A young woman prays during the opening Mass for World Youth Day at Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Young people are returning to traditional faith practices

By  Jacklyn Gilmor, Youth Speak News
  • February 2, 2018
In a vast sanctuary filled with kneeling Catholics, the light catches on a single ivory veil, draped over the head of a young woman in prayer.

Emma White is the only one in the church with her hair covered. She said it was intimidating to don her chapel veil at first, especially at her home parish in London, Ont. Sometimes, people would stare, wondering why she would choose to cover her hair when it’s not required.

White is part of a growing number of young people in the Church who are embracing traditional practices. Despite the popular idea that young people have no attention span, there seems to be a deep desire to encounter God in tradition and silence. More millennials are returning to older prayers and devotions.

White was inspired by some of her classmates who chose to wear a veil in the presence of the Eucharist and she decided that it would increase her devotion to Christ.

“I am a daughter of the King, and I should adorn myself with a veil to live that out more fully,” she said.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, women were expected to cover their head in Mass, but the 1983 Code of Canon Law has no such requirement, so the practice is not as common now.

White’s veil is a Spanish mantilla, a delicate work of lace that covers most of the hair. Unmarried women traditionally wear a white one, so her veil is ivory. It’s a less bright shade that is beautiful without being too eye-catching, according to White.

Sr. April Cabaccang, 29, is a Salesian Sister whose order offers her a choice of whether to wear a habit. Although some sisters don’t wear the habit, Cabaccang said she chooses to wear hers because it helps her to be a witness for her faith.

When people stop her on the bus or in a store to ask about it, she has the perfect opportunity to talk to them about Christ.

“It is important for young people to embrace tradition,” she said. “They need to know that there is one Truth, One Good worth sticking to.”

Cabaccang believes tradition can be a way for people to anchor themselves. Like White, she says the habit reminds her who she is as well as whose she is. It puts her in a space of reverence.

Young women are not the only ones wearing something traditional to increase their faith. Shavi Perera, 19, wears a rosary around his wrist as a conscious sign of his faith and a reminder for him to pray.

Perera knows the value of traditional prayers. He is currently doing a 90-day novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

“We don’t often take advantage of these old fashioned things that show the richness of the Church,” he said. “When people take advantage of those things, it’s so inspiring.”

The Latin Mass is often considered old fashioned. But Eric Wong, 24, loves it. His home parish, Holy Family Parish in Toronto, celebrates a weekly Solemn High Mass sung in Latin. He said it is drawing more young people because it raises intrigue. Since first-time attendees don’t necessarily understand this form of Mass, he says, they become curious, leading them to learn about their faith.

“I think most young adults, as we grow older, don’t go to church because our parents tell us to; we go because we realize it’s important. We can realize that through tradition,” he said. “It just blows your mind how much more deeply we can love God.”

Latin Mass is very different from the New Mass and not just because of the language. Gregorian chants are sung, there is more genuflection and people must kneel to receive the Eucharist. The choir is always at the back of the church in order to keep the focus on God.

Like the rule about veils, Vatican II changed the Latin Mass. In 1964, it was remade into the way most Catholics celebrate Mass now — in their own language and with more music and reading aloud. In contrast, the Latin Mass is filled with a great deal of silence which Wong said helps him to focus on God’s presence.

(Gilmor, 20, is a second-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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