Are liberals baffled by the rising of the Traditional Roman Rite? Yes. And terrified.

Over at Real Clear Religion there is something that I am finally getting around to talking about and that you should look at.

Here are some high points with my emphases and comments.

The Rise of Latin Mass Youth

by George Neumayr

Liberal bishops dismissed Summorum Pontificum, [“Dismissed” is not all some of them did.] Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution authorizing wider use of the traditional Latin mass, as a bone thrown to over-the-hill conservatives. But Pope Benedict XVI probably wrote it more for the young than the old.  [Probably? Definitely.  This is because Summorum Pontificum is about the future.  It is about sparking, reviving, the organic process of development of our liturgical worship after it’s brutal interdiction by an artificial construct.  That takes time.  That means that young people are the hope for this new organic process of liturgical growth.]


Left-wing Catholic publications, normally so attentive to the enthusiasms of youth, have taken no interest in this phenomenon. To the extent that they acknowledge it all, they adopt a tone of mocking. A few years back, after thousands of young people flocked to a Pontifical Solemn High Mass held in D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, US Catholic gasped, “Really? Seriously?” It treated the event as a joke.  [The joke will be on them, when young priests say their funeral Masses in black vestments.]

The secular press covers youth interest in the traditional Latin mass far more respectfully. The Economist recently reported on the “traditionalist avant-garde.” [The undersigned is quoted therein, fwiw.] The old mass, it found, isn’t petering out but picking up some speed:


The influx of conservative Anglicans has bolstered these numbers a bit: “Dozens of Anglican priests have ‘crossed the Tiber’ from the heavily ritualistic ‘smells and bells’ high-church wing; they find a ready welcome among traditionalist Roman Catholics.” [Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.]

But the principal source of growth comes from youth interest. “Like evangelical Christianity, traditional Catholicism is attracting people who were not even born when the Second Vatican Council tried to rejuvenate the church,” says The Economist.


Self-consciously “relevant” Catholicism is increasingly seen by the young as irrelevant.


In John Zmirak’s engaging new book, The Bad Catholic’s Guide To the Catechism, [LOL] he explains the paradoxical appeal of the old mass to the young. At first, he says “he hated it,” but something about it kept him interested: “some sense that you’re peering through a window out of time, seeing through a glass not quite so darkly into another world far realer than our own.”

“You’ll feel a little alienated, maybe even offended,” he writes to the skeptical. [I use the paring:  tremendum et fascinans when talking about proper liturgical worship.  If Holy Mass does not bring to this point – at least over time – then something is wrong with your worship.] “Who is this guy in the shiny robe to turn his back on me and talk to the crucifix instead? You’ll resent the calisthenics, the hopping up and down then falling back on your knees, and you’ll likely find the prayers archaic and strange, like a quote from the Magna Carta….Any traditional rite will be thoroughly off-putting, just like cardio, mathematics, or parenthood. But if you stick with it, you’ll learn to ‘see’ something profound and true: a sacrificial ritual enacting a solemn marriage between the fallen muck of earth and fire falling from heaven.[Nice.  He can turn a phrase.]

The liberal architects of the post-Vatican II period find the traditionalist revival baffling. [And terrifying.  Everything they foisted on the Church is crumbling.] The Economist quotes liberal Dominican Timothy Radcliffe to the effect that new interest in the old mass is just a form of empty nostalgia. [I think Radcliffe was indulging in deflection.  But that was taken up elsewhere.] But the explanation is no more complicated than what Jesus Christ told his disciples: the young desire bread, not stones.

Go read the whole thing there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. backtothefuture says:

    I love when they say that it’s nostalgiayoung people are intetested in the tridentine mass. What nostalgia? I wasn’t even born when the old mass was the norm, I grew up with the n.o. But as I learned and did research on the tlm, my obvious conclusion, that i’m sure many come to, is “hey! why have you been holding out on us and hiding this sacred treasure?” We want and desire authentic catholicism, not a watered down protestanized one. Nothing brings more joy to my heart than to see a priest with a cassock and a biretta.

  2. It’s hard to be nostalgic when I was born in 1985….and with zero knowledge of this form…as well as having a very repressive Bishop who was against all things Traditional (aka I lived in the archdiocese of Los Angeles)

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Ironically, this new generation of Millennials are more individualistic and less conformist than their parents. I taught both groups, and these younger ones think outside the box. Also, they have grown up watching families and the world fall away from religion, so they make choices. I am prejudiced, but I happen to think that home schooling has made many young ones more conservative in the best ways. I am doing an age poll on my blog and there are more, at this point, more 0-35 than 36-49. The TLM is real and engaging for them.
    Also, again, ironically, they are attracted by mystery, symbolism and beauty more as it is so lacking in the culture. This may sound odd but these younger ones have grown up with games and movies which make them more open to real ritual and the need for worship, lacking elsewhere. They crave transcendence in religion…enough of this social teaching, and more substance.

    However, where there is no or little TLM, as in Malta and Ireland, the youth are way more secularized and anti-Mass.

  4. APX says:

    Also having been born in 1985, the only “nostalgia” I experience at the EF Mass is the chant intonation of Sursum Corda and Preface and the Roman Canon from back in the early 90s when priests still sung Mass and EPII was unknown to me. All the priests used EPI.

  5. Legisperitus says:

    I agree that it’s completely nonsensical to explain young people’s attraction to the ancient liturgy as “nostalgia” when it’s something they never experienced before. But since nostalgia means homesickness, perhaps one can feel that emotion when discovering one’s true home for the first time.

  6. fvhale says:

    Many historians link the development of liberalism with The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

    I was struck while reading Looking at the Liturgy by Aidan Nichols, OP, ch. 1, “A Historical Inquest,” that he places the roots of the “Liturgical Movement” in the Enlightenment, with demands for “simplification of the Liturgy, an emphasis on its socially useful or community-building character, and the insistence that through as complete an intelligibility or reasonableness as possible it should edify morally those who worshipped by means of it” (p. 22). “Moves to ‘declaricalize’ the liturgy”…”removal of superfluous altars and images, and, in general, a return to the purity and simplicity of the primitive Church…strong antidevotionalism…hostility to sodalities, processions, pilgrimages, such popular devotions as the Rosary and Benediction, and what they regarded as excessive veneration of saints” in 18th century Austria among Enlightened Catholics (pp. 23-26).

    The way that liturgical reform was carried out after the Second Vatican Council produced a liturgy that was the dream of the Enlightenment: anthropocentric rather than theocentric, voluntaristic rather than clerical, subjectivist rather than moving toward ontological bonding with God, and didactic and moralizing (especially on that liberal virtue of “equality”) rather than bring one into a mysterious sacrifice, redemption and union with God.

    So, yes, those trained in this liberal, Enlightenment approach to Liturgy really cannot comprehend the longing of the younger generation for something more than the deformed forma ordinia which can become so anthropocentric (all about “us”) and subjective and often banal.

  7. Scott_Alt says:

    It’s been a truism for some time that the younger generation (Gen X’ers and after) do not share the radicalism of their parents. At TLM which I attend once a month, it’s not just old-fogies in attendance but people my age (and younger; I’m 43) with kids that fill the pews. And the traditionally-minded religious orders are seeing a surge in vocations. My main parish is in the Eastern Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and the novitiates and seminarians who are coming in are very conservatively-minded and comfortable with Latin, even to the point of blessing sacramentals in no language but Latin. Good things are on the horizon. The liberals should be terrified.

  8. Petros 92 says:

    Being a young person myself, I can confirm that the Traditional Roman Rite is extremely attractive!

  9. MattH says:

    The attraction of the Latin Mass is also significant among young converts, of course.
    I grew up in an Evangelical community which had vestiges of Scandinavian Lutheran liturgy, which were gradually cast off in favor of more contemporary music and less set structure – praise music with guitar and drums, etc. In its own context, I would still say it helped me grow to love Christ. But one of the things which drew me to Catholicism was reverence – people who actually knelt before God, not just sang that they did. That seemed more right – and the Extraordinary Form, when I later encountered it, seemed even more right yet.

  10. StWinefride says:

    fvhale says: Many historians link the development of liberalism with The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Philip Trower has written a few books on that very subject. I read Turmoil and Truth: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church a few years ago and found it very helpful.

  11. priests wife says:

    “But one of the things which drew me to Catholicism was reverence – people who actually knelt before God, not just sang that they did.”- mattH- this is brilliant!

    One reason why younger people are attracted to the ‘old’ is that WHY NOT? Why would I spend time at an irreverent church concert every Sunday which has a lower production value than the latest youtube viral video? I ‘may as well’ be traditional if I am going to bother

    Last weekend we went to a K of C clergy appreciation dinner- there were some Sisters of the Servants of Mary and some Carmelites- all beautiful in habits- most around my age or younger than I (I am 41)- I saw none of the Sisters of Mercy (who sold CHW to a secular company)…their order is basically dead. Because why would a young woman bother with a liberal order- if she wants to live alone in a apartment, not pray the Liturgy of the Hours and have a job for money but stay unmarried, she can do that without being a Sister of Mercy. The same goes for a well-celebrated Mass. Why bother with the Church if it is a a poor copy of the local mega-non-denom church?

  12. HighMass says:

    Only reading the headlines of this post, let me send my condolences to the liberals who have tried to turn all the truth before VII, and who really messed up the Holy Sacrifice the Mass, N.O. Bugnini and his people.
    Don’t mean to rant …restore the sacredness to the Liturgy, E.F. is a good place to start and say often, i.e. High Masses…..

    Lets hope that our young people continue forward , discovering the Sacredness, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the E.F.
    Viva il Papa!

  13. Clinton R. says:

    This is an uplifting article. When the TLM is not made available to us (and since I live in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, it is not), it makes those of us who were born after the Second Vatican Council feel like a child who discovers a treasure trove that has been put away in the attic. What a beautiful and reverent Mass the TLM is. And yet it has been kept away from us. Why? Why would anyone want to keep locked away the most beautiful sight this side of Heaven? The modernists launched quite an attack on the Church post V2, and it has resulted in perhaps the greatest division in the Bride of Christ since Arianism. With articles like this however, one can see how God never abandons His Bride and we have great hopes of faithful priests in proper vestments praying the Mass Eternal once again. Deos Gratias! +JMJ+

  14. Cricket says:

    A story from own my (admittedly limited) experience. We have 3 young men ranging in age from 18-24 in our Gregorian Chant Schola. One grew up “Catholic-Lite,” but fell in love with the TLM during a sabbatical year in Chicago; he’s now studying for the diocesan priesthood in his native Hong Kong, where he hopes eventually to make the Usus Antiquor more widespread. Another is a secular Jew, an accomplished musician who originally came for the music & stayed for the ritual, which he, too, has come to love (still not sure if he believes in God). A third was raised in a typical large suburban parish. He’s been active in “music ministry” his whole life. He is quite vocal about his distaste for the TLM; he thinks Marty Haugen & David Haas are geniuses! So, many younger folks are drawn to the TLM, for different reasons. But I don’t know that sweeping generalizations can be made.

  15. tonyfernandez says:

    1. How can it be called nostalgia for the young people who attend? Wouldn’t you have had to experience it yourself while younger for it to be nostalgia? Either he doesn’t understand the word or he’s dismissive of people seeking something different than casual Masses.

    2. Why would bishops actively seek to diminish the EF? It causes no harm to the OF Masses (other than influencing and increasing reverence). I can understand people preferring the OF to the EF, that’s one thing. But why in the world would anyone want to deny the choice to people? Are people offended that many do not find casual celebrations, campy music, and a general disregard for the august sacrifice of the altar to be spiritually edifying?

  16. tonyfernandez says:

    Clinton R., the EF is available in Los Angeles. It might not be close depending on where you are, but there are two parishes here that celebrate it every Sunday.

  17. MatthewR says:

    As a youngin (21) and someone relatively new to the TLM, I find it a little offensive that Radcliffe thinks my interest in the TLM is that of nostalgia. TMNT and frosted flakes are what makes me feel nostalgic. The Extraordinary Form has the reverence and solemnity that is lacking in many N.O. masses. Also the respect for the Pope, knowledge and understanding of church teachings by the priests, devotion to the saints, the Gregorian chants, the full body experience (incense, standing, siting, kneeling), beautiful alters, far deeper participation, kneeling to receive Holy Communion, the beauty of Latin, Along with the fact that every mass makes me want to strive to be a better catholic. All of these and the many other great things of the TLM are what drew me and continues to draw me to it.

  18. jaykay says:

    MatthewR: people like Radcliffe are basically passive-aggressive control-freaks, in that while putting on the furrowed brow of “hearing what you say”, they’re not really listening at all, and don’t want to
    They are terrified, if they think at all, that the young ate not automatically following in their 60s/70s flower-power path. Their liberalism doesn’t actually comprehend that you might actually have a functioning brain… hence the endless didacticism. Where have all the flowers gone? Well, dead and rotting, but not even producing good mulch for future generation. Poisonous

    I’m 52 but even when I was a kid back in the day I thought they were crap. I was right. Thankfully we still had enough of the real stuff left back then (in Ireland) to be able to tell the difference.

  19. Clinton R. says:

    Thanks for the link, tonyfernandez. The TLM may be rarer than hen’s teeth in the LA Archdiocese, but it does evidently exist. Hopefully the list of TLM parishes will grow in the years to come. +JMJ+

  20. dominic1955 says:

    fvhale et al,

    Yep, if you have found the roots of today’s liturgical nonsense in the Enlightenment era, you are yourself enlightened. Read as much as you can about the neo-Gallican liturgies, liturgical Jansenism, the “Aufklarung” Catholics of the German States and the Hapsburg Empire, Josephism, etc. etc.

    The NO is the fruit of about two centuries of sniveling and conniving heretics scheming and planning and not having the guts to say what they mean plainly. Their ruse was spotted the first time around with the condemnation fo the pseudo-Synod of Pistoia (Auctorem Fidei) and the battles between the likes of Dom Gueranger and the last vestigies of the neo-Gallican party in France and the condemnation of Josephism and Febronianism in the German States. The second time around, they were much more cunning. With the condemnation of Modernism and the unfortunate consigning of liturgy to rubrical concerns, the traitors inserted themselves into ecumenical movements and liturgy.

    When the ’60s and the Second Vatican Council came around, they won the upper hand. In their power-drunken stupor, they finally started to make their intentions much clearer. There are even some articles of progressive litniks that praise the Jansenist/neo-Gallican “reforms” for their “far-sightedness”. Now, they retreat from such brazen hubris because they no longer have the world by the tail.

    The “resurgence” of the TLM(es) does scare the liberals-they know their program is garbage and knew it all along. They knew they were selling the Emperor (the Church) imaginary clothes. Some well meaning useful idiots and some who tried to do what they could at least preserved decency by dragging their feat all the way and not letting things get as bad as the Progressivist heretics wanted to make it. I don’t think any of them thought they’d be around to see its death throes of their “Glorious” Revolution.

  21. Jack Hughes says:

    The old rite draws me closer to God, it is as many have said much more closely orientated towards God, the bits that are anthrocentric are focused on our fallen human nature instead of ‘how good we are’ as is the case with the majority of Novus Ordo Masses, also one has to remember that the TLM Is roughly 1 /3 longer than the NO because of all the parts that were cut out of the Mass under the ‘reforms’ of 1970.

    Another thing I Like about the TLM is that there are no ‘options’ in the Ordinary of the Mass and the fact that it feels like the Holy Sacrifice whereas the majority (not all) of the NO’s I’ve been to have more in common with a disjointed parade of ‘look at me now’ people.

  22. mrsmontoya says:

    It is our thirteen year old whose preference for it over all other options ensures we attend our parish’s Latin Mass regularly. Though it is the NO, with Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Poliphony, not the EF. It is still beautiful and reverent.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    Wait, mathematics is not off-putting. I like it. I like the Traditional Mass too.

  24. Gratias says:

    I sympathise with Clinton R., for I too live in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Archbishop José Gomez has not allowed any new every-Sunday EF masses. Two years under his care and no progress over Cardinal Mahoney. No Personal Parishes despite four million Catholics. We drive 90 min to San Buenaventura Mission once or twice a month. In truth, attending the OF the other Sundays is getting increasingly difficult for me.

    If you are looking for a Latin Mass near you, a good world-wide resource is Wikkimissa:

    I travel because of my work and have found many beautiful EF masses through Wikkimissa.

    While The Economist article was great, congratulations Father Z for being quoted, we should not forget that as Traditional Catholics we are still a tiny minority, and that Pope Benedict XVI is not being obeyed by many bishops.

  25. Panterina says:

    I don’t understand the bishop-bashing. Summorum Pontificum has empowered the priests. If we laity put 80% effort and form a stable group, put up the money to buy what’s necessary (biretts, vestments, altar cards, etc.) and pay to send Father to TLM training, I’m sure that our pastors, seeing our eagerness, will be more than happy to put their 20% share and make it happen.

  26. Clinton R. says:

    I read the article from the link provided by dominic1955 about “Aufklarung” Catholics of the German States, and it was stunning how the ‘reforms’ they sought were realized by the modernists of the Second Vatican Council. After being defeated by the orthodoxy of the Popes and bishops of the 18th and 19th centuries, the progressives finally got their way and then some with the reforms that followed Vatican II. However, the little by little return to the traditions of the Church, especially the discovery of this generation of the TLM, does give me great hope of the restoration of sound, orthodox Catholic doctrine and praxis. +JMJ+

  27. StWinefride says:

    Philip Trower also wrote an excellent historical novel.

    Through a large cast of historical and fictional characters, A Danger to the State relates one of the outstanding though little known dramas of modern history. In 1773, surrendering at last to a 20 year long campaign of intrigue and calumny, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the famous Society of Jesus, founded 200 years earlier by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Just sixteen years before the French Revolution, Europe’s Catholic kings, threatening to take their countries into schism, pressured Pope Clement into destroying the strongest bulwark and the Church’s most successful band of missionaries”.

  28. Imrahil says:

    Two things about nostalgia.

    First, yes, young people can have it, even about times they have not experienced; as anyone knows who has participated in a mediaeval pageant.

    Second, no, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong or bad about nostalgia. St. Thomas enumbered nostalgia for the Paradise as one of the reasons for facing the East in liturgy. (As in a popular popularization of this idea, Faramir turns West before a mealtime to remember Numenor that once was, Elvenhome that is, and Valinor that will ever be.)

    Third, of course you are right: those with affection for the TLM usually do so for reasons about the intrinsical quality of the rite and its celebrants. Which, even though nostalgia is not bad, is no nostalgia.

  29. Imrahil says:

    Seems the two things have become three things.

  30. bookworm says:

    Speaking of tradition….

    The story below, concerning the recent disappearance/theft of relics from a church in Missouri, includes a good overview of the history and significance of relic veneration (something else I’m sure a lot of people thought went out the window after Vatican II):

  31. Michael J. says:

    I was born in 1972, how could the Traditional Latin Mass, or as Pope Benedict XVI prefers, The Extraordinary Form Of Mass, for me be nostaligic? I, when I was about ten or so, asked our parish pastor in P.S.R./I.S.R. (what our church, and those cooperating with it, chose to call C.C.D.), if he could say a, “Latin Mass”, sometime. I did not know what a Latin Mass even was, I just knew my father had a record of the Latin Mass that he sometimes listened to when in the U.S. Army serving in Pakistan. I had also seen an old Hand Missal, the last name entered, before I added a few, to pray for, was President John F. Kennedy. So really, I did not know what I was asking for. He turned red and spoke very loudly, if you want a Latin Mass, just go to the Spanish Mass (our church had a Spanish Mass, as they were trying to serve the Hispanic community in my city). Then I listened to the entire record. I had it taken to our University radio station where a friend of mine volunteered, and he copied it to a cassette tape for me. When I heard it, and read more of the Missal, I knew why the priest became what appeared to me to be very angry, when I requested the Latin Mass. It was so unique and beautiful, it was like nothing that I had ever experienced to that point. Needless to say, for years now, I have attended the Traditional Latin Mass, within the Canonical Structure Of The Church, for years now. In fact, I only attend the Ordinary Form of Mass for the occasional wedding or funeral. It is not that I doubt the validity or anything, I just believe that the Traditional Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.

  32. In areas where “Liberal bishops dismissed Summorum Pontificum”, are the poor priests who want to say the Tridentine Mass publicly getting any help? Articles and opinions such as these can make one wonder if the Summorum has any real teeth in it. Thank God many priests are exercising the option to say the old Mass so that the young do have the opportunity to experience the Mass of the Ages.

    The type of opinions expressed in the article are so trite, so petty, so…clueless. On top of that, these opinions are held by those who refuse to attend the old Mass long enough, if at all, to discover its beauty and attraction.

    I am so fortunate to have been exposed to the old Mass since my youth. When things got crazy we took refuge in the Eastern rite for many years. The more I witness the ancient Mass of St John Chrysostom and the Mass of Trent, the less patience I have with the newer Form. One notices so much that is missing or re-written – and then after research, the desire for the older forms becomes even more ardent. Golly what former Popes wrote and vehemently warned us not to do!! After attending the old Forms, I feel fed and strengthened more than from newer forms. Yes, its subjective – but when I am able to withstand temptations a little bit better, the effects are obvious, not just my imagination.

  33. wmeyer says:

    For me, it is not nostalgia, at all. The EF is simply the form I knew, as a child, and until I finished high school. The OF, even after years of it, is still foreign to me, and has many defects:
    – reverence is lacking, whenever I attend the OF
    – mystery is absent from the OF
    – the communion rail, an essential symbol that reminds us that priests are special, and that we must kneel in humility, is missing
    – the music is too often banal at the OF
    – wording of the psalms is changed (!!!) in OF hymnals
    – the EMHCs are a violation of the sanctuary, in my view

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