The faithful surround the altar--students, parents, the elderly, and children fill the chairs in the nave, the transept, and the apse. The priest has just welcomed a new catechumen. Now, in his homily, he urges the congregation to remember that in baptism, God is at work: "Baptism is not simply something we choose . . . it is God who calls us. We must be ready to listen to his call and serve him!" The congregation listens intently, and sings its hymns enthusiastically.
At the end of Mass, several people continue to pray, as others move to light candles beneath shrines and statues. In a nation where Evangelical Protestantism is increasingly popular, this Catholic church is educating its parishioners with vigor: There are education classes for children and adults, pilgrimages to holy places, colorful placards in the vestibule clarifying church teachings with quotations from the Catechism (this month it is a triptych on "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory"), photos of World Youth Day, and notices of lectures at local churches and seminaries.
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Evangelicals in this country numbered only 40,000; now there are 400,000. Their thriving mega-churches in the suburbs, though criticized by other Protestants and Catholics who object to what they describe as their superficiality, emotional excesses, and consumerist ethos, are the subject of media commentary.
At the same time, more established Protestant and Catholic churches, surrounded by a broad secular consensus and prodded by new religious possibilities, are proposing the fullness of their faith with renewed energy.
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