The Modern Catholic
An article about the changing face of the many members of the Catholic religion, including divorced members and Catholics who have married outside of their faith.
Admit it. When you hear that a young movie star or musician is a devout Catholic, you pause for a second; not because it is an extreme religion, but for exactly the opposite reason. Maybe it's because we hear so much about actors and actresses changing religions more often than the seasons change, or perhaps it is because we expect them to be Scientologists or Kabbalahists or worship at the altar of "Cats Who Know How to Use the Remote Control." For whatever reason, Catholicism just doesn't seem like the religion of choice for the younger generation, but of course, statistics prove that wrong. After all, according to the 2004 editions of the Official Catholic Directory, the number of Catholics in the United States at the beginning of that year numbered over 67 million-- a full 23% of the population and the largest religious following in the country. In fact, the Catholic Church isn't only the largest religious body in the US, it is the largest in the world! With that many followers, they can't all be the little old ladies that reluctant church goers follow for cues during Christmas and Easter masses.
Please forgive me if my tone sounds irreverent because that certainly isn't my intention. I've crossed the age barrier to be a 30-something Catholic. I am too old for my religion to be based on my parents taking me to church weekly (twice weekly when I attended Catholic school) and too young to be Catholic simply because I always have been. When I went to the hospital recently for minor surgery, I didn't hesitate to respond "Catholic" when asked my religion. In fact, I built an entire business based mainly on selling <a href="http://www.trinitylondon.com/rosary-bracelets.asp">Rosary bracelets</a> and pocket Rosaries. Cynics may chalk that up to capitalism, but the fact is that I'm not branching out into red string bracelets, Buddhist Malas, or Islamic prayer strands, even if it would bring more sales. What drives me is my faith.
Of course, there have been times when I couldn't help but wonder if I actually fit into the Catholic mold, so to speak. After all, I have been divorced and remarried, and my husband now is the son of a Chinese Buddhist. We aren't exactly your typical Catholic family. Then again, maybe we are exactly what typifies today's Catholic. The United States has always been known as a melting pot and a place for religious freedom so it makes sense that Catholics are marrying outside of their religion. According to an article titled Interfaith Weddings: An Introduction by Reverend Deborah Stern Ross and Rabbi Roger Ross, more than 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 38 are married to non-Catholics. A 2004 study by the Barna Research Group sites the number of divorced Catholics as 25% while other sources show numbers as high as the national average- anywhere from 35-50% depending upon which statistics you believe. Maybe I "fit" more than it would seem on first glance.
So what is today's modern Catholic like? We are young and old. We are church goers and mass avoiders. We are lawyers and housekeepers. We are married, divorced, widowed, separated, and remarried. We are families in houses with white picket fences and 2.5 children, and we are single mothers trying to make ends meet. We struggle daily with teaching our children right from wrong, and we struggle daily with making the right choices ourselves. In short, we are like most people you come in contact with on a daily basis with one significant difference- we have a family of 67 million other flawed, stressed, faithful individuals who know what we believe.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Yau is the owner of Trinity London, a jewelry business specializing in Rosary bracelets, pocket Rosaries, and other handcrafted beaded jewelry.