Recently I’ve been reading The Hobbit to two of my young children. Central to the story is lost treasure: Thorin and his fellow dwarves ask for Bilbo Baggins’ help in reclaiming their trove, which has been captured by the dragon Smaug and hidden deep within the Lonely Mountain. As I read the book, I can’t help but think of our own day’s lost treasure: the liturgical patrimony of the Catholic Church.
After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), massive changes were made to the liturgy which involved the abandonment of many traditional practices. None were more noticeable to the average Catholic (and even non-Catholic) than the abandonment of Latin in favor of the vernacular. Yet there have been many other changes, and although they are not as noticeable to the casual observer as the loss of Latin, they are each sadly significant nonetheless.
Now, one might imagine that someone lamenting these losses is simply a nostalgic child of the 50’s, pining for the Church of his youth. However, I was born after Vatican II ended, and didn’t even become Catholic until the 1990’s. I never even attended the “old Mass” until about 10 years ago. Further, I came into the Church by way of the charismatic renewal, which isn’t exactly known for old-school liturgies. And if I’m being completely honest, I generally prefer a liturgy in English. Yet over the years the treasure we’ve lost has become more evident, and more painful, to me.