There have been some interesting comments on Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditional Catholicism. One comment in particular struck me, sent in by someone who comments here too.
From a practical point of view, I have very little interest left for either one. Any attempt at reconstructing the past is doomed to produce something artificial and lifeless. I’ve been to traditional Latin Masses with the SSPX, FSSP, independent chapels, you name it: I always come away from them with an undeniable feeling both of sterility and self-consciousness. No matter how exact your reproduction of the pre-conciliar liturgical forms, they can never again be celebrated with the pre-conciliar naivete, with the mindset of “just doing what Catholics do.” Traditionalist Catholics are only too aware of the fact that they’re doing something special and extraordinary in going to their TLM. That, oddly enough, is a most un-traditional mindset. However ugly a homunculus Paul VI’s missal is, it’s alive (even if barely so) with the kind of “here comes everybody” Catholicism that has always gotten itself mixed up in the muck and mess of the real world, and it’s “just what Catholics do” on a Sunday. In that sense, it might even be more traditional than the Traditional Mass.
Before I quit my rambling, let me just say that I think more effort would be well spent in trying to make whatever life there is in the Paul VI missal more vigorous and conducive to orienting people toward transcendence. The Lumen Christi project is one such effort I really applaud. More of that would do more for enriching the current liturgical wasteland than either Traditionalism or Traditional Catholicism, as you’ve defined them.
I sent a comment, which still needs to be approved:
This is a theme I comment on in my blog, but my experience of much of the French Novus Ordo scene is not “natural” Catholicism, but a self-conscious “We have restored pristine purity”. Perhaps your experience is different. I have often asked myself the question as to whether the ordo of Paul VI could be celebrated in a “medieval” spirit, like French Benedictine monks, but such a “spirit” is very rare. I have myself celebrated 2 or 3 masses following the Novus Ordo in Latin in the “conservative” way and it left me quite empty feeling. As a Romantic, I don’t discount feeling and intuition from our way of evaluating things. I’m not saying you are wrong, but any future of sacramental Christianity seems to lie elsewhere – or nowhere.
I have often commented on the loss of innocence, the impossibility of putting the genie back into the bottle. Such considerations have brought many priests to give up, some to die and others to melt into secular life. There is the question of the rite. I celebrated the Novus Ordo masses in early 2008 as a TAC priest in the wake of the Portsmouth meeting of October 2007 and the thought of assimilating that rite in addition to asking Rome to accept “Anglican Patrimony”. This process within myself led me to lay aside the Roman rite entirely and celebrate according to Sarum in the most authentic way possible – in the light of the Dominican and Lyons rites. There too was some measure of archaeologism and self-conscious restoration. It seemed to be the best compromise to enable me to live my priestly identity rather than “fall away” myself. I celebrated Sarum in English until the autumn of 2009 and switched to the Latin version of Dickinson.
That being said, and it was a question about what I did in my own chapel and in my own company, there is the question of parish religion. I could not face being a parish priest, at least in the hypothesis that I had applied to the Ordinariate, been accepted and re-ordained and put to service partly as an Anglican-rite priest and a Roman-rite priest in a “normal” diocesan parish. If I ever had a subjective “vocation” to such a kind of ministry, I don’t have one now. This certainly prejudices me, and I am deeply alienated from my former Roman Catholic life. However, I can honestly say that I found nothing “natural” or “normal” in modern parish life, even in the French countryside.
Perhaps the most “natural” kind of Catholicism is in the monasteries. There’s Fontgombault, Triors, Le Barroux and others, but I find their spirit very “military” and influenced by French military and scouting traditions. Monastic life appeals to a defined temperament. That spirit was not systematic in monasteries of only fifty years ago, and certainly not in the nineteenth or the fifteenth century.
We in churches like the ACC and the remnants of the TAC try to keep things going, and I find the spirit of a parish or Synod Mass much less self-conscious than the traditionalists as I have experienced them. That has encouraged me, together with my Bishop allowing me to carry on with Sarum. We do have a duty to carry on and not give up and resign ourselves to darkness and hopelessness.
My most intimate feeling is that sacramental Christianity needs some kind of cultural or social platform which has been totally destroyed in the modern world. Perhaps groups of artists and writers, perhaps alternative “intentional” communities, people with a capacity for reflection and original thought. It is an avenue that needs to be explored by those priests who are of suitable temperaments and know how to switch off the institutional claptrap. Perhaps a future might lie there, and not in the urban rat race or country villages increasingly populated by town people.
I don’t have the right to say that all is lost, but it is hard to see clearly.