One of the most common reasons put forward to explain the motivations of traditional Catholics is that our desire for the traditional Mass stems from nostalgia.
It is worth at this point defining some terms:
“nostalgia n. – Sentimental memory of or longing for things of the past.
Sentimental adj. 1.Showing or influenced by romantic or nostalgic feeling. 2. Characterised by emotions as opposed to reason.”
The argument is logical and simple and seductive. Our memories of contented and cosy childhood; the vigour and optimism of youth; the sweet and fervent moment of conversion; the vitality and joy of young married life are irresistible to us, and we must do all we can to recreate those days. We are blinkered and narrow minded, obdurate, stubborn and unwilling to change. We are locked in a “time warp” and thus do not appreciate the inclusiveness and openness of the modern Church. We are fundamentally and irredeemably “old fashioned”.
Although the charge of nostalgia may appear justified, at least superficially, it does not withstand much analysis. First and perhaps most importantly, true nostalgia for the Traditional Mass can only be felt by those alive when this was the normative Mass. The conclusion one must draw from this is that demand for and interest in the Traditional Mass and liturgy would decline as the “nostalgics” eventually died and went to their reward. The reality however demonstrates the exact opposite with ever increasing interest amongst young Catholics dispossessed of their heritage. What do men and women born after the changes have to be nostalgic about? Absolutely nothing!! Yet look at the membership of the Latin Mass Society, the composition of congregations at traditional Masses all over the world, the full seminaries of the traditional priestly and religious orders, the boom the Mass of All Times has had since the Motu Proprio. Advocates of the “nostalgia” argument must squirm with discomfort in seeking an explanation for these developments.
The explanation however is not complicated although unpalatable to many. Quite simply the Traditional Mass and liturgy has an exquisite beauty and timeless freshness which having fortified and defended the Church for centuries will not be extinguished by the will of modernist and nominally Catholic liturgists, no matter how zealous or committed they are.
Secondly “nostalgia” is defined as a sentimental attachment to things of the past. It seems at best naïve or at worst contemptuous to describe people’s faith as being based on sentimentality. Faith built on such flimsy foundations would not withstand even the most preliminary of assaults. Ironically of course, looking around the increasingly ageing congregations of the mainstream Church, the growing majority is the product of the obscurantist pre-conciliar Church. I doubt whether this group has any sentimental or romantic notions, but perhaps a recognition of the importance of orthodoxy and beauty in liturgy borne of the pain of the last circa forty years.