In the Trad world, "smells and bells" is said with disgust and derision, usually as an epithet directed against Indult-affiliated Traditional Catholics.
The insult basically expresses that there is more to the Catholic Faith than just incense, statues, the Tridentine Mass, bells, pictures, and all the other material trappings of the Faith.
Appearance is nothing compared to substance.
Thus far I completely agree.
That is not to say that smells and bells are worthless, or of no value whatsoever. The Church DOES make use of these things for us imperfect human beings, who live in the material realm. We are not angels.I am serious about this. There have been actual heresies along these lines
, including the Protestant heresy. They claimed that what was important was our personal relationship with God, and that we didn't need all those Romish trappings to be holy. Remember the Quakers. They forgot that we are flesh as well as spirit.
Consider this quote from John Adams:
I have this Day been to a Romish Chappell. My Imagination is so full of holy Water, Crossings, Bowings, Kneelings and Genuflections, Images, Paintings, Crucifixs, Velvet, Gold, but above all, the Musick. I am amazed that Luther and Calvin, were ever able to break the Charm and dissolve the spell."
If the "smells and bells" had this much effect on a Rationalist atheist, do you not suppose they have some effect on Catholics as well?
Think of all the Catholics in the Resistance -- how many of them ever get to experience Mass anymore as they did back in their SSPX days? How long since they've smelled incense? Attended Benediction? Heard a High Mass? Seen a statue over 12" tall? Heard the full-bodied ringing of some real altar bells? And so forth.
Now I want to make a couple points here, so there are no misunderstandings.
Here are some things I firmly believe:
1. For a short time, there is actually a BOOST to one's Faith as you attend Mass in the catacombs. There is a certain newness, an excitement which aids one in their fervor. But this doesn't last forever.
2. Obviously not all groups have a choice about "building up" vs. "not building up" a permanent chapel with equipment. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it. Just do your best, and God will take care of you.
3. But it is the ideal, and any group that can, should. We must not become some kind of protestant iconoclasts that totally downplay the value of "smells and bells" and other Catholic trappings. You know, those people who always have remember the Japanese "Hidden Christians"
on their lips. Anyone who suggests upgrading the material elements of Mass is met with accusations of being a "smells and bells" Catholic.
4. Weekly Mass is in the same category as images, incense, bells, and High Mass. That is to say, it is something that should be considered normal for any Catholic, and seized upon as soon as the opportunity arises. There is no real choice for a Catholic between monthly Mass and weekly Mass.
To choose monthly (or worse, sporadic
) Mass over weekly Mass, you had better have a good
reason. God is going to judge you, always remember that. "Be honest with yourself; be honest with God."