In a thread below, Steve A. comments on the dreariness of so much liturgical practice and preaching, not just now but over recent years. I sympathize. I thought two recent experiences were worth noting here, just to bring out the “brick by brick” process that, say, Fr. Z writes about.

Two weeks ago we went to Mass at a completely typical suburban Cincinnati church. We were in town for a family wedding–at a big born-again church up near Kings Island, of a family member who left Catholicism some years ago. So we go to Mass way out on the East side at a parish I had never set foot in. Interior: pretty plain. Mass: lots of lay people moving around, stalling the liturgy until their special layfolkness could get to the pulpit or pick up their supply of His Body or Blood. Homily: forgettable. Music: syrupy me-and-Jesus stuff nearly indistinguishable from the holy show tunes we heard at the born again place the day before. No crucifix on the front altar, which itself looked like it had been a special from Home Depot down the street. Nobody in our family was too happy about it, but the really amazing thing was that the building was PACKED. I personally had to stand up in a balcony. I don’t get the attraction, other than the Eucharist, but there it is.

Other Mass, about a month ago, here in our Southern diocese not known to be overly hospitable to Tradition. Our pastor, new as of last summer, learned the EF so that he could step right in and start celebrating Low Masses. He is a good, solid guy, and the parish has Masses in 4 languages: English, Latin, Spanish, and Vietnamese, so he already had plenty of language work to do. Then a month ago or so, we walk in and see 6 rather than 2 candles lit. There was a crowd around the organ in the back, which turned out to be the schola. And then, a passel of altar boys, and then and then, when Father started to chant the Mass it turns out he has a fine tenor voice. The whole thing was unusually beautiful and reverent. Here was a Mass to pray together towards the Lord. Really powerful.

Thinking about the evolution of the Church since the Council, these two Masses really brought out how things have changed *for the better* over the last 20 years or so. Late 60s, all of the 70s, and much of the 80s were liturgical wastelands. Two words: Guitar Mass. Then, partly from below and partly with some help from JPII, and with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit, people who understood the power of Tradition in connecting man with God started acting to keep that Tradition alive. Of course there was variation in liturgical quality before and after the Council, but I think in my parents’ day the median Mass was pretty reverent. The probability that you could walk randomly into a well prayed Mass was pretty high. Today, the median Mass has the wandering layfolk and saccharine music much like the megachurch down the street.

Few people today can just randomly drift into a reverent Mass. But they are out there,and that was not the case in the immediate aftermath of the Council. Today, *if you look* you can find places with reverent Masses–might be EF high or low Masses, might be ad orientem NO. They also might be an hour’s drive or more away. But they are there, and for that we can thank God and be optimistic about the Church our children will have when they grow up.

As Rich occasionally posted, it’s not uniformly the case that It’s Getting Better (TM). My guess is that the deep problem in the Church in the US is an incurably politicized and very liberal chancery bureaucracy. Time is not on their side. My loose contact with seminaries and young and orthodox priests suggests that over time, as the apparatchiki retire and move to Woodstock they’ll be replaced with more tradition minded folk, or perhaps the idea of a centralized church bureaucracy will go the way of mainline protestantism.

But for the folk in the pew, the good news about the Good News is that 60s-types Bishops and lay bureaucrats cannot stop the spread of reverent liturgy. That’s something that gives me hope.

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