The Home: A Catholic Subculture That Makes a Difference

Authored by Justin Bartkus in Issue #3.2 of The Catechetical Review

Is there such a thing as Catholic culture in America anymore? And if there is, is it capable of producing religiously committed Catholics across generations? Or would we have to consider it simply a fading vestige of ethnic or familial identity? From John Paul II to Benedict XVI to Francis, the renewal of Catholic culture in Western societies has been considered an intrinsic dimension of the New Evangelization. With regard to a so-called “Catholic culture,” however, the movement from ideal to real—from exhortations to concrete renewal—is sobering and presents many practical questions. Are there any social mechanisms by which new generations of Catholics can acquire a strong sense of Catholic identity, an entire worldview animated by Christian intuitions regarding humanity and society, and the will to remain committed to these principles over the long term? Can such reinvigoration occur anywhere at an appreciable scale?

If Dr. Christian Smith, a prominent sociologist of religion at Notre Dame, is correct, any reply to these questions must take special account of one institution: the household, with its deep interpersonal bonds, its wealth of practices, and its highly compelling power to impart identity. In his landmark National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), Smith studied the specific religiosity and spirituality of millennials, observing the widespread drift of these young people from any substantial notion of religious identity or practice. However, he also realized that the religious outcomes of these young people were not at all a generational anomaly. Rather, the single greatest predictor of emerging adults’ eventual level of religious commitment was the religiosity of their parents.

Consider that, of the most religious quartile of NSYR young adults ages 24-29 (individuals whose religious attitudes Smith had been tracking since high school) an impressive 82% had parents who reported each of the following: that their family regularly talked about religious topics in the home, that faith was “very important” to them, and that they themselves regularly were involved in religious activities. By comparison, only 1% of the least religious quartile of Smith’s young adults had parents who reported this combination of religious attitudes and practices. Thus, according to the NSYR, the single most decisive difference between Millennials who remained religiously committed into adulthood and those who didn’t was the degree of religiousness exhibited by their parents.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections—"I Will Go Before You": Through Death Into Easter Dawn
By Dr. James Pauley
Free Pope Francis is fond of describing the Lord as One who goes before us in our apostolic mission. No matter where it is that catechists are called to serve, no matter the challenges and the adversity, we can take heart (as well as courage) that the Lord has preceded us into this place, that he is in charge, that we are not alone.... Read more
The Empty Tomb and Christian Faith
By Gerald O'Collins, SJ
“It would make no difference to my faith,” someone once assured me, “if they found the bones of Jesus.” He spoke only of his faith not being shaken and did not claim anything about the faith of others. About the same time, I received the results of a questionnaire on the resurrection presented to several hundred college students. Almost 90% agreed... Read more
From the Shepherds: Missionaries of Hope Today
By Pope Francis
Free The Christian is not a prophet of misfortune. …The essence of the Christian proclamation is the opposite, the opposite of misfortune: it is Jesus who died for love and whom God raised on Easter morning. And this is the nucleus of Christian faith. If the Gospels had ended at Jesus’ burial, the story of this prophet would have been added to the many... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now