When the Second Vatican Council opened in 1962, the bishops prioritized liturgical reform. They believed that renewing the Mass would grow church attendance and the devotion of the faithful.
Some years after Vatican II, the Church introduced the Novus Ordo Mass. Around the same time, Mass attendance started to decline. It continued to decline, decade after decade.
In contrast, Traditional Latin Mass attendance has grown over the past few decades. Many young people have left their supposedly “relevant, modern” Novus Ordo parishes and embraced the centuries-old “bells and smells” of the TLM.
Will the Novus Ordo survive? There’s no clear “yes” or “no” answer. Here are a couple of possible scenarios.
The Novus Ordo collapses on its own.
Is Church attendance declining due to the Novus Ordo itself, widespread liturgical abuse, or simply the growing secularization of society? It’s hard to say.
But Church attendance is declining in the Novus Ordo and this can’t go on forever. The Mass needs new blood to survive. Many young, serious Catholics now go to the Traditional Latin Mass, Ordinariate, or Eastern Liturgies.
It’s common to go to a Novus Ordo and see mostly older people. Eventually, many of these parishes won’t have the numbers to sustain themselves.
The Novus Ordo survives, but not in its current form.
Pope Benedict XVI often called for a “reform of the reform.” He believed in the need for liturgical reform but was highly critical of some aspects of the end product.
Many good priests are trying to bring reverence back to the Novus Ordo. They’re incorporating Gregorian chant, Latin, and Communion rails into the liturgy. Some even celebrate Mass ad orientem, facing the same direction as the people.
Many devout Catholics feel that these efforts better respect the sacredness of the liturgy than the typical Novus Ordo. But is it enough? Hard to say unless the Church mandates a reform of the reform such as Pope Benedict envisioned.
While these liturgical controversies matter, don’t let them make you lose sight of the most important thing: the Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus is present, Body and Blood, on the altar of every authentic Mass.
Keep receiving Him and let His love transform you and your appreciation of the liturgy, whatever rite or form you attend.