For those outside the Church (and indeed for many inside it) the spectacle of a million young people going to Madrid to see Pope Benedict and publicly witness to their Catholic faith, is hard to understand. Anna Williams, editorial page intern at USA TODAY and a recent graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, neatly summarises a phenomenon that is well enough known in the Catholic blogosphere but continues to puzzle older priests, religious and laity. See: For these millennials, faith trumps relativism.
At first glance, studies such as Pew's 2010 report "Religion Among the Millennials" seem to indicate that young Catholics (age 18-29) exemplify their generation's tendency toward religious indifference. To wit, they are less likely to attend Mass weekly, less likely to pray daily, and less likely to consider religion "very important" than Catholics 30 and older. Yet the millennial Catholics who do practice and value their faith are doing something odd: They are spearheading a resurgence of traditional Catholic liturgy and disciplines that their parents and grandparents had largely abandoned.Something that we possibly miss is the parallel tendency in other Christian communities and in other faiths: a couple of years ago I had a fascinating conversation with a liberal Rabbi who told me that some of the younger members of his synagogue were pestering him to use more Hebrew and to face East to pray.
Anne Williams picks up on this phenomenon but goes on to give a good account of the underlying reasons for it. Put simply, the 1960s style liberation has betrayed us, leaving in its wake various evils such as broken families, addiction, depression and suicide. As she says:
The anything-goes religion of the late 20th century cannot prevent nor even explain these consequences. (After all, if I'm OK, you're OK, and we can do whatever we want, why are so many people unhappy?) When every member of a society does whatever makes him feel good, the inevitable results are not personal fulfillment and communal harmony but selfishness and social breakdown.It is great to see such an article in the secular press. I expect we will be hearing more of Anna Williams and I invite you to say a prayer for her success as a journalist.