With over 10 million Catholics living in the state, California has the largest Catholic population in the union. What is more, the Catholic population in California is rapidly growing at a rate of 13% annually.
According to this directory, California has 19 authorized locations for the Latin Mass – second only to New York, which has 20. However, if we include unauthorized Latin Masses, California tops the list at 50 locations while New York has only 38. With the arrival of the Motu Proprio liberating the traditional Latin Mass, I think we may reasonably conclude that California is poised for a Catholic renaissance. The prayers of Blessed Junipero Serra are about to be answered.
We can draw a parallel with France, I think. A friend of mine once told me that when he visited France, the French were very cold to him – until they discovered he was a Californian. It isn’t just the wine and cheese. Like France, California has a rich Catholic heritage. Also like France, California has been in the process of rejecting that heritage and has become a leader in decadence and secularization.
Just as Flannery O’Connor could say that the American South was “Christ-haunted”, there is a sense in which California is haunted by the Catholic Faith. Millions of Californians live in the shadows of the great missions, in cities with Catholic names and identities – in places where saints have trod and the Gospel has been preached and souls have been converted – but most are barely cognizant of this precious heritage.
France, being the most “advanced” secular state in Europe, is also home to the most vibrant and fastest growing movements of Catholic orthodoxy. The same may be true for California in the context of the United States. Ahead of the curve is ahead of the curve, whether in matters of decay or restoration.