Is Spain regaining its faith?

0613-SF

The downward trend in practice of the Catholic faith in Spain has stopped and is recovering, writes Filip Mazurczak on First Things.

Like Quebec, Ireland, or Boston, Spain has epitomised the fading of Catholic faith. In the twentieth century, religious practice in Spain fell sharply, especially as the country transitioned to democracy and resentment of the Church’s support for Franco’s dictatorship surfaced.

Recently, however, the downward trend has stopped and is recovering. According to Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS), the proportion of Spaniards attending Mass has increased from 12.1 to 15 percent between 2011 and 2012. In absolute terms, the number of Spanish Catholics attending Mass weekly grew by an astonishing further 23 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to CIS. Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2013 the number of Spaniards contributing part of their taxes to the Church rose from eight to nine million.

Not only are Spaniards attending Mass more frequently, but also youths are rediscovering the priesthood and religious life. In 2013–2014, the number of Spanish diocesan seminarians increased for a third consecutive year to 1321, a steady growth from 1227 in 2010–2011. Active female religious orders are also vibrant—each year, about 400 Spanish girls become non-cloistered sisters, a slowly increasing number. The number of women at the Poor Clares Convent of the Ascension in Lerma has surged from 28 in 1994 to 134 in 2009. One of the Lerma nuns, Sister Verónica, created her own community, Jesu Communio. The Vatican approved the rapidly growing order, known as the 'sisters in jeans' because they wear denim habits, in 2010.

Immigration cannot explain this growth in monastic and priestly vocations. Today, young Spaniards are leaving the country for the more prosperous parts of Latin America (especially Chile) and for Germany and Britain. Considering Spain’s massive youth emigration, and the fact that the country has one of Europe’s lowest birth rates, Spain’s youth population is shrinking, so this vocations rebound is more impressive.

Perhaps no one puts a more attractive face on Spain’s return to Catholicism than Olalla Oliveros. Last month, the 36-year-old Spanish model stunned Spanish society by becoming a nun of the semi-cloistered Order of Saint Michael. Perhaps Oliveros did this out of frustration? On the contrary, she was at the height of her career and was recently offered a lead role in a big budget film. Oliveros experienced a conversion several years back and made her decision after much thought.

Read more:

Is Spain regaining its faith? (First Things)

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