The new (old) Catholic Church

On the Feast of the Holy Family, I went to Mass in my hometown’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs – a … Continued

On the Feast of the Holy Family, I went to Mass in my hometown’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs – a town many refer to as the “Evangelical Mecca.” The pews were full of Hispanic couples in their 20s and 30s, children tottered about in the aisles, and the baby-faced Mexican priest firmly admonished everyone in Spanish to obey Pope Benedict’s call to Catholics to hold fast to traditional family life.

Not long before that, I walked past the Catholic Information Center on a chilly, dark D.C. evening. Nestled amid the country’s most powerful lobbying firms on K Street, darkened for the night, the brightly lit bookstore was filled with young Catholics in suits sipping wine and flocking around the evening’s speaker, the head of a prominent think tank.

And Friday in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of young Catholics in North Face and sneakers who have travelled in from all over the country will mark the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade by marching against abortion on the national Mall.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Catholic Awakening.

Pray, what do I mean?

The Great Catholic Awakening is a revival of Catholic orthodoxy among youth in the Catholic Church.

My generation of Catholics, men and women in their 20s and 30s, inherited a suffocating spiritual ennui inside the church and a culture of death, promiscuity, sadness, and fear outside her doors.

We were born into a world where millions of babies die of abortion annually, where countless more unborn babies are suspended silently in freezers, where we are told gender is random and marriage is amorphous and dissolvable.

We inherited hell on earth.

Some Catholics, like myself, are converts away from Protestantism, recognizing that the only institution in the world that has stood firm through the millennia on the most important social issues of the day is the Catholic Church.

Others grew up with rogue nuns, priests making up the liturgy, sex-abuse scandals, squishy bishops, etc.

And we’ve had enough.

But rather than walk away and embrace the hedonistic culture outside the church’s doors, we paused. We paused and turned around. We planted our feet firmly, and we stayed.

Our numbers are small but we are true to church teaching and there is no denying that we are growing.

More conservative religious orders, for examples, are growing with young Catholics seeking a traditional religious life.

Speaking of record growth at the Washington, D.C. based Dominican House of Studies, Rev. Thomas Joseph White says:

“Young men entering seminary today are coming out of a secular culture and have often made a counter-cultural choice to be Catholic. Our house is receiving more vocations than at any time since the 1960’s, and the men entering tend to be strongly supportive of the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI. They are interested in the recovery of more traditional forms of Christian belief and practice, but also in the evangelization of their peers.”

Traditional nun-hood is also on the rise. A recent study conducted at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found a clear demarcation in the spiritual outlook of millennial sisters and those that came before them. Of women born after 1982 entering religious orders, Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the center, noted:

“They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

The study found that younger nuns entered religious life with positive attitudes about the church and authority and chose orders based on their fidelity to the church. It’s not surprising then, as John Allen noted, that the liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religious has just one percent of female religious orders with more than ten sisters in formation versus 28 percent in the conservative Conference of Major Superiors of Women.

The National Catholic Reporter, a left-leaning Catholic publication admitted, “To put all this into a sound-bite, the next generation of religious will be more ethnically diverse and more traditional.”

Young lay Catholics are returning to tradition as well. Mass attendance has been in a general state of decline among all age groups except among millennials, who have demonstrated a nearly ten percent increase in Mass attendance in recent years.

Not only are young Catholics increasingly more likely to attend Mass, they prefer more traditional practices and forms of the Mass.

Recently Georgetown University caved to student pressure and re-instated the Latin Mass, which features Gregorian chant and involves the priest facing away from the congregation as a sign of reverence to God and priestly humility. Speaking to the Georgetown Hoya of the change, Fr. Stephen Fields, S.J., suggested that the more traditional Mass is popular among young people. He said, “My assumption is that, in a world of constant [noise], [young people] find that the contemplative silence of the Extraordinary Form nourishes their lives of prayer.”

Put more simply: We want less Kumbaya. More Panis Angelicus.

Young Catholics are also increasingly more open to and obedient to church teachings on moral issues such as contraception, abortion, and marriage.

In the wake of the Health and Human Services so-called “contraception mandate,” many rushed to point to a Guttmacher Institute study which found that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception.

Not only was the study widely rejected as faulty, but a study conducted in its wake at the Ethics and Public Policy Center found that the number of young practicing Catholic women (ages 18-34) who fully accept the church’s teaching on contraception is more than double that of their older female peers.

Recently, Catholics have come under increasing pressure to comply with laws that violate their beliefs. Laws, for example, that would require them to pay for abortifacient drugs or adopt children to gay parents. There are some who may think that resistance to such laws may be waning with a new generation of young Americans who appear to be the least religious in recorded history. But young Catholics, lay and religious, defy that trend, suggesting that the culture wars are far from over.

So to those who will scoff at the crowds of youth-group kids on the Mall today, take note: We are the future. And we are on fire for Jesus Christ and his church.

Ashley E. McGuire is a senior fellow with the Catholic Association and editor of

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  • question1

    Onward Christian Soldiers. My best to you & yours, but frankly this is one of the silliest, most self-serving articles on Catholicism I’ve read in awhile.

    I’m sincerely happy that so many younger folks are finding their faith in the Catholic religion. Perhaps they can reconcile the different Catholic denominations, clean up the corruption & re-invest the church with the compassion & mercy Jesus preached, rather than the hellfire & damnation of some of His followers.

  • Mik1000

    Hey Question 1 – your comment shows a startling lack of ignorance. – “re-invest the church with the compassion & mercy Jesus preached, rather than the hellfire & damnation of some of His followers.”

    Our Lord ROUTINELY preached damnation and MORE than anything else aside from his Divinity.

    It’s that sissified, misguided “sweetness and nice” approach to the Faith that has allowed so much corruption into the Church. Jesus was not a NICE guy – he was a Savior and He came to save us from Hell – however much that may upset your world view.

  • Mik1000

    startling ignorance and lack info .. excuse the incorrect wording – I usually respond in an initial flustered state when gazing directly into such stupidity.

  • dladik14

    Really enjoyed your article. I too am a convert from Protestantism. Amazing how the truth can set you free.

  • WmarkW

    Sometimes people get away from the pressures of modern life, by retreating temporarily into activities that have become archaic as full-time pursuits like hunting, knitting, or cooking on an open fire. That some people would embrace centuries old ideas into a corner of their lives, shouldn’t be interpreted as evidence of their validity.

  • Lucidmimi

    “We are the future. And we are on fire for Jesus Christ and his church.” Amen Sister, Amen! Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

  • FelicityHangnail

    As one who was raised in a staunchly Roman Catholic family and am now a Protestant, I do not understand those, like the author, follow the “teachings” of this most invenrable institution.

  • FelicityHangnail

    What “truth”?

  • all4God’sglory

    I couldn’t find a definition for the word “invenrable” so not quite sure what you mean.

    As one raised protestant and am now Catholic, I am so grateful to have studied and understood the Catholic Faith by reading books such as “Surprised by Truth” and many others by converts to Catholicism.

    I wonder which “teachings” you had such difficulty following. I follow all of them joyfully.

  • FelicityHangnail

    all4God’sglory….you ever think of just reading the Bible….or is that not really a catholic thing?

  • northernharrier

    I have no problem with Ms. McGuire, or anyone else, being “on fire” for Jesus Christ and his church, as she put it, but I do have a problem with Ms. McGuire, or anyone else, forcing their beliefs on all of us through public policy. In this country, the constitution is the law of the land, not the Church and its doctrine. We are a nation of laws, where the 1st amendment was written to ensure freedom of religion. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others, realized and explicitly stated that separation of Church and state in the constitution means a “wall of separation” between the government and religion. The separation of religion and the state is vital to religious freedom. Ms. McGuire and others are willing and even eager to accept public policy being made of Catholic doctrine, without considering the consequences of other religions, such as Islam, were to become the majority religion in the U.S. and therefore ascendant in determining our laws. These Ayatollahs will stop at nothing until they create a theocracy in the US. God help protect us from Ms. McGuire and her ilk.

  • all4God’sglory

    I’ve read through the Bible many times. Where do you think the New Testament came from? Who decided which books would be included and which would be excluded? and why did these people have the authority to say which ones were heretical and which were not?

  • mjamesburke

    mmmm, no doubt sin invades all, Henry vIII was not exactly saintly and he established the english church…….if you are protestant, you
    have broken from the source church going back to st paul & John the beloved , and Peter the first pope………..”I make no change from the impossible but logical, to the impossible illogical” James Joyce who
    was asked if he had so many complaints about the cath church why not be protestant ……..

  • mjamesburke

    no sissies allowed in Heaven…..I would add Jesus never condemned [except the moneychangers in the temple] because his role was salvation; his second coming he will be forced to judge if you do not accept his Mercy
    it will be not that he sends you to hell but that he can not accept you, if you have chosen evil, he must protect his flock, if you ask for mercy he will take you in… get to decide
    it is called “free will’ for a reason

  • nkri401

    To be on fire for RCC is not much better than Taliban on fire. It’s all my daddy (team, party, state, etc) is bigger better than your daddy…

    BTW, Kumbaya may be done around a fire but RCC put more than a few literally on fire.

  • Michelangelo

    “but RCC put more than a few literally on fire. ”

    I assume you are referring to the inquisition? If you want to know the truth, then you must seek it. Please don’t be satisfied with the common anti-Catholic rhetoric that is tossed around so loosely in our culture. You won’t find the truth there. I urge you to dive into history, and study it thoroughly. What you will find might surprise you, as it is quite contrary to the message you have heard. I admit that the history of the RCC has not always been pretty. Scandal is no stranger to Christianity. One of the original 12 apostles chosen by Jesus betrayed him, and it cost Jesus his life. Judas, like many of the “Christian” characters throuought history who did *not* live a life worthy of the Gospels, caused many great scandals…some of which ended in the loss of life. But lets not exaggerate what really happened. There are always two sides to the story, and unfortunately today the only story you hear is the anti-Christian one.

  • nkri401

    Just a quibble – as Jesus was to die and be resurrected, Judas simply fulfilled the prophecy. He did not betray nor cost the life of Jesus.

  • nkri401

    From WAPO –

    “Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman had seen his public profile diminish after being imprisoned. But he is gaining notoriety among a NEW GENERATION (my capitalization) of Muslim holy warriors.”

    Does anyone see the parallel to this article?

  • K. McReynald

    FelicityHangnall, I certainly can’t claim to have read the entire Bible. But here’s one passage that jumps out at me. Keep in mind that Peter was the first pope in the Catholic Church, established in 33 AD by Jesus Christ.

    He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
    -Matthew 16:15-19

  • K. McReynald

    The Inquisition was an extremely dark period in the Church’s history, and I am not attempting to excuse it by any means. But I will say it is grossly exaggerated, and also that the Roman Catholic Church was hardly alone in the practice of burning people at the stake, nor did it so with any greater frequency than other demographics.

  • nkri401

    Your apologetics views are wrong.

    To the tortured, there was no exaggeration, gross or otherwise.

    If everyone else was doing it, the Church should have been the one railing against the torture instead of joining because it’s the thing to do.

  • 2tosbt

    and have every right to do so and it should be repsected. All men and woAll Ashley and her generation are doing are good things and living a good life and believing that life is precious men have made mistakes in history religious and non-religious alike so everyone get off their high horse and moral high ground…..Catholics, and other religions and even the wisecrackers here who demean those that practice their faith……all have Freedom of Religion as the First Ammendment says…..

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Universally all good people and socieities believe that life is precious from the beginning of life until the end….We argue about the issues surrounding that….The Catholic church and its followers believe life is precious and will not compromise on that belief…..which balances out the total disregard for llife for the sake of convenience and lack of responsibility for life …and even the promotion of it. This new generation of catholics sound quite awesome!….the peanut gallery and malcontents here….well you will probably complain about everything anyway….at least these people have a goal of being a good person and being thankful for thier existence to divive providence….

  • 2tosbt

    I was cut of a bit and a few typos…sorry….but I think you get my drift…

  • FelicityHangnail

    mjamesburke and K. McReynald…………….I quess you brainwashed folks forgot the passage in Mathew 16: 23 where Jesus said to Peter (your 1st “Pope”) “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”………………yikes, so your first Pope is Satan….ooooh boy

  • K. McReynald

    Well, my views weren’t “apologetic” because I wasn’t intending to defend anything. Clearly, intolerable things occurred during the Inquisition and I don’t mean to downplay that.

    You are right about that. However, I should have clarified. I meant that the statistics regarding the amount of people who were killed or even tortured is grossly exaggerated. The courts of the Inquisition were usually less cruel than the secular courts, and 98% of the trials did not result in the accused being condemned to death. But many would have you believe that the death toll was Inquisition was massive.

    Once again, I did not mean to say that burning people at the stake was excusable. I merely meant to say that the Church should not be singled out as the sole perpetrator of such activities during that time period. In addition, although the Church was involved in the Inquisition, it was begun by monarchs like Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, who intended to “unite” their country by ridding it of heresy. Obviously, their methods were unethical.

    I apologize if anything I said was unclear. My main point was that facts tend to be vastly inaccurate with regards to the Inquisition. But yet, the actions of the Church and lay Catholics during this movement were morally abhorrent. It is not something that the Catholic Church should be proud of, by any means.

  • K. McReynald

    *But many would have you believe that the death toll during the Inquisition was massive.

  • K. McReynald

    First of all, Jesus refers to Simon (renamed Peter) as “blessed”, says that he will be “the rock on which he builds his Church”, and says he will give him the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven”. Somehow, I doubt that would have occurred if Peter was actually Satan. I don’t think Jesus Christ makes mistakes.

    As to the verse that you are referring, I’ll provide a few more verses so the context can be understood.

    “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
    -Matthew 16:20-23

    Jesus refers to Peter as Satan because Peter is opposing the idea that Jesus will be crucified in order to bring about the salvation of mankind, and therefore opposing God’s plan for Christ. Just as Satan tried to tempt Jesus to end his suffering when he was fasting in the desert, Peter tried to convince Jesus to avoid the pain of crucifixion. However, this was because he was only a man and did not possess the wisdom of Jesus or God, and could not have understood that it was part of God’s plan that Jesus should die on the cross so that mankind might be saved from sin. Peter acted according to human nature, which tells us to avoid suffering and to keep those we love from experiencing pain as well. His ignorance and fallen nature as a man was what caused him to focus “not on divine things but human things”. Misguided though he might have been, Peter could hardly be considered demonic.


    All laws in our country cannot violate our supreme law, the Constitution. No religion of any type can be part of our American government. A American can practice or not practice a religion but no religion can force their belief on a American. All business and Americans must comply with civil law.

  • SAA5of5

    GREAT, ENCOURAGING, RIGHT-ON ARTICLE! …AND I have two great t-shirt slogans:

    Less Kumbaya. More Panis Angelicus.


    We Don’t Like Squishy Bishops!

  • SAA5of5

    People of faith should be free to engage in debate in the public square, not kept from it because of their faith! If people of faith were able to “force their beliefs” then we wouldn’t have 55,000,000 innocent, defenseless dead to date from the unthinkable brutality of being ripped, limb by limb, from their mother’s body.

  • CoolCat(ohlic)

    I think this a great article. As a young person in the Church too, I love having the Mass to take time and reflect. It forces you to put aside everything else in life aside. I am glad this article highlighted the number of youths who stand with the Church, who follow the teachings, and who take stances that might seem “counter-cultural.” I am tired with people forgetting that we exist, like we are just some freak statistic no one wants to mention.

    On that note, I also want to say that I made the decision to be Catholic on my own after doing much research and soul-searching on the subject. It was something that was handed to me on a platter.

  • Willa Spatz Cartwright

    The ‘hard line’ – on anything – is an extremely unattractive place to be.

    Like any form of extremism, the ‘hard-line’ concentrates only those who are dedicated – but at the same time, it alienates and chases away everybody else.

  • MoBrody

    Awesome article, Ashley. You hit each nail right on the head. My kids, 13 to 27, have had much the same experience and are WAY more faithful than the generation before them. They are smart and see the falsity of a charity that roots itself in murder. I was SO encouraged by the fact that, at 49, I was one of the really old people at that march. We had more than 100 youth from Ohio sleep at our parish in Alexandria. So many made such a great effort to be heard. I hope the “powers” are listening!