Last week the Vatican started its first airline servie to various shrines in Europe. The inaugural flight to Lourdes with 148 pilgrims went smoothly till the return journey. Of course all the pilgrims had loaded up with large bottles of holy Lourdes water, some of it for sick relatives at home.

Most of the bottles were so large they contravened French security laws and were confiscated.

This somewhat humorous incident raises a more serious question. Why have so many Catholic practises and sacramentals fallen by the wayside? Not only the pious use of holy water but the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, fasting, private confession, novenas and the Forty Hours devotion to name a few.

Does the fall-off in these devotions mean Catholics are concentrating more on the essentials of their faith?



  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    Because the liberal « Spirit of Vatican II » types don’t teach them.

    Among faithful young Catholics, there is a hunger for these practices. I was well into adulthood the first time I prayed the rosary, walked in Corpus Christi procession, gained an indulgence, etc.

    Catholics aren’t focusing on faith, period. The problem is that the Church does not require people to be different from the world. It’s « divisiveness ». If you don’t have to go to church on Sunday, adopt the catechism, vote pro-life, etc, why be Catholic at all? There’s no purpose to being Catholic.

    The Church outside Quebec is stronger, because it doesn’t compromise with the world as much.

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    What makes a person « different » for being Catholic is not the attendance at Benediction or Stations of the Cross or even the presence of holy water in your home. You are « different » when you acknowledge your faith simply and honestly and when you speak up for and work for the good of the unprotected, the lost and lonely, those on the margins of a cold and secularized society. There are numerous quotes I could cite from Scripture where Jesus indicated his preference for this behaviour from his followers rather than a plethora of ritual.
    I don’t want to throw the Infant Jesus out with the holy water, but I believe we must be mindful of priorities. Let’s not bring back the days when pious folk would mumble their rosaries and walk about the church lighting candles during Sunday Mass.

  3. 3

    Suzanne – It sounds to me that you would like the Roman authorities to crack down hard on the « lapses » of the laity. It seems to me Rome has been doing that for some time and ordinary Catholics are paying less and less attention.

    Barbara – I wonder if Jesus would recognize Christianity (including Catholicism) as practising what he preached. His simple Gospel values seem to have been lost in all the legalisms from how to wash the sacred dishes to whether politicians should be excluded from the Eucharist. I don’t believe there is a Christian church he would recognize as his own. Of course Jesus was never a Christian, much less a Roman Catholic.

  4. 4
    John Says:

    « Among faithful young Catholics, there is a hunger for these practices. »

    Having worked for a number of years among young people, Neil, I would say Suzanne is right on the mark. The young people who are attracted to the Catholic Church today are those who see the world in very black and white terms and want their institutional church to reflect that in both theory (Catechism) and practice (ritual). This fact (although largely unnoticed) has, I think, tremendous implications for the future of the Catholic Church, in terms of both its leadership and its direction.

  5. 5

    John – I’m afraid you are right. My sources tell me that many of the candidates for the priesthood in today’s seminaries are hard-line conservatives generally only priests 60 and older are comfortable with the winds blowing in because John XX111 opened the windows.

    If this direction were to continue I expect the Church would be much smaller at least in North America and more rigidly dogmatic.

    A pity.

  6. 6

    It’s a crying shame that Mr. Mvckenty (sic) wasn’t made a bishop when he was born. He also should learn how to type Roman Numerals properly.

    Having had Catholicism rammed down his throat 60 years ago has irreparably damaged him. Yet I suspect that hasn’t stopped him from celebrating the sacraments and the Mass under his peculiar, modernistic and anonymous terms.

    Why is it that pride goeth before the fall?

    Ray Marshall
    Stella Borealis

  7. 7

    No, Ray, the damage done so many years ago in Catholic elementary schools (damage experienced by millions, especially if they were Irish,) was not irreparable.
    But it sure takes along time to get over the shame and guilt trip laid on by the Jansenists.

    As for the Roman numerals, here we are in the land of philacteries. But I’ll work on it.

  8. 8
    John Says:

    Hey Ray, nice to see you posting here.

    Do you have anything to say that actually makes sense?
    Just curious.

  9. 9
    Barbara Says:

    As I recall, it is the nature of young people to see things in terms of black and white. It is called immaturity. Many grow out of it, in time.
    It may take a bit longer to shake these days because of the ambiguities and uncertainties that we swim around in. Young people are also living more sheltered lives, living at home well into the years when we were on our own and supporting ourselves.

  10. 10
    John Says:

    Although I don’t necessarily agree that it’s the nature of all young people to see things in terms of black or white, I do agree that many of those who do will eventually grow out of it. Those who don’t, however, will often seek an institutionalized legitimacy for their right or wrong, « my way or the highway » viewpoint.

    It is those individuals who, I believe, are most attracted to the traditional notion of Church (and Roman numerals) and it is they who (by default) will determine its future. As such, I agree with Neil. The Catholic Church of the future will be much smaller and much more rigidly dogmatic.

  11. 11
    Barbara Says:

    I recall my own youth and my own tendency towards black and white reasoning. Everything was presented in those terms and I grew to see things that way. As I grew older, it was presented to me that this was an area in which I could grow. Listening to God and listening to life taught me some compassion for all of us who do not fall in one (approved) category or another. When I read Scripture with an open mind and heart, it awakened me as well.
    I refuse to give up hope in the future of the Church. We are far too polarized these days and that very polarization turns the young folks away. It is not their problem, although we try to make it theirs. There is fault on both sides of the polarization.

  12. 12
    bernie12 Says:

    Neil , Barbara says it well . This is my view of this topic .

  13. 13
    John Says:

    « I refuse to give up hope in the future of the Church.  »

    I’m curious to know whether people’s hope is in the future of the Church or the Church of the future? Are they the same thing?

    I am by nature a very optimistic person. Among many of our young people, I see
    – an authentic spirituality
    – a tremendous sense of community
    – a sincere concern for one another
    – a deep respect for all life
    – a great outreach for the weak, the marginalized, the struggling
    – a keen interest in the words and person of Jesus
    – a deep passion for justice and fairness
    – a true sense of social justice regarding the world’s resources
    – a genuine concern for issues of the environment
    – a real sense of the whole world as their village
    All of this gives me tremendous hope for the future.

    What I don’t see (except for a small handful)is any real attraction or attachment to the institutional Church. It is because of the handful, with their traditional view of Church, that I say the Catholic Church of the future will be much smaller and more dogmatic.

    Will the others develop an attachment to Church as they get older? Will they come to have an appreciation for the rituals that they didn’t have as a young person. Other than to have their children baptized and married, current reality would indicate an emphatic and absolute no. If they do, rest assured, it will not be to the Church as we know it.

    Do I believe in miracles?

    Sure I do, but, from an earthly point of view, if the future of the Church resides with our young people (and where else would it reside) then what exactly are we expecting of them?

  14. 14
    Anna Says:

    As a 27 year old, I would say that for most of the rituals you mention, I’m not inclined to practice them because I don’t really see what good it would do. (Private confession, fasting, and maybe holy water being the exceptions). If someone could really convince me that there would be a point to doing the other things, I might do them too. But they don’t carry meaning for me the way that community, justice, etc. do.

    I see the Church growing less institutional; focusing more on a natural community than on programs and functions. But I think it will be recognizable as the same institution of the Church, same heirarchy and doctrines.

  15. 15

    Anna – I think the whole thrust of the Second Vatican Council was on « The People of God. » As I see it, the church will retreat more and more into rigid hierarchical structures or it will expand outward into the community of the faithful where the principle of subsidiarity will come into play at every level. I hope and pray it is the second way. Great to hear from you.

    John – a great summary of the Church’s current predicament especially as it relates to younger people. I am interested in the church of the future, not the future of the church. I don’t think they are the same.

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