Yesterday after our Solemn Mass at 10:30 an older couple visiting  from Pennsylvania stopped to talk with me. They were amazed at the packed church, the number of altar boys, the beautiful singing of the girls’ choir, the reverence and focus on worship.

“In our diocese” they said, “they are closing schools and merging parishes. The ones that remain are cold, unwelcoming and just a few older people are in the pews. There are no young people, no youth group, no growth. What happened here in South Carolina? How did you do it?”

Like most parishes that worship traditionally our parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC is packed with young people. We have many young families, but also many single young people in their teens, twenties and thirties. What is the attraction? Why are parishes with traditional worship thriving?

What is the difference? It is easy to point to the difference in worship styles. One is traditional, the other trendy. One is reverent the other is relevant. One is youthful and growing the other is aging and shrinking. But what are the underlying reasons?

In our own situation, the growth and vitality we enjoy is more than just the traditional worship and teaching. It also has to do with demographics. The Southern states are attracting investment, and therefore jobs are plentiful, businesses are doing well and there is a conservative, Christian culture that stands in contrast to the woke, liberal, ideologies prevalent in other parts of the country. All these social factors and more have contributed to our growth, but beneath those elements are other factors.

But first, I think traditional Catholic worship IS attractive to young people because it is such a contrast to the fake, relativistic society into which they are plunged. All around us we live in an artificial reality. AI and screen technology have us gazing at fake forms of “reality” all the time. The technology of streaming audio and video material immerses us in artificiality. Fake news and lies come at us all the time. The political and educational establishment dish out propaganda non stop. The media and advertising industries deal in lies, artifice and subliminal subversion constantly.

Traditional worship takes us into a weekly encounter with God and with other people. Real people. There are no screens or smoke machines (unless like OLR they use ample incense!) Traditional worship cuts across the trendiness our age and helps the faithful put deep roots into our traditions, into the historical church and helps root our families and children’s lives in the unchanging customs, language, imagery and actions not only of our Catholic Christian culture, but also in the Catholic Christian culture of Western society.

The contemporary ideologues hate this culture and wish to destroy it in every way possible. Traditional Catholic worship is intrinsically conservative because it conserves and passes on the riches of the past.

Traditional Catholic worship is therefore a contrast to the ephemeral, sentimental, individualistic worship that bows to the spirit of the age. An anecdotal bit of evidence comes from a recent conversation with an Evangelical Protestant thirties-something person who is involved in a local “mega-church”. She said, “Many in my generation are actually fed up with the hip hop, cool super church with hi tech screens, praise bands and coffee bars. We are looking for classical education for our kids and for churches with liturgy, tradition, beauty and truth.” She articulates why young people are attracted to traditional Catholic worship.

What I find increasingly disturbing about the Catholic Church today is how many priests and prelates are either ignorant or deliberately ignoring this trend. Instead they keep dishing out the tired religious/political ideologies from the 1970s. Like most ideologies, they cannot see that their ideas and policies have failed. Instead, they keep dishing out more of the same.

“Look!” we cry in amazed dismay. “Look! your revolution has failed. The churches are emptying. The seminaries and religious orders emptied decades ago. It’s not working! Stop dishing out failed ideologies and dreamy ideas of false “reform” which is no more than sociological theories and political stratagems. Get back to the gospel. Get back to the Catholic faith. That’s what people are crying out for!”