Some time ago, I complained about an especially bad experience with sacred music at Mass. It involved a tambourine with little LED lights that lit up when struck. I tried to be in good humor about it but, really, I was appalled; afterward I wanted to weep and do penance.
A few of the commenters at the time had remarked that I should seek out a traditional Latin Mass, which of course I already had — my diocese is still recovering from the disastrous 15-year-long reign of an extremely liberal bishop and it is frankly impressive that we have the three TLMs we currently do given that none of the celebrating priests had even the option of taking Latin as an elective during their seminary formation, but all three are 90 minutes or more away from me and gasoline doesn’t rain from the sky (Deo gratias) so it’s not a regular option. At a TLM, they said, I might be able to find music less objectionable, homilies more bearable, etc. A Mass more to my liking.
It’s good prudential advice as far as it goes but it makes clear what the major problem now is in the Church — that its whole theological and devotional and liturgical heritage, which found its most perfect expression in the Mass that was for so long the one visible mark of communion among millions of Catholics the world over and which was so intimately bound up with their daily life and their entire self-understanding — that the practical faith of our fathers as it emerged from the catacombs and was forged in the crucible of the intervening centuries — has now been reduced to a matter of liking, of mere taste. And in the minds of most, to prefer having your priest ascend to the altar amidst a haze of incense while the plaintive, longing notes of Sicut Cervus echo through the nave over Fr. Flake prancing about in rainbow vestments to the brutal and invasive blast of a 16-year-old mariachi “music minister”‘s sackbut is just an irrational and arbitrary value judgment with nothing more to recommend it than might recommend your equally-interesting preference for crunchy over smooth peanut butter. A far crueler blow to the memory of those generations martyred for that faith than was dealt them on the day of their martyrdom, to say that the Mass they loved and died for was merely a diverting novelty. At best, you might get a concession that the former type of Mass is ideal but we have to meet people where they are, have to be “pastoral,” have to be realistic, and the unspoken reality is that many pigs would rather eat slop.
Such is another hard fact of life in the postconciliar Church: not only would most historical Catholics (including a few thousand saints) not be at home in it but they would be told, with all the cruel “pastoralism” that coddles the unrepentant and berates the devoted, that the visible home they loved was never more than the epiphenomena of neurons firing pointlessly in the void. This is why there is no easy way back, not in our lifetimes, because the damage is done, the attitudes and the narratives that accompany them are formed, and even if tomorrow a hypothetical Pope Pius the Fifth the Second came along and suppressed all the flimflam with fire and sword, half of the Church would grouse that they liked things better before and many of them would (with their bishops) schism on the spot and souls would perish by the millions, dying alone and far from the Sacraments. There’s no getting the worms back into the can.