A photo on Facebook can tell a pretty great story. It is why traditionalists like myself are so optimistic. In short, the photo shows the exponential growth of the Extraordinary From of the liturgy from roughly 1988-2010. In 1990, there were roughly 60 masses available every Sunday throughout the country. (Probably 30 of them were in Chicago.) In 2006, there were roughly 200, a growth of roughly 8 or 9 a year. This was under the ancien regime of the Ecclesia Dei indult, when the survival of the Mass was dependent on Bishops, many of them openly hostile to the Extraordinary Form.
After 2006, the number explodes. From 2006 to 2010, there were roughly 180 such masses added every Sunday. We went from gaining 8 or 9 a year, to gaining 45. This is only counting those which have a Mass every Sunday. What do these numbers tell me?
- Traditionalists are incredibly evangelical in their work. Every Latin Mass has that one family who puts in way too many hours by themselves organizing the logistics of everything. We all can tell stories of the people who came to that Mass not having a clue, and we helped them understand it, and remind them that if they think they have a stupid question, we asked something far stupider when we were first there.
- People learned traditionalists were not the devil. This seems flippant, but it carries a lot of truth. For a long time, a lot of clerics were openly hostile to the Latin Mass, based on certain perceptions they had about traditionalists as a whole. They only associated the Latin Mass with various sects which reject this or that aspect of Church authority. The Catholic commentariat in America invested a lot of time in money in slaying the menace of the "Radtrad", doing their best to convince people that these horrid monsters were lurking around every corner, and any time a Latin Mass was organized, these demons were sure to be summoned and unleash hell upon the unity of the Church.
Instead, you typically found devout Catholics faithful to the Church with tons of babies who wanted to do everything they could to make sure not only the Latin Mass succeeded, but the parish which hosted that Mass as well. Once we were welcomed in, we made our presence known, and a lot of people liked that presence. Once they realized we weren't as bad as all the powers that be had told them we were, they were a lot more willing to see us set up shop.
- We are still branching outward at a slow but steady pace. A lot of these Latin Masses I would wager are tightly congested but slowly spreading. You originally have that small devout core which expands as more people become attached to the Extraordinary Form, and they begin to form their own cores in other parishes. Even when one mass stops, these people aren't deprived of what Pope Benedict XVI said was theirs by rights as a Catholic.
- We still have a lot of work to do. In many areas, the Latin Mass is still a dream, something people hear vague whispering about but little more. I think in the end time is on the side of traditionalists, at least for awhile. We used to always joke about how we would outbreed the liberals and the enemies of the Extraordinary Form. You are starting to see the beginnings of that. Today's youth are a lot more hospitable towards the EF than our parents were. In many parishes, traditionalism is substantially a youth movement. All those youths are starting to have children of their own. Combine these with those who are not necessarily traditionalists but certainly our allies (who also breed at pretty high rates), and you are beginning to see a change. You won't ever see all the Bishops suddenly become lovers of the Extraordinary Form. Yet you will see the harsh attitudes begin to melt away.
This is why I am still not that worried about certain events that happen here or there which some think spells trouble for our future. If we have any trust that our work comes from God, and are willing to look at the numbers, we should be optimistic. We have a ton of work to do, and a ton of hard battles to fight, but no more are we just an obscure sect fighting for the right to exist in the Catholic Church.