What better time to talk about faith than during the season of the Church’s most solemn holiday?
Ever since the early 1960’s, especially in light of the Murray v. Curlett and Abington v. Schempp Supreme Court decisions, effectively banning school prayer and mandatory bible readings, there has been endless media devoted to how a once religious nation has become secular. Indeed, hundreds of millions of dollars in donations—not to churches but to political pressure groups—have been spawned by this notion.
To be sure, our country, along with most of the rest of the world, is less OVERTLY religious than it once was, but what if this former state was more of appearance than reality? Ultimately, of course, we cannot look into someone’s heart to see if he really has faith. However, we can examine the context and the evidence.
Prior to the 1960s, if one were asked to name the most Catholic place in North America, the answer would likely have been the Canadian province of Quebec. Famed for its elaborate churches, high number of vocations, and strong influence of the Church in matters beyond those normally thought of as ecclesiastical, few would argue with this contention. Yet, after Quebec’s so-called “Quiet Revolution,” usually dated 1960-1966, the Church’s influence disappeared, and these days, Quebec is one of the most secular places in North America.
Churches have closed, and if you attend a Mass you will find the average age of the congregation to be around 65, if not older. Is it not reasonable to look deeper into this rapid change?
Did hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers have some sort of atheistic epiphany, or rather, did the Quiet Revolution simply free them from one more form of conformity and stricture? If all these Quebeckers really did have a deep heartfelt faith, would it have so easily disappeared?
Mini versions of Quebec appeared all over the United States, with falling church attendance and wholesale abandonment of various traditions, not to mention the embrace of abortion and championing of alternative lifestyles. Nominally Catholic Hispanics (another group touted as “religious”) can be seen regularly violating the most basic Lenten rules of fasting and abstinence—at a fast-food joint near you.
A Mormon presidential hopeful is being supported by a self-described evangelical born-again Christian blogger and “conservative” talk show host, despite the rather obvious point that notwithstanding its invoking Jesus in its formal name, the Mormons do not follow Christian teachings.
[In anticipation of the e-mails…
Contrary to Christianity, Mormons believe that God is only one of many gods; The Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are three distinct Gods; God was once a man who achieved godhood. And, they believe that Jesus was conceived by physical union between God the Father and Mary; Jesus had several wives; Jesus was the brother of Lucifer (Satan); certain sins are beyond the atoning blood of Christ…Well, you get the picture.]
How deep can the religious roots of our nation be if so many fundamental changes could occur in so short a time? Is it not more logical to explain this phenomenon by giving the spirit of the 1960s its due, in that once the veils of conformity and stricture were lessened or even removed, people no longer felt that they had to fake being religious?
Moreover, widespread faithlessness is hardly a new concern. Many saints have spoken of this…
What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that! St. John Chrysostom (347-407)
I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell… I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
The number of the damned is incalculable. St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)
The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God. St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori (1696-1787)
Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter. St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859)
If this faithlessness is now more visible, we should regard it as a blessing. The veil has been removed, and in the current environment, we can truly exercise our free will. That’s hardly something to complain about.