I think what made something like Newman special or a parish with a school is the commonality of people's experiences. Once you graduate or move beyond what many people are doing, you have chosen something different than the common experience, which automatically makes for an outsider feeling. It's exceedingly difficult to overcome. I once was a member of the church choir. Maybe I need to rejoin to have commonality with my fellow parishioners.Now, what is said here is absolutely correct. Common experiences are what make for community. Once you have chosen something else (to be a commuter on a college campus that is mostly residential, or vice versa, for instance), you are instantly an outsider, not part of the life of the community.
According to Catholic theology and praxis, the liturgy is the height of Catholic community, and the Mass the height of the liturgy. Catholics are bound together as Catholics by the Mass. Yet is that really the case in most Novus Ordo parishes?
In my experience (and I've lived in four states and eight parishes in the last twenty years), it isn't. Far from being a unifying experience, the Mass is absolutely incidental to the community experience.
Isn't That Typical?
Think about the typical "parish life" - it's built around choir, Bible studies, mothers' groups, Scout troops, Knights of Columbus, and pre-eminent among all activities, THE SCHOOL.
Indeed, if you ask most parishioners who have children in the school which came first, the parish or the school, they would answer "the school." And they would sometimes be literally correct.
In the United States, it was not unusual for the school building to be erected first, with Masses celebrated in the gymnasium or cafeteria until the parish church got built. Most parishioners think the parish exists to support the school, that the school is the pre-eminent purpose of the parish, when it is actually quite the reverse. Indeed, I've seen pastors specifically instruct parish councils in the correct understanding after the parish council expressed the backward understanding and yet also have seen the parish council so dumbfounded by the instruction that they all uniformly refused to accept it could be true.
Now, to be fair, this pre-eminence of school over parish happened well before Vatican II was even a twinkle in John XXIII's eye, well before John XXIIII was a twinkle in the eye of the cardinals who elected him, in fact.
But, it is the case that this mis-ordering of priorities is now a commonplace in Catholic parishes. No one, and by that I mean literally NO ONE in the typical Catholic Novus Ordo parish thinks the Mass is what forms their community. Despite their lip service, it's plain that even most of the bishops don't believe it.
After all, if the bishops and priests believed it, they wouldn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on programs like RENEW or Christ Among Us or whatever this year's "small group parish renewal" project is. None of these things are ever centered on liturgy of any kind, much less (God forbid!) the Mass.
Instead, the "small group projects" always center on creating small groups of families who gather in each others home to break bread, speak of Scripture (generally without benefit of guidance from priests, bishops or Magisterial documents), etc. In short, the Catholic parish renewal projects are always very Protestant in character.
And the effect is always predictably Protestant.
It works great the first year or so, starts to decline the second and third years, and when the boxed material from the publisher runs out, the groups disband. Everyone comments about "how great that was" and can't figure out why it deflated like a child's party balloon.
It never occurs to anyone that the whole experience was artificial to begin with, held together by dollars and the paper glue of some wit's Bible study. The "sense of community" was literally purchased with an invoice, and was therefore as solid as the exchange of goods and services between a man and woman interested in... mmmm.... ahem.... temporary mutual enrichment...
But with an Extraordinary Form parish, it is not so. The people there are not there because they much like each other (although they may, they often don't) or because they have shared experiences (although they might, they often won't). No, they are all there because of the liturgy. If the pastor didn't offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, they wouldn't go, no parish would exist. Whatever community life flows from this parish (and it can be quite good), flows from it because the Mass brought these people together first.
Now, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. For instance, I know of at least one pastor who offers the Novus Ordo in Latin ad orientem, and I think it can honestly be said that his parish has a large number of members who are there precisely and only because of the beauty and fidelity of the Mass he offers.
The point is, it is only the parish whose community joins together because of its common love for the Mass, it is only that parish community, which can be called a real Catholic community. Only the community which sees liturgical preparation in general, and sacramental preparation most especially, as the common binding heritage of the whole community, only that community really understands itself. Only the community which joins together primarily and precisely to celebrate that for which it has prepared itself is joined together by Christ Himself.
Every other parish, every parish that builds its "community" on the basis of its school, its choir, its small groups, its Scripture study, its Cub Scouts or Knights of Columbus, every such parish is not Catholic in any real or permanent sense at all, because it is not bound by that which is peculiarly Catholic - the sacraments, the sacraments and the liturgy which wraps itself around the sacraments like swaddling clothes around the Christ Child.
The first Catholic community came together in a stable, not to share coffee and donuts or to swap tips on how to tend sheep, but to worship the living God become the Son of Man, the Christ.
Let us imitate them.