According to a recently released study, visiting beautiful churches and cathedrals are one of the top reasons that influences the youth across the globe in deciding to convert to Christianity.

“The way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating way to approach the Mystery of God. What is beauty, if not the reflection of the splendor of the Eternal Word made flesh?” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

According to the study, commissioned by a British evangelization research group, thirteen percent of teenagers who decided to convert to Christianity did so because of their experience visiting and seeing the design of traditional churches and cathedrals. Encounters with beautiful architecture beat out the most common evangelization effort today – youth groups, along with attending weddings and speaking to other Christians about the Faith.

After seeing the “shocking results, the researchers concluded that “new methods invested in by the Church, such as youth groups, are less effective than prayer or visiting a church building in attracting children to the Church.” The group’s research adds evidence to rising trend of Catholic youth desiring traditional devotions and seeking to experience rich Church history: relics, the saints, liturgies, and beautiful churches.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI formally allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be made more accessible to parishes. Since then, demand for tradition has only grown. While hard figures are not available, the trend is all but confirmed. The president of the the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce, a federation of lay organizations dedicated to the Tridentine Mass, says “I think people are drawn to the Mass’ beauty and depth and its internal coherence.”

Father Joseph Kramer, a priest based in Rome who’s Parish only celebrates the Latin Mass, believes the same about enduring appeal of tradition to Catholics today.

“There is a movement among young Catholics to know, discover and preserve their Catholic heritage, and the traditional Latin Mass fits in with that. I think they are drawn to the liturgical richness of the past.”

It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document “The Via Pulchritudinis:”

“The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.”

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34 COMMENTS

    • Was there for Good Friday and Easter Sunday with my husband while visiting our son’s family. Can’t say enough for the spirituality that exudes from the faith of our fathers.

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  3. The Latin Mass is Heaven on earth, and how better to celebrate its sacrifice than in a beautiful, old, Catholic Church, built through the offerings and sacrifices of people long ago who took the Faith very seriously. Though many of the parishioners themselves lived in penury, they were uplifted and transported every Sunday, or every day, by the haven, the island of beauty of the parish church, or the cathedral.
    And then, alas, came modernism in all its unattractive forms.

  4. I wish to add that oftentimes Bishop Robert Barron encourages us to “Begin with the beautiful” when drawing people back to the Faith and certainly our Churches are part of that beauty.

  5. Found the study.

    http://www.comresglobal.com/polls/hope-church-of-england-perceptions-of-jesus-survey/

    “Question 32. When you think about the reasons you became a Christian which two or three of the following, if any, were most important for you?
    Growing up in a Christian family 45%
    Going to a religious school 17%
    Sunday school 15%
    Reading the Bible 15%
    Visiting a church building 13%
    Going to a church wedding, funeral, Christening, Baptism, Confirmation 13%
    Going to a regular church service (not a wedding, funeral, Christening etc.) 12%
    A youth group 11%
    A spiritual experience 10%
    [other factors]”

    The question does not mention whether the church was beautiful, traditional, or otherwise, nor whether the architecture or even the building itself had an impact, as opposed to, for example, the religious experience had there or the people they encountered. The category to which they are referring simply refers to visiting a church.

    The headline for this article is very misleading, and does not represent the results of the study.

    • Thank you for the survey report. It is more in keeping with the many articles I have read, that growing up in a Catholic family was the primary “reason”. The beauty of a church can be spiritually moving and, most likely, inspirational in their desire to reconnect, or
      be a part of this holy place. The “What causes….” article is just not based on most
      research that has been done.

  6. I am so thankful for the wonderful gift of the mass in the vernacular. To be able to understand what is going on during the mass and to participate is a privilege that was not offered before Vatican !!. I don’t know how people attending a latin mass can comprehend what is going on. I must be dense or something because at
    a latin mass I am just a spectator. Is that what it is supposed to be like?

    • It’s not that hard. You just have to go a few times and follow along with someone who knows the Mass well. The Missal has the Latin on the left and the English on the right. The Mass parts are the same every time — the Kyrie (which is in Greek, btw), the Gloria, the Creed, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei. You can learn those very easily, since they are repeated at every Mass. And then the readings are usually read in English after they are read or chanted in Latin. Don’t be scared! That Mass truly is the “most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.”

  7. Review use of ‘only’
    You mean this as exclusively, and rather not as a diminutive.
    Not being picky, this is a frequent misuse these days.

  8. Having some expertise in the field of youth and young adult ministry, I can say that this article is poorly researched and entirely misleading. As mentioned above in the comment by Jeff Stevens, the survey never asked how the church looked. Furthermore, who said the following?

    After seeing the “shocking results, the researchers concluded that “new methods invested in by the Church, such as youth groups, are less effective than prayer or visiting a church building in attracting children to the Church.”

    That quote was not a part of the report that I could find. It also has a quote within a quote, so is the article quoting someone who is quoting someone else? The lack of citations only adds to the confusion.

    Another context that the article fails to mention is that “youth groups” are not nearly as popular in Anglican churches in the UK as they are in Catholic parishes within the US (my PhD is from England, so I have some knowledge of that culture). The low percentage of young people saying they were not attracted to the faith via a youth group is more likely because there are not that many to join, not that they somehow “fail” to attract young people.

    The thrust of the article seems to say, “lets spend more time/resources on making our churches beautiful than on outreach to young people.” This article proposes this based on a survey from non-Catholic, non-US based research, which also doesn’t say that at all. For an actual survey on this, examine the National Study of Youth and Religion, which concluded that the more a faith community invests in young people, the higher their levels of religiosity emerge.

    There are better ways to make arguments for beauty and Tradition within the Catholic Church than to manipulate data and write biased journalism that is incorrect and unhelpful.

  9. I have mixed feelings on this. I agree that beautiful churches are inspiring and awesome, but I also like the newer designs of a half circle of pews and a slope in the flooring or allow more of us to be closer to the altar. The priest as celebrant can bring great reverence to the Mass. Our current pastor calls it Holy Mass, frequently reads the 1st Eucharisitc prayer and intones the Collect. He is also a very good speaker. Some Latin can be added to our current hymns too.
    I do agree that the statues and Stations of the Cross should be more lifelike, inspiring and objects of beauty.

  10. That is crazy! People do not convert because of a building! Even if it is beautiful. People convert because they find Jesus! Because of the TRUE Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist! The grace and mercy received!

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  12. The article is misleading; and I suspect the study itself may be misleading. A tally of the responses listed shows 151%, which means that without having a matrix of answers, showing how many checked one box, two, or multiple boxes, little of any relevance can be drawn. And the fact that (apparently) out of all surveyed, only 13% checked “visiting a church building”, without knowing more, leaves it as a low causation factor.

    Further, we are left with no idea as to what the individuals who “converted”, converted to. Given that it was done apparently by the Church of England, I am really not sure at all why we are trying to link this to the Extraordinary For, which in the United States is not at all widely spread, and with no indications of what attendance is in those parishes which provide it. And with 455 checking “growing up in a Christian family, it is not even clear that this is a matter of conversion, but rather, possibly at least for some answering the poll, more of “why I continue to go to church”.

  13. Young people nowadays are fond of order, discipline, focus and a sense of mystery. Churches, Cathedrals, and Basilicas offer a conducive environment to foster an interior life of prayer, faith, and hope.

  14. So many of our “catholic” churches are such horrors. They appear to be bad mock-ups of protestant churches. Most of the American bishops refuse to allow the “wide and generous” use of the Traditional Latin Mass as Pope Benedict XVI ordered.
    They have engaged in the vile passive aggressive method (incidentally a method often employed by females) of “neglect and suffocate” the Traditional Mass. Modern priests and bishops are largely protestantized Christians who really believe that they are doing the right thing in silencing and destroying all the Traditional Catholic realities including Traditional Architecture, Music, Mass, Prayers, Statues, Instruments, Postures, Language and vestments.
    God willing the nightmarish decades since Vatican 2 will continue to lose vigor and the Traditional Beauty of the Catholic Church of the previous 1,000 plus years will return again and become the norm in America and in the world.

  15. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.'” […]

  16. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.‘” […]

  17. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.’” […]

  18. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.’” […]

  19. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.’” […]

  20. […] A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.’” […]

  21. It is truly disappointing to read these “agenda based”, biased articles as part of NCR’s reporting. This article has no basis in fact, and worse, clearly misrepresents the survey. Or said another way, its a “lie”… a grave sin. There seems to be a desperation among traditionalists to justify themselves. The reality is the VAST majority of the Church has ZERO interest in this agenda. And many who promote have NO IDEA what the Church was like pre-Council. I chuckle when I enounter some of these young people wearing mantilla’s and th like… they are clueless. Doing things like kneeling for the “hot” but then standing for the chalice. In the old days they would not even have a chalice. And they certainly would not be lectors. They have no clue. It is WAY better know having Mass in the vernacular. What B16’s moto proprio was intended to be was an olive branch to schismatic Christians (Pius X). Sadly, it is become a pipe dream among some very odd and isolated Catholics. Stable communities for Traditional liturgy … are nothing more than rad trads driving long distances so over large territories of parishes so a few hundred of them at most can celebrate Mass this way… sad.

    • Your ignorance is total and your tone is obnoxious. The Church will be restored in Her tradition. It is happening as surely as you deny it and express your hatred for the Church’s resplendent heritage. You are a champion of mediocrity.

  22. Carolyn, I found my experience to be just the opposite. Not knowing what the priest was saying in a Latin mass forced me in a way to take a more active part in the mass by reading the English translation alongside the Latin. I then realized that I was paying more attention by having to read my missal rather than falling into a more “lazy” and habitual way of hearing the Mass in English and responding with my memorized responses. I also discovered how rich and sacred sounding the original language was in the Latin mass compared to the short, bland and common sounding translation that is used in the Novus Ordo mass. The original language seems to have a more powerful effect on me by elevating my heart and mind to a higher level of awareness of the awesomeness of God. Of course, I would never have had this experience if I had not made the effort to read the English translation next to the Latin in my missal.

  23. Reply to Carolyn Schornak March 19, 2018, who writes: “To be able to understand what is going on during the mass [sic] …is a privilege not offered before Vatican II…at a latin [sic] mass I am just a spectator. …I must be dense…but is that what it is supposed to be?” I [all of us Catholics] grew up with St. Joseph Daily Mass Missals [publisher: Catholic Book Publishing Co, New York], and St. Andrew Daily Mass Missals [publisher: Lohmann Co in St. Paul, MN.] These Daily Mass Missals were sold in solid Catholic Book Stores. I still have my St. Joseph Daily Mass Missals & my St. Andrew Daily Mass Missals. In BOTH Daily Mass Missals: the COMPLETE Mass is printed in LATIN on left pages: FACING the COMPLETE Mass printed in ENGLISH on opposite right pages. I am bilingual: Spanish and English. Therefore, I ALSO have my St. Joseph Daily Spanish Missal with COMPLETE Mass printed in LATIN on left pages FACING the COMPLETE Mass printed in SPANISH on opposite right pages. We / I KNEW EXACTLY and understood PERFECTLY WELL what the Priest at Altar was praying: whether in Latin / English / Spanish — when attending English Masses in U.S. or Spanish Masses in U.S. or Mexico, etc., I was a teenager & young adult and ALL OF US attended Masses WITH OUR Daily Mass Missals. No one was “lost” at Mass. I LOVED the Latin Masses and its Latin Mass Music in those years and I STILL DO. Carolyn & ‘modern’ Readers: please do not be misinformed or uninformed. Do not be misled by persons who say we [the older generation] did not know or understand our beloved Catholic Latin Masses and our beloved Catholic Hymns.

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