine of the late Holy Father is this talk at Knock – here is an excerpt.

Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock. Since I first learnt of the centenary of this Shrine, which is being celebrated this year, I have felt a strong desire to come here, the desire to make yet another pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of Peace. Do not be surprised at this desire of mine. It has been my custom to make pilgrimages to the shrines of Our Lady, starting with my earliest youth and in my own country. I made such pilgrimages also as a bishop and as a cardinal. I know very well that every people, every country, indeed every diocese, has its holy places in which the heart of the whole people of God beats, one could say, in more lively fashion: places of special encounter between God and human beings; places in which Christ dwells in a special way in our midst. If these places are so often dedicated to his Mother, it reveals all the more fully to us the nature of his Church. Since the Second Vatican Council, which concluded its Constitution on the Church with the chapter on ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church’, this fact is more evident for us today than ever – yes, for all of us, for all Christians.

You can even listen to Blessed John Paul II speak this entire address at the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference website. (I updated this page to reflect a new link on August 20 2012.)

A Thought from My Holy Land Pilgrimage

Here’s something I experienced from the most recent pilgrimage.

Besides our tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I was able to spend some quiet time there on the last day of the pilgrimage. I saw a priest praying his breviary at a bench in the back part of Mount Calvary, opposite the altar at the Eleventh Station – Jesus is nailed to the cross. From this bench one can see the place of crucifixion and watch the pilgrims stream by – sometimes in big groups and sometimes a few at a time.

A little while later, I went there and prayed my breviary. It is the ultimate place to pray the psalms – their full significance is brought out at this place where the sins of the world were redeemed. I will try to remember this when I pray — to place myself on Mount Calvary.

Mount Calvary

Archive of Obscure Catholic Audio

I’m developing an archive of rather obscure Catholic audio files… mainly from LPs and reel to reel tapes of yesteryear. These are things which I presume to be in the public domain or have received permission to post.

You will find something for a variety of ages and tastes there (i.e. lives of saints, radio dramas, etc.). The files are listed newest first, so part 2 is shown above part 1 for programs which have 2 parts.

The Archive

Small Things with Great Love

This is one great song. It’s not going to be a big hit. It could be, but listen to the lyrics:

You have not called me to be successful.
You have called me to be faithful.
I can do small things with great love
and make my life something beautiful for God.

Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.

Listen to the entire song:
Danielle Rose – Small Things with Great Love
You can also purchase the song for download.

From a Classic Book About Our Lady

When we feel utterly unworthy to approach her adorable Son, we may speak to Him through the Heart of Mary. When we are disappointed in earthly loves, we may be very sure of meeting no sorrow or distress where no one ever sought comfort in vain, or cried for aid without obtaining relief. When the death of others, whom we love, utterly casts us down, we may still turn to that immortal Mother over whom death has no empire, who has made us a place in her Son’s eternal mansion, and keeps it for us, a true and faithful Mother, watching for our coming home.

Best of all, her love is not limited by our own hearts. Like all mothers, she loves us with a gratuitous and superabounding love–more than we ever shall deserve. This is the sweetest charm of friendship–of motherliness, and this exceeding love is found in no other woman’s heart as it burns in the Heart of Mary.

From The Most Beloved Woman by Edward Francis Garesché

Vaughan on Love

Fr. John Vaughan wrote quite well on love here:

WHAT the sun is in the material order, that love is in the social and moral order. As the sun burnishes the tips of the mountains, lights up the valleys, and converts seas and rivers into liquid gold, making a Paradise where but a moment ago all was cheerless and dark, so love casts a charm over the commonest life, and infuses warmth and colour, and beauty and pathos, into the most ordinary and humdrum existence. The newly-born infant lives, develops and grows strong as it basks in the sunshine of its mother’s love ; and even grown-up men and women turn as naturally and as eagerly towards a devoted friend as the sunflower is said to turn towards the sun.

Of all topics that can engross the mind, the only one of which men never seem to tire or grow weary is love. It forms the very warp and woof of romance and of story. It is the soul and vivifying principle of poetry and fiction. It is the unfailing inspirer of art, and painting, and music, and song. It creates the valour of the soldier, the daring of the explorer, the plodding perseverance of the scholar, and the unflinching courage of the martyr. Under its influence the weak become strong, the despondent hopeful, and the niggardly generous. It changes, transforms and ameliorates what ever it touches ; and infuses a nobler and higher impulse wherever its influence penetrates.

It is so congenial to man, so completely in accordance with his natural temperament, that he cannot wholly dispense with it, unless indeed by God s grace he rise altogether above nature. If, in sooth, there be in this world one poor sufferer more sure than another of exciting compassion and awakening sympathy, it is the lonely and desolate heart that has no one to befriend it, no one to address it a kind word. What notion, indeed, do we instinctively form of heaven itself, but a place of pure unclouded love? And what is the worst picture we can draw of hell, but a place
where love is stifled and extinguished, and cursed hate and jealousy hold sway and rule supreme?

From the book Thoughts for All Times

Mary is Our Mother

On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity.

In addressing the words “Woman, behold your son” to Mary, the Crucified One proclaims her motherhood not only in relation to the Apostle John but also to every disciple. The Evangelist himself, by saying that Jesus had to die “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:52), indicates the Church’s birth as the fruit of the redemptive sacrifice with which Mary is maternally associated.

from the September 17, 1997 General Audience of Pope John Paul II