The Society of Saint Pius X have a chapel in Arcadia that I pass every morning on my way to work. Just before Summorum Pontificum went into effect, when the only licit traditional Latin Mass I knew of was quite far away, I kept thinking about the nice reverent (though illicit) TLMs that were probably being offered right in my backyard. I asked one of the priests at my parish about it: "You know the SSPX? So, not a good idea to go to their Masses?" "Not a good idea," he agreed. "Although they have a valid Eucharist and their Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation, the danger is that you'd be drawn away from the Church by their teaching. But if you want a traditional Latin Mass, we're going to start one here soon."
They did and I went every Sunday and it was lovely. I remained curious about the SSPX chapel, though. Lure of the forbidden and all, and their church was bound to be beautiful inside, and furthermore, when do I ever get to surround myself with people who'd think of me as a soft-headed liberal?
So yesterday I figured I'd just pop in on my way to work-- Mass would be finished, I could wander around and see the place...
Instead I found the parking lot jam packed, and inside the Mass had lasted an hour already and wasn't nearly over. It was a solemn High Mass! Priest, deacon, subdeacon, a whole flock of altar boys, uniformed schoolgirls in the back reeling off one chant after another, lots and lots of people there in the required dress (shirts and ties for the men, skirts and veils for the women), and all this for a simple weekday morning!
They were just finishing the consecration rite when I entered, so I knelt quietly in a corner through the rest of the Mass. It all looked beautiful but felt discordant, as if the people were quietly breathing out defiance to Rome with every mea culpa. No doubt this reaction came mostly from within me and it feels much different to the SSPXers themselves.
I didn't take out my 1962 missal to try to follow the Latin, since there was so much else to look at. So I didn't realize something until later. You know what day it was on the old calendar, the calendar the SSPX follows? It was the feast of Pope Saint Pius X! The Society's titular feast-- no wonder they pulled out all the stops. How funny that I ended up there on that day of all days!