In short, many famous proponents of the liturgical movement would get classified today as traditionalists. Were you to take their major writings and quote portions of them chosen more or less at random, without attribution of authorship, probably 90% or more of the readers would peg the authors as members of an ultra-conservative or traditionalist school. It is not as if these authors lack innovative or problematic ideas; it is not as if some of them did not go off the deep end in the mid- to late sixties, as did so many priests, monks, sisters and nuns in the same period. Rather, it is we ourselves, in our liturgical thinking and practice, who have deviated so far from the Catholic tradition that even the more radical proponents of change in the mid-twentieth century can nowadays look moderate, restrained, and old-fashioned compared to the voluntaristic chaos in which the local churches find themselves today. Some of the better theologians saw the destruction coming and lamented the day: noble souls like Louis Bouyer, whose searing book The Decomposition of Catholicism (1969) plotted the suicidal trajectory on which the reform was headed, although he himself had earlier been an eager participant in the liturgical movement.
In all of these goals, they were disappointed, and indeed repudiated. If anything, such men as Romano Guardini and Louis Bouyer are not the fathers of the superficializing revolution that took place, but rather of groups seriously dedicated to the liturgical apostolate, like the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter or the Institute of Christ the King; and Joseph Ratzinger, not Annibale Bugnini or Piero Marini, is the legitimate heir of their theology.
What the Liturgical Movement turned into in its late cancer phase was second-rate modern(ist) theology embedded in a prosaic, earthbound, unimaginative spirituality, along with a tremendous naivete about sociology and worship, plus a good bit of plain dishonesty in their lopsided ressourcement, advocacy scholarship, narrow agendas, and peculiarly modern form of archaicism that did not seek to restore the mentality and spirituality that corresponded to the external elements they purportedly recovered from early Christianity.
Once, a friend and I were talking about whether the laity have a vocation to the mystical life. It is sadly ironic that the Catechism of the Catholic Church decides the question positively for the first time, when never before in the history of the Church has there been so little in her liturgical life to foster contemplative prayer and the mystical gifts. The Catechism also notes that conscience can be properly formed and heard only when there is sufficient interior silence—another condition well-nigh abolished in the new liturgy as it is celebrated almost everywhere. The old liturgy opened to many serious Catholics a path of asceticism and a path to contemplation. Its beautiful stillness, pregnant silences, richly nourishing prayers, poignant gestures, and (in those fortunate locales where a musical revival had occurred) its exquisite chant melodies made the regular life of public worship a continuous schooling in the prayer of the heart, a repeated call to ever deeper penetration of the mysteries of faith, a recurrent opportunity for exercising the theological virtues, a convivial context for receiving higher graces from God.
Pierre Hadot wrote an influential book entitled Philosophy as a Way of Life, showing that philosophers of antiquity were more than mere intellectuals; they were striving to be, you might say, saints of the rational life, mystics of logos, priests of sophia. The traditional Catholic already has his Way of Life: it is the ancient Liturgy. In this school of endless subtlety and abiding simplicity, he finds an entire way of life which encompasses and transcends the truths and blessings of human or philosophical wisdom. The liturgy gives him at once a broad and clear teaching on holiness and an inexhaustible wealth of new insights, new layers of meaning he may never have noticed before but which are already present in the texts he has always known. The liturgy is where he goes for his identity, purpose, and strength. He does not think of changing the liturgy to conform it to himself; he rather strives to conform himself to the liturgy, to be formed by it and for it, so that Christ Jesus may be formed in him.
This is what the original Liturgical Movement was all about, and this is the work to which we of the New Liturgical Movement are called today. Be the challenges what they may, let us carry forward the noble work, the best principles, of our forebears, as we seek to spread far and wide the inexhaustible riches of the traditional liturgical life of the Catholic Church.