The above is a picture from the international Eucharistic Congress in 1926 at Soldier Field in Chicago. The faith and devotion in the picture seems obvious.
However, great faith also appears present at the above picture at the Evening Vigil before the final Mass at World Youth Day in Rio De Janeiro in 2013. In fact, many more people were in Rio than at the Eucharistic Congress in 1926. Also, the Eucharist was exposed in a huge monstrance for probably a longer time Rio than in Chicago. I was there on that beach that night in Rio and I heard confessions until 2:30am.
But something was still very “off” in Rio. As I wrote above, the Eucharist was exposed in a huge monstrance on a stage at Copacabana beach. But “adoration time” was nothing but entertainment time. For hours, performers on the stage in Rio had their backs to Jesus in the Eucharist! (To his credit, Matt Maher took his guitar and got on his knees facing the Blessed Sacrament to sing his praise songs, with several hundred thousand people at his back.)
So, while the actual numbers of people who attend these Catholic Woodstock events (aka WYD) might be impressive, there is a major problem. The next day at the final Mass there were one million people and I had to stop people from making out. Please read that again: I had to stop people from making out at a World Youth Day Mass. Then, after that, hundreds or thousands of “Eucharistic Ministers” took out the Eucharist in pastel-colored cereal bowls. I identified myself as a priest in our sandy section and I asked to distribute Our Lord. I then made announcements in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese about worthy communion reception. To the credit of those around me, some people actually refrained from receiving Holy Communion. Others criticized me for taking the role (and the Eucharist) away from the EMHC.
Now, granted, most the bishops of North America are a little more conservative than most the bishops of South America, at least on average. What would most slightly-conservative North American bishops say about actors with their backs to the Eucharist in a monstrance in WYD? What would US bishops say about people making out at Mass or the sand-filled pastel-bowls of the Eucharist given to anyone in a bikini at Copacabana Beach? Most North American bishops (at least, the few who care about such Eucharistic sacrilege) usually say we need more catechesis so that this doesn’t happen again.
A few years after WYD in Rio, The Liturgy Guy came out with these statistics that rocked the TLM and NOM world:
If you can’t see the stats very well, it asked basic questions of belief of those who go to Mass in English versus those who go to Mass in Latin. Some examples include that 89% of NOM attendants have no problem with contraception, compared to 2% in the TLM (a number I think is drastically high, from my experience in the latter community.) It reveals 67% of NOM Catholics believe there is nothing wrong with an unnatural-marriage compared to 2% in the TLM world (again, a number indicating that a few older folks at the TLM must have answered the poll accidentally.) Also, 98% of Catholics attend the TLM weekly, compared to 25% of regular Catholics surveyed.
Some neo-con non-trads looked at that study and cried “But traditionalists self-select!” That assertion actually is true. That’s how every religion works: You go with the beliefs and the liturgy and the people who you think are going to get you to heaven (if you even think salvation is something of concern.)
But more importantly, it reveals something fundamentally wrong in the bishops’ constant-cry that the problem of lack of belief is that “we need more catechesis!” You see, if we still see four mainstream Catholics leave the Church in the USA for every convert, and if we see countless young families who actually believe in the Gospel flocking to the TLM, then the problem is obviously not catechesis. The statistics are very clear at this point in both the US and Europe: The Catechesis of seeing and experiencing Traditional Sacraments is the very most reliable source for any family to learn the Catholic faith. Why? Because in tradition, a Catholic is actually doing what he claims to believe.
How about Africa? Was there a great renewal in Africa the past 60 years? No. I have done mission work there, too. In a blog post I recently wrote about the Sacraments in Africa, I site numerous statistics from non-traditional Catholic sources and then I write: “From the above stats, the percentage of Catholics in Africa went up from 2% to 13% during 1900 to 1962 alone. (Re-read that last sentence to see how astonishing that is—a 650% increase in baptisms on one continent alone due to pre-Vatican II missionaries and Africans evangelizing Africans.) But after Vatican II, that 13% of Catholics continent-wide went up to only 15% of the population. And that is only due to the birth-rate in most African countries.” In other words, all significant growth of the Catholic Church in Africa happened before Vatican II.
The above picture from the Eucharistic Congress in 1926 in Chicago might look outdated. People might say things like “Yeah, those nuns look they they had it put together on the outside, but they probably didn’t have a relationship with Jesus on the inside.” My reply: Oh, and the people I stopped from making out at WYD Mass did have an amazing relationship with Jesus? The people attending Mass literally in their bikinis did have such a great relationship with Jesus? And that’s better than being a Pharisee in a wimple?
You see, neo-cons against tradition are getting so desperate to deny the obvious at this point, namely, that the traditional sacraments are hands-down the best catechesis to grow belief in the power of the sacraments and maintain a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, maintaining Apostolic tradition in your faith and morals and liturgy is not a pathway of guaranteed perseverance for any of your children, but it’s statistically the best we got at any age of the Catholic Church for getting your whole family to heaven.