I have looked at the trends over the years to know that the idea of a drop off after Vatican II simply is not true. The decline was slow and steady through Vatican II, starting well before it. I do not doubt the sincerity of his observation, but mine has been the opposite.
Here we go again.
From the article: "And it dawned on me how many converts Catholicism was making in the period prior to the Second Vatican Council and the great drop off afterwards which eventually recovered until recently. "
I trust CARA (and for that matter, PEW) in their studies over time far more than I trust some individual with a very narrow exposure to the US Church. According to CARA, Mass attendance started dropping off from a high in about 1957, and both CARA and Pew relate studies of continued drop off (with a year or so blip following the attack of 9/11) and appears to have plateaued around 23%. Additionally, PEW traces a parallel drop in church attendance in the mainline Protestant denominations matching fairly well that of the Catholic Church.
Considering the mental and emotional effects of WW2, it should be no surprise that Mass attendance was high after the war, and that fervor continued on for some time (the high was somewhere in the 60 to 65% attendance rate).
There are approximately 17,000 +/- parishes in the US. By last count, there were fewer the 3% of all parishes which had an EF Mass: and that includes parishes which are EF parishes, those which have an EF Mass on Sunday and one or more EF Masses through the week, those which have an EF Mass every week (some on Sunday, others on a weekday), to those which have them periodically.
I understand the enthusiasm and support those who attend EF Masses only, as well as those who attend periodically and by no means intend to denigrate them. However, we are periodically presented with the “enthusiasm of many”, with no perspective of what “many” actually means in any overall perspective.
CARA likewise did a study of Mass attendance by age group. The over 50 group had the highest attendance rate at over 50 but less then 60%, and it fell off as the three younger groups, with the 18 to 29 year old group at 18% attendance.
In short, if there are young people attending Mass in the EF, that is good. As to “many”, compared to what? Certainly the overall attendance rate of young people is somewhere between miserable and terrible as an overall number. The article, however, does not offer perspective.
I believe that all Christian churches in the U.S. are seeing a drop in attendance and involvement. I know this is true in our city. The Baptist church that I grew up in recently (within the last 2 weeks) merged with two other churches (both non-denominational, and both “praise and worship” churches.) I think the merge was necessary for my old church to survive-they were down to around a hundred members (well over 500 the entire time I was growing up, and a very active and financially generous 500 members.
Even the big megachurches in our city are way down in membership/participants. Obviously, the pandemic has stopped people from gathering in Illinois, but a healthy church should still see people calling and checking on each other, helping each other with practical needs, and viewing their church services online. This just isn’t happening.
HOWEVER–what I see is a HUGE increase of interest, participation, and giving to the charitable organizations in our city that have a Christian mission statement.
Our local rescue mission is amazing in the services it offers and the beautiful facility (built about a decade ago) that is home to hundreds of addicts, homeless, and women/children. (separate facility for women and children). Many people who have never gone to church and have no interest in Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox) give money and volunteer their time at this rescue mission.
Same thing for other charitable faith-based organizations. One organization that receives all kinds of donations from secular groups is a home-based “feed the homeless” ministry that a single woman started in her home, with the help of a few friends. She and her friends were once addicted and homeless, but have been clean for years, and decided several years ago to give back to their community. It started small, but has gotten huge–she feeds 200 homeless people every day! She also helps the police by keeping an eye out for fugitives and giving them the heads-up.
And also for a ministry run by the Lutherans in our city–it’s a “Safe House” network for women who have been rescued from sex traffickers. The Lutheran church where this organization is headquartered is in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in our city, and they get lots of donations.
Finally, another example is an organization that gives kids a place to go and study/play/relax/eat supper AFTER school, as many poor kids have no place to go after school because their single parent is working (either at a legitimate job, or at an–ahem–“home based business” which isn’t safe for kids). This organization started in a single lady’s home, and now is housed in a former nightclub in the “tough section” of town, and LOTS of people give to it, even though the organization makes no secret of its mission to teach the children about God and spends part of the donations on faith-based Christian reading materials for their many kids.
Interesting–people don’t seem interested in church, but they are very interesting in helping Christian ministries outside of churches. Hmmm…
The linked article refers to an interesting observation, not a study, so I take it as anecdotal, not necessarily indicative of a trend.
Looking at some of the attendance numbers noted by other posters, I find them all rather miserable. For a Church which has a Church precept mandating attendance at Mass on every Sunday and Holy Day, and which honors the Commandment to keep holy the Lord’s day by that means, a 60% attendance rate is nothng to brag about. It means that 40% of those who call themselves Catholic do not even bother to follow the Lord’s command to worship one day a week for one hour. It means that 40% do not bother to join in worship at the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrificial offering of himself to the Father for our salvation.
To the sisters who taught at my elementary school, 60% would have been a scandal.
I myself like to attend EF Mass from time to time. If EF Mass was offered close to my home at a convenient time, I would probably attend it more often than I do given that I generally have to drive about 40 minutes to an hour to get to an EF Mass. However, I am very skeptical that offering EF Masses all over the place would somehow encourage a lot of people to go back to church or convert to Catholicism. Furthermore, if someone is converting to Catholicism because of an EF Mass, then what are they going to do when they’re stuck someplace that only OF Mass is available? Stop going to Mass? Leave the Church?
I’m still considered “young” (ish), and I’m a prospective future convert.
I like the EF.
However, it’s the OF, when the liturgy is well and reverently led, which really feels like “home” to me.
I’ll add that I’m currently a Protestant minister. I work for a church which celebrates the Eucharist every Sunday, I’m obviously familiar with our liturgy, and I can vouch for the fact that the OF is not a “Protestant version” of the Mass. It’s the Mass.
I’ll further add that I understand it’s probably different in most US Protestant communities, but our typical Sunday service is neither “exuberant” nor “emotional”. In fact you’d probably be hard pressed to find anything more austere and sober.
I firmly believe that the Great Apostasy is upon us. The evidence in Europe is a precursor to what happens in these United States, and it’s chilling. There are people in many nations literally calling it “apostasy” and agitating for the “right” to do it. What they mean is to formally defect from the Church in contravention of their baptism, and some episcopal conferences are bending to these demands, such as that in Poland – I was surprised – where despite Omnium in mentem they have recently established a procedure for formal defection that includes a notation on the baptismal certificate.
The West is quickly becoming mission territory, and I also believe that the people who will “evangelize” us will be Muslims. If they cannot convert us then they will win by procreation, as fertility rates drop and the West embraces contraception and abortion as inalienable rights, even as Traditionalist Catholics and Quiverfull Christians reject them.
However, there are bright lights and the Church is thriving in some areas, such as large parts of Africa. I think it is from there where our New Hope will come. I believe that the Church will survive this apostasy and persecution, and emerge stronger and more beautiful than ever before. I think we truly have nothing to worry about if Jesus is truly our King, because he will provide for us in the good times as well as the bad.
You are making the point that the OF seems more Protestant-friendly.
Am I? I’m not sure what I’m saying, really
The point the article was making, and to which I was replying, was that young converts from Protestantism were more drawn to the EF (would that make the EF “Protestant-friendly”?). Well, not me
Though I have a great fondness for the OF in Latin, and, as I said, I do like the EF.
Is it because the OF is more “Protestant-friendly”? I have no idea, honestly. I’m at a place right now where what I see are the differences rather than the similarities between the OF and our Reformed liturgy, and they seem overwhelming to me. I’m at a place where every single time I have to preside the Sunday service in my parish I go through the liturgy thinking “this is not right, this isn’t how it should be.” But maybe that’s because I can’t very well see the big picture at the moment.
I think a big part of what makes me attached to the OF is the fact that it is the place where I “got” Mass for the first time – and where I found myself in tears at consecration from watching Jesus come to us and give Himself.
I have read several times here that the OF was not a good enough evangelization tool for drawing in Protestants. My own experience is different.
But then I am lucky enough to attend a parish where liturgy is taken seriously, and is carefully, beautifully and reverently celebrated, bells and smells and all.
I’m also not particularly attracted by a certain kind of sobriety because my tradition pushed that to the extreme (as a Lutheran bishop I knew was fond of saying, “you Reformed Protestants really have a knack for mistaking ugly for pious”). I’m attracted to what has been called the Via Pulchritudinis, the way of beauty. I find it in the OF here (and in the EF too, for that matter).
I know there’s an argument that the point of the OF was to make Catholic Mass more “Protestant-friendly”. However, whether a particular Protestant likes the OF or not probably has a lot to do with what the Protestant is looking for in converting to the Catholic Church, as well as the Protestant’s own background. I don’t think we can make a blanket statement that all Protestants will respond well to the EF Mass. We’ve had converts right on this forum who tried an EF Mass and then felt rather sheepish that they didn’t find it such a great experience and wondered if they were “doing it wrong”.
I think that for better or for worse, an adherent’s experience depends greatly on the quality of the Sunday service they attend. That we can agree on. It is unfortunate that adherents do not place more importance on less-external items of faith, such as grace being conferred, the deep truths of well-defined doctrine, governance structure, etc. etc.
I think for some, a few, Traditionalists, it’s all about the Mass, the Mass, and the Mass. The liturgical rubrics and language and majesty become an obsession that eclipses a few bits of moral theology and prevents a holistic view of the faith. Granted, this can easily happen to OF Catholics or Protestants too. Externals should be discounted when the inner realities are more important.
And guess what? The inner realities of the EF and the OF are identical. The sooner we agree on that, the sooner we can maintain unity in today’s fractured Church.
Externals are the only things that we’re all required to attend. I can read whatever I want. I can think about whatever theological points I want. I can’t really listen to whatever liturgical music at Mass that I would prefer. I can’t control adherence to the GIRM at my parish.
Most Catholics are cheated out of their liturgical heritage.
Everyone is “cheated” out of liturgical heritage, because none of us could handle that kind of firehose/tsunami. Since the liturgical heritage of the Catholic Church is uniquely deep and wide, local parishes need to pick and choose carefully. Some don’t do it so carefully, as we’ve all seen. And yes, I agree that is a disservice to people who depend on externals and deserve to have a beautiful Mass with true words and filled to the brim with goodness.
But those of us who are deprived of Truth, Beauty, or Goodness, should not allow that to negatively impact our faith in God and in the sacraments of the Church. If we do, it’s fallen human weakness working against us.
I contend that EF Catholics are cheated out of various elements of liturgy. For example, the 3-year lectionary offering a richer selection of Sacred Scripture. The General Roman Calendar updated in the past 50 years with a ton of new saints, such as JP2G, MT, et. al. Fresh new collects and prayers revised according to VCII. The Kiss of Peace. I actually prefer Gothic chasubles to the Fiddleback now worn by my pastor. Options about what Mass part to use rather than a rigid legislation of what goes where. Etc. etc.
Funny, when I attend FSSP I don’t think I’m being cheated out of liturgical heritage.
I actually smiled while reading this post
Peeps and Mr. Peeps converted to Catholicism in 2004. Our conversion story begins with being thrown out of our final Protestant church (an EFree church).
We grew up Evangelical Protestant, and could qualify for “Evangelical Protestants of the Year!” awards! When we got married at ages 21/22, we attended my childhood church for a few years, moved to a college town and attended another Evangelical church, then moved to North Carolina and attended a Southern Baptist church, left becuase it was too liberal, and after several visits to Evangelical churches, settled on a C and MA church which we loved. When we moved back to Northern Illinois (to be near family), we attended a C&MA church plant which failed, my childhood church (which was very poorly administered), a Reformed Church in America church, which we left when they hired a woman pastor, and finally an EFree church–and that was the church we were kicked out of in a horrific situation (possible sexual abuse) that led to both of my daughters stopping church (one daughter ended up converting to Catholicism, the other was more affected by the abuse and has never gotten involved with a church in her adult life).
As I stated, we were “Super Evangelicals.” We were in church or involved with a church ministry/activity/social at east 6 days/evenings each week. It was a challenge once our daughters became serious about the sport of figure skating, but we were still majorly active in church activities, and the girls were active, too, in spite of all their many involvements with their sport and with their school and community.
Getting ousted (it was a big deal, a nightmare, with a late evening council meeting of people we had never met–it was horrific) was the end of life for us as we had always known it. I still haven’t fully recovered, and I keep mulling over whether I should try to write it into a book (I kept notes throughout the process–they’re pretty hard to read).
So, now that you know my background, here’s what I think.
Most converts from Evangelical Protestantism become Catholic not because they are attracted to the Mass (either OF or EF), but because they do extensive research and study, and come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is THE Church that Jesus Christ Himself founded and intends to be His Church.
I don’t think the form of the Mass matters to most Evangelical Protestant converts. Jesus is Who matters. All of us have a preference (I prefer the OF because of the music and because I can understand it without having to translate), but if the EF were the only Mass available, I would attend because I love Jesus and wish to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament and be obedient to His admonition not to forsake assembling together with other Christians.
Your willingness to travel that long speaks loudly of your desire to attend the EF, and is echoed by others who likewise do not have an EF Mass nearby.
At its core, sin creates a dissonance in a person, and I would submit that sin is at the core of a significant minority, if not a majority of people who stop going to Mass. I know many who have left the Church, but joined evangelical communities; and most of them were/are in “mixed marriages” - one Catholic and one Protestant, and the Catholic’s understanding of their faith appears to be slim at best. The EF iusn’t going to bring them back.
However, secularism and all the other “isms” have their allure, particularly the breakdown in sexual ethics enabled by the Pill, and fairly logical progression from use of the Pill within marriage to the use outside of marriage. Additionally, the evidence was that even at the peak of Mass attendance in the 1950’s, more than 30 to 35% were not attending Mass weekly.
“Most Catholics” have “voted” resoundingly for the vernacular.
If one were to sit and parallel each part of the Mass, one would find that there are far far more similarities in the two forms of the Mass than there are differences.
I had an opportunity to attend an EF Mass about an hour and a half from where I now live; it was in a small church, and they “sang” Gregorian chant. Having been in a schola (when I was in college seminary) which cut a record (vinyl - CDs had not been invented), I know how chant is to be done; the choir in that parish slaughtered the chant - they could not even all sing on key and had not the faintest idea of the dynamics of chant.
I also have had the opportunity to attend a parish which had a choir who had toured Europe, and they sang Palestrina as a choir with professional voice training is capable of; for several years I took our RCIA members post-Easter to that Mass. To me, it was a major distraction, as I felt as if I was attending a concert, not a Mass. That is just me; but it is a fantasy that each parish in the mid 1960’s and before had fantastic music. They had heritage music, but many if not most had a very pedestrian delivery.
And we need to remember that the great, if not vast majority of Masses in the EF prior to Vatican 2 were what we then referred to as Low Masses - no music.
Then you should consider yourself blessed, as the FSSP have about 45 parishes in the US out of a total of some 17,000+/-. And that is not to denigrate the FSSP; they are a very small community overall.