And they'll know we are Catholics...

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 14, 2008

That hoary old folk hymn said "they'll know we are Christians by our love." But how will they know we are Catholics? In modern secular society, Catholics fit right in. There are few visible signs they wear. Crucifixes are just as likely to be a fashion accessory as a statement of faith. But scratch a Catholic and you'll find a surprising amount of religious tradition.

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States, some researchers at Washington's Georgetown University were doing quite a bit of scratching. The Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate interviewed 1,007 Catholics recently to find out what parts of their faith were most meaningful to them.

There were many non-surprises, but some interesting results all the same. To no one's surprise, those the researchers called pre-Vatican II Catholics had the most traditional views and were most attached to the sacramental practices and devotions that go along with Catholic life. The so-called millennials, those born after 1981, were least attached.

But that pattern failed to hold for one significant point. According to Catholic News Service , "When asked whether they agreed with the statement, 'In deciding what is morally acceptable, I look to Catholic Church teachings and statements made by the pope and bishops to form my conscience,' the pre-Vatican II Catholics (28 per cent) and millennial Catholics (23 per cent) were most strongly in agreement."

Vatican II Catholics (born between 1943 and 1960), not so much.

It was good to see, though, that the use of personal devotional items was still widespread. Some 59 per cent of those surveyed said they had a statue or picture of Mary in their home. Thirty-two per cent said they typically wore or carried a crucifix or cross; 29 per cent said they usually carried or wore a religious medal or pin of a saint or angel. Another 23 per cent usually carried a rosary, while 20 per cent had prayer cards or religious coins with them and nine per cent carried a scapular.

Eleven per cent of Catholics said they prayed the rosary at least "almost every week," while 48 per cent said they never did.

But Pope Benedict will most likely be impressed with another statistic the researchers uncovered. Eighty-two per cent said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. Our prime ministers would give their left foot for such approval numbers.

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