I so much appreciated everyone's thoughts in the comment boxes below yesterday's post. Since there's a lot to say about the whole Novus Ordo/Extraordinary Form debate, I wanted to delve into this topic just a little bit further.
I have this idea that what the Council fathers really envisioned, in terms of the new Mass, was a relatively uncomplicated set of changes which would have simplified things a bit, made the Mass easier for newcomers to understand, and removed some of the things which had been, in a sense, "tacked on" to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass over the centuries. (The Last Gospel, for instance, was not initially a part of the Mass, but was a private devotion added on gradually which was officially added to the rite in 1570, according to this.) Instead, wholesale changes were made which not only disturbed the faithful, but also led to quite a few totally unauthorized changes appearing, which, along with a poor catechesis about what the Mass really is, has had devastating effects on Catholics in many places, including our own country.
When I wrote yesterday's post, I wanted to highlight some of those effects. The gradual "dumbing down" of even the language we use to talk about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the persistent view that the community's participation is somehow necessary for the Mass to take place, the echoes of a lot of bad 1970s psychology about affirming us all in our okayness, are things we still have to deal with as Catholics in America as we seek to help with Pope Benedict XVI's vision of a reform of the reform.
I really do believe that the pendulum has swung just about as far as it can swing in the wrong direction. The generations that gave us guitar Masses and happy-clappy theology are beginning to retire from their roles as clergy or lay leaders of various "ministries" (and I think dropping the use of the word "ministry" for everything under the sun is one thing we still need to work on). Young, faithful priests are beginning to emerge from seminaries as older, more "creative" ones (shall we say) reach the evening hours of their day of labor in the vineyard. More lay Catholics have had access to solid, orthodox Catholic programming, books, websites, and other sources of information than ever. It is no longer necessary to read one's inky copy of The Wanderer in secret to find out why something being done in the parish seems really wrong to you; The Wanderer can be read online, along with many other wonderful Catholic news sources. It is harder for a not-quite-orthodox priest or a well-intentioned but wrong-minded lay person to get away with something that really oughtn't be done, especially in those dioceses which have been blessed with faithful, orthodox bishops who are willing to stand up for the right of the laity to have the Mass as it ought to be, not as someone's personal plaything.
This does not, of course, mean that we are out of the woods--but at least we're no longer stuck deep inside the woods being attacked by the liturgical equivalent of rabid squirrels. (Sorry, E.S.).
What do we do, going forward?
I think there are two paths to take, both of which are valid options. The first is to choose either an Extraordinary Form parish or Mass to attend, and build up the community there, strengthening it and helping draw other people to experience our Catholic liturgical heritage.
The second, and the one I've chosen, is to work within a Novus Ordo parish or Mass, by doing whatever you can to help influence more traditional aspects in terms of the liturgy, the architecture or art, the music, the sense of reverence and holiness, and the like. I wouldn't always have taken this option, but at present it's my best one. It does require patience, something I could use a lot more of; but it can be rewarding, too. For instance, during Lent we're using the Latin Chant Mass settings in our hymnals. We're even going to learn the Gloria for Holy Thursday Mass. I'm not sure how the congregation is taking things, yet, but I think it's wonderful to hear the Latin, the simple solemnity and reverence of it reminding us that we're there to worship. I'm so glad our choir director has chosen to do this, and glad to lend whatever support she may need in doing it.
However we choose to help with the reform of the reform, let's not forget to pray. God will lead us to do what He wants us to do, and so long as the spirit of anger or bitterness remains far from us, we can do anything He asks with joy and peace.