When Pope Francis recently visited Mexico, the Church there rented gigantic stadiums and staged elaborate, choreographed productions. But is this the Mexican reality?
Mexico‘s a big place, so it’s hard to generalize about 120 million people. REGINA’s commentators — all of whom are Mexican or who live in Mexico today — have observed the people and their Faith at close hand for a number of years. As academics, priests, journalists, retired military and housewives, their perspectives vary.
But, as readers will see in this first of a 9-part REGINA series, there is a ‘red thread’ running throughout — as Spanish America’s once most-Catholic country struggles to pass on the Faith to the next generation.
Ricardo Lara and Nathaly Robles: When we were kids, it was very hard to get a place in our church pews. Today there are still large numbers of persons at Mass but the churches are not so crowded as they used to be. The young people (including young marriages) are not going to the Mass, they are “social Catholics” (weddings, baptisms, funerals)
Derik Castillo Guajardo: The average Mexican is not very interested in attending the Holy Mass. Many people who used to attend Mass while living with their parents, stopped attending regularly, and only go to church for special occasions like baptisms, when all relatives will be present. I believe there is a generational difference, in that more elderly people fill the pews, but this does not match the demographics.
Maria Albers: The average (Catholic) Mexican attends Mass once a week, typically on Sundays, although some attend Saturday vigil Mass as well, depending on their planned weekend activities. Older generations still observe the tradition of attending daily Mass, especially early in the morning. It is rare to see young people attend daily Mass nowadays.
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman: My impression is that Mass attendance varies from state to state and region to region. Here in the state of Jalisco and in neighboring states such as Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Querétaro and others mass attendance is higher than in other states or Mexico City. Mexicans are generally of the impression that mass attendance throughout the country has declined dramatically in the last 50 years just as it did in other parts of the world following the liturgical changes of the mid-late 60s.
The Mexican magazine Línea Recta states that the Mass attendance rate in most of Mexico is 50% of the faithful each Sunday. However, this rate varies quite a bit. On the low end would be the Federal District (Mexico City) which is very socialist and liberal, and has only a 9% mass attendance rate.
There can be little doubt that the drop in Mass attendance is a result of the liturgical changes that rocked the Church in the late 60s and early 70s and resulted in a similar collapse in mass attendance throughout the world. A similar effect has been seen in the serious shortage of seminarians suffered in most parts of the country.
Frank and Irene Denke: A certain distance exists between generations. For Mexicans of the current generation the Catholic Faith seems more “complicated”. The Church requires the attendance of parents at classes before baptism, marriage, etc., and many don’t feel inclined to attend. We have been told younger Mexicans do not attend Mass because, they aren’t accustomed to the signs of respect (reverence) they see others do regarding the Mass. Around us, the Franciscan Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan is full of those, young and old, who attend the “New Mass” – some, it seems, still out of custom, rather than from a knowledge or love of their faith, but they still attend.
Fr. Jonathan Romanoski: In general, there is a Catholic culture which still permeates Mexico, and I can only really speak of the state of Jalisco in which I live, which is known to have conserved more faith than many other places, as it was a place of great opposition to the Masonic persecution in the Cristero resistance, and which still ordains on average 40 men to the priesthood every year in the archdiocese of Guadalajara. For example, it is common place to see an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a taxi or bus for public transportation, as well as it is common to see a public procession.
Fr. Jonathan Romanoski: As a priest it means that every door is open to evangelize, as people naturally recognize and respect the priest and are generally eager to receive a blessing from him, and will naturally accept his commentaries with a sense of respect toward his authority. However, even in a place of such popular religiosity the statistic of weekly Mass attendance is around only 10%, meaning that for many it is more based on culture than conviction, or a desire to feel or seek some sort of blessing from God rather than follow his commandments.
Fr. Jonathan Romanoski : Although there are still many youth who practice the faith, and many vocations as I mentioned, there is definitely a more secular spirit spreading through the youth. One priest told me that on a national level the youth receiving catechetical formation is only around 10%. So imagine that in another generation 90% of young adults will generally be pagan in their way of thinking.