One night, many years ago, I found myself embroiled in an unusual argument at a bar on Second Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. For reasons I have long forgotten, I mentioned the Mona Lisa to a young lady sitting there on the barstool next to me. She remarked that she did not care for the Mona Lisa. I was incredulous. I directly informed her that she was not permitted to “not like” the Mona Lisa. She responded with equal incredulity—by her taste, it was a rather dull painting.
But, I told her, your taste is irrelevant or malformed. For we do not judge the Mona Lisa, a work that has fascinated the centuries and stands at the center of all Western art. We can only admire such venerable and timeless treasures of our cultural patrimony, the achievements of man and their influence down through the ages.
I did not convince my friend that night, but I have never wavered from my conviction in this regard. It is a sensibility that drew me to the “traditional” things of our religion as a young teenager, long before I had ever experienced the Traditional Latin Mass, during that time when the TLM was virtually extinct. It is the same sensibility that, years later, especially after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, reinforced my more informed revulsion at the arrogance and Philistinism of the reformers who so readily discarded the pearls of their own inheritance.