(Date/location unknown) Children praying. Religion News Service file photo

Catholic families: strong on prayer, weak on sacraments

Holy Cross Family Ministries, the organization behind the famous slogan, “The family that prays together stays together” commissioned the study, "The Catholic Family." Photo courtesy Holy Cross Family Ministries.

Holy Cross Family Ministries, the organization behind the famous slogan, “The family that prays together stays together” commissioned the study, "The Catholic Family." Photo courtesy Holy Cross Family Ministries.

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(RNS) Most of today’s American Catholic parents don’t go to Mass, provide any Catholic education for their children or stress the basic sacraments beyond baptism.

And yet a new study of these families finds good news: “They still have a relationship with God and pray for their family,” said a co-author of the research, Mark Gray at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

This heartens Susan Wallace, marketing director for the Holy Cross Family Ministries, the organization behind the famous slogan, “The family that prays together stays together.” It commissioned the research in advance of Pope Francis’ September visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Vatican’s October meeting to conclude the church’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.

“Clearly, it’s a good news/bad news situation,” said Wallace. “But we know the challenges and now that we are not in the dark, we can provide resources to address them. If we are looking to build the future, we need to shore up young families.”

Among the study's findings -- and challenges:

  • One in three did not find it very important to them that their children celebrate their First Communion. One in four didn’t consider it very important that they be confirmed. These are red flags for the future, said Gray. “If you don’t have First Communion and you’re not confirmed, you are more likely to leave the faith as an adult. You can’t take Communion or really practice your faith.”
  • 68 percent of Catholic parents do not take their children to a Catholic school, parish religious training or even a Catholic youth ministry. This is significantly less than in previous generations, based on CARA surveys of adults reflecting on their religious education, said Gray. Wallace called the finding “staggering.”
  • Less than half (49 percent) pay any attention to Catholic information sources in any form.
  • Only 16 percent of parents pray the rosary at least once a month and 7 percent at least once a week.

That’s a shocker for Holy Cross, a ministry founded by “the Rosary Priest.” The late Rev. Patrick Peyton was a radio and film ministry pioneer who held "rosary rallies” and began his national media outreach and billboard campaign in 1947 with the slogan “The family that prays together stays together.”

The survey, which also looked at family media consumption, raised the rhetorical -- and unanswered -- question: “How will they come to know what their faith is about? Wikipedia? Siri?”

The survey was conducted in September and October 2014 with 1,014 self-identified Catholic parents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

On the positive side, the research found:

  • Around eight in 10 are sure “without doubt” about the Catholic view of God, Jesus, Mary, heaven and that their prayers are heard and answered. But one in four have doubts about the existence of hell.
  •  53 percent of parents attend Mass at least once a month -- slightly better than Catholic adults overall (43 percent).
  • 51 percent of parents say they eat dinner together every night, something Wallace translates as an opening for encouraging prayer. “What a beautiful time -- breaking bread together -- to say a simple prayer and share how they said ‘yes’ to God that day.”

But Wallace honed in particularly on the findings on prayer.

Three in four parents (76 percent) say they pray every day -- and they pray first and foremost for the well-being of their family.

But most also say they pray alone. Only about one in four pray with their family. And here, Wallace sees an opportunity. “What we need to do is help them imagine what it could be like if they prayed together.”

Wallace said, "If you look at the peace that comes into your heart from prayer, if we do it as a family, we have more peace and harmony in our home, the basic church. If the family is in harmony, it flows into the world.”



  1. I always believed that the misinformation given to Catholics about the changes ordered by Vatican II started the decline in Catholic piety and practices. Sadly, the illusion that everything prior to the Council was being tossed in favor of a more Protestant attitude towards Church was what the average Catholic understood. Mass, sacraments, the rosary, Confession, and even Church structures/music all became subjected to doubt, when in reality the Council “changed” very little….and all prior Councils rulings remained untouched……infallible in many instances. As generations passed, this lackadaisical outlook has taken on the aura of truth, which it is not.

  2. Wallace says, “What we need to do is help them imagine what it could be like if they prayed together.”

    I was a Catholic and my family prayed together. What hit me and turned me against the probability of a God was based on prayer itself.

    It was suddenly obvious to me that a real god would need to be immoral to answer my less pressing needs while ignoring the needs of those I prayed for.

    If you have lost someone to a painful disease and asked for personal direction or guidance while that person was dying – you have consulted an immoral God who is necessarily bypassing the person in need to attend to your selfish priorities.

    Sorry if that sounds cruel – but that is your God – it is the fundamental problem with prayer.

  3. Your judgement of God is all too human, and God certainly understands our fraility in understanding Him. Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law of a headache, while also raising Lazarus from the dead. God recognizes each prayer with the seriousness of how you you believe it is important…..just as a father comforts his child over a broken toy. One needn’t be concerned with the “answers” God gives to others with seemingly critical pleas of help, for His reasoning is a mystery incapable of being judged by us. Trusting in God’s perfect wisdom is the key to faith, we cannot rate Him on a human scale……even though our tendency is to do so.

  4. Dominic,

    “we cannot rate Him on a human scale”

    But this is false.

    It is claimed that God must be “worshipped and glorified” – this is a demand for a human rating.

    I don’t see how this God can exist based on these claims.

    It is claimed God is the “father” of morality. Yet if he were to exist, his immorality is self-evident in his ignorance – He has never once cured an amputee for example.

    There is simply no reason worship that which does intercede to end needless suffering. God either does not exist (most likely), or he is not worthy of worship and shouldn’t ask for it.

  5. Worshipped and glorified is the mere recognition of Gods very Being, they are acts that do not guarantee a “positive” answer to one’s prayers. Returning limbs to an amputee would be impressive, for sure, but God is not a magician out for gratuitous publicity.
    Suffering is allowed by God for reasons that are not immediately, or ever known. Usually suffering bears good fruit, or prevents one from falling into worse sin….I don’t know.
    Jesus, of course, suffered Himself, and we can imitate His forbearance of it since we were created in His image. Souls that have been saved, faith that has been restored, sadness that has been relieved by God are miracles that happen often but are regarded skeptically by people who want showmanship and ostentatious displays of God,s power. Raising people from the dead seems pretty impressive to me, but people often want personal proof of His Existence on demand…..and God has already given us enough proof to believe.

  6. Dominic:

    “God is not a magician.”

    Then why did Jesus tell us he was?
    Jesus reportedly said,
    “Ask and it will be given to you” – JESUS (Matthew 7:7)
    Jesus puts it very explicitly in 11 places in the gospels.

    Yet praying to Jesus has the same effect as wishing on a star.
    Praying has Zero effect for thousands of situations, including amputations.

    So either Jesus lied, or the Jesus fables are not true.

    Not once in all of human history (regardless of tremendous faith) has a single person ever grown back a limb, leg, arm, hand, or even a pinky! – regardless of prayer.

    That is the proof we must be grown up about.

    As Cathy Grossman’s article says:
    “Three in four parents (76 percent) say they pray every day…”
    That is an alarming quantity of harmful, delusional nonsense. The world desperately needs to become more rational.

  7. There have been innumerable miracles over the centuries, but no limbs restored, no. We do not test God, His human existence on earth is the greatest miracle performed. As to “ask and ye shall receive”, Jesus warns us that we must pray correctly……to be in line with and accept God’s supreme Will.
    All limbs will be restored when we die, all ailments and suffering will disappear. All knowledge will be given to us. We can only place our faith in the perfect goodness and judgement of God in this life, for He left us enough evidence of His love.

  8. The good news is the children are being baptized, which joins their souls to the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). But then the parents choose to live a life of sin afterwards, taking their children down the same path they were on, which is a breaking of the baptismal promises made by them. The only salvific thing to be taken away from this is that once a soul is joined to Christ, he can then stir within their souls the duty they have to God. Hopefully one day these wandering souls will return to the Church, repent of their sins, and lead good Christian lives.

  9. so god gave us a moral sense and then told us it shouldn’t be applied to him. If I did rate your god on a human scale, I would find him too immoral to be worth associating with.

  10. Like so many catholic priests have done.

  11. Dominic,

    “All limbs will be restored when we die, all ailments and suffering will disappear….”

    After we’re dead? Well, that’s too late.
    Your argument is a con game.

    Death means going back to the state you were in during the summer of 1631 – meaning, the state of non-existence.

    And miracles? Why would they happen? For what reason?
    There is no good reason to believe in miracles. There is no reason for miracles.
    There is absolutely no evidence your claims are true.

  12. Yes, Ben, many have. God calls us all until the moment of death. Many report that there is a moment between death and eternity, where God stirs a soul to make a move towards Him, so to utter sorrow for the life they’ve lived. And if they make that move and ignore the temptations of the Devil to despair, God will save that soul, and send him/her to Purgatory (Matt: 18:34-35), rather than hell (Rev 21:8), where the soul will be purified of all that is not of God, like “gold…in a refiners fire” (Mal. 3:2-3), and ultimately enter into heaven, where “the spirits of just, made perfect” enjoy eternal life (Heb 12:23).

  13. Funny, Greg1, that your “omnipotent” god doesn’t have the ability to just do away with the devil, that he also would have to have created, in the here and now.

    Look, the core of your beliefs, the whole Jesus-sacrifice thing, is a steaming pile of nonsense out of the gate. How is it again that your omnipotent being couldn’t do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus’ death a “sacrifice”, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers? Pretty pathetic “god” that you’ve made for yourself there.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

  14. Since man has the irrefutabe proof of Jesus in history, his works, and his revelations, we are left with the knowledge of sin, Satan, and Jesus’ sacrificial act to restore our relation with God.
    Satan could be dismissed by God with a thought, but since man invited Satan into his world with his Free Will, God must respect that choice. We are asked to choose against him, and have been given the grace freeley by God to do this.
    God is hardly pathetic or cruel, like a wise father he allows us to seek the life we want. He does not want robots, He wants us to seek Him willingly,to choose Him over the destructive promises of the Devil….an angel who hates humans and despises the love of God he once enjoyed.

  15. Dominic,

    “…man has irrefutable proof of Jesus”

    the Jesus legends are just stories. There is no reason to believe them.
    No reason to accept them.
    There is no reason to think they are good stories.

    “Execute my enemies in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Is this a good thing for Jesus to be saying? Is it right for him to threaten his disciples with such parables?

    No. It isn’t good. And we don’t need it. Nobody does.

  16. Dominic,

    The Bible is not a history book. It is more like Aesop’s fables.

    There is no reason to believe a real God turned himself into a man and did miracles. If there was such a reason, we would have to believe in Xalmoxes, Zoroaster and countless other man/gods also.

    Are you aware Zoroaster was a man/god 3000 years before Jesus? Zoroastrians still exist – their religion is 5000 years old.
    There is no reason to believe in Zoroaster – but we have every reason to believe many Jesus legends are based on the Zoroastrian legends.

    The 3 wise men of Luke were Zoroastrian Persian Kings. They appear in the Nativity story to bow to and give credibility to the *new Zoroaster* – newly crowned as Jesus. It was an intentional effort to convert Zoroastrians.

    These books are revenge fantasies – dramatic stories to make victims of life’s burdens feel better.
    They are Spiderman stories for an ancient world.

  17. Atheist Max is going to move to Iran because Zoroaster has shown his power by making modern day Persia such a paradise!
    I love how all these bitter atheists enjoy the unique and abundant fruits of Christian civilization while claiming there is no special proof of Christ’s divine power.
    Atheist Max would have been put to death for his degenerative atheist beliefs in a brutal pagan society if Christ weren’t God and hadn’t given us the wisdom that led to the societies that protect people like Max who hold such society-destroying atheist beliefs.

  18. @Augustine Thomas,

    “Atheist Max would have been put to death for his degenerative atheist beliefs”

    Thank Goodness Atheists fixed society and eliminated witch burnings and other depradations of religion.

    “if Christ..hadn’t given us the wisdom that led to the societies that protect people like Max”

    “Execute my enemies in front of me” – JESUS CHRIST (Luke 19:27)
    The Jesus legends are depraved nonsense.

    “…who hold such society-destroying atheist beliefs.”

    Atheism has cleaned up Christian culture and you should dream it takes hold in the Muslim world as well. Non-believers promoted science, culture, music, literature, poetry, the arts, education, liberal arts and the general emancipation of the mind.

    You should be grateful for the Atheists who built the Atheist Constitution of the United States of America:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion” – US Constitution

    Thank the great Atheists for your freedom to…

  19. I personally agrees with the fact that doing rosary and prayer together with the family members are more impact full and will surely gives peace and harmony.

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