Looking for Tradition
Growing up Southern Baptist I've developed a distaste for a trend I've seen in many of the churches I've been involved with. The trend can be summed up in the phrase:
"I really hate all this baggage that tradition brings, I just wish we could be like the early church and meet in ugly warehouses and drink drip coffee while only reading from the original 66 books of the bible."
The lack of tradition always made church feel un-sacred and spiritually dead. But that's just a small part of all the problems with Christian fundamentalism (and Protestantism in general).
Anyway, I recently came to the position that Traditional Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) are superior to the modern Christian denominations that I grew up in. Of course, growing up in the American South, there are no Traditional churches near me (the one Catholic church in my town is almost entirely Mexican, not to mention Novus Ordo).
Novus Ordo vs Sedevacantism
The Catholic church recently underwent a huge change in the 1960's with the Second Vatican Council. The most significant change made during Vatican II was the altering of mass. Mass could now be held in languages besides Latin, and some of the rites were changed, too. But more than that, the whole attitude of the Church changed; instead of being the last bastion of Tradition in the declining West, the Catholic church was now just another ineffective branch of Christianity.
At least, that's what Sedevacantists would say. Sedevacantism is the belief that Vatican II was an illegitimate council, which means that the Pope who called the council was in error. However, due to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, a pope who contradicts Catholic doctrine is not a pope. So these people believe that Pope John XXIII was not a real pope, and consequently there has been no pope since the 1960's. The seat of the Catholic pope is currently empty ("sede"=seat, "vacante"=empty). So if you believe all that then Sedevactism is the only place the true Catholic faith can be experienced.
Finding a Church
I was able to find a Sedevacantist group of believers through the website CMRI; there's a mission that meets an hour from my town once a month on Saturdays. So I recently paid them a visit so I could experience true mass.
It was kind of cringe
You have to understand, this was a very small group of Catholics who lacked any financial support from the Vatican. Mass was held outside in a large tent that held around 25 people in total. It was windy and cold, and my chair was literally falling apart during the service. The priest could hardly be heard over the ambient noise of the outdoors. More than once the wind blew hard enough to knock over icons and the little cross standing up on the altar. The priest stopped midway through to move the table of the altar away from the edge of the tent.
In a word, it was lame. Cringe, even.
Despite all that I think I'll visit again next month.
There was nothing essentially magical about the service (to be fair though, I had no idea what was going on, and I of course didn't take communion). There also wasn't anything special about the people there; they were polite but there was no one there my age and no one I was real interested in getting to know. The personality of the people there was similar to any other small, devoted group you'll find in places like non-denominational churches, niche board game conventions, or fringe political groups. They were weird, kind of aloof, and really defensive about who they were and what they believed. I generally like those kinds of people though so it's not a big deal for me.
Next month they'll be in a proper building, though, so the experience will be much better. I think the main thing that's drawing me back is curiosity; I want to know more about the faith and if it's the way forward for me. I also know that there're other based Traditionalists like me out there who may stumble into this church one day, so it's a good networking opportunity to say the least. In fact I have reason to believe there are other 20-somethings who regularly attend but were absent the day I visited.
The quest for Tradition certainly doesn't stop here, but I'm glad I found this place and I'm hopeful for the future.