Roman Catholicism: 'Hail Mary' Is More Than a Football Play; Raised in the Era of John Paul II, These Young People Are Resurrecting Old Rituals and Hewing to Strict Doctrine

By Raymond, Joan; McGinn, Daniel | Newsweek, August 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Roman Catholicism: 'Hail Mary' Is More Than a Football Play; Raised in the Era of John Paul II, These Young People Are Resurrecting Old Rituals and Hewing to Strict Doctrine


Raymond, Joan, McGinn, Daniel, Newsweek


Byline: Joan Raymond and Daniel McGinn (With William Lee Adams)

Marc Sayre looks like a typical college student: baggy jeans, unbuttoned plaid shirt over a grungy tee and a knit black cap. He lives off campus with friends who favor Coldplay, cold beer, pool tournaments--and the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Their fratlike group, called the Knights of the Holy Queen, consists of nearly 40 male students at Franciscan University. They pray together daily and convene once a week to share the long, ritualistic prayer of the rosary, which is more commonly performed by folks their grandmothers' age. "This is what we long for in our faith," says Sayre, 21, referring to a level of devotion that goes far beyond attending Sunday mass. "There was an emptiness before. Now our lives--my life--are full."

For decades, America's 67 million Roman Catholics have had a reputation as a wayward flock. While evangelical Protestants built megachurches and rose in membership, Catholics migrated toward a less dogmatic form of faith. Some of the transformation has been formal, such as the 1965 Vatican II reforms that ended Latin mass. But much has been informal, as "cafeteria Catholics" have played pick-and-choose, rejecting some church rituals (such as confession) or teachings (on subjects like birth control). But now, as the generation raised under the more orthodox Pope John Paul II comes of age, some young Catholics are searching for a more rigorous form of faith. They're reviving old rituals and hewing to strict doctrine. Franciscan University, with 2,300 students in the old steel town of Steubenville, Ohio, is a haven for these faithful. This is one of the few colleges in America where a "Hail Mary" isn't just a last-minute football play.

To spend time among them is to explore the boundary where normal college life intersects with ultradevout Catholicism. …

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