A Latin Mass loving priest wonders if the movement has hit a ceiling. Offer it and they will come: that meme has largely been discredited. There is no magic about Mass in Latin with a 1962 Missal, in the sense of a victory formula.
I know that charismatic clergy can attract significant new numbers to a faith community. I saw it in grad school for a progressive inner-city revitalized parish. If the Church were full of social justice parishes led by likable priests, would we say that Vatican II was in full flower? I wouldn’t argue in favor of it.
In the NCRep commentariat, there are some who report their particular TLM community is thriving and growing. And I have no reason to doubt it. I suspect that in many, if not all of those cases, there is a priest behind it who not only turns his back to people while wearing fine vestments and has hired a competent music director, but someone who cares about his people.
Msgr Pope harps on numbers and evangelization, and he is taken to task by some of his readers. Some don’t like this:
The honest truth is that an ancient liturgy, spoken in an ancient language and largely whispered, is not something that most moderns immediately appreciate.
Or maybe human beings of any era. Early Christians abandoned temple and synagogues for house churches. Greek was abandoned for the vernacular–Latin. Latin was abandoned by Christians over a period of centuries, 1517 to 1970.
We’ve also abandoned feudalism, and a good chunk of our aristocracy. In the US, a certain egalitarianism pervades, and the days are gone when the Latin Mass helped Catholic parishes stand up for their faith in a multi-religious culture. The culture that supported Mass in Latin is nearly vanished.
Some complain that TLM communities are too snooty. I’m not a member of any, so I can’t say. But an illustration comes to mind.
If a parishioner approach me to say, “Todd, I know you do your best with Vatican II liturgy. But I just can’t worship here anymore. As soon as my family and I find a TLM, we are going to Mass there.” I would be inclined to make a recommendation, especially if asked. The important matter is a person’s discernment. I think the 1962 Missal is deficient, and the theology behind anti-Vatican II movements is questionable. But the greater need is the search for God and the pilgrimage.
Would a TLM priest make a likewise recommendation? Something for the best liturgy or pastoral care parish that celebrates the reformed Mass?
I suspect that for many churchfolk, priests, ministers, and lay people, it’s perhaps less about serving others and more about winning, or the ideology, or self-importance in framing one’s own arguments and beliefs. This is true all too often online. Things like this come through in homilies. Within a few homilies, seekers can certainly discern if the priest is self-absorbed or a servant. The hospitality factor tells you about the parishioners.
In a way, the rite or form does not matter. Homilies must be meaningful and connect people’s faith to the everyday world. Hospitality tells you the parishioners’ priorities. Music inspires. As long as those things are operating, the parish will grow.
The traditional Latin Mass used to be the mortar in the brick wall of Catholicism. Thing is, the building materials are now wood.
What do you readers think?