The liberalizing effect of Vatican II has not been without noticeable waves of trouble. It does not seem coincidental that the drop in vocations began in earnest after the Council; The Dominican nun who was the counselor at my son's school has told me that the in the very first year after the changes of the Council went into effect candidates for the sisterhood in her Mother House dropped by well over three-quarters. Further, Mass attendance has slipped so far that many churches have closed. The question is, why?
Though there are other pertinent factors, I rather believe that it lies to a degree in the loss of the spiritual aspect of Catholic religious practice. We don't appear so interested in saving souls as we are in social justice (whatever that means) and just getting along. Not that justice and Christian charity are unimportant values. It's just that, social justice (if you simply must force the arguably pointless adjective social in there) without regard for the soul is an empty vessel. Feeding the hungry is one of the key callings of our faith. Yet to feed only their bellies cannot nourish them in the wonders of Heaven or necessarily set them on the road to a fruitful relationship with God. It only maintains a body which, on its own, will eventually rot, and nothing more.
I attended a Tridentine Mass for the first time awhile ago and was struck by the the mysticism of it. It was as though something magical was happening: bread and wine became the body and blood of our Lord. It wasn't just Christ sharing a meal with his friends, as some Vatican II supporters seem to feel of it. It was a true miracle in action. Similarly, there was the Divine Mercy chaplet and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass yesterday in my parish. I felt that same profound mystery as I did at the Latin Mass.
So I'm thinking we ought to get back to a greater emphasis on tradition rather than appeals to modernism and being relevant to this age (whatever that means), and I am seeing signs of just that. Latin is creeping back into our services, and Catholic prelates are calling out Catholic politicians who don't act Catholic. We are not far removed from the pontificate of St. John Paul the Great, who had encouraged a return to the old values and norms while working for meaningful dialogue among faiths and nations, an ideal Benedict XIV built upon and which Francis I, despite media insistence otherwise, supports himself. There are even indications that vocations are slowly rebounding.
The future, then, is not so bleak as it may seem to a few of my fellows. We simply must get back to the old idea that if you want people to sacrifice you've got to give them something worth the sacrifice. If you want people in the pews you must appeal to their sense of the spirit. Even if all you want is an end to hunger and have decent shelter and health care for all, you need an appeal to the eternal aimed properly at both the servants of the poor and the poor themselves. You must speak to the soul. The rest will take of itself.