The following guest post was written by frequent contributor Fr. Donald Kloster, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
I’ve been mulling over many questions lately that pertain to the families of those who enter a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) vocation to the Priesthood and/or Religious life. A related query is how well the Traditional Latin Mass retains those children now being brought up within the Traditional Latin Mass since their early childhood or at least from the time of their earliest memories.
My experience with those raised in the Latin Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council tells me that the knowledge and retention of the faith is promoted by the Vetus Ordo. My Novus Ordo observations tell me that it leaks faithful like a faulty gasket of an engine leaks oil.
The Novus Ordo culture has produced a plethora of faithful who know very little about their faith despite a myriad of “new” catechetical gimmicks. The Rite of the Mass cannot but help to nourish the soul in the degrees of fidelity to the Apostolic praxis. We are the result of the Mass we pray. In the Novus Ordo, the engine still runs, but it runs at a diminished capacity because of a minimalist design.
My priest friends who don’t say the TLM are almost single minded in their rebuttal of my conclusion. They insist that it’s all about the families in which people are raised. Wrong. On both sides of the argument, either one can point to families that were fairly exemplary but their children don’t practice the faith once they leave home. Or, as I’ve come across, many others whose parents did not practice the Faith regularly and now their children have chosen to do so as adults on their own.
I’ve lived in 11 different US Dioceses and lived on three continents. Perhaps that speaks less in my favor as it pertains to my being bounced around as I was! Anecdotes can only be dismissed if the sample size of the given observation is small and fairly isolated. My sample size is quite large. Sometimes anecdotal occurrences are repeated so often that the conclusion should not be dismissed; that is as it pertains to reasonable thinking.
I’ve been involved in TLM circles for 28 years and have said the Traditional Mass for 20 years. I am, however, a product of the Novus Ordo. I never even saw a TLM until I was 24 years old. I went to the Seminary and was ordained as a Novus Ordo priest. My first TLM was as a 3 year ordained priest in 1998. I have no dog in this fight. Really, when I began to say the TLM I thought it was just for the good of my priestly spirituality. I never thought the TLM would catch on again in any wider scope; ever.
This past year, I have been doing a National Study on the TLM only parishes in the USA. Currently, there are around 70 of these but they are exploding in numbers with each passing year because the TLM priestly vocations are outpacing Novus Ordo priestly vocations by more than 7 to 1. My preliminary numbers are exceeding my initial expectations.
There is a huge wave transforming the Catholic landscape and it is largely being ignored by the Catholic leadership. I can now say what I suspected last year. The Novus Ordo is dying and it will be replaced by the Vetus Ordo sooner than anyone had foreseen, but certainly by 2050 the TLM will be the dominant liturgical practice once again.
My instincts tell me that 30-50% of the current vocations coming from the Traditional Latin Mass were not raised in it. Next year, I’ll try to test that feeling with the aforementioned study. A great number of the young men and women entering the TLM orders discovered it themselves; it wasn’t their family upbringing. My belief is that the Ancient Mass is the vocations catalyst and not the family per se.
One can certainly find a vocation as a Novus Ordo attendee, but all of the evidence suggests that many, many more are found as a TLM attendee. One huge proof is the precipitous vocations drop off after the Council and the abandoning of the 1962 Missal. The other proof is that vocations continue to rocket up in 2018 in the TLM and have leveled off at a very much lower level in the Novus Ordo seminaries and convents using the 1970 Missal. The Novus Ordo closed convents and seminaries will never reach their previous levels because there is no upward trend; not even in the same ballpark. Remember, all Catholics live in the same society and we all have similar temptations and spiritual obstacles to overcome. “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Mt. 7:16).
Finally, let’s be clear. This article is not intended to disparage anyone. Not one of us should cling to anything that is passing away. There is no reason to put your faith in something in order to win an argument or simply because at one time you thought things would improve with the Novus Ordo. Instead, things got much worse.
At the dawn of the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, we bled a big majority of Mass attending Catholics. No one asked them what they preferred. No one gave them any options. If they had been asked and/or allowed to attend the Mass of the Ages, the Novus Ordo would not have supplanted the formative Mass of every canonized saint to date.
Now bishops often repeat the stale quoted refrain, “almost no one wants the TLM.” Why do they suddenly care what the proverbial “people” want? They didn’t care back in 1970 when almost none of the faithful wanted a vernacular Mass. It’s true the Church is not a democracy. She is a theocracy and God will have His way! Everything is coming back full circle and I have a lot of buried relatives and friends who, if living today, would be overjoyed.