Sunday, April 20, 2008

CARA Study of the Sacraments - More on Frequency of Reception of the Eucharist

More on the CARA study of the sacraments with the focus on the Eucharist. Here's the breakdown by generation for those who said they attend Mass at least once per month. The generations identified were:

  • Pre-Vatican II (Born in 1942 and earlier, or 66 years old and older in 2008)
  • Vatican II (Born between 1943 and 1960, or 48 to 65 years old in 2008)
  • Post-Vatican II (sometimes called "Generation X," born between 1961 and 1981, or 27 to 47 years old in 2008)
  • Millennial Generation (Born between 1982 and 1990, or 18 to 26 years old in 2008)

Across all generations, the percentages who said they "always" receive Holy Communion when they attend Mass are essentially the same (71%-74%). Interestingly enough, however, the Millennials showed the lowest percentages for those who "seldom or never" received (2% vs 7%-9%) and the highest percentages for "frequently or usually" (26% vs. 19%-20%). Therefore, if you combine "always" and "frequently or usually," 99% of the Millennials responded this way vs. 93% for Pre-Vatican II respondents. This is a very good sign indeed.

The study also broke down frequency of reception by education for those who responded with "always" receiving the Eucharist at Mass:

  • 58% of those with post-graduate degrees
  • 40% of those with bachelor's degrees
  • 48% of those with some college or an associate's degree
  • 49% of those with a high school diploma or less
  • 58% of those who attended a Catholic university or college

I find these results fascinating, and I'm hesitant to conjecture about the meaning of these results. But I would suggest the following:

  • Despite concerns about the orthodoxy of many Catholic colleges and universities (and I would add that those concerns are not unimportant), it would appear that attending a Catholic college or university is still the best way of increasing the probability of developing a deep love of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Those with bachelor's degrees actually receive Holy Communion less frequently than those with less education. Then, those with more education than a bachelor's receive the Eucharist substantially more often. Therefore, we cannot say that more education increases one's devotion to the Eucharist across the board. I suspect, perhaps, that this is a case of Alexander Pope's assertion in Essay on Criticism that "A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:/There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,/And drinking largely sobers us again."
  • While we can't reason our way into belief in the Real Presence, I think these statistics are a wonderful example of how faith and reason work together to enrich our spirituality. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have made much of the necessity of faith and reason. Reason informs faith, and faith gives purpose and direction to reason. One without the other leads to error and disaster. I once thought I'd "reasoned" my way out of faith. After a long time away from the Church, I have learned since my return that what had really happened was that I did not have enough faith or reason.

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