Discovering the Traditional Catholic Mass
I was raised Catholic. We were pretty standard. We went to mass every Sunday, and participated in a few extracurricular things at the parish. I was an altar boy for a few years (my sister was too). We made the occasional effort to pray as a family, but it never became a habit. For the most part, being a Christian was something that only really mattered on Sunday morning (or Saturday evening). We never developed a close sense of community with others at the church. I couldn't defend what I claimed to believe. We were pretty much just like everyone else; the standard experience for Christians of my generation.
When I moved away from home for the first time, I promptly fell away from the faith. There wasn't really a change in my beliefs—it just didn't seem important anymore. The new parish I was at was very liberal and relaxed, and I couldn't stand it. There was rock band worship music, an extremely casual liturgy with a priest who tried to keep everyone entertained, and almost everyone was old. There were 12 Extraordinary Ministers (the lay men/women who help distribute the Eucharist). I didn't know anyone. No one ever spoke to me. There seemed to be no intellectual foundation. I felt like I didn't belong, and had no one to talk to about it. The chore of going to Mass overcame my sense of obligation, and so I stopped. Meeting Jacqueline, who was not religious, certainly didn't help.
I still felt an obligation to get married properly in the Church, and that led me to come back. It wasn’t easy, but it was a relief. I didn't realize how much running from God had been weighing me down. I spent a lot of time sorting through it all. I tried to be involved in the community, and got back to being a standard “Sunday Catholic.” The parish near us at that time was better than the previous one, but something was still missing.
While visiting Jacqueline's family in Idaho, I looked up the nearest Mass for Sunday. It was a Traditional Latin Mass. I knew it wasn't just the normal Mass in Latin, but had no idea what to expect, and no idea what the FSSP is. What I experienced changed everything.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in the people. There were no gym shorts or yoga pants. There were little kids everywhere. But mostly it was the demeanor. These people really believed that Jesus was present in the Eucharist. I believed it, and most Catholics I knew believed it. But this was different; this kind of belief changed the way these people acted. There was such a deep reverence and formality that I actually felt like the King of Kings might be here. The priest faced away from the people and was so focused that he didn't even seem to notice the congregation behind him. It was a sung Mass, and the choir absolutely blew me away. They put in more work than I’d ever seen before, and it was beautiful.
I left that day not understanding everything I'd experienced, but there was something right about it. We eventually moved here, largely to be near Jacqueline’s family and in a conservative area but also for the traditional Mass.
It took me some time to figure out what was wrong with the other parishes and Novus Ordo Masses I'd been to, but I finally did. It's death. Decay. A slow spiritual rot spreading through the faithful. You can see it in the statistics. People are abandoning the Faith. Most self-identified Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence and don't follow the Church's moral teachings. Our former parish in Boston had three funerals a week, and less than one baptism a month. Masses were empty. They could only keep the lights on because old people kept dying and leaving them money. There's no way it will be there in 20 years, and most of them don't see what's happening.
Where does this rot come from? This was a harder puzzle, but I believe the answer is the liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi means that the way you pray dictates what you believe. The Novus Ordo Mass is a watered-down Protestantized liturgy that shifts the emphasis. Rather than the sacrifice, there's the meal. Rather than a union of Heaven and Earth, there's community worship. Rather than reverence, everyone has to participate. Rather than sacred ethereal music, there are common instruments. It makes the whole thing mundane. Catholics are losing their faith in the Eucharist because the Eucharist is not treated like God.
The last two years in Idaho have been quite the journey. I continually learn things about the Faith that I should have been taught as a child. It has left me with this feeling that I was robbed of the faith that I should have inherited, and set back 20 or 30 years in my spiritual journey. It's not really my parents' fault; they were largely in the same boat. Everyone in the last 60 years was.
These days, I know that I'm on the right path with a certainty that I've never felt before. I've learned to trust God and relinquish control of my life. There's a deep sense of peace and stability. I'm actually living out the authentic Faith now, and it has changed everything.