First let me say that I am 51 and just old enough to remember the Latin Mass myself. My 2nd grade class was the very first to have our 1st Communion in the vernacular. I've written elsewhere regards the dangers of thinking the old Rite [1962 or earlier] was a panacea of sweetness and light and everything right. It's certainly a mistake and a trap to believe correlation to be causation: i.e. "this pink umbrella keeps the elephants away, it's obvious, because when I carry it, there aren't any elephants around." [Well, gee, unless you go to the zoo, or a circus, where you live there's precious little chance of you running into one.]
People sometimes forget that it's hard to isolate just ONE event that changed everything. It is right to ask:
Why did more people attend Mass pre-Vatican II than post? But it's wrong to assume: "Aha---they lost respect because it's in English, and not "mysterious" enough...and they can receive in the hand. All EXTERNAL aesthetic things. Now one may LIKE the ceremonies one way as opposed to another. That's fine. But one doesn't stop eating all cake because they got one with crooked wrting on the frosting. The theology of the the Eucharist remains the same.
But it's a GRAVE error to think OTHER THINGS didn't also affect people going off and falling away from Mass attendance. First we have to thank the Mass media for the coarsening of the culture....things that would Have NEVER gotten anywhere NEAR the public airwaves are now served up prime time. Sex sells anything, and everything. There is a culture of death as regards the easy abortions being pushed. Ask yourself....if mere "entertainment" doesn't affect anyone's beliefs then the advertsers are being ripped off big time. How is it advertising can get people to buy things if the people "aren't affected by what they see on TV." So big media, in particular TV says: "For 44 minutes out of 16....there's no way we could possible affect your values" but then they turn around and get the advertisers to pay big bucks/pounds/euros/yen/whatever....and they peddle to the advertisers that they CAN change opinions. Media has EXPLODED since the 60s. Ditto the pill and it's affect on the public mores: "Hey, if it feels good, do it...there's no consequences to sex" -- so what you end up getting are more abortions, because people can just "get rid if it" if it's incovenient. Ask yourself: How many retarded kids are there in your parish? How many do you see on a weekly basis? Then you realize, they're mostly being aborted. Why? "Easy." What about all the pornography available and pushed at the drop of a finger on the keyboard? Much more accessible than it ever was. And suppose you raised your kid on the "right path" -- well, he's in the real world too, and frankly, a lot of parents just take the easy way out...your kids have to fight an uphill stream.
What am I saying? The change over from Latin to English didn't occur in a time warp where nothing else affected church goers. My mother had a saying, and I think she was right... "people who don't understand the "new church" didn't understand the "old church" and vice versa." I.E. It's The INTERNALS that count...and frankly the INTERNALS haven't changed.
I wish the Latin Mass fans well...but I would caution not to get their hopes up too much that it will ever be:the "old way again" -- it won't be -- surely not until we solve the CULTURE AT LARGE problems.
I'll end of a "funny but true"story. I attend Mass every week in San Diego, and always attend a Mass given by a priest who is almost 79. He hadn't heard much about the Motu Proprio, and when I mentioned the subject, his first comments were "They didn't understand the Latin back THEN" and "all that back to the people stuff -- I HATED that....and the high Masses, all that hand and cruet kissing...the deacon and subdeacon banging into each other...the kids mumbling through the responses. The last Gospel, people staring at you like sheep!"
Mind, this priest said the Latin Mass for almost 10 years.
So then I asked him regards my impression that not many people used the Latin/English missal as they should, and I particularly thought I remembered the armies of people who would say the rosary DURING the Mass. Not before, not after, but DURING. Well, after all I was only 7 -- so I asked the priest if my recollections were correct. He told me that they were pretty much on the money. And then he said that HE had gotten into trouble with the bishop over the issue.
Here is the story he related:
"Back in the 50s San Diego used to have Bishop Buddy in charge. Back then, priests did not often concelebrate Mass as they do now. One day after Mass I mentioned to one of the women who always said the rosary during the Mass that she (and her friends) should really get missals and concentrate on the Mass while at Mass...and NOT say the rosary at that time. Well, she took exception, and went to the bishop about it. When the bishop was at Mass he had an AWFUL practice of saying the rosary HIMSELF and not concentrating on the Mass. NOT ONLY THAT...but he'd LEAD THE PEOPLE IN SAYING THE ROSARY...OUT LOUD...DURING THE MASS. -- a first rate abuse. Well, she told the bishop what I told her. About a week later I get a call from the bishop's right hand man...who told me the bishop told me to 'cut it out' telling the people things like that."
I was non-plussed....and I could tell he was STILL at a remove of almost 50 years later still non-plussed himself.
Well, there ya go. I wish all the Latin Mass folks well, but PLEASE ...just because most of us like to see what the priest is doing, and maybe receive Communion in the hand and participate in the Mass without having to resort to constant translations...doesn't mean that by default we aren't as good Catholics as you. And as long as YOU take the time to study Latin, AND not wander off in your own little world of private devotions DURING the Mass...then more power to you. Just watch it, okay?
(Now you hippy dippy dance your way to heaven folks are another matter on the opposite end of the spectrum! But, that's for another time, perhaps.)(this post originally posted on My Telegraph, July 8, 2007)