While Doing the North, we found ourselves looking over a perfect 'transitional' Augustinian Priory Church, which, as Pevsner observes, was in ruins but still complete enough in the 1840s to make its restoration at that time almost totally reliable. It is beside a ruined Regency house: if only the Priory were still in ruins; and the Regency house were not in tatters; the whole (immensely romantic) site would be a perfect setting for S Jane's Northanger Abbey. I will call it Effchurch Priory; we visited it at noon on the Saturday when forty or fifty people were gathered there for a Tridentine High Mass. It happens, I gather, once a year. An elegant and very accessible sermon on the day's Saint (S Nicolas of Tolentino); perfect liturgy; excellent singing. An enthusiastic and very participatory congregation, who knew their way around the Church's immemorial Liturgy and took part in a natural, relaxed, unforced, often quite loud, way.
Sadly, I did not feel that having heard Mass on Saturday at 12:00 would fulfill the Sunday obligation; so in the evening we went to a Vigil Mass in a town some miles away, which I will rename Offchester. The difference was palpable. The 1969 rite done very badly. Very little participation; the organ droned out eight stanzas of a hymn tune and not a person made a sound. The pp obviously deemed himself a brilliant mystagogue, because every single 'presidential formula', even the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer, was either changed or interpolated. There was, unsurprisingly, no sermon. I say "unsurprisingly" because I have met the same liturgical corruption in the South of England, not least in a church where the priest proudly referred to it as "a Vatican II church".
I wonder why some priests of a certain generation and a 'Conciliar' culture have such a rooted aversion to preaching. This leads me on to wonder what exactly it was that they were taught in the corrupted and emptying seminaries of the post-Conciliar decades. We know that (despite Canon 249 and the Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII) they were not taught Latin or Greek; because of this, they were blocked from sudying Patristics. They did not ... clearly ... do Liturgy or Liturgical Theology or Practical Liturgy; it appears that they received no education in Scripture, Biblical Theology, or how to open the Word of God for their people. I somehow doubt that they were all given a deep formation in traditional moral theology or the hearing of confessions, because I know of (another) church in the South of England where the priest explained that the difficulty about hearing confessions was that the Confessional had for many years been used for stacking away the unsold debris of Parish bazaars. What, in the Name of God Almighty and God most Adorable, did all those men learn in those seven expensive years of 'priestly formation'?
I know some traddies cheerfully but (IMHO) irresponsibly point out that Monsignor Time will solve the problem of that generation of clergy; but, in a decade or two's time, will the joyless and infantilised congregations still be in existence? These are souls for whom Christ died.
If I were a bishop, I would send round formidable, even terrifying, hit squads of bright, orthodox, and cheerful young clergy with the oil of ordination still damp upon their hands, to teach the dear old gentlemen all the things that their lecturers forgot to mention in the 1970s and 1980s; and to overhaul a radicibus the parish liturgies. Cardinal Sarah's recent extremely sound suggestions could provide a lively and exciting start to a programme of restoring catholic authenticity in the desert areas. And His Eminence, with his true and accurate pastoral heart, clearly understands the urgency of this need. Happily, one hears of diocesan bishops loyally responding to his timely initiative. Let us hope that, on Advent Sunday ...
But not, sadly, quite all bishops. One or two Ordinarii locorum prefer to resemble stewards careering crazily around on the Great Liner's dangerously sloping decks while shouting noisily and inaccurately at anyone they meet about the 'true post-Conciliar' alignment of deckchairs.