Are you feeling the "Pope Francis Effect?"
But if you're a numbers wonk, as I am, you want to see evidence in hard statistics. Those aren't available, at least not yet. As I note in the article, Mass attendance and Catholic self-identification are at the same levels among Americans, according to the Pew Research Center. For what it's worth, Italian priests told pollsters they see an increase in Mass attendance, but that's different from doing a survey of grassroots Catholics.
We may get a better sense some time next year, when sacramental statistics for 2013 begin to get collected. Recent years have seen declines or stagnation in such crucial stats as baptisms and marriages. Catholics are hardly unique in that regard; other denominations are in the same boat as the barque of St. Peter. But it's a reminder that any Francis Effect would have to fight against years of other effects, such as the nation's growing secularism.
But Francis sure is popular. The New Yorker's cover artist imagines him in a playful mode and comments: “Pope Francis appears to be a decent fellow—a mensch—and a sincere advocate of goodwill and peace on Earth. But who am I to judge?” Author and former priest James Carroll depicts him as an embodiment of long-stalled aims of the Second Vatican Council. That's hardly undisputed, but it's a fascinating read. Carroll said Francis' vision can't be separated from his work among the poor and oppressed in Argentina.