There is a great thread going on over at El Camino Real. I made the following comment, and then realized that I wanted to post it here as well. Do go over to Jeff's great blog and weigh in there, as well. His thoughtful post is well worth reading. My comment is below, exactly as I posted it there.
I am concerned that there is a "Golden Age" syndrome I see among many traditionalist who were not part of ordinary parishes pre-Vatican 2. The move for liturgical reform that was hijacked into the missae novus ordo was not started in a vacuum. A well-done Mass ia a well-done Mass, and I had the bad experience as a child of 8 to go to my first Mass with a Catholic friend. It probably set me back by a few years from investigation into the truth of the Catholic faith that I now profess.
I prepared myself for attending that Mass by reading the missal that my friend had (the StJoseph Missal with the Latin on one side and the English on the other). I had attended high church Anglican communion services twice weekly for years, so I knew the basic order of the Mass, the prayers, the sit/stand/kneel. I arrived early for the Mass, and sat in a front pew where I could see what was happening at the altar. Folks, I was totally clueless as to what was happening when, other than the point at which the book was moved from the Epistle side to the Gospel side, the sermon, and when people started to go up for communion. I couldn't hear the whispering of the priest or the responses of the acolytes. What I could hear was the clicking of the rosary beads all around me and the various whisperings (all out of synch, of course) of the parishioners in the pews saying prayers that were totally disconnected from what is happening on the altar. There was no singing at all, there was the organ playing (badly) what felt to me like what TV and radio call a 'music bed', that again had no relation that I could perceive to the events in the sanctuary. I was horribly disappointed. The only non-disappointment was that I knew Jesus was really physically present in a way that I had not experience before.
My husband (a cradle Catholic) tells me that what I described was not uncommon in many parishes at many Sunday low Masses. He feels blessed that his childhood parish made a great effort to teach the parishioners to respond, in Latin, at those points in the Mass where it was appropriate, and that also the pastor spoke those non-secret prayers of the Mass so that the congregation could hear them.
When I reached the logical conclusion (in 1970) that the Roman Catholic church was, is and will be forever, the church that Jesus founded on the rock of Peter, I was prepared to do whatever it took to learn whatever I had to learn, to become part of that body. I knew that in order to become an Orhodox Jew (the only other thing that made sense) one had to learn Hebrew and to pray in Hebrew - and I was prepared to learn Latin and to pray in Latin. But the church, even when the Tridentine Latin Mass was the predominant liturgy, had abandonded that discipline even among its cradle members. We talk a lot on the blogs about how poorly catechized we have been since Vatican 2 - but I think the problem predates that council and may even help explain how easily that council was hijacked. I grew up with those who had been catechized via the Baltimore catechism and who lived the universal latin mass - and that group is the very group that fought the hardest to bring in some of the quasi-heresies that we are fighting now. There was no Golden Age that any Trad group can go back to. We need to be true conservatives who do indeed preserve what is good but without rose colored retrospectroscopes.
I love the Latin Mass, but I also love the Novus Ordo Mass, and I also love the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Rites. I also have issues with lazy, careless, or downright heretical instances of any or all of these liturgies. Because the Tridentine Latin mass is so rare these days, it is almost always done at the highest level - and I don't think that it is just to compare that level of care and attention and say that 'we used to have masses this beautiful all the time' - because we didn't.
Of course, the truly important thing about the Sacrament of the Eucharist as that it does not depend upon what humans do or what humans perceive to be effective. And the thing that keeps me Catholic is that I have access to the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist even if the priest is a horrible sinner and the (valid) liturgy is an affront to my aesthetic sense.