To be a Catholic child in the '50s was a cultural experience, something that permeated our being right to the core. As a Catholic, you belonged to something unique. We felt part of the other Catholics we knew and, for that matter, all the Catholics we saw at other parish churches when traveling. We felt part of all the Catholics on the face of the earth. As children, we could recount the names of dozens of saints, and we knew their stories — as if they were family. We believed they were with God in heaven but still close enough to talk to because they were always watching over us like grandparents looking down from high front porches. What happened?
My wife and I are good Catholics, but we haven’t been able to raise our children to feel that way about being Catholic. And for my grandchildren, it seems even more removed. They have not been grounded in their Catholic faith like I was. We have failed to reinvent the communal Catholic experience that nurtured us so well.
Maybe it is time we go back and revive some of our lost traditions, those things that made us feel unique and special.
• Meatless Fridays were a Catholic thing. Abstinence from meat made each Friday a day our faith was right before our eyes. Jesus died on a Friday, fasting on Fridays became a way to honor his sacrifice. Why did we stop?
• There was a time when you could begin grace before meals in a Catholic gathering, and everyone knew the words. Do our grandchildren know that prayer? “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts …”
• Votive candles flickered in all Catholic parishes, giving off a warm red glow from the glass holders. You remember those stands with the sixty or so small candles to light for a special intention. My mom always encouraged me to light a candle for someone in my life who was facing a challenge. There must be a safe way to have votive candles in our churches again.
• One of my fondest memories is of my father's rosary beads hanging from his fingers. I love the stories of President Joe Biden wrapping his son’s rosary around his wrist. Oh, how I wish the Church would lead us back to a devotion to the rosary.
Despite what you might think, Americans are not losing their faith in God. Eighty-seven percent - 87% - of the public expressed belief in God last year in Gallup’s figures, which is roughly the level pollsters have found for many decades. The spark of faith is alive, and well, we need to fan the fire a bit.
Perhaps what has happened over the years is Americans have lost their connection to our Churches. We need to make being Catholic a unique and binding experience again. We can do it!