Over the course of the last month I’ve visited several Eastern Rite Catholic churches in my area. My interest was primarily curiosity, as I wondered what their liturgies would be like. However, I quickly found something else there that was quite different from the Roman Catholic churches that I’ve visited over the years. And that was a sense of community and hospitality. I was made to feel welcome at both parishes. Never mind that I was a stranger that no one there had ever seen before. I was greeted, welcomed and encouraged to stay. In fact they encouraged me to attend again. And I have to admit, they were tempting offers.I've never attended an Eastern Catholic parish for Mass. My buddy the youth minister strongly recommends I try it at least once. Many years ago I attended an Eastern Orthodox liturgy. In its own way, it was as insular as any Catholic parish. In a Latin Rite church one gets the feeling that the particular people in the congregation are fungible. With the Orthodox, it feels like an ethnic enclave that may extend a welcome to visitors but you'll never truly be one of them if you're not Greek or Russian or whatever.
I wonder what it is that made those parishes and their members so much more hospitable than than the Roman Rite churches I’ve attended. It isn’t size. While both were small (in membership and the size of the buildings), I’ve been to small RC parishes as well. No, its something else. My suspicion is that the sense of community in these churches is encouraged by the fact that they are set apart.Anti-Catholicism is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. Catholic immigrants felt pressure to become more American than the Americans. The first generation of Irish immigrants were poor laborers. By the third or fourth generation they had completely taken over the police department and government of New York City. Catholics didn't want to be set apart. They wanted to be part of the in crowd. Vatican II's declaration on religious liberty was largely the result of lobbying by the American Jesuit John Courtney Murray.
It's human nature to desire the company of those like ourselves. American Catholics chose to conform to the Protestant public sphere instead of the other way around. As such, American Catholics in the 21st century are more or less indistinguishable from their Protestant and secular neighbors. If anything, American Catholics vote slightly more liberal than Protestants taken as a whole: a majority of us voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
American Catholics have not been instilled with a distinctive Catholic identity. We all receive the same sacraments but most of the time I have more in common with Evangelicals than I do with many of my fellow Catholics at the local parishes. The only time I ever feel like I am part of a strong Catholic community with a distinct identity is when I go to the local FSSP parish.
This gives me ample opportunities to scare the hell out of Catholics who are used to milk and mashed up baby food instead of the meat of true doctrine. One of the local parishes told me that my services were not required in certain ministries because they felt I was a reactionary extremist who would scare people away. I wear it as a badge of honor.
It does make it a bit more difficult to organize events for Catholics of similar bent when the Establishment dislikes us. The internet is the source of many ills but one area where it's been a blessing is making it easier for Traditionalists and those who are sympathetic to us to share notes and organize. Forty years ago it was pretty much just Michael Davies writing booklets and pamphlets that were furtively passed around by folks who were either shamed into silence at their home parishes, or who gave up on the Establishment and went full on SSPX.
Complaining on the internet is the backbone of the blogging industry but it's not enough. Thanks to my work with the teenagers and my involvement with the young adult group, I can introduce young people to the beauty of Catholic Tradition and the old Mass. We can share books, notes, discussions, and participate in social events of various kinds. If your diocese has an existing young adult ministry, get yourself and like-minded young Trads involved. If you're the only Trad you know, get involved anyway. Not everyone can have the force of personality of a Beefy Levinson, but I'm sure you can do your part.