[quote=Deacon Ed]Wwll, the questions you ask are good one, and there is probably no complete answer. Let me summarize what I discovered in my studies of this issue.
In the latter half of the 19th century the bishops in Europe were troubled by the lack of participation of the people in the Mass. This also troubled several scholars who began what is today known as the “Liturgical Renewal Movement.” The goal was to examine the elements of the Mass that were not touching the average person in the pews. They recommended a number of minor, but interesting changes – which never took place beyond a few experiments.
By the time of the Second Vatican Council nearly all the bishops of the world had experienced the problems that the European bishops had experienced. Thus, the Council Fathers were prepared to address the issue of the Mass, and to seek resolution for the problems that had been encountered.
Numerous suggestions were put forth during over a month of debate on rather minor points. In the end, however, the bishops outlined a set of reforms that they felt would address the issues, and left the actual implementation to the periti or experts.
Pope Paul VI took a personal hand in the revision of the Liturgy since he had seen first-hand the European problem and he had some specific ideas of ways to address, if not resolve, those problems. Patriarch Maximos IV of the Melkite Church made a very strong “intervention” (speech) about the importance of the people actually understanding the Liturgy and how the Eastern Churches addressed this through the use of the vernacular, even though many Eastern Churches had a sacred language (Old Church Slavonic for the Svlaic Churches, Ge’ez for the Ethiopian Churches, and so on).
The basic problems which I saw growing up were so obvious that only a dead person could fail to see them: private devotions (such as the rosary) being prayed instead of the Mass, very few people going to communion (especially at the later Masses), declining attendance, people coming in late and leaving early. Clearly, the Mass of Paul VI did not fix all of these issues, but it did address the issue of replacing the Mass with personal devotions.
Is it getting more popular? Yes and no. In terms of absolute numbers the best estimates are that there are about 1 million people who attend, at least on a part-time basis, the Mass of Pius V (the so-called Tridentine Mass). This number does not seem to change, but it may be artifically constrained since attendance is, in part, dependent upon the availability of the Mass. Supporters claim that if more Tridentine Masses were available more people would go. I’m sure that, initially, more would attend. But those who are both honest and who regularly attend will tell you that there is a reasonably constant influx of “new blood” but that many do not stay the course. After some (usually short) period of time the newness and excitement wears off and they return to what they know. Some, of course, do stay.
I hope this helps.
As always, Deacon Ed is a voice of reason on these posts. I concur with a lot of what he said. True, there were instances such as he described. But in honesty, many people did not receive communion because they believed in the concept of Mortal Sin, and would not take a chance of receiving Holy Communion if there was even a chance of being unworthy. Fasting rules were a little more stringent in those days, and a lot of people for whatever reason did not adhere as well as they should have. They also normally would not receive Holy Communion. True many people did have their Rosaries at Mass. Most, not all by any means, but most used them as an aid in the Mass rather than practicing their own private devotions. Remember, in those days, you still had a lot of people who had not attended school very far, and were at best barely literate and could not follow the Mass exactly. It was also reccomended in many Missals of the time, that if unable to read or to follow the Mass during the parts that the Priest alone prayed, it was acceptable to say private prayers and devotions during those times only. Yes, some people did arrive late and leave early, and those same people still do. The Church still suffers from declining Mass attendance.
As far as Traditional Mass attendance, the one thing that I can say is constant, and I have attended them across the country, is that you have a amazing number of young people and young families attending. Often, in fact in most cases they outnumber the older crowd that you would think would be in the majority. I will grant that some come for the novelty, some stay and some don’t, some like it and some hate it. Overall though, there are many more people attending than before, for whatever reason.