An interesting evening

Tonight I had supper with one of the ten smartest people I know.

A parish priest from St. Paul. 

This is one of the most highly intelligent, but also one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met.

We had grilled filet mignon which I had marinated in garlic, lemon and olive oil, and green salad with a touch of blue cheese with well toasted sourdough bread slices and a ’97 Nebbiolo.

The conversation revolved around many issues both foreign and domestic.  

It was great to have such stimulating discussion.  When not in Rome… these are my real chances!

This is a fellow who can move from the Schoenberg’s use of the tone row, to quoting Baudelaire in French from memory, to commenting on details of an Athenian red figure vase in the NY Met, to quoting Aristophanes in Greek, to discussing novels by Alan Furst and and latest editorials in three major newspapers.  Last night we watched an Alfred Hitchcock film and have discussed it after and again today, down to the level of its sources and the screenplay.

I have both served Mass for him, this week, and concelebrated (Novus Ordo) with him in the Sabine chapel. [It is good for priests to serve Mass at least occasionally.] Entirely in Latin, of course. 

What a great thing to be able to have a Novus Ordo Mass, with readings, everything, entirely in Latin without the slightest hesitation or self-consciousness… since our grasp of spoken Latin is so comfortable.

This priest, this great gentleman, is a living icon of what is possible for culture in a priest.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Franjo says:

    Who is this priest?
    Did I miss a name?
    Sometimes I am in that part of the country.
    He sounds great
    God Bless

  2. Dov e says:

    Yes, the Novus Ordo can be beautiful celebrated entirely in Latin. Last year at the CMAA colloquium ,in one week we experienced the Novus Ordo in English, in Latin (ad orientem) and the Extraordinary Form–all sung masses of course, sung by the participants, with Gregorian propers and some polyphonic ordinaries. It was an eye-opener for us. We have the Novus Ordo in Latin at our parish too, but the lessons, epistle and Gospel are in English. Still, it is celebrated with great care and reverence.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    Good food, good wine, good conversation, good liturgy… this sounds like absolute heaven to me! I would love to attend the Ordinary Form of Mass in Latin, readings and all… and an excellent dinner and wine after? Excellent!

    P.S. My mother is quite saddened that there are no pictures of this meal! :-(

  4. Vincenzo says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “We had grilled filet mignon which I had marinated in garlic, lemon and olive oil..”

    That’s my favorite way to prepare it.

  5. don Jeffry says:

    My parish priest asked me what I wanted as a gift from my parish for my ordination yesterday, something to do with the priesthood of course, and I told him I wanted a Latin Missal. The other thing would be to serve as an assistant priest with the subject of this blog entry in order to simply learn from him how to be a good priest. Best, don Jeffry

  6. Patrick says:

    Tantalising anonymity.

  7. EDG says:

    I think the overall quality of the clergy declined since they stopped requiring them to learn Latin. No offense meant to any modern non-Latinist priest, of course. But the knowledge of Latin, even to the relatively limited extent required for the priesthood, was somewhat of an intellectual threshold. It was not only a challenge that screened out men who couldn’t make it, but it opened Catholic culture to the men who did and in some cases did lead to greater learning in general (although I will say that Fr Z’s friend sounds like a phenomenal polymath who wouldn’t have been an everyday occurrence in any situation!).

    In addition, the inability to learn Latin was taken to mean that this man had a vocation to something else. Very often, religious brothers were wonderful, devout and even holy men who simply could never learn the Latin required to be a priest, and realized that God was calling them to something else. They made wonderful brothers; and still others who couldn’t learn Latin made great devout laymen and fathers of large families.

  8. Kradcliffe says:

    People like Father Z’s friend are truly rare and very inspiring. I have only known a couple such people in my life. (Well, been aware of, I mean.) Most of us just muddle along, hoping to achieve something like middle-brow status. lol.

    Priests all have different gifts, I guess. I mean, there are probably as many different kinds of good priests as there are types of good mothers. I don’t think the level of Latin required by seminaries was necessarily at the level Fr. Z enjoys. And, there are stories of very holy men who struggled academically in seminary and went on to be great saints, like St. John Vianney and Blessed Father Casey Solanus.

  9. Kradcliffe says:

    Oh, I’m sorry… I meant to post that I am always glad to hear about priests having fun, socializing with one another. I guess I worry about our priests – it seems like it must be such a lonely life, at times. Especially in remote areas where there may only be one priest for miles.

  10. Forrest says:

    Any Traditional Priest want to come save our little country parish in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains?

  11. Marta Garbarino says:

    Dear Fr. Z.:
    If this priest you describe is Fr. _ , let me add that I couldn’t agree with you more. I have always felt humbled before his magnificent humility. As you said, one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met.

  12. Kradcliffe says:

    I’m sorry – I meant to say “Blessed Fr. Solanus Casey.” I always get his name backwards, and then I feel so stupid! D’oh!

  13. Serafino says:

    The story is told of a highly educated and well known clergyman from the upper classes in France, who preached so eloquently that the church was always overflowing with people. Commenting on the vast numbers of people in church one evening, a women said, “Monsignor, there are so many people in church tonight, they are sitting on top of the confessionals!” “Yes, Madam,” he replied, “but when the Cure’ of Ars preaches, they go in the confessionals.”

    Certainly, to be a priest one needs to possess normal intelligence, and the ability to learn the subject matter.(Including enough Latin to celebrate the Mass the Sacraments in a worthy manner.) Advanced theological degrees, and fluency in the ancient biblical and liturgical languages, while useful in the world of academia and ecclesiastical careerism, is not a substitute for priestly holiness of life. “Nemo dat non quod habet.”

    It has been my pastoral experience in over 20 years of priesthood, that most members of the laity want their priests to be observant, devoted and holy, rather then, erudite intellectuals or walking theological encyclopedias

  14. Flambeaux says:


    As a layman I’ll freely admit I don’t see the tension that is assumed in your last comment. I want my priests to be observant, devoted, holy, AND erudite.

    The friend of Fr. Z’s sounds like a few of the priests I have had the privelege of knowing, one of whom taught me Latin in high school and later celebrated the Nuptial Mass (Latin NO) when my wife and I were married. Several of those whose erudition matches their devotion are former Anglican priests.

    And a few got through in spite of the post-Conciliar insanity in formation.

    I agree that such a man is rara avis, but that can be said of anyone, clergy or laity, who possesses devotion and erudition in equal measure.

    A true aristocrat is a wonder to behold. There is a reason that Aristotle considers aristocracy among the best governments.

    Sounds like you had a marvelously fruitful evening, Father.

    Thank you for sharing it with us.

  15. m.a. says:

    Serafinoo said: “It has been my pastoral experience in over 20 years of priesthood, that most members of the laity want their priests to be observant, devoted and holy, rather then, erudite intellectuals or walking theological encyclopedias”


    Thank you, Serafino… As a person in the congregation, I wish my pastor to be someone I can emulate; someone who can help his people to further their own journey toward
    the holiness we are all called to.

  16. I’m confused. I didn’t think you marinated filet mignon? I thought that was for just tougher cuts of meat like flank steak.

  17. Question: Did you have cigars after the meal?

    [Nope… Fr. Z] 

  18. Tim Ferguson says:

    Serafino, I think you’re making a false distinction between erudite intellectuals and devout and pious persons. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t expect – and hope for – both.

    Personally, I do enjoy – and am spiritually nourished – by a sermon that challenges my intellect as well as my affect, that feeds my mind as well as my soul. I would also add that, in my experience, most of the priests I know who are scholars are also some of the most devout and prayerful priests I know. I have also had the privilege of knowing some truly saintly priests who couldn’t work out a simple syllogism, but I don’t think that their lack if intellectual skills caused them to be holy, or was somehow a part of their piety.

    Holiness, intelligence, humility – that seems to be the trifecta. I’ve been privileged to know a number of priests who could be described with those three words.

  19. JPSonnen says:

    I miss the good old days with you guys around the table at Agnes – with the wise men.

  20. Tom says:

    All this talk of clerical comraderie puts me in mind of a few lines from a great old Irish tune:

    At the learning I wasn’t such a genius I’m thinking,
    But I soon bet the master entirely at drinking,
    Not a wake or a wedding for five miles around,
    But meself in the corner was sure to be found.
    One Sunday the priest read me out from the altar
    Saying you’ll end up your days with your neck in a halter;
    And you’ll dance a fine jig between heaven and hell
    And his words they did fright me the truth for to tell,

    So the very next morning as the dawn it did break
    I went down to the vestry the pledge for to take,
    And there in that room sat the priests in a bunch
    Round a big roaring fire drinking tumblers of punch…

  21. Jonathan Bennett says:

    Father’s wine cellar must be quite something.

  22. Hoka2_99 says:

    I wouldn’t mind allowing cloning if we could clone this priest friend of yours and send him to my parish. The dizzy heights of beauty here are met by the Clapping Gloria [is it by Paul Inwood?] “Gloria! She stacks shelves in Tesco!”. I told them it’s banal but no one sees it……. Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis…….PLEASE!!!!!!!

  23. Conan DeWitt says:

    fess up – who was it?

    Inquiring minds living in St Paul want to know!

    One remark did give me pause – isn’t conversant familiarity with the Harmonielehre, in fact, a mark against your friend? Is it really a mark of cultural accomplishment to discuss Le fleurs de Mal in the original? Shouldn’t priests who are deeply concerned with the recovery of Catholic tradition be learnedly dismissive of absinthe-besotted Symbolists and the apex figure of German Modernism?

    Now perhaps said cultural references occurred within a wider context – perhaps a discussion of Baudelaire’s influence on TS Eliot, and whether or not the latter truly offers (via the Four Quartets) a means for recovering the Western aesthetic tradition in contemporary poetry….or perhaps a debate on whether late-Renaissance Nominalism necessarily implies the collapse of the Catholic musical aesthetic, of which Schoenberg’s music was an explicit and intentional rejection.

    Now those would be two very interesting conversations. Inquiring minds want to know.

  24. Dionysius says:

    Father, please indulge me. What are the recommended WDTPRS proportions of garlic (and in what form), lemon and olive oil? Ditto for the blue cheese in the salad. I always either put in too much or not enough. Also, can you recommend to a layman a suitably simple and widely available Latin primer or similar? I want to understand as many words and phrases as possible, but I do not need to compose a Philippic!

  25. TNCath says:

    Sounds like a great evening: Mass, dinner, conversation. When done properly, the Novus Ordo is very beautiful. Let us pray that in time we will be able to experience this universally in our parishes.

  26. Carolina Geo says:

    Fr. Z: Don’t keep us guessing; which Hitchcock movie was it?

  27. Boko says:

    Alan Furst. Nice. I read an article about him in the New Criterion a few years ago and then got hooked on his books.

  28. Boko: Yes, Furst is outstanding.

  29. I thank the Lord for priest friends who are generous in sharing their love of learning, Latin, our Church, our Lord and their friendship. Ad multos annos.

    IRT Latin Mass OF see photo of Latin Mass Novus Ordo at Camp Lejeune chapel at

  30. Mea culpa. That blog is found at:

    Thank you Fr Z. See you in Virginia soon.

  31. Terry says:

    I know who the priest is you are writing about and I could not agree with you more – you are fortunate to know him so well.

  32. “I think the overall quality of the clergy declined since they stopped requiring them to learn Latin.” –EDG

    After 32 years in Religious life, and having know many, many, priests ordained before and after 1965, I have not noticed any such decline. There were learned priests before and after, in equal numbers.

    I might add that Latin is still required in my province, along with Spanish.

  33. Maureen says:

    It’s not really fair to say that Br. Solanus Casey “struggled academically”.

    He went to seminary in a town where seminary was taught entirely in German. If he understood any of it, he was pretty good!

  34. Patrick says:


    What was the 1997 Nebbiolo?

  35. JPSonnen: I miss the good old days with you guys around the table at Agnes – with the wise men.

    Yes… those were amazing days in retrospect.

  36. Tim Ferguson says:

    It would be good, at some point, to perhaps convoke a “Msgr. Richard J. Schuler Memorial Tuesday Night Colloquium.” Though not a member of the clergy, I would volunteer to be beer deacon.

  37. Tim: I would volunteer to be beer deacon.

    Ah yes… the only official lay ministry at St. Agnes was the Tuesday night beer minister.

    Your idea is a good one, btw. I shall have to give some thought to it.

  38. Patrick says:


    Yes, I know it was the wine. I was wondering if it was a Barolo or Barbaresco and, if you recall, the name of the winery. I ask purely out of wine-nerd curiosity.

  39. Patrick: It was not an exalted wine, alas, but it was very drinkable: Giacosa Fratelli – Nebbiolo d’Alba 1997.

    No spiders were involved.

  40. Patrick says:


    Sounds like a good match for the acidic filet marinade. Good call. You are a man of impeccable taste.

    I have been known to use a coaster as a secular pall in order to avoid unwanted intruders. Fruit flies love wine.

  41. Patrick: It paired pretty well, frankly.

    The other evening I did something rather more ambitious, though it also involved steak, but much larger cuts.  This also involved guests, rather than a guest.

    I started them off with a smallish martini and some nibbles. The martini was made according to James Bond’s description in the new version of Casino Royale.  We decided that that is a good mix, though I think it a little fussy. 

    The first was tortellini in brodo, but brodo of duck.  That was pretty yummy.  I had made it from the remains of a very serviceable duck dinner.  They were pressed on me to take home recently when I was a guest at someone else’s place, so I figured out what I could do with them.  I paired that with a 1998 Granville-Lacoste Graves.  I wanted to keep the oak at a minimum.

    We then had bone-in ribeye steaks, quite rare, for which I made a scratch Béarnaise sauce.  Served also were oven roasted potatoes in olive oil and rosemary and some steamed broccoli.  That went with a really good 2005 Trapiche Broquel Malbec.  Great stuff.  Huge.

    There was a chocolate torte available after that (store bought) and some cheeses, fruit, etc.  Dessert went with a 1998 Roûmieu-Lacoste Haut-Barsac Sauternes which, frankly, I had open already.   There was very strong French roast coffee also.

    I wrote out the menu, in Latin, for them so they knew what was scheduled:

    Gelida pocula permixta agitataque in cyantho ex iuniperorum distillatione. [A cyanthus is a type of ancient vessel drinks were mixed in.]

    Torquatula infarcita in anatrino iure.  [I once knew how to say “tortellini” in Latin, but I forgot, so I made this up.]

    Frusta carnis bovillae in craticula tosta more Aquitaniano. [I didn’t know the Latin for the town of “Béarn” so I punted.]

    Brassica oleracea et solana tuberosa in furno cum roremarino Romano more.

    Torta theobromina.

    Infusio arabica.

    Vina “tot consulum regionumque” (Horatii Sat 2,8,38) ut Sabinae villae decent.

  42. Geoffrey says:

    What do you think of California Cabs, Father? Any memorable ones?

  43. Flambeaux says:

    Fr. Z wrote: The martini was made according to James Bond’s description in the new version of Casino Royale. We decided that that is a good mix, though I think it a little fussy.

    IIRC, Father, the recipe is directly from Ian Fleming’s original source text. :D

  44. Flambeaux: Don’t get me wrong! It’s good! But when the recipe is followed precisely, it is a little complex to make.

  45. larry brooks says:

    Pardon Maureen,

    Challenged or not he made it. It ia Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M.,Cap. Dear Fr. Z you betray a tendency to bovine sacrilege! I too love a good marinade; but, not on the king of steaks! Ah, but to each his own. After the Fast the Feast. However, with the mention of “your car” and now this feast of food and drink it sounds more like something out of Chaucer than Francis. Remind me again; what is it we are here for?

  46. larry brooks says:

    Fr. Z,

    That was unfair of me. I am certain that you are a wonderful host and priests are entitled to some of the best. After all the Priests in the OT got a pretty good portion and it was alotted to them by GOD. Enjoy and recharge your batteries! The work you and your brother priests is great and necessary and “the workman is worth his wages.” Peace

  47. Bill says:

    So much for living simply…

  48. This is good to read.

    God bless our priests. May he send many more like him.

  49. Hey! Just a bit of hay for me!

    “In loco pascuae ibi me conlocavit; super aquam refectionis educavit me.”

    Any of that at the farm?

  50. EDG says:

    In all fairness, Fr. Augustine Thompson is no doubt right, and the number of cultured and learned men in the priesthood is probably about the same, particularly among order priests. But I think the general quality of Catholic culture in general has declined, at least in part due to the removal of Latin from the world of the average Catholic, priest or layman. Once upon a time, almost any child who went through Catholic high school had to learn at least the basics of Latin. In addition, since the Latin Mass itself was a cultural icon, which was referred to in all sorts of unlikely contexts, ranging from literature to politics, even this slight knowledge of Latin made Catholics more cultured almost in spite of themselves. I realize that the learning of Latin is not the solution to everything, but I think it might help Catholics to tap back into that cultural stream again. Cultured priests need cultured laity!

  51. If he is who I think he is, I want to say: I owe him very much. He is a good and, I think, holy priest. He supported me during a very difficult time in seminary. He has always been kind to me, and is one of the most gracious people I know. If I could be half as good a priest as he, I would think that God truly blessed me. In the manliest way I can say this, I have profound love for him. I hope the Archbishop might reward him for his good work and example by making him a monsignor. Keep up the good work Fr. Z!

  52. Offering the following spelling correction for the benefit of readers learning their Latin.

    Psalm 22 in Vulgata (23 elsewhere), verse 1:

    “In loco pascuae ibi me COLLOCAVIT” as opposed to “conlocavit” as in above post.

  53. Haurietis Aquas!

    LOL! I see you are another afficionado of the New Vulgate. That’s O.K. There is, you might know, a HUGE controversy about all this. Just as a hint, since this is off topic. [Sorry! Fr Z! I know you’ll understand this to be table banter!]

    Psalmi iuxta Lxx:

    Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit; in loco pascuae ibi: me conlocavit…

    Psalmi iuxta Hebr.:

    Dominus pascit me; nihil mihi deerit; in pascuis herbarum adclinavit me…


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