By Stephen Ryan
The Catholic bloggesphere is a twitter with the idea that Christianity is dying and that Millennials are abandoning the sinking ship of faith at an unprecedented rate.
Here are the statistics according to youthful wunderkind Brandon Vogt who has been tasked with getting young fallen away Catholics back to Mass on Sunday.
6.5 people leave Catholicism for every one that join
50% of young people who were raised Catholic are no longer Catholic today
79%of former Catholics leave the Church before age 23
Brandon says “The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging young people.”
Brandon has written a book titled “Return”. The book is backed by the entire leadership of Catholic establishment in the United States and unfortunately the book and program misses the mark.
Worse it seems the heart of the effort doubles down on what has created the spiritual emptiness that is so troubling for young Catholics in the first place.
The entire effort of “Return” is heading towards the rocks because the movement is led by Catholic intellectuals who fear mysticism, the supernatural, and quite frankly they don’t know what to do the Blessed Mother. The “Return” movement seems like a giant effort to soften the edges of Catholicism, make it more mainstream if you will. The problem with this is that Protestant mainline confessions are dwindling and a much faster rate than even the Catholic faith.
I don’t get what the program is about. To me this really is a giant case of intellectuals “Preaching to the choir”.
Brandon Vogt is a very talented young man but the truth is the Catholic Church is placing a lot of responsibility on a man who is like 29 years old and was raised Protestant. The Blessed Mother is nowhere to be seen in his work and this could lead to an epic failure for the Catholic Church.
Read his “Seven Steps to bring any young person back to the Church” right here by clicking this link. The Virgin Mary is totally missing in action.
By the way, this matters… A LOT.
At Fatima Our Lady said “My heart will triumphant.
Our Lady of Guadalupe converted eight million Aztec Pagans. Lourdes and Fatima deepen the faith of millions of Catholic every years. Even a place called Medjugorje is a know as a “Place that converts people”.
Saint John Paul the Great often urged young people to “Find Christ through Mary.
Where is the Blessed Mother in the “Return” movement.
Bishop Robert Baro, Brandon Vogt’s boss, encourages the young to return to the Church because it is “beautiful”. Brandon says “Equip yourself and Plant seeds” and offers Jesus parables.
What we need to do is reveal the special graces of the Blessed Mother to young people. We need young people to return to the Catholic faith through Mary’s Triumphant heart.
Here is my little story how the Blessed Mother got me to return to the Catholic Church.
“The Virgin Mary was just a sad stone statue until I encountered Fatima and Medjugorje”
The day my son was born he was given the “last rite” by the hospital’s pastor who was on duty that night. I was raised culturally Catholic I suppose but a priest and the Catholic faith was the last thing on my mind the day my son was born, and when the doctor told me minutes after he was born: “Your son is very sick.”
I went home empty, scared and exhausted that night and for the first time in years I pulled out a Bible. I opened a random page and the first passage I read was, “Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive.” Bam! Those were the words I needed; the words hit me like a lightning bolt.
There is a lot of back story I am leaving out right now. Perhaps I will save that for another day, but the good is news my son is alive, healthy and my best friend.
The other good news is watching my son fight for his life changed the direction in my own life. But it took some time. My slow conversion started that night with the Bible suggesting I seek Him. As I said my conversion took many years and the truth is it went sideways for along time.
As my kids got older and more independent, I began to meet with a close group of friends, Washington D.C. lawyers, mostly, and we would get together regularly for beer, fries, and lots of talk. We would talk a lot about politics, sports, sailboat racing and sometimes religion.
One of my friends went to the University of Virginia and got his law degree at The College of William & Mary. He had written a book about his faith and so he was our designated spiritual advisor.
My other friend was more of the activist agnostic who found very little value in organized religion. My friend was not the atheist that Christopher Hitchens was, but certainly he agreed with most everything Hitchens had to say about the Catholic Church.
My agnostic friend was also not a big fan of the Mormon religion either – he called it a cult that was started by a charismatic con man named Joseph Smith.
We had intense conversation about the Mormon Church and this fact, as it turns out, became very important to me. My friend encouraged me to read Jon Krackauer’s book on the Mormon church – Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.
Krackauer’s book about mountain climbing and the Mt. Everest tragedy, Into Thin Air, is one of my favorite books of all time, so I agreed to read it.
I quickly plunged into the book about the Mormon religion, but rather than finding myself outraged at the violent acts initiated by Mormon leaders against innocent people, I found myself much more interested in the Mormon faith itself.
I was transfixed by its fantastic origins. At some point it suddenly struck me that the whole religion was based on supernatural events and I really did not know what that meant exactly.
The Mormon faith is based on the miraculous and the supernatural. The appearance of gold tablets with the Book of Mormon transcribed on them given to Joseph Smith directly from another world, as well as angels appearing in human form and a white salamander of unknown origins with a keen intelligence.
The supernatural events that make up the foundation of the religion are critical – you either believed in the incredible tales of Joseph Smith or you did not. Once you did you were hooked and I was almost hooked. I read that former President, Bill Clinton took a hard look at Mormonism for the same reasons.
If one is sincere about exploring the mysteries of religion, an open and inquisitive mind is crucial to making progress in any kind of discernment practice.
At one point, I really thought about jumping into the faith with both feet. . I asked myself’ “How could so many smart, decent, attractive people believe such incredible stories?”
I was sure that the Mormon faith had to have proof of its miraculous claims of angels and gold tablets. I read parts of the Book of Mormon. My agnostic lawyer friend, who suggested I read up on Mormons, says he read the entire Book of Mormons and he claims it is complete madness.
But I wanted to know for myself and so I dug deep into the religion to see what “proof” the early Mormon’s had to back up their claim of the supernatural interventions of God.
There had to be some real evidence, after all the Mormon Church is very successful. I poured through a lot of material but my investigation did not lead to a lot of answers to the questions I was asking myself. I found a couple of nuggets of information that support the fantastic assertions made by the founders of the faith – chiefly that six or so church elders say they saw the gold tablets – but honestly, there is not much more than that. You basically have to hitch your wagon to Joseph Smith’s charisma and not look back. I couldn’t do it.
A little disappointed, I wasn’t sure where to turn, but I could not get out of my mind the idea that God intervenes in this world from time to time in mysterious supernatural ways that this intervention somehow leads to the establishment of great religions.
I went back to the Bible and there I encountered, again, the words of Jesus – “Seek and You Shall Find. Ask and you shall receive.”
It is not clear in my mind, I have really tried to connect the dots, but something, or someone, interiorly, told me to look up Fatima, basically out of thin air. Perhaps Our Lady had started to call me.
I don’t know exactly, but I found my way to Fatima.
Before I go further I strongly suggest to the reader to learn all you can about the events of Fatima, the famous Marian apparitions that took place in Portugal in 1917.
At Fatima, you will discover that science and reason, for the first time in history, cannot explain what happened on the day of October 17, 1917. Fatima is the single greatest example of the reality of supernatural forces in history.
Looking into Fatima, I learned about “The Miracle of the Sun”. I learned about the thousands and thousands of witnesses to the miracle of the sun “dancing”. The miracle of the sun was followed by prophecy, and secrets – prophecies that, unbelievably, all came to pass. The prophecies have been studied and verified, by the Vatican and eminent scholars. After my discovery of Fatima, suddenly a new world opened up to me. Fatima convinced me that the supernatural intervention of God occurs – sometimes right before our eyes. But that was just the start. To me Fatima was a Mary thing – a Catholic thing – a religion that had run out of gas a long time ago for me. The Virgin Mary was just a sad stone statue.
Continuing my exploration into the supernatural, mostly focused on Catholic claims, I stumbled onto something called Medjugorje and after that everything began click; it all came together for me. Fatima was the supernatural miracle I was looking for – the “proof” – and then after reading the simple magical words of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, “Peace, peace, and only peace”, the conversion of my heart and my reconciliation with our creator began. With Medjugorje the beauty, heart, and soul of the Catholic faith came alive.
With Medjugorje, I felt I had discovered the place where Jesus had returned to earth to continue his ministry. The Blessed Mother at Fatima led me to Medjugore and it is at Medjugorje that the truth of Jesus Christ was revealed to me. I had found Jesus Christ through his mother Mary.
Medjugorje has been a blessing to me and to millions of others around the world, but Medjugorje is much more than a happy place full of blessings. Whether you believe in God or not, Medjugorje, is a captivating phenomenon and has emerged as the greatest mystery of modern times.
From time to time people have asked me what makes the phenomenon of Medjugorje so special or different. Why not simply practice ones faith like we are taught. To me Mejdugorje changes the way one looks at faith and religion.
Medjugorje has taught me that religion is more than a set of rules or a check list of “dos and don’ts”. Medjugorje taught me, what seems obvious, but it is not, to think about the miraculous and the afterlife – to think about the supernatural . Medjugorje taught me that miracles and Heaven were real and it taught me that it is very important to meditate on these facts. The essence of religion, by definition, is about the supernatural – a force not of this earth – but this rudimentary fact seems to have been abandoned by the faithful of all creeds in today’s modern world. This development forced Pope John Paul II to lament before his death that “Today we have lost the sense of the supernatural”
Understanding that the supernatural exists deepens our faith in a beautiful and mysterious way and without it we are left with nothing but a set of bureaucratic rules and regulations. Sure we can pray to Jesus and many people do experience the genuine graces of the Christian faith, but for many, church seems to be nothing more than a place where we hand out coins to toll booth collectors hoping to avoid accidents on our way to our certain death.
Medjugorje pulled me out of a dark spiritual ditch and put me on path towards something bigger and outside of myself. Medjugorje put me on a path towards eternity and the promise of Heaven. Happily the path’s foundation is firmly constructed out of reason. Medjugorje attaches reason and our free will to the wonderful world of miracles, mysteries, and the Catholic faith. With Medjugorje, the tangible essence of the supernatural is revealed. With Medjugorje one is left with only one possible conclusions – God exists.