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(LifeSiteNews) — The first Thanksgiving included a Latin Mass – and this year, Catholics can still attend Latin Masses partially thanks to the Catholics who kept the ancient liturgy alive after Vatican II.

One of my side projects includes interviewing Catholics who attend the Latin Mass and who remember the changes after Vatican II. It has helped me grow appreciative for having a formalized Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) apostolate.

I am still learning, but here’s what I know so far: high altars, many built by the hands of poor Catholic immigrants, were torn out, but faithful families helped save them. At least one church blew up an altar and gave people pieces as a souvenir, in a complete sign of disrespect and sacrilege, as one Catholic activist related to me.

The opinion, later deemed untrue by Pope John Paul II, was that the Latin Mass had been suppressed by the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. But faithful Catholics worked to keep it alive through renting space in hotels or hosting Masses in their home. Some priests offered the Mass clandestinely or tried to do the best they could to maintain elements of the pre-Vatican II Mass in the new Mass.

One longtime Catholic activist related how he hauled liturgical items to various churches around the Archdiocese of Chicago for Latin Masses on each Saturday of the month. He even brought along a portable piano so there could be music and a High Mass. This takes a certain amount of humility – to grow up with one type of Mass and then to have to go to such lengths to still celebrate it just a few decades later.

There are groups too that deserve our thanks. Of course, there are the traditional Latin Mass orders such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the ICKSP, but also the companies that kept traditional Catholic publications alive. There are also the dedicated lay people who preserved TLM missals and made the famous red missals that are the first sign of entry into the ancient liturgy.

The fruits of the ancient liturgy live on today now just in the growing ICKSP, FSSP and other traditionalist churches, but in the increased traditionalism of younger clergy, who are replacing liberal priests.

A good sign that tradition is winning – there is a concern that too many priests are interested in cassocks. Bishops have suppressed ad orientem Masses not as a final blow to a lost practice but in reaction to its popularity.

Decades from now, my kids will be the age I am now. Based on current trends, they will have options each week between a Latin Mass and an ad orientem Mass said in Latin with a Communion rail at the front. There will be more Salve Reginas at Mass and hopefully no Masses that sing “All are Welcome” or “Go Make a Difference.” Their fellow parishioners will have grown up reading books from TAN, Sophia Institute, or Catholic Answers and not works of dubious theological accuracy.

If I can paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI: What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, thanks to the work of the clergy and laity who helped preserve the sacred.

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Matt lives in northwest Indiana with his wife and son. He has a B.A. in Political Science with minors in Economics and Catholic Studies from Loyola University, Chicago. He has an M.A. in Political Science and a graduate certificate in Intelligence and National Security from the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He has worked for Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action, Turning Point USA and currently is an associate editor for The College Fix.