…is the Latin chant communio for Ascension, Year A, and for Trinity, Year B. “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me…” But this post isn’t about that kind of data, it’s about the sociological kind. If you know about the grammatical dative of possession – are you still with me? – you might translate the title of this post as “Data is to me, data is mine,” loosely meaning, “I like data.”
And I do. Which is why I like CARA so much. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at George town is a great thing for anyone who cares about demographics and sociological trends in US Catholicism.
Ann Carey at Catholic World Report has this report on the CARA study on vocations to religious life. Now, Ann Carey has an axe to grind about religious life. The title of her book, Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities, pretty much tells you what she thinks of mainline religious orders. Taking that into account, she does give you the sense of the CARA study. Traditional orders are getting the most recruits these days. Young people are more drawn to traditional community life, prayer in common, and habits.
All of us in religious life, and everyone who cares about vowed religious’ historic contributions to the Church and the liturgy, have to take this data very seriously. I do, but. Religious life is about numbers, but it’s not only or mostly about numbers. It’s about witness. I’ve heard some older religious say that they’d rather go down with integrity than pretend to be more conservative to chase after the vocation market. I’m not sure whether that’s inflexible narrow-mindedness or high-minded integrity. It reminds me of Pope Benedict’s remarks (as Cardinal Ratzinger) that the Catholic Church will become smaller and purer. (And in fairness to him, he was saying that this might happen, not calling on us to make it happen.) I hope and pray that the traditional communities with lots of vocations are faithful and holy and healthy, but I don’t assume so. I think we’ve learned from Maciel and Gino Burresi to ask a few questions about things which first look successful and super-Catholic. (Please don’t miss my point: I’m not impugning anything to all traditional communities, I’m raising a legitimate question.)
Personally I’m very happy to be in a community with habit and regular community prayer plus open-minded way of doing theology and relaxed, non-uptight manner. Whether or not anyone comes after to follow is pretty much out of my hands, so I try not to worry too much about it.
Oh – while you’re at the CARA site, check out their study from last fall on attitudes toward the Latin pre-conciliar Mass. The youngest people are the least in favor of it, but those with graduate degrees are the most in favor of it.
Meanwhile, let’s pray for all our religious in every type of community – especially the younger folks.