During the early thirteenth century, as the middle-aged Saint Dominic was establishing his new order – the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans – many marveled at his ability to attract large numbers of young people. Men and women in the flower of their youth, handsome, beautiful, healthy, hearty, and with futures full of hopes and dreams, were drawn to Saint Dominic and his religious order by the hundreds and thousands. Some came from poverty, but others from wealth, education, culture, and privelege. Yet all was abandoned when the vows were taken and the habit was received. And what did Saint Dominic offer in return? How did he lure the candidates? What gimmicks were used to manipulate these idealistic young people? Sweets? Jokes? Balloons? Popular songs? Warm community feelings? No, Saint Dominic employed none of these. He offered instead a strict rule, years of study and formation, fasting, a life of poverty and toil, and possible martyrdom. With these rewards in mind, countless men took to the missionary field and women to the convent.
Today, young people seem to be the ultimate prize of the Church, religious orders, and denominations. Everybody wants the young and cool, to have their congregations filled with fresh spirited youthful faces. It’s as if their presence was the most flattering statement that could possibly be made about the leaders who attracted them. And in the rush to gain the young – one unproven strategy is consistently employed: compromise. In other words, low standards, minimal demands, emasculated doctrine and morality, secular music, gimmicks galore, and a general environment of fun and informality. This is the weary old strategy of modern liberalism. Very simply – ask next to nothing of the young, and they will flock to you.
This strategy has been employed by our Church leaders for fifty years now, and as a direct result she is now only a pale emaciated specter of her former glorious self. Countless parishes have been closed and the future of many religious orders is in doubt. Knowledge of the faith is in a deplorable state and irreverence at Mass is a daily scandal that fewer Catholics can even recognize. The physical presence and public witness provided by our centrally located church buildings are quickly disappearing from towns and cities. The Church is disappearing before our eyes. For the seeking soul that is willing to consider the faith, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to even find the Church. What should we do in the face of this modern religious disaster?
The liberal Catholic answers, “Well of course, we must compromise MORE! We must pursue all the more our program of emasculated doctrine and morality, and more jokes and references to sports in the homilies, more Christian rock songs, more high-fives from Father Chip, more sweets, balloons, and gimmicks for everybody. And let’s clap and laugh and sing happy birthday to whomever even more. If we only try harder, it will finally work!”
The Church cannot afford to continue this idiotic, reckless, and cowardly strategy for another day. The re-invention of Catholicism for mass appeal that was begun during the sixties and has continued to this very moment must end now. It was a whopping failure, a spiritual tragedy, and the most hilarious joke the devil ever told. “How do you draw people out of the world? By attracting them to the world in the Church!” Just hilarious, demonically speaking.
“And wisdom is justified by her children” (Mt. 11:19).
How shall we attract the young? In fact, how shall we attract anyone to Jesus Christ? After all, that is the Great Commission. We will do so by means of an uncompromising fidelity to truth and an uncompromising pursuit of holiness. Period. We’ve proven well enough that nothing attracts nothing, that compromise attracts the compromised. The Church’s duty is to lead souls to Jesus Christ and to His truth and grace, not merely to fill the pews with the bodies of the indifferent. And yet, the Church seems to have adapted her teaching specifically to the indifferent, so as not to offend them. She preaches a Gospel that is primarily designed not to disturb and always to comfort. And in doing so, she leaves sinners and unbelievers unprodded, and deprives the faithful of the Christ for Whom they hunger and the Truth for which they thirst.
Christ did not compromise. He spoke the truth in love and let His words affect His audience however they might. If the crowds believed and followed Him, then thanks be to God. If they objected to the force, authority, and content of His teaching, then so be it. “Let the dead bury their dead.”
Saint Dominic also did not compromise. He presented to the world an extremely high religious ideal, and expected of his brethren total devotion to the Dominican cause of preaching and defending the faith to friend and foe. As a result, thousands of young people were attracted. Why? Because there was something to be attracted to, a lofty mission worthy of one’s life and death. Because something attracts something. This is proven in modern times by the fact that the liberal religious orders that have followed the compromise strategy are steadily dying, due to a lack of vocations, while the traditional orders that actually make demands on their members are either sustaining themselves or thriving.
The Catholic Church had better reacquaint herself with the demonstrable truth that nothing attracts nothing. If her demands are minimal, then her disciples will be minimalists. If her presentation is worldy, then she’ll be presented with worldlings. But if she appeals for devotees ready to live and die for the authentic Gospel with all its kindness and severity, then the Church will again be equiped with the saints, scholars, and martyrs necessary – by the grace of God – to save this divinely ordained institution from her current Dark Ages of sin and unbelief. Then she’ll be able to resume her great commission of glorifying God and saving souls.