Published by Religion Dispatches, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, February 12, 2016

As the choir rehearses before St. Monica’s Sunday evening Mass, two blond women in skinny jeans slide into a pew in the rear of the church and chat quietly. A few pews back a woman wearing a mid-thigh length dress and a long sweater genuflects before beginning to pray. Before long, the church is filled with attractive people under 40.

St. Monica Catholic Community is a destination parish for young adults in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with a reputation for being the place where young, attractive Catholics go to seek somebody special—and I don’t mean Jesus.

The phenomenon isn’t just a local one; the New York Post recently declared Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral as that city’s “sexiest congregation,” and it’s even garnered an entry in Urban Dictionary as “ass mass” (defined as “the place to go to hook up for both spiritual and booty worship”).

Where they “get fed”

St. Monica, which is located in the cosmopolitan beach city of Santa Monica, is diverse by national standards, though the 5:30 p.m. service is filled mostly with young, white professionals, who arrive smartly dressed whether mass is followed by a workout or a night on the town.

Dating through a religious community isn’t new or unique to Catholicism, of course. JDate turns twenty next year, and evangelicals (for whom “young adult” is often code for “single”) have been known to seek out Bible studies with “cute” guys and girls.

But in a time of declining demographics, and an upswing in online dating, the popularity of such parishes appears almost as an act of defiance.

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