Worship that Attracts Young People

Now that the Pope has legalized the Latin Tridentine mass as an alternative to contemporary Catholic worship, guess who is flocking to those services?

“It’s the opposite of the cacophony that comes with the [modern] Mass,” said Ken Wolfe, 34, a federal government worker who goes to up to four Latin Masses a week in the Washington area. “There’s no guitars and handshaking and breaks in the Mass where people talk to each other. It’s a very serious liturgy.”

And it is a hit with younger priests and their parishioners.

Attendance at the Sunday noon Mass at St. John the Beloved in McLean has doubled to 400 people since it began celebrating in Latin. Most of the worshipers are under 40, said the Rev. Franklyn McAfee.

Younger parishioners “are more reflective,” McAfee said. “They want something uplifting when they go to church. They don’t want something they can get outside.”

For some, the popularity of the service represents the gap between older Catholics, who grew up in the more liberal, post-Vatican II era, and their younger counterparts, who say they feel like they missed out on the tradition that was jettisoned in the move to modernize.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    I am not surprised. Young people today can find generic “spirituality” anywhere and everywhere. When they come to church they want church – not a pop concert.

  • Joe

    I am not surprised. Young people today can find generic “spirituality” anywhere and everywhere. When they come to church they want church – not a pop concert.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Does this portend the end of the Baby Boomers’ death grip on all facets of culture? If so, I’m very grateful (though a Boomer myself). Free at last, free at last…

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Does this portend the end of the Baby Boomers’ death grip on all facets of culture? If so, I’m very grateful (though a Boomer myself). Free at last, free at last…

  • Bror Erickson

    Yes I’m always amazed when someone in their late 50′s stoops to tell me what the younger generation wants, which they think is more guitars, drums etc.
    But then I really don’t care what anyone wants. I don’t go to church to worship God as I see fit, or as Grandma Schmidt sees fit. That is where America has it wrong. It is great to have the freedom to worship God as we see fit, from a political standpoint. But from a Christian standpoint we should be more concerned about worshiping God as HE sees fit. The fact that our government has given us the right, does not mean God has given us the right. That may not mean we can’t use guitars or drums. But is a Jazz or polka mass/ Divine Service, really done with the decency that Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 14?

  • Bror Erickson

    Yes I’m always amazed when someone in their late 50′s stoops to tell me what the younger generation wants, which they think is more guitars, drums etc.
    But then I really don’t care what anyone wants. I don’t go to church to worship God as I see fit, or as Grandma Schmidt sees fit. That is where America has it wrong. It is great to have the freedom to worship God as we see fit, from a political standpoint. But from a Christian standpoint we should be more concerned about worshiping God as HE sees fit. The fact that our government has given us the right, does not mean God has given us the right. That may not mean we can’t use guitars or drums. But is a Jazz or polka mass/ Divine Service, really done with the decency that Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 14?

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  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    As a 31 year old man, I have to say I completely resonate with this sentiment. We drive a good distance to attend a good, solid, liturgical Lutheran church, passing on a number of rock-style “worship centers”. While people seem to think that newer worship brings in young people, when I hear “contemporary”, I always think “Boomer” – very rarely is anyone in my generation really excited about praise music, and never is it someone outside the church. Echoing what Joe said – why would a young person wake up early on a Sunday to hear a third rate rock band when they could instead stay up late on Saturday and see a first rate rock band with all of their friends? If our message to them is be as much like your culture as possible, then why would they even want to regularly attend church when their peers don’t?

    In a culture saturated with meaninglessness and the immediacy of popular culture, the way to reach people is to give them something truly transcendent rather than simply more of the same.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    As a 31 year old man, I have to say I completely resonate with this sentiment. We drive a good distance to attend a good, solid, liturgical Lutheran church, passing on a number of rock-style “worship centers”. While people seem to think that newer worship brings in young people, when I hear “contemporary”, I always think “Boomer” – very rarely is anyone in my generation really excited about praise music, and never is it someone outside the church. Echoing what Joe said – why would a young person wake up early on a Sunday to hear a third rate rock band when they could instead stay up late on Saturday and see a first rate rock band with all of their friends? If our message to them is be as much like your culture as possible, then why would they even want to regularly attend church when their peers don’t?

    In a culture saturated with meaninglessness and the immediacy of popular culture, the way to reach people is to give them something truly transcendent rather than simply more of the same.

  • FullTime

    Well, this gives me some hope for future job prospects. As a Classics (i.e. Latin, Greek) major I am given the choice between Museum Curator, Archaeologist, or High School Latin teacher. And the number of high schools (even catholic parochial schools) that teach Latin has been dwindling recently. A resuscitation of Latin mass might give some schools the incentive to offer more diverse (Ach, the D-word!) language choices than Spanish and French.

    Of course, why should I bother worrying? I want to be an archaeologist. I can’t wait until we get to Bullwhips 101 and Advanced Death Cult Acolyte Combat!

  • FullTime

    Well, this gives me some hope for future job prospects. As a Classics (i.e. Latin, Greek) major I am given the choice between Museum Curator, Archaeologist, or High School Latin teacher. And the number of high schools (even catholic parochial schools) that teach Latin has been dwindling recently. A resuscitation of Latin mass might give some schools the incentive to offer more diverse (Ach, the D-word!) language choices than Spanish and French.

    Of course, why should I bother worrying? I want to be an archaeologist. I can’t wait until we get to Bullwhips 101 and Advanced Death Cult Acolyte Combat!

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  • John

    Some interestings views on worship from outsiders

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=242675

  • John

    Some interestings views on worship from outsiders

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=242675

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm. I appreciate much that is old-school, liturgical, and/or (lowercase O) orthodox, but with respect to the linked-to article, this has precious little to do with young people avoiding “generic ‘spirituality’” or, I dare say, even “worshiping God as HE sees fit.” After all, unless there are dramatically more people fluent in Latin than I thought, what is such a mass than generic hocus-pocus spirituality? Paul’s words about speaking in tongues apply very much to the Latin mass: “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. … If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.” I can’t see how one can be edified by God’s word if he does not hear it in a language he understands.

    Also, as to what music the youth prefer, there is undoubtedly a backlash among some young people to prefer that which is culturally anchored and/or mystical. But I have a soon-to-be-brother-in-law in his early 20s who is a Baptist youth pastor, and let me assure you that he (and, it would seem, the youth of his church) has not voiced a preference for old hymns. He doesn’t like the endless, meaningless CCM refrains, but he still likes his music modern. Just another data point.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm. I appreciate much that is old-school, liturgical, and/or (lowercase O) orthodox, but with respect to the linked-to article, this has precious little to do with young people avoiding “generic ‘spirituality’” or, I dare say, even “worshiping God as HE sees fit.” After all, unless there are dramatically more people fluent in Latin than I thought, what is such a mass than generic hocus-pocus spirituality? Paul’s words about speaking in tongues apply very much to the Latin mass: “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. … If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.” I can’t see how one can be edified by God’s word if he does not hear it in a language he understands.

    Also, as to what music the youth prefer, there is undoubtedly a backlash among some young people to prefer that which is culturally anchored and/or mystical. But I have a soon-to-be-brother-in-law in his early 20s who is a Baptist youth pastor, and let me assure you that he (and, it would seem, the youth of his church) has not voiced a preference for old hymns. He doesn’t like the endless, meaningless CCM refrains, but he still likes his music modern. Just another data point.

  • Julie Voss

    I recently visited a parish where my friend is the choirmaster where they do all Latin mass all the time. It was mainly a congregation of young families with large numbers of children. Since the children are generally homeschooled I’d gather they are all learning Latin for their foreign language requirement. . .

  • Julie Voss

    I recently visited a parish where my friend is the choirmaster where they do all Latin mass all the time. It was mainly a congregation of young families with large numbers of children. Since the children are generally homeschooled I’d gather they are all learning Latin for their foreign language requirement. . .

  • Fred

    I always have a problem when someone makes statements like “young people are more reflective”, as if each generation is different than the one before it. I believe each generation has a strong tendency, no, an actual movement toward despising the culture of the generation before it. In other words, it hates the fathers/elders. This is our sin nature manifest across and in culture/generations. We want to be unique. It is self expression , one that says “this is me and I do not want yours”. It is the self expression that says “look at me”. This is manifest in most teens and even younger and it is manifest in a generation across the board. As individuals look for their identity apart from the fathers, so does a generation look for theirs from the previous one. It has nothing to do with being more reflective, for we could say that about each generation , in what ever manner they show it.

    To love Latin liturgy is just another way, this generations way, of feeling different and therefore , spiritual. It does not mean that this should be applauded uncritically.

  • Fred

    I always have a problem when someone makes statements like “young people are more reflective”, as if each generation is different than the one before it. I believe each generation has a strong tendency, no, an actual movement toward despising the culture of the generation before it. In other words, it hates the fathers/elders. This is our sin nature manifest across and in culture/generations. We want to be unique. It is self expression , one that says “this is me and I do not want yours”. It is the self expression that says “look at me”. This is manifest in most teens and even younger and it is manifest in a generation across the board. As individuals look for their identity apart from the fathers, so does a generation look for theirs from the previous one. It has nothing to do with being more reflective, for we could say that about each generation , in what ever manner they show it.

    To love Latin liturgy is just another way, this generations way, of feeling different and therefore , spiritual. It does not mean that this should be applauded uncritically.

  • Joe

    Fred – if your hypothosis is correct then these father/elder hating youngsters would not be in any church. You don’t rebel by choosing a different type of church service you rebel by choosing not to go to church at all. My guess is that you grew up in the 60′s and/or 70′s. Let me assure you, as someone younger than that, not every generation is looking for a way to rebel. The rebelious counter culture value system is not universal.

  • Joe

    Fred – if your hypothosis is correct then these father/elder hating youngsters would not be in any church. You don’t rebel by choosing a different type of church service you rebel by choosing not to go to church at all. My guess is that you grew up in the 60′s and/or 70′s. Let me assure you, as someone younger than that, not every generation is looking for a way to rebel. The rebelious counter culture value system is not universal.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Very good points. on both accounts. I would stand fast with the reformers on the Latin Mass. However, I would caution you that for anyone that wanted to know what was being said, It would not be hard for them to learn enough latin to understand the liturgy. In fact one of the best tools to learning a foreign language would be the repetition of the mass. Ther sermon might be harder to follow.
    My point about Worshiping God as He sees fit, was not so much to slap these youth on the back either. It was actually more a slap in the face both directions. We should not be chasing to appeal to any particular subgroup of people with our worship. It really isn’t about what appeals to young people, in this case the latin mass, or what older people want, Niel Diamond mass. So we do a great danger mimicking the baby boomers making an argument for what appeals to young people. Even if young people do like the traditional liturgy, this should not be our reason for having it. At best it goes to show that the argument that such and such will appeal to younger people is not necessarily so.
    There are plenty of younger people out there who like the traditional liturgies and hymns of the church, many more who could learn to like it quite fast. But you are also right that there are plenty, have to be plenty, that like the modern music styles in church. CCM makes money somewhere. It’s not about doing what I like. If that was all we had to pay attention to, then church would probably more resemble those pagan temples in Corinth.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Very good points. on both accounts. I would stand fast with the reformers on the Latin Mass. However, I would caution you that for anyone that wanted to know what was being said, It would not be hard for them to learn enough latin to understand the liturgy. In fact one of the best tools to learning a foreign language would be the repetition of the mass. Ther sermon might be harder to follow.
    My point about Worshiping God as He sees fit, was not so much to slap these youth on the back either. It was actually more a slap in the face both directions. We should not be chasing to appeal to any particular subgroup of people with our worship. It really isn’t about what appeals to young people, in this case the latin mass, or what older people want, Niel Diamond mass. So we do a great danger mimicking the baby boomers making an argument for what appeals to young people. Even if young people do like the traditional liturgy, this should not be our reason for having it. At best it goes to show that the argument that such and such will appeal to younger people is not necessarily so.
    There are plenty of younger people out there who like the traditional liturgies and hymns of the church, many more who could learn to like it quite fast. But you are also right that there are plenty, have to be plenty, that like the modern music styles in church. CCM makes money somewhere. It’s not about doing what I like. If that was all we had to pay attention to, then church would probably more resemble those pagan temples in Corinth.

  • Fred

    Joe,

    Why would you not be rebelling by choosing a different type of service? You are correct , I grew up in the 60-70′s. I still went to church but I did not want to worship as I was raised to worship. I/we wanted our own type of worship—we were rebelling against the elders of the society before us–hence the Jesus freak generations. Your generation is no different—hence the Emergent Movement

  • Fred

    Joe,

    Why would you not be rebelling by choosing a different type of service? You are correct , I grew up in the 60-70′s. I still went to church but I did not want to worship as I was raised to worship. I/we wanted our own type of worship—we were rebelling against the elders of the society before us–hence the Jesus freak generations. Your generation is no different—hence the Emergent Movement

  • Bror Erickson

    Fred,
    Hmmm,
    I’m not at all sure that rebellion is the motive for the Emergent Movement. I suspect that they are entertaining larger questions than: “how can I piss off my parents? I know I’ll go worship the way my grandparents did.” You may perceive them as rebelling, but then who are you to be rebelled against? Who is your generation? My guess is though they are not doing it out of rebellion.

  • Bror Erickson

    Fred,
    Hmmm,
    I’m not at all sure that rebellion is the motive for the Emergent Movement. I suspect that they are entertaining larger questions than: “how can I piss off my parents? I know I’ll go worship the way my grandparents did.” You may perceive them as rebelling, but then who are you to be rebelled against? Who is your generation? My guess is though they are not doing it out of rebellion.

  • Joe

    Fred,

    Aren’t most of the leaders of the Emergent Movement people of your age who have decided to lead people my age astray.

    I think that chosing a different style of worship is a pretty lame way to rebel. Especially since the my generation inherited a post-modern world where everything is subjective and judgments are taboo. Is it even possible for us to “rebel”?

  • Joe

    Fred,

    Aren’t most of the leaders of the Emergent Movement people of your age who have decided to lead people my age astray.

    I think that chosing a different style of worship is a pretty lame way to rebel. Especially since the my generation inherited a post-modern world where everything is subjective and judgments are taboo. Is it even possible for us to “rebel”?

  • fwsonnek

    All:

    I am terribly jealous that you in the states have so many rich choices.

    Here in Brasil I am reduced to a repetitious liturgy of “Have mercy on us, O Lord!!”

  • fwsonnek

    All:

    I am terribly jealous that you in the states have so many rich choices.

    Here in Brasil I am reduced to a repetitious liturgy of “Have mercy on us, O Lord!!”

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Pr. Lehmann

    The college students I serve in my campus ministry want nothing to do with baby boomer worship. A few of them have gone to churches that had it and run out screaming in pain and horror. That’s only a slight exaggeration.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Pr. Lehmann

    The college students I serve in my campus ministry want nothing to do with baby boomer worship. A few of them have gone to churches that had it and run out screaming in pain and horror. That’s only a slight exaggeration.

  • Joe

    Hey don’t get down on repetition. After all it is the mother of all learning and that we need Mercy is not a bad thing to learn!

  • Joe

    Hey don’t get down on repetition. After all it is the mother of all learning and that we need Mercy is not a bad thing to learn!


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