Marriage Survey Finds Significant Generational Differences – But Wait There’s Hope!

I was alerted to the following CNS Article on a recent CARA survey of Catholic Attitudes on Marriage. I post excerpts of it here below with some comments in red by yours truly.

Catholic attitudes about marriage differ by generation, says survey

By Maria Wiering, Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Catholic attitudes on marriage in the church are different among generational groups, according to results of a 2007 survey of U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead talked about the survey results in a keynote address June 25 in St. Paul at the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.

The survey showed that older Catholics — those who were adults before the Second Vatican Council — are more likely to look to the Church as the source for meaning and expectations for marriage than are baby boomers or members of Generation X or the millennial generation. Older Catholics also are more likely to be familiar with the Church’s teaching on marriage, to believe in marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, and to think of marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day, it said. Whitehead attributed this attitude to being raised in a time of a distinct Catholic identity that included an emphasis on the church’s teachings on sex, procreation and marriage. (I have commented before on this blog that, beginning in the 1960s many began to reinterpret the basic meaning of marriage. No longer were children and raising a family the central focus. The focus came to center on the happiness of the spouses. Hence easier divorce came to be seen as “essential” since without it happiness might be hindered. Prior to that time, when children were the essential focus, divorce was seen as highly problematic since it so negatively impacted children. Likewise in the 1960s sex became no longer associated with the procreation of children but, again, only associated with the happiness of the spouses. If children were a part of that happiness fine, if not, fine too. With children out  of the picture as the central purpose of marriage many distortions follow such as easy divorce and now even “gay” marriage. If marriage is just about the happiness of the couple and children are merely a possible “accessory”, not an essential component, then who is to say two gay people can’t be happy together – or so the argument goes)

Generation Xers — ages 25 to 35 — … are confused about marriage, and their attitudes are closer to those of the general population, Whitehead said. “[Generation  Xer] Catholics want to marry a soul mate, and they’re much less likely to see marriage in these broader, institutional [family] terms,” she said. Sixty-nine percent of Catholics [from this generation] believe that marriage is whatever two people want it to be, and the sacramental understanding does not figure as prominently into their understanding, she said. (So there it is. Depart from the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage and we are left with a designer marriage. Such widely variable definitions of marriage cannot be the basis for a strong or united civilization, country or Church. The privatization of marriage and the anything goes notion are not a stable basis on which to build. Hence we are left with the modern experience of a balkanized (divided) vision for marriage, family, basic values and moral teaching. Unity decays and the basis for country Church and even civilzation is lost).

….However…the youngest generation — the millennial generation (ages 18 to 24)  — is showing a swing toward traditional ideas.  “The youngest Catholics … look a lot more like the pre-Vatican II, Vatican II or post-Vatican II cohorts,” she said. “Huge majorities — 80 percent or more — of these youngest Catholics believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment and that people don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is readily available.” Many children of this generation have experienced divorce in their own families, and they are determined not to divorce themselves, Whitehead said. “This is a hopeful change,” she said. (Indeed it is a hopeful change! I too have encountered children  and young adults in their 20s who are saddened, even disgusted with the broken down situation they have had to endure from their parents and grandparents. They know first hand the bankrupcy of the “designer marriage” easy divorce and confused atmosphere of the current climate. There is a knod of backlash setting in wherein the youngest couples I prepare for marriage are eager to be taught the Scriptural and Church teaching on Marriage. Thus THERE IS HOPE!)

Whitehead urged family ministers to share the social science evidence to dispel misconceptions, she said….”In these times when we have a culture that is so really difficult for people to remain faithful in their marriages, there must be a polar recognition of the circumstances of life and the need of support to help people live out the teachings of their faith,” she said.


mm-logo_rgb3003This summer, the Archdiocese of Washington is marriage-minded! Check out these resources as well as events sponsored by the Office of Young Adult Ministry.

Marriage Matters Webpage:

Join the conversation at the Blog

Attend a Series of Talks
Sundays July 12, July 19, and July 26 at 6:30pm
Relationship Speaker and Discussion Series
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle North Conference Room
6:30pm (after the 5:30pm Mass) Light Dinner Included

July 12 Dr. Andre Leyva

“Dating and Mating from a Catholic Perspective”

Dr. Andre Leyva is the President and founder of the Psychology Center in Montgomery County, Maryland and a member of National Association of Hispanic Psychologists. He is a nationally and internationally recognized trainer, consultant, and key note speaker. His doctoral dissertation on Conflict Resolution was published and requested by mental health professionals in Europe and South America. He has written for two family magazines and has authored articles and workbooks. He is a frequent speaker at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Theology on Tap and Marriage Preparation program. Dr. Leyva has been married for 25 years and has six children.

July 19 Dr. Catherine Yohe
“The Essential Groundwork of Friendship”

Dr. Catherine Yohe received her Ph.D. in Historical Theology with a focus on spirituality from Catholic University of America. Her dissertation was on human friendship as a means to grow in union with God, and most of her publications and lectures have centered on the lay vocation or friendship. She has taught at Catholic University and LaSalle University and is presently teaching Scripture and Catholic Doctrine at Trinity School at Meadow View. She has been married for fifteen years and has a thirteen year-old son.

July 26 Deacon Al Turner
“While I’m Single: Living Life to the Fullest”

Deacon Al Douglas Turner is the Director of the Office of Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington. He is assigned to the Church of the Nativity in Washington, DC. and was recently appointed to the Maryland Catholic Conference Respect Life Committee by Archbishop Donald Wuerl. Deacon Turner received a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction in 2006 and a Master of Theological Studies degree in 2007 from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. Before his retirement from ABC News in 2007, Deacon Turner was employed for more than 28 years as a broadcast technician/ cameraman covering the White House, Capitol Hill, and news events around the world.

Marriage Can Wait??

Young boy proposing a woman at the parkOK guys, time to man up and ask her out on a date! Too many of you men are slow in looking for a bride. When I was ordained twenty years ago I had a lot of marriages. Today there are far fewer, and those that marry are much older. Perhaps maturity is a good thing PRIOR to marriage but couples are really waiting a long time these days. Now I was not born yesterday and I know that part of the reason for the delay is that couples are often fornicating and are just plain shacked up as well. True marriage is delayed as false notions of sexuality and marriage are indulged.

But there is also another phenomenon that is harder to understand. I have quite a number of young women, who are very attractive I might add, tell me that they are seldom asked out on dates, that young men don’t seem very good at taking initiative when it comes to dating and marriage. Now come on guys, be a man and get out there and ask her out!

I remember back in high school and college when I was a dating man, prior to discovering my call to be a priest, I remember that there were risks that you took when you asked a girl out. She might say no. She might even laugh. I might feel humiliated or depressed. Well? Welcome to life! Some of the more embarrassing moments of my life are related to the dating game. So I understand guys. But do what I did: get out there anyway! Take the risk, ask her out! Forget about your fragile little ego, be man and make the ask. You might be surprised. Many attractive young ladies are just waiting for some one man enough to ask them out on a serious date. I’m not talking about some vague thing like, “Maybe I’ll see you at the social tomorrow.” Ask her out on a real date. Just you and her.  Spend  a little money on her and dress well for the occasion.

It is odd that today with so many ways to communicate, it seems harder than ever for men and women to meet. Though our ways of communicating are more than ever, real and actual communication seems hard to come by. The simple fact is that we need to work on this, actually get out there and meet, communicate, date and marry.  Interestingly enough, a number of the recent marriages I have celebrated began on the internet, at a Catholic dating service. It’s not all that bad. Individuals signal their intention and wish to meet members of the opposite sex, share a significant amount of their values and expectations, and then meet to begin the process discernment. The Catholic faith is the starting point.

There is a lot of focus today on the issue of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a good thing. But we need to wake up to the fact that marriage is on hard times. The statistics are sobering. In 1974 there were 46 Million Catholics in the USA and 400,000 marriages. In 2004 there were 70 million Catholics and only 200,000 marriages. Most priests know this personally. We just do a lot less marriages today. Further, the birthrate has dropped significantly for Catholics. One explanation: we are aborting and contracepting ourselves out of existence (the future world will feature a lot of Muslims and far fewer Catholics). But  another explanation is that marriage rates are dropping and many delay marriage far into the years when fertility is diminished and limited.

There is also a lot of talk about evangelization so let me recommend a fundamental pillar to the Church’s Evangelization Plan: Let’s have a lot of young Catholics get married FIRST, have lots of babies and raise them Catholic. 🙂

Alright young men, get out there on the field, MAN-UP and ask her for a date!  Young men and women, get serious about marriage. It is a holy institution established by God himself. It will make you holy, enrich the Church and ensure that we have a future. Are you up to it? We’re depending on you. Young men, don’t make the ladies wait and DON’T make me come out there and force you!

Here’s a fun video about the “Adventures” of Internet dating entitled “WEB SITE STORY”


One of the most frustrating things about working in ministry is encapsulated in the following email:

“Hi Laura, I live in DC and I attend [church x] but I must confess I still hop around between parishes trying to find my niche, so that keeps me back from getting involved in any specific community.” (emphasis added)

There is a vast difference in finding your niche and creating your niche! How can you create a vibrant parish community?

  • Do you think the choir needs help? Join it!
  • Does the way the Word of God is proclaimed lack interest? Use your talent and be a lector!
  • Does your homilist miss the mark when trying to connect the Word of God to the congregation? Establish a relationship with your priest or deacon, then suggest ways he could improve!
  • Does the church’s interior not reflect glory of God’s True Presence? Donate funds to help refurbish the church!
  • Do you complain about a lack of attention to social justice issues and community outreach? Volunteer to start a committed group!
  • Has another parishioner never introduced him or herself to you? Make the first move to welcome them!

The list goes on!

This is what Catholic stewardship means: to survey our gifts and offer our time, talent, and treasure to building up the Kingdom of God. For those of you reading this, I’d like to take a quick survey.

  • What do you complain about the most at your parish?
  • What can you do to remedy the situation?
  • Let us know if creating a vibrant parish community is on your priority list!

Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 1Cor. 14:12

Reflections on Recent Statistical Trends in the Church – Smaller, Stronger, Younger

The bad News: According to separate reports from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the American Religious Identification Survey, fewer Americans now call themselves Catholic, and those who do aren’t attending church or praying as often as they used to.

The good news: The Catholics who remain, Church leaders will tell you, are far more devoted and involved — particularly young adults.

Read more here and see a good video: YOUNG ADULTS LEAD THE CHARGE

Speaking in Tongues

Last Wednesday, I attended ‘Breaking Open the Word’ at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. (Visiting parish young adult community events is part of my new commitment to stay in tune with the young adults with which I minister. Many of my upcoming posts will illustrate these visits.) This is a weekly study group of young adults who get together each week to read the upcoming Mass readings and discuss how they relate to our lives today.

As I entered the room cautiously and asked “Is this Breaking Open the Word?” I was warmly greeted by a young woman who sympathized, “This is my first time too!” Beside the two of us, there were four others who seemed to have known each other for a while. They shared the latest news (an engagement, a trip abroad, and a rehabilitation from an injury), and then we focused our hearts and minds by reading the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The upcoming Sunday was Pentecost which made recitation this prayer a meaningful. The name Pentecost is taken the Hebrew tradition marking the 50th day after Passover when the harvest was brought to the temple (the feast of First Fruits) and is celebrated as the day that Moses was given of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is celebrated as the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

This reading sparked a conversation about speaking in tongues, called glossolalia. While we had heard of people speaking in tongues and some of us had been present at charismatic prayer services where participants spoke in tongues, we were unsure of Catholic teaching on glossolalia.

To answer our question, one of the young adults whipped out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Though glossolalia was not specifically mentioned in the index, this was as close as we got:

799 Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.

800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.

801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,” so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”

This seemed to be a sufficient answer for the young adults in the room, that an authentic gift of glossolalia will work together in charity for the common good. We ended the evening by praying together the Psalm for the upcoming Sunday: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!

All in all, it was a rich evening of prayer, scripture, questions, and answers that reminded me that even in this simple setting, on a Wednesday evening in this church basement, Christ keeps His promise: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

The Following Video shows a choir of Young Adults Singing a song by Thomas Tallis called Loquebantur Variis Linguis The translation of the text is from Acts: The Apostles were speaking in Various tongues of the great works of God. Alleluia The frenetic quality of the song tries to capture the ecstatic moment when the apostles received the Holy Spirit! It is written in dance time.

God does not love us because we are good but because He is good.

 People stay away from the Church for many reasons. There are some who struggle with sins and a sense of unworthiness. Why would God be calling me? I am a sinner and I am not even sure I can give up my sin. If you are among those who may stay away for this reason, I wonder if you might consider watching this video. It is the end of a talk by Christopher Cuddy, a covert to Catholicism. He ponders our unworthiness to have received this call from Christ and encourages us to simply accept God’s love for us. God does not love us because we are good, we can only be good because God first loves us.

Christopher Cuddy is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism


40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 20 – The Final Wish of a Dying Friend

Reason # 20 – The Final Wish of a Dying Friend – Consider the following scenario. You are crossing the street with a friend and suddenly as if out of nowhere a large truck is bearing down on you both. Your friend sees it coming and pushes you out of the way but takes the full force of the hit himself. Coming to your senses you run to your friend who lies dying in the road. In grief you lament his imminent death and thank him for saving your life. You say, “What can I ever do to thank you for what you have done?!”  And he says, with his dying breath, “Please go to Church and remember me at the altar every Sunday.”  ….Would you do it? …..Of course you would! This is the final wish of a dying friend who saved your life. 

Well, isn’t this what Jesus did? Just before he died for us he left us a last request: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Do what? you might say. Here is Jesus request in context:  The setting is the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples on the last evening before he died. As he sat at table with them he said,  “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover  with you before I suffer…” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.  So here is what we are to do in memory of Him: celebrate the Holy Mass, receive Holy Communion! It seems so little and yet so many have drifted away from this last request. It must have been important to Jesus since it was his final request.

So here is a powerful reason to come home, to fulfill the final wish of a dying friend, a dying Savior and Lord who saved your life, who died in your place: “Do this in memory of me.”  The Book of Psalms also says it so well: “What return (what thanks) can I ever give the Lord for all the good he has done for me?! The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps 116:13) What a beautiful line to remember as you see the priest lift up the Chalice at every mass and remember the final wish of a dying friend.