FOLLOW UP: My review of the Visitor at Mass from Angelus Press

You may have seen the review I posted of a very helpful little booklet designed precisely For the Visitor at Mass.  It is on sale from the Angelus Press, publishing arm for the SSPX

The director of the Angelus Press Fr. Kenneth Novak, SSPX, sent me a nice note as a follow up.   I cordially post it here:

Thanks, Fr. Novak, for the possibility that this review took "courage", though I really don’t so.  I was just trying to be fair.

I may disagree with some foundational arguments used by some members of the SSPX.  I have bones to pick only with those who use overly harsh rhetoric to criticize the Roman Pontiff and other prelates.  Happily they are rare.  Most of the SSPX priests I have met are good fellows, whom I believe would choose clearer unity with Rome like a shot, were they able to perceive that they would be treated fairly…. a real concern, I know.

And when I see a good book, I’ll call it a good book!

What I think we must do is continually extend good will in the hope of more perfect unity in near future.

Oremus, Fr. Novak, libenter pro invicem.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Novak has cool handwriting!

  2. Father Novak is a spiritual father and a man’s man. Good to see Fr. Z and Fr. Novak have met acquaintances even if by correspondence.

    Father Novak has been serving three chapels in North Carolina (flying every weekend from Kansas City, the SSPX’s HQ) for numerous years. This is in addition to his role as Editor-in-Chief of Angelus magazine and as director for Angelus press. He holds boys’ camps, retreats, encourages boys to become men and men to become better men.

    On Maundy Thursday, after seeking and obtaining permission from six Catholic churches in the diocese of Charlotte, he took his congregation to these churches following Mass to adore the Blessed Sacrament as “station” churches in Rome, before returning to their chapel in Mt. Holly after midnight. He received permission from all six diocesan pastors.

    Fr. Novak also cautioned his congregation that the SSPX priests, bishops and Archbishop Lefebvre himself, have never taught that the Novus Ordo missae, done with the correct form, matter or intention, was invalid. He emphasized this was NOT a teaching of the SSPX. He also pastorally cautioned his flock about expressing any reservations in that regard while visiting the Blessed Sacrament in these churches.

    Let us all re-vivify our prayers for the full canonical regularization of the SSPX and the lifting of the decrees of excommunication against their bishops sooner rather than later, so we can all join forces more frequently and effectively in the future to build God’s kingdom.

  3. The District Superior of the SSPX in the US – Fr John Fullerton – who writes the column in the monthly newsletter from the SSPX has a very friendly tone towards the Holy See. Much more so than the previous District Superior – Fr Scott – who never seemed to have anything positive to say about the Pope.

  4. Gerard says:

    I’ve been to only one Mass offered by Fr. Novak. It was about 4 years ago and he filled in for the regular priest. He’s an unforgettable and overwhelming preacher. Fiery, passionate, clear speaking, politically incorrect.

    It was about the rebuilding of a Catholic society and the need for Fathers to know how to act like men and stop acting like women. It was a call to arms in the Church Militant and a highlight of my life.

    Archbishop LeFebvre trained these men to be lions on the pulpit and lambs in the confessional. I said this before but it’s still true, every SSPX priest I’ve met is very different yet each one reflects the same Jesus Christ, like different facets of a diamond.

  5. My experiences with the SSPX have been positive as well. It has been my understanding, they are producing a new training guide for priests and masters of ceremonies. A gentleman at an SSPX house was kind enough to send me a partial rough draft last fall, as I was helping others prepare for a regular Missa Cantata. I found the notes and commentaries to be most excellent, and the “general principles of the traditional Roman Rite” to be very crucial to an understanding of “the big picture” with respect to the Traditional Mass. It is not as dense as otherwise excellent ceremonials by Fortescue and O’Connell, and will go a long way in training priests and servers. I look forward to its completion.

  6. Jim Dorchak says:

    Fr Z

    I was so pleased to see your posting of the letter from Fr. Novak. It sure does speak highly of you to put your hand accross the table.

    My family and I drive the 1 hour and 45 min to attend the SSPX chapel the three Sundays a month that it is not made available to Latin Mass Catholics in the upstate of SC.

    Fr. Novak is such an inspiring man outside being a good priest. A group of dads and their sons recently went on a camping / canoe trip with him and he provided us the Latin Mass on an island in the middle of Lake Norman. Every boy was deeply involved in the education and emotion of seeing their place in nature and Gods plan for them in Church as pointed out by Fr. Novak. Around 21 boys and dads spent the night on the island. We ALL chanted evening prayers, later night prayers, and woke to morning prayers, all lead by Fr. Novak. Usually you have to “Convince” boys to do chant and do their prayers. All of these boys were into this! They loved the trip. They wrapped them selves in the prayers of the Church.

    They were actually living their faith.

    BTW, Fr. Novak is an old time type guy who insists on hand writtn letters, and revels in the lost art of personal corospondence.

    I would jump at the chance to do this (camp trip) again with my sons. Just a very inspiring priest.

    Jim Dorchak

  7. Kradcliffe says:

    Fr. Novak thanked you for your “imprimatur.” You know, that actually is a bit of a problem… their publications don’t have an imprimatur. I was told by someone that it’s against canon law to publish liturgical texts without one, which is why Baronius Press advertises as having the only EF missal with one.

    That sort of thing makes me a bit nervous, to be honest. I am anxious to see as many current priests and adherents to the SSPX reconciled to Rome as possible, as soon as possible.

  8. Catholic Mike says:

    As already mentioned above, Father Novak is a very good homilist as well. Some of his sermons are cataloged on the Saint Vincent de Paul sermon archive website:

  9. boredoftheworld says:

    I was just trying to be fair.

    Considering how rare that quality is I think it is fair to say that takes courage.

    Meanwhile I think it is past time for everyone to admit that Greenville, SC is the center of the universe.

    Everything in ecclesiastical politics seems to have a Greenville connection. Fr. Novak after all led a “march” on Fr. Newman because of some bulletin columns Fr. Newman wrote concerning the SSPX. Living in Greenville is like living in an ant-hill that gets kicked several times a week.

  10. Bored: Anthill? Kicked?

    But if Greenville is the center of the universe, allow me a question out of curiosity?

    Other than Maronite Divine Liturgy offered tongight on Holy Thursday, do you have the opportunity to fulfill your obligation today/tonight by attending Mass in the Traditional or conservative Novus Ordo forms of the one Roman rite?

    As a soon-to-be former Greenvillian, I can say that in downtown Dallas, we did at 6:30 a.m. today–thanks to the FSSP.

    Just askin’…

  11. Tom says:

    I give thanks to God for Father Z’s fairness and courage regarding the SSPX and Angelus Press.

    I have found it sad that more than a few Catholics, particularly our Churchmen, have treated the SSPX like dirt while heaping love upon Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Moslems and even atheists.

    Yes…let’s love the above-mentioned folks…but let’s us also love our SSPX brothers and sisters.

    Unlike the many priests indentified by our Holy Father (as Josef Cardinal Ratzinger) as having “desacralized” and wrecked the Mass and parishes, SSPX priests are known to foster holiness, reverence and a strong sense of Catholic identity at SSPX chapels.

    At any rate, we need healing and peace to emerge regarding, if you will, the SSPX question.

    We need to follow Father Z’s lead and allow peace and healing to flow from us to the SSPX…and, in turn, peace and healing need to flow from the Society of Saint Pius X.

    Father Z is a holy and important man of the Church who plays a major role in the Church-SSPX healing and peace process.


  12. USMarine says:

    As one who has attended Mass numerous times at Our Lady of Sorrows (SSPX) in Phoenix, Arizona, I can say that the priests there are simply outstanding!

  13. Woody Jones says:

    Fr. Novak is a great man, as others have noted. He let me publish a couple of articles in “The Angelus” back in the mid-1990s (those years of the magazine are just about to be put on line), which, given their quality, was an act of charity on his part, for sure!

    Back in the day, I personally experienced so much hostility to the SSPX at the local level, and have constantly read about more at the Curial level, that the whole issue of the type of reception and “home” they would have back in full communion seems really to be a big part of the problem.

    Bravo, Father, for your gracious and couragious act.

  14. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    I have not seen Fr. Ken Novak in many years. However, having been a former SSPX seminarian in the late 1980s while he too was in formation, I can say that he is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. Although we would probably disagree on certain ecclesiological points since I parted ways with the SSPX, he retains a very warm place in my heart and that of my family. He is always welcome in my home!

    Let us hope that the irregular situation of the SSPX is resolved very soon.

  15. Ancilla says:

    + That’s good to learn what I’ve read so far about Father Novak. I admit I’ve had some strong reservations about his community because of the things I have heard and seen from quite a few lay members. Judging by these posts, some of the people are saying things that are contrary to what Father Novak believes. I’ve been hearing too many castigations from people who think they are the true church and every other Catholic (not an SSPXer) is outside of the “Church”. Also, very little charity and lack of chastity and modesty in speech and entertainments among the young adults. Also, I attend an FSSP community and always here that I am “in the Novus Ordo Church”. It’s very odd how far many I’ve met in the SSPX community has strayed from the things apparently Father Novak taught about the Novus Ordo Missae (if matter, form and intent are correct) is valid.

  16. Ancilla, I believe we can all point out deficiencies, faults, heresies, uncharitable ideas and talk, etc. in every single Catholic parish we visit. Sin and concupiscence exist in all parish and chapel settings regardless of SSPX, FSSP, diocesan.

    Where is the FSSP near the SSPX in Mt. Holly? I was totally unaware there was any FSSP presence in Charlotte.

  17. Calleva says:

    What a lovely letter! Fr Novak sounds like a wonderful priest. I haven’t personally come across any SSPX people, and what I’ve heard so far hasn’t fill me with much enthusiasm, but he sounds like the real thing; a good, holy priest. I pray God that the priesthood will have more men like him. As Mr Hoag says above, let us pray that the difficulties will be resolved soon, we need more solid, orthodox priests and people to press ahead with the ‘Benedictine’ renewal of the church.

  18. Fr. Angel says:

    This note of Fr. Novak is amicable and shows that he is a brother and fellow wayfarer. I have the impression that like many other separated brethren, the SSPX are a very mixed bag of folks. My dealings have been positive, especially in ordering from Angelus Press, which I can always depend on to be courteous and efficient.

    May God grant Fr. Novak and the other priests of the SSPX that grace by which “negotiations” give way to full communion with the rest of the Church.

  19. FranzJosf says:

    Fr. Z: I love that you say a good book is a good book. I reminds me of your saying, “A Deacon is a Deacon is a Deacon.”

  20. Somerset '76 says:

    The sight of that handwriting brings back some decidedly powerful memories. Permit me excerpts from a personal anecdote….

    Christmastide 1985. The SSPX’s North American seminary, then located near Ridgefield, Conn., hosts a men’s abbreviated Ignatian retreat, at which I, then aged 20, was a first-time participant, having gotten myself involved with the Society only months prior. It was my first encounter with a traditionalist seminary and it gave birth to a dream, which turned out to be long-deferred, of entering myself. Some years later, a seminarian named Ken Novak told me that he remembered me from that retreat: for him, it was the occasion of his own decision to enter the very next year. We missed each other in the hallways, so to speak: he had been newly ordained and had just taken over his new assignment directing Angelus Press when my own first year, by this time in Minnesota, finally commenced….

    The mid-to-late 1990s saw him in contact with me, by this time again a layman, regarding proposed book manuscripts, both of my own and of others….

    On a nightmare black Sunday in June 2002, Fr. Novak was literally the first person I ran into after fleeing the scene of one of the most horrible events of my life. He bid me to pray the Litany of Humility and said to me: There is nothing left for you here now. It is time for you to go back home….

    Surely through the grapevine he knows that I no longer maintain a connection to the Society. As late as March of last year, when last I set foot in the chapel of Mt. Holly while on a visit to my mother’s, I had wanted to talk to him … but there, as is the case everywhere he is, too much demands his attention, too many want to see him. It proved to be my last-ever visit to a SSPX chapel. I haven’t even had the nerve to say goodbye — there is nothing he can do now: too much has happened, and I cannot deny the insights I received early last year if I wanted to. But I do miss him, his articulation, and his ardency….

  21. ekafant says:

    Father Novak is a wonderful priest without an ego. He has baptized four of my children, one who was born and could have died. Father Novak came all the way from Mt. Holly to Wonston Salem aftter a busy Saturday. Stayed till about 1am, and a I am sure that he go little sleep that weekend, just to make sure that my child had Baptism. He has tried to cultivate a good relationship with the local diocesan priests, and is well respected for his efforts. God bless and keep Father Novak.

  22. Woody Jones says:

    I have only spoken with Fr. Novak on the phone a couple of times back in the day, but fondly remember him as a fine priest and warm human being. When I was contributing to “The Angelus” back in the mid-90s (Fritz Wilhelmsen was also contributing at the time, as a much more worthy author), I was, and still am, impressed by the courage that Father showed in facing up to the tough issues of the time, including some that were not so favorable to Tradition, in the magazine.

  23. Anna says:

    This is beginning to sound like a eulogy for Fr. Novak! ;)
    Please do pray for him. He suffers greatly from diabetes.

  24. Brian Day says:


    Not an eulogy, but a testimonial!


  25. michigancatholic says:

    I’m not SSPX, but I have to say they’ve done a very good job with maintaining quality for missals and that’s a good thing.

  26. Connie Summers says:

    While I agree with all of the comments above regarding Fr. Novak, I think it can be quite dangerous to flatter a priest, any priest, to such an extent. Fr. Novak is an excellent priest, no doubt, but all priests have egos, because they are human beings.

    God bless Fr. Novak, Fr. Zuhlsdorf and all priest. May they continue to God’s will.

  27. Most of the SSPX priests I have met are good fellows, whom I believe would choose clearer unity with Rome like a shot, were they able to perceive that they would be treated fairly…. a real concern, I know.

    How about doing what they know to be right, even if they can foresee that the aftermath might be uncomfortable for them? That’s what grownups do. When I came back to the Church I didn’t hang about waiting to be assured that my feelings wouldn’t be hurt: it had to be done, so I did it. Most people are capable of doing their duty even if they don’t like the looks of the consequences. Why should we make excuses for these guys?

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