Do Not Fear Nostalgia

by Michael Potemra

. . . because nostalgia is one way of escaping (or starting to escape) historical determinism. If things were once different from the way they are now, that proves that they may be different in the future as well.

It has been said that the perfect worship of God . . . is the one a person experienced at the age of seven. (I understand there is a similar rule in one particular genre of literature: “The golden age of science fiction is when you’re 12.”) This was brought home to me by a fascinating post by Catholic blogger Fr. Z, who recently discovered a webpage featuring the folk-Mass music of the Catholic 1960s. Fr. Z is a Latin Mass Traditionalist who strongly disapproves of the folk-Mass style, but I encourage readers who do not have a strong parti pris on matters of liturgical culture to check out the “Holy Holy Missa Bossa Nova” video (the second video in his post). This is the sort of music I heard in church as a small boy in the late 1960s and early 1970s — the particular piece itself rings a bell, but I’m not certain — and darned if it doesn’t bring back to the memory the sense of first religious experience, the reverent awe of childhood. (The sort of awe someone once recommended, with the reminder that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must be as one of these.)

What makes this especially poignant is that this evocation flies in the face of my current liturgical preference — the church I’m a  member of now is stratospherically high, and our idea of “contemporary” liturgical music is anything composed after 1750 — and all the more so of Fr. Z’s ideological preferences. And yet: The heart has its reasons. If you go to that folk-Mass webpage and love the material there, your day will have been enriched. If you go to the webpage and think, Wow, Potemra had awful taste as a kid and still does now, you can nonetheless rejoice in this new proof that the ways in which God reaches out to people are limitless.

As for me, I welcome the next four years as an opportunity to broaden my horizons still further, by exploring the tradition of Mormon inspirational music. Warmest congratulations, Governor Romney!

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