For the past year or so this blog has discussed much about the reemergence of more traditional Catholicism, especially among the Millennial generation. We have discussed more seminarians practicing and learning the TLM; more young parishioners requesting more reverent liturgical practices; traditionally-minded parishes booming with young families, and more people once again embracing the beauty found in traditional Catholic art, architecture, music, and prayer.
Today’s younger Catholics (let’s say 35 and under) are embracing elements of their faith that have been ignored for decades. Not impressed by the stripping of liturgical, artistic, or architectural beauty during the 80’s and 90’s, these younger Catholics are now at the age where they are able to fill decision-making roles and beginning to have influence within their community parishes and organizations. They can start the process of carefully putting Humpty Dumpty back together again whether they are laity or clergy.
For months now, people have recommended to me Cor Jesu (Latin for “Sacred Heart of Jesus) in Milwaukee. Cor Jesu is an event geared towards Catholics in their 20’s and 30’s throughout many dioceses in at least the Midwest (perhaps it’s nationwide). I was told that it’s a great place to see firsthand (along with wherever the TLM is offered or course) the sort of modern-day Catholic Renaissance happening among the Millennial generation. In Milwaukee they offer Cor Jesu every Wednesday evening at a beautiful parish just blocks away from UWM–the state’s second-largest university–and people cannot get enough. But why?
I finally was able to check it out this past week and I was blown away. Allow me explain my experience…
To begin, it was at St. Robert’s, a beautiful and traditionally built Catholic church. While the church no doubt suffered from some of the sacred minimalism that has plagued American parishes since the 70’s (curved pews, some icons removed, altar rail ripped out, etc) it’s still gorgeous–a perfect setting for the evening.
The event begins at 7pm every week with an hour of Adoration and confessions. I arrived on time and was greeted by a very pleasant college-aged woman handing out booklets that included some hymns and prayers (Latin on the left, English on the right for many). The church’s lights were dim with candles placed around the sanctuary and altar. The effect of this was peaceful, prayerful, beautiful and reverent. The celebrants and altar boys processed in for exposition. There were at least three [young] priests and at least four college-aged altar boys. The main celebrant, a great priest I was already somewhat familiar with, had beautiful traditional vestments on. The altar boys wore traditional cassocks. Movements about the altar were purposeful and reverent, especially during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration.
I was stunned by the amount of younger, especially college-aged, Catholics there. There were groups of girls kneeling in prayer (many were very pretty…FYI GUYS). There were handsome young men standing in the lines for confession. There were people seemingly on dates (perfect way to get an evening started) kneeling down and bowing before our Lord as they entered the pew. In fact, there were Catholics of all ages but I’d say about 50% were in their 20’s with 20% being in their 30’s and the rest being older. I’d imagine that if school were in session even more young Catholics would be there.
During the exposition and benediction of Adoration, Latin prayers were chanted. Also during adoration was dramatic and beautiful music. Admittedly some of it was more “contemporary” music, but I will attest to the fact that it was done very tastefully and reverently with about half of the hymns chanted, something many choirs at parishes would never consider–fantastic!
The Mass that followed at 8 o’clock was excellent too. Fr Jacob Strand led the Mass with beauty and reverence. He incensed the altar, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei ordinaries were in Latin(!), his homily fit well with the day’s readings and was tied into the life of Saint Andre Bessete (whose feast day it was)…let’s just say he didn’t ‘go through the motions’. It was, by far, the most impressive daily Mass I have ever witnessed. Another interesting observation is that during Communion (offered only by priests) all the younger people I saw (even though I try to make it a point not to be distracted during this time) received on the tongue; a point I think is glaring in contrast to the style of Catholicism many of us Millennials grew up with.
To end my gushing, the night was fantastic. If there is a Cor Jesu offered close to you, I highly recommend checking it out…especially if you are in your 20’s or 30’s. I also cannot recommend it enough for someone who is looking to introduce a friend or family member who isn’t sure about the Mass or Catholicism to the faith…it shows that there are in fact many young Catholics (who are totally normal), that priests actually do something unique and holy on the altar, and convey that the Sacrifice of the Mass is something not of this world but of Heaven. It provided excellent witness to fallen-away Catholics who might have become jaded by the decades of less-than-serious, felt-banner parishes featuring horrid music and Communion reeking of ordinary, scaring away younger Catholics only to leave very old parishioners and a deep sense of antiquity. Wow, that was a mouthful. This is the faith we need to be showing our friends, family, and neighbors. This is the type of thing that will make a difference.
What a great way to spend a weeknight.
Let’s help Cor Jesu grow in popularity by sharing it and bringing people to it! And, to the Milwaukee Diocese, specifically Archbishop Listecki, great job setting this up and please continue putting effort behind this event.
The featured photo at the top is Fr. John Burns from Milwaukee exposing the Blessed Sacrament. Photo Credit: Arise Milwaukee