Overarching RULE

Most of you know my Five Rules by now.

Here is another guiding tenet for thinking and speaking and writing about the Motu Proprio, or other documents.

Don’t let the better become the enemy of the good.

When we are given a good document, a truly useful set of provisions, recognize their worth.  This does not mean that the document couldn’t have been better in some respects.  If, however, you dwell on what you think it ought to have been, rather than what it is, you undermine the value of the document.  When we become so involved in the defects of a document, and how it could be better, we harm the good it can produce.

Remember Rule 5:

Fr. Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement for after the Motu Proprio is released:

1) Rejoice because our liturgical life has been enriched, not because "we win".  Everyone wins when the Church’s life is enriched.  This is not a "zero sum game".

2) Do not strut.  Let us be gracious to those who have in the past not been gracious in regard to our "legitimate aspirations".

3) Show genuine Christian joy.  If you want to attract people to what gives you so much consolation and happiness, be inviting and be joyful.  Avoid the sourness some of the more traditional stamp have sadly worn for so long.

4) Be engaged in the whole life of your parishes, especially in works of mercy organized by the same.  If you want the whole Church to benefit from the use of the older liturgy, then you who are shaped by the older form of Mass should be of benefit to the whole Church in concrete terms.

5) If the document doesn’t say everything we might hope for, don’t bitch about it like a whiner.  Speak less of our rights and what we deserve, or what it ought to have been, as if we were our own little popes, and more about our gratitude, gratitude, gratitude for what God gives us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Boko Fittleworth says:

    I find it easier not to let the better become the enemy of the good when the good (this MP) is so darn good. My anti-spam phrase sums it up: Thank you Pope Benedict!

  2. Chris says:


  3. Henry Edwards says:

    In the afterglow of the motu proprio, the impulse to gather on a beautiful mountaintop somewhere and “Teach the world to sing … In perfect harmony” is natural enough. Hey, can’t we all just love one another, and let bygones be bygones? But perhaps there’s also some food for thought in the reaction of Thomas E. Woods:

    Now part of me sympathizes with those who say we should be magnanimous in victory, and not seek to score points against those with whom we have been at odds on liturgical issues in the past. Indeed most of me takes this eirenic view.

    But I am convinced that this cannot be right. There is an essential lesson in what has just transpired, a lesson that must be properly absorbed even if it means ruffling a few feathers for one last time. The liturgical warfare of the past four decades has caused too much anguish for us simply to walk away in triumph and learn nothing from it.

    But I’m not sure Woods ever gets around to telling us just what to learn from the long years of anguish in which we were ridiculed or even condemned simply because we longed for the traditional Mass that we’d been taught to love with all our hearts and minds. Really, what’s the lesson “that must be properly absorbed”?

  4. Abouna,


    Sometimes I think there are those who expect/demand the perfection of heaven here on earth. But ultimately we must take what we are given and create “something beautiful for God”, in the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The Pope has given the whole Church (East and West) a great blessing here, since it helps bring the Latin Church back to its liturgical roots.

    Rather than curse imperfaction and darkness, let’s overwhelm evil with an abundance of good! We have both the tools and the permission, now.

    God bless,


  5. Henry,

    Thank you for the link. A terrific article.

    I honestly think it might be too soon to begin laying out too many “lessons learned”, especially since the Latin Church has just been placed on a learning curve trying its level best to properly receive and assimilate the information from the MP. I’m not sure the average Catholic knows the details of the MP or its full implications. (I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone is a “Church Geek” like me… ;-) ) I’d say: give it a year or two (after September 14th). Let the differences settle in the mind of the average Catholic.

    But as far as implementation goes, I think we can learn something from the 1970’s: SHOCK change is hell and people leave as a result. Patronizing people and demeaning what they have come to view as important and familiar is no way to change hearts and minds. It only turns them away from the path of salvation. I’m all for tough messages, but I prefer the kind of unyielding fatherly love of a St. Francis deSales who converted myriads of Protestants back to the Catholic faith after their parents’ and grandparents’ generations had left. People need to be shepherded in the most fatherly way possible back to a realization of what orthodoxia (true worship) is all about.

    Ironically, our time is not unlike the post-Tridentine period of reform and renewal. We have seen the worst of the worst in experimetal and Protestantizing minimalism. I would recommend that we study the post-Tridentine period in light of the documents of Vatican II to discover some of the keys to authentic renewal. The seeds of a real Catholic revival are there and the opportunity is there! Modernism and Liberal Catholicism have gone about as far as they can possibly go. The benefit to us NOW is that their ideas no longer have the allure of newness, but rather taste like the staleness of an overchewed, three day old stick of Juicy Fruit that should have been discarded long ago (don’t ask me how I know what that tastes like…a throw back to childhood days!). People are liturgically weary of Sister Wanda B. Priest and her latest liturgical fad picked up from the liturgical conference she attended in Boulder this Spring. (Well, maybe not Boulder, but it could have been!)

    The same phenomenon occurred post-Nicea and prior to the Council of Constantinople that sealed the fate of the Arians and the semi-Arians. Post Nicea, the Arians had pretty much run things, having the imperial ear and soul and keeping Athanasius and the whole lot of orthodox hierarchs on the run. Then Julian the Apostate made the strategerical (thank you, Mr. Bush!) error of bringing back the orthodox hierarchs from exile in order to create even more confusion in the Church. What he did not count on was the fact that the people had grown tired of the Arians, who had overplayed their hand in spades, and ended up rejecting Arianism in all its forms for Nicene orthodoxy.

    The fields are white and ready for the harvest, my Latin brothers and sisters. The Church needs to be re-evangelized in the true spirit of caritas, as taught by Jesus Christ and Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est.

    God bless,


Comments are closed.