An evangelizing voice

Only 15-17 percent of self-identified American Catholics attend Mass.

In other words, more than 80 percent of Catholics have functionally no communal faith experience. And that lack of practical experience of Christianity means that the vast majority of American Catholics possess very little understanding of Christian teaching, let alone frequently encounter Christ in scripture.

What makes most Catholics identify as Catholics? Probably our cultural sense of Christianity and a nostalgic feeling for the faith of our childhood.

There are two other “80%” numbers that relate to the situation of American Catholicism: 80% of Catholic youth leave the faith by age 23, and 80% of U.S. Catholics like Pope Francis.

What do these numbers suggest? I think it suggests an indifference to Christianity. It suggests that a huge number of Christians have never experienced authentic Christian community, or encountered Christ in a tangible way in their lives.

Where might we go from here? I think the most important takeaway is that too much of Catholic thinking on “social media” (aka the internet) is focused on preaching to the choir. While we certainly need to feed the hungry who are with us, we should be thinking and speaking with an evangelizing voice in general—with particular sensitivity to the overwhelming majority who aren’t familiar with the faith in a deep way.

This means speaking clearly, speaking sacramentally, speaking with a warm heart, and speaking with receptivity to those who don’t understand the language of Christ.

Speaking with an evangelizing voice might require that we abandon old ways of doing things.