AM NOSTALGIC for lots of things. That’s why I’m going to see the new movie musical La La Land when It comes out. They say the lead actors remind us of the great dance partners of bygone days, Astaire and Rogers or Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. I like movies of the 1930s and 1940s, especially around the holidays. I watch lots of them; The Bells of St. Mary’s, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas. I really love that time period, sometimes imagining myself living then, sort of nostalgically. Why? I wasn’t even born when these movies were made. I have no memory of those times. How could I be nostalgic for them? Is there something wrong with me?
I also enjoy studying American history, especially the eras of both World Wars. I sometimes wish I had lived during those times, not because they were great times in which to live (they weren’t, for obvious reasons) but because I’d like to have had the opportunity to know my ancestors when they were young, to be part of those family stories I heard about and experienced only briefly after they were much older. I’d also like to have known some of the composers of those days. I have an admiration for the sacrifices of the people of that era. I admire their work ethic. But is there some other strange reason I have these pangs of nostalgia? Am I being too rigid? Am I being defensive about something? Should I dig deeper? Maybe there is something wrong with me psychologically.
I work and live in a Vatican II parish in a Vatican II diocese. I’ve been to exactly four Extraordinary Form Masses in my entire life (at least that I am old enough to remember). I have no need to advocate for or against which form of Mass is better than another. My personal musical preferences are for those prescribed in the traditions of the Church: polyphony and chant and Latin. But I am also a strong advocate for English cathedral anthems and good hymnody when appropriate. I like my liturgies well-rehearsed and soberly executed. I appreciate traditional vestments and I feel that rubrics matter. But no matter the style of music or the language used, above all I am a champion for beauty and for all involved to give only their very best effort to the worship of God.
I don’t think young people (or most people, frankly) are drawn to the pre-conciliar Mass because of nostalgia. I think they’re looking for a deeper understanding of the faith, and richer way to experience it. Perhaps they’re looking for a way to connect with their ancestors, or with the saints! Some people find this in the Traditional Mass while others find it in a beautifully celebrated Novus Ordo.
I’ve met some of these young people. I wouldn’t consider them rigid. Rather, I submit that they are anything but. Often criticized, sometimes ostracized, and usually misunderstood, could it be that they are actually counter cultural, out-of-the-box non-conformists? This can be said of anyone who goes against the prevailing winds of society and pop culture. You don’t have to attend the Latin Mass to be one of these people. Simply being a young person who attends Mass regularly and tries to live the way the Church teaches is countercultural. Instead of wondering what’s wrong with folks, especially the younger ones who actually love to attend Mass, shouldn’t we just be extremely happy that they do? But maybe I’m just being too rigid. I’ll dig deeper.