QUAERITUR: “flee to orthodoxy”

From a reader:

I have been reading and enjoying your blog over the past year while by God’s grace He has restored me to the Church. (Most of my adult life I spent in the wilderness until He worked a conversion in my heart in 2002 and I landed in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).  There I served in lay ministry and attend seminary classes in theology until the need for a more developed interior life led me to pray the Chaplet of St. Michael.  That’s when all the trouble began….  :)
All this is to say that this prodigal daughter has come home to the Church with a distinctly conservative hermeneutic. There are many beautiful parishes and devoted clergy in my area and I pray for those who pour themselves out in vocation for God.

But I have been surprised to encounter "centering" prayers, the not so subtle blurring of women’s roles in liturgy and leadership, some forms of higher criticism that the LCMS itself purged in the 1970’s, syncretism, the rewriting of the Hours to use gender inclusive pronouns and… if it could be worse…. the dulcet sounds of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and James Taylor lyrics emanating from ordained clergy at the lectern. 
Meanwhile me and all my books by Pope Benedict and 4 volume Liturgy of the Hours are in hiding, not sure what to make of all this.
In the LCMS, pastors would urge the faithful to "flee to orthodoxy" under such circumstances.  I want to spend the rest of my life loving God as best a sinner can, and I recognize that I have much to (re)learn and judgmentalism is a sin.  But is a layman, respecting authority, able to flee to orthodoxy in the Church, and how does one find it?

Yours is a story many converts and reverts can share, as well as many who have never fallen away from the Church but have rather suffered these long decades of the post-Conciliar silly season… now happily coming to a close.

So much depends on where you live, that I cannot give any precise answer.  But I must say that as a revert you need a stable period to get used to yourself as being Catholic. 

Find yourself the best possible parish and then hunker down and do your best there. 

It seems to me that you can "flee to orthodoxy" in some simple steps. 

First, say your prayers.  I don’t mean that to be flippant.  Say your daily prayers regularly.  When you rise and when you retire.  When you eat and when you have finished.  The Angelus at noon and 6 pm.   Say your Rosary.

Examine your conscience in the evening before sleep. 

Read some Scripture for a few minutes (if your volumes of the LOTH are still in hiding). 

Use sacramentals, such as Holy Water in your home. 

Use the Sacrament of Penance, regularly.

Be conscious of what you can do to gain indulgences for the poor souls even as you ask the saints to intercede for you.

We are all connected.  We are in this together.  They are on your side.

At Holy Mass put all your cares and aspirations, your sacrifices and petitions and thanks on the altar with the host and into the chalice with the wine.  Seek that encounter with mystery even when it is being obscured.

Just be a Catholic for a while.  Settle in.

When you see an abuse or catch a whiff of some something not right, don’t fret.  Remember that Satan hates the Church and priests with a savagery we humans cannot fathom.  Priests and those close to them in ministry will be the Enemy’s most urgent target.  It must not surprise us when we see things that are wrong or weird in the Church or during Mass, sad as that is. 

Be sober and alert about these things and do not allow them to be a drag on your spirit, for Old Scratch will use them if possible to erode your faith.

Also, when you consider a "flight to orthodoxy" consider that you have already arrived.  Holy Catholic Church is the spotless bride of Christ.  Her members are flawed, but she without error and hell’s minions can never prevail.

Finally, I don’t know whether or not you have ever received the sacrament of Confirmation, but this is an important tool of your spiritual life.  Confirmation strengthens the Christian in the trials of his or her life.  We can call upon the grace of that great sacrament in time of testing.

In the meantime, I sense that good changes are picking up speed in the Church.  The biological solution is taking care of the aging-hippies.  Young people don’t have the baggage of the previous generations.  Summorum Pontificum and the Holy Father’s other initiatives are exerting their "gravitational pull" on many spheres of the Church’s life.  Catholics are waking up to their identity, just as you are.

You have many resources at your fingertips, books, internet, church.

You have the sacraments.

You have lots and lots of company.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Father, your comments will be so helpful to many of us! Thank you.

  2. Well shoot, Father, that’s good advice for me too, a cradle Catholic, not just for lucky converts!

    Hmmm. Maybe I’ll ‘post’ your list on my fridge as New Year’s resolutions.

    And to the questioning reader, WELCOME and congratulations!

  3. Bailey Walker says:

    Don’t forget frequent Confession. It might be difficult to get back into the habit if you’ve been away for some time. However, it doesn’t take long to come to the awareness of how foolish it is to attempt to get through life without it. Go at least once a month.

    God bless you!

  4. joe says:

    As a catechist, I doubly (triply!) echo Father’s comment on Confirmation. Too often this Sacrament is “buried” and people do not avail themselves of it, and its manifold graces.



  5. How better to \”flee to orthodoxy\” than to seek out the local TLM community? Where she\’s likely to find a warm and supportive group of like-minded folks and none of the aberrations observed in the parishes she\’s seen.

  6. This is great advice…but I often feel torn, leave or transform the parish?

  7. Ed says:

    Everything, except:

    “The biological solution is taking care of the aging-hippies. Young people don’t have the baggage of the previous generations.”

    This is misleading, as if the arguably catastrophic fallout of Vatican II misapplications was a product of “hippie” influences, when it seems more likely that the profound misdirections let loose in the world in those days, effecting so many Catholic parishes and so many “hippies,” had a single source, the above mentioned “Old Scratch.” No point blaming other victims, of which there are so many, some gone, some just walking wounded. The Church at this time is Christ’s intended refuge for everyone, hopefully.

    Young people have a baggage all their own, a lifelong indoctrination that is plainly evident. Pope Benedict speaks of it as a challenge to every new generation. So, we keep praying.

  8. Edward says:

    From one revert to another, find a traditional Mass parish immediately and attend it exclusively. That is about the best advice I can give to anyone.

  9. Jess says:

    If it’s not terribly far, you might check out the Cathedral parish for your diocese. Anyone living in the diocese has the right to attend Mass at the Cathedral, and it’s likely that you’ll find more orthodoxy or at least good liturgy there.

  10. Midwest St. Michael says:

    I was just having this very discussion with a friend who is employed by a well known apostolate geared to help non-Catholics understand and come home to the Church. I can tell you that what the girl father mentions has experienced is echoed by many we “help” come home (sadly, some even go back to Protestantism — their reasoning is “it is just as Protestant here as it is over there”).

    Some encounter what we call the “Elder brother syndrome” – or the Prodigal son’s brother. You know, the attitude is “wait a second, we have been here all along – practicing/teaching/living the faith – and you come along with all of this – ugh! -‘ORTHODOXY!’ No thank you, we are just fine.”

    They so dread the “bad old days” of the “pre-Vatican II Church” they want no part of those who speak of fidelity to Mother Church — and keep them out of CCD and RCIA classes!

    It is a sad but true situation and I do hope and pray that the “biological solution” will take place – soon.

  11. tradone says:

    Fr, Thanks for ..
    …posting this.
    …Your “list” is a summary of what I was taught by the School Sisters of NotreDame (SSND).
    …Your calm words of encouragement, I need them & will take to heart.
    …Your reminder of why Confirmation is so important, we all need the grace that makes us strong, to be soldiers of Christ!
    And, I sure hope the biological solution is kind to me, I would like to enjoy seeing the fruits of the SP spread a bit more:)
    I surely will pray all!

  12. Lee Bohannon says:

    When I came into the Church in 1997, it seemed that many of the Catholics that I began to know did not particularly love Christ or his Church. No doubt this was a rash judgment on my part. However, my experience caused me to search long and hard for Orthodoxy. Thank God, I have since matured (I hope) in the Faith and have also been able to find a wonderful parish. Also, I have been able to observe truly devout souls, so I know that they exist.

    Regarding a search for Orthodoxy, I think it is important to realize the following: First, that Orthodoxy is not simply the observance of a set of rules, although rules are important. Second, that Orthodoxy, when it is found, changes a person. Remember the words of Christ when talking to the woman at the well, that the Father is seeking those to worship him in spirit and in truth? Contained in this statement is the true expression of Orthodoxy, i.e., the worship of God in spirit and in truth.

    So how does one find Orthodoxy? Based on my perhaps poor experience, the individual searching for Orthodoxy can do no better than the following: 1> Adore the Triune God; 2> Love and obey Mother Church; and 3> Do works of mercy. I would not worry about the spiritual progress of anyone who makes the accomplishment of these things the desire of his heart, especially in light of the promise of Our Lord, that he who seeks shall find.

  13. TJ says:

    Sorry, Father, but the younger generation does have the heavy baggage of World Youth Days, Youth Masses, and the charismaniacs movement. Someone needs to help them remove the baggage before they will be able to embrace the good changes. I was so hoping that His Holiness would put an end to WYD but it seems he is embracing it almost as much as his predecessor.

  14. Ed says:

    In line with this thread, this line, with Fr. Z’s comment, from another thread’s lead article

    “Nor is it unusual to attend a confirmation that seems more like a rather shoddy graduation ceremony rather than the completion of Christian Initiation and bestowing of the Seal of the Holy Spirit. [Well done, Father.]”

    punctuates a reality that is troubling. I was confirmed about 5 decades ago, under such circumstances as mentioned above; just on the cusp of Vatican II’s implementation. It’s an act of faith for me to accept that my “shoddy graduation ceremony” was true before God, and that the Seal of the Holy Spirit was bestowed. But I make that act of faith, because I believe that God does what He says, whether I recognize it or not.

    But, as so many here note, there can be a genuine experiential difference in different forms, so marked that some wonder if the Catholic Church, as such, even exists in some post-Vatican II parishes. The “halcyon days” that some responses invoke never existed, not in the days of the Apostles, nor in the centuries of the Fathers, nor in own decades, pre- or post- Vatican II. But God’s been working the whole time, including the post-Vatican II years, including those parishes where we don’t like what we see going on in the Mass. It’s still Christ’s Mass.

    This business of praying for “biological solutions” is plain malice, get over it.

  15. I am a convert of ten years this coming Easter. Your advice has been clarifying and encouraging to me. My town has one Catholic Church and so I have stuck to it here despite many abuses, although it could be much worse.

  16. Ed: This business of praying for “biological solutions” is plain malice, get over it.

    No need to pray for them (in the sense you mean). The new generation referred to is already born; indeed, some of them are already in the seminaries. The orientation of the best and brightest of them is already determined; the handwriting for the future is already written on the wall. The restoration of the Church is already well underway. Deo gratias. So I guess we’ll have to just “Get used to it.”

    PS. I also was confirmed about five decades ago, and for me and my fellow comfirmands it was a transcendent experience that remains luminous these many years later, though I still remember the nervous anticipation with which we awaited the bishop’s arrival and scrutiny. Different folks, different places, I guess.

  17. Edward says:

    Ed –

    There is no malice in objectively observing what has taken place over the last forty years and praying for a generational solution. Heck, in my opinion, if the Church is ever truly restored, it will take a generational solution. While a percentage of the older generation have indeed suffered from the unholy “spirit of Vatican II”, a much larger percentage willingly fled everything that was good and holy and to this day are the most vocal enemies of restoring anything traditional or orthodox.

    There is no mistaking the fact that when it comes to both lay persons and clerics, the biggest obstacles to a true restoration of the Church comes from those who fall in the late forties to late seventies age range. One reason for this is that most people consisting of the younger generation are at least intellectually honest enough to at some point in early adulthood just decide to give up on religion altogether if they decide they don’t really like Catholicism. This does not seem to be the case with the older generation though. They for some reason are bent on remaking Catholicism in their own image. What amazes me is that if you go to your average 5:30 p.m. Saturday vigil Mass with all the older Catholics, you will by and large find a large group of people every bit as herterodox and faithless as the younger generation which doesn’t even bother to go to Mass at all. However, unlike the younger generation, the older generation refuses to just get out of the way. Instead they persist on doing everything they can to be the meanest and most spiteful obstructionists they can be. For instance, throw a young orthodox priest into your average suburban barn populated by a bunch of fifty, sixty, and seventy somethings with the instruction that he begin implementing some of the Benedictine restorations and see if that priest survives one year. I do not believe the same can be said if the situation was the same but the priest instead faced a parish consisting of nothing but twenty and thirty somethings.

  18. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z.: The biological solution is taking care of the aging-hippies.

    This is callous and contumelious. The TLM that I attend has more than its share of those who once were “hippies.” When the biological solution takes care of them, there may be no more TLM. They were the victims of the periti who perverted the Church for their own ends, whether well intentioned or not. One such peritus has seen the wide swath of spiritual carnage they caused; he is now in a position to heal those left desolate and has on his own initiative issued Summorum Pontificum.

    A generation or more has grown up in the smouldering wreckage of the council. They don’t recognized the stench in their nostrils but the feckless Papa Montini knew well that the smoke of Satan had entered the temple of God.

  19. David Nandell says:


    So are you saying we should flee to the Orthodox Churches of the East (New Rome)?

    Just kidding.

    Although it is sad the West and East are still separated.

  20. My wife and I are converts (actually my wife is a revert) to the Church from the Jehovah\’s Witnesses (JWs) via the LCMS. In fact, I taught at Concordia University in Seward, NE not long after we left the JWs and it was my reading of the Early Church Fathers that \”started the trouble\” for us.

    We were greatly blessed in that we entered the Church in the diocese of Lincoln, NE and the outstanding formation we received from the RCIA program at The Cathedral of the Risen Christ really helped us.

    Due to my job change (I could no longer teach at Concordia since I had become Catholic) we moved to another diocese where the Church is having serious problems. In fact, my wife and I often notice that in many respects our LCMS friends seem more \”Catholic\” particularly on cultural issues than many of the Catholics we have met in the pews and at the altar in this diocese and this has been quite troubling…….

    What has kept us sane (and hopeful) is getting involved in a TLM community and driving the hour one-way to attend Mass there as we are able and also praying the Rosary. Frequent confession is a must as Fr. Z recommends and spiritual reading about the lives of the Saints helps too. You will be in our prayers.

  21. Ken says:

    “In the meantime, I sense that good changes are picking up speed in the Church. The biological solution is taking care of the aging-hippies. Young people don’t have the baggage of the previous generations. Summorum Pontificum and the Holy Father’s other initiatives are exerting their “gravitational pull” on many spheres of the Church’s life. Catholics are waking up to their identity, just as you are.”

    That’s the Money Quote of 2009. A message of hope to those of us who have long awaited the tide to turn.

    Blessings in the New Year!

  22. adeodatus says:

    Some questions from a newbie: I recently purchased a couple vials of holy water (from Lourdes).

    How am I to \”use\” this in my home? Suggestions/directions please. i.e., do you anoint certain things and recite certain prayers at the same time?

    Also, what other sacramentals are people using at home? By sacramentals, are we talking icons and such?

  23. MargaretC says:

    Father, this is excellent “spiritual hygiene” for all of us. I’m a convert myself (from a far more heterodox denomination than the Missouri Synod Lutherans). My advice to your correspondent would be to go slowly and look for kindred spirits. As she meets more practicing Catholics, she should be able to find a few who are looking for the same things she is.

    If she hasn’t yet been confirmed, I’d recommend that she select a patron saint from a period when Christianity was difficult and cultivate a prayerful friendship with her patron. This is not the first time in history when the Church has found itself in difficult straits. Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila are two who come to mind.

  24. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Some are – and many may – flee to Orthodoxy, and I would not blame them in the slightest. No Church is perfect, as we are made of sinners, poor sinners all. It may be naiive to expect perfection in any Church one converts to, and I think there is much wisdom in what you say, Father Z., because it encourages to start where we are. And we’re going to have to do that whether we stay in Rome, or whether we swim the Bosphorous, Tiber, or what have you.

    Still, I think we have a lot to learn from our Orthodox brothers and sisters. Sure, Orthodoxy is not perfect, but at least they don’t concede on things to the degree we do, don’t hide under a rock every time someone wants to sue us, and they don’t constantly have to “innovate” and try to be “relevant.” I don’t think the Sedevacantist approach is a healthy one, but I also don’t go for this “Ecclesia semper reformanda” crap spewed by the likes of Fr. Greeley and his ilk. (I mean no harm to Father, who needs our prayers as he recovers from a bad accident.)

    For crying out loud, when can we have some stability, continuity, and orthodoxy back in the Church?

  25. Henry says:

    Roland de Chanson: When the biological solution takes care of them, there may be no more TLM.

    Given your subsequent remarks, I not sure I get what you mean by this. The congregations at the OF Masses I attend have a median age over 65, whereas the TLM’s I attend have a median age under 35, and the younger members are the most dynamic.

    I hear similar estimates from TLM communities all over the U.S. So (being a member of the first-mentioned group) it seems clear that the TLM is ordained to outlast my own admittedly aging generation.

  26. Woody Jones says:

    Father, it sounds as if your correspondent is having to endure RCIA (at any rate the description sure sounds like the RCIA I went through). Once one starts, I think it best to continue the program even with the Kumbaya elements, but to supplement it with reading, etc. as she is doing and you and the others here have recommended. That plus praying the good old prayers will keep one going. Once one is back “inside” of course one can find the parish that is right for one. As a wise pastor here told me, it is OK to move to another parish if that is necessary for one’s spiritual health. In my case, it was to gravitate to the local Dominican church, then under the pastorate of Fr. Victor Brown, OP, a great man and a great Preacher, who was (and in retirement still is) unfailingly orthodox. It also helped immensely that the clergy led those who wished to join in said Evening Prayer in the sacristy after the 5:15 p.m. Mass on week days; it was a great way to learn the LOH and how to sing the Salve Regina. We had several vocations from the “Vesper Vandals” as well.

  27. joy says:

    The Aging-Hippy thing is, in some cases, more of a mindset than the labeling of the Entire Generation. I know of a 30-something priest who fits this category. Conversely, I know many who fit the age bracket who can hardly wait for our parish to begin its promised ‘occasional’ TLM.
    Also, even with the problems of WYD, I think one has to experience it before wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I went to Denver93WYD, and here I am, singing in Schola and on the Latin Mass committee in my parish. (and hanging on Fr. Z’s every post!)
    BXVI doesn’t do the 2×4 method, of which I am so fond. But he gets better results…

  28. Roland de Chanson says:

    Henry: Given your subsequent remarks, I not sure I get what you mean by this.

    The vast majority of the congregation(s) seems to be in the 50+ range. Granted there are younger families and that is most encouraging. But I meant that when the older members die off, the TLM may wither. The few occasions when I have been forced into a Novus Ordo temple, it does seem that there are a lot more younger families. My ad-hoc stats may reflect the attendance at Christmas / Easter holidays.

    I hope you are right and my experience is not representative.

  29. Roland de Chanson says:

    Joy: BXVI doesn’t do the 2×4 method, of which I am so fond. But he gets better results

    LOL! Good point. It would be nice if he did a True Mass once in a while though. Sort of “walk the walk”. Who knows? He might start a trend. I’ve already got red Pradas and Serengeti shades!

  30. Roland: I hope you are right and my experience is not representative.

    Your experience is at variance with almost all reports. The survival of the TLM does not depend on survivors like me. The demographics are clear, and their decisive effect is inevitable. It’s not a religious but a mathematical matter.

  31. Jane M says:

    **It would be nice if he did a True Mass once in a while though**

    Ick! Just ick! All the Pope’s Masses are True.

  32. Former Altar Boy says:

    You should also consider reading the Bible every day. A priest at a men’s retreat hooked me on the slogan: No Bible, no breakfast; no Boble;, no bed..

  33. Roland de Chanson says:

    Henry Edwares: The demographics are clear, and their decisive effect is inevitable. It’s not a religious but a mathematical matter.

    If the demographics were all that clear, there would be more TLM’s. Its not even a mathematical but a cash flow matter.

  34. Roland de Chanson says:

    Jane M: All the Pope’s Masses are True.

    Sure. But Ratzinger called the Novus Ordo a fabrication. What do you make of that? If you think that a freemason and a concilium of Protestants can concoct a True Mass, then you should genuflect towards Canterbury or Wittenberg. Rome survived the Babylonian captivity; it will survive the Masonic. Non praevalebunt.

  35. Iris says:

    Hey Fr., this is such an amazing advice for all even those who never strayed. I am a cradle Catholic just like most Filipinos, but everyday is a struggle. We are entering the narrow gate, after all. But, gee, thanks for this reminder. All the best.

  36. Gratefully Yours says:

    Thank you, Father, for your care and helpful advice. I will be so very glad to follow it.
    And thank you everybody for your kind words and comments.
    Please do think of me and all Father has recommended when next you see someone new wandering through the Church and and looking for friends in Christ like you.

    God’s blessings!

  37. Professor Kwasniewski says:

    Roland de Chanson,
    Your comments are gratuitous. If Ratzinger thought the Ordinary Form was a pure fabrication that did not contain the essentials that Christ bequeathed to the Church, he would never celebrate it. The fact that he does celebrate it indicates that his critique refers to the accidentals or externals of the reform. Let us pray that he will be able to inspire countless souls to recover those accidentals or externals that make the liturgy solemn, sober, reverent, worshipful, and glorious. That is what is at stake in the “liturgical battles” of our time. Always our Lord condescends to become present in place of the bread and wine, if a validly ordained priest speaks the valid words of consecration. The question is: Have we tried to welcome Him worthily enough? Frankly, most Ordinary Form celebrations are a travesty of this welcome of the divine Guest. I would not welcome an enemy with the cultural coarseness that I find at many parish Masses. Still, are we Denethors or are we Gandalfs? The descent into pessimism is endless, and the Dark One rejoices in that descent.

  38. Elestethane says:

    I consider myself a more orthodox Catholic than many my age and even older, especially in cultural attitudes.
    That being said…

    I find a funny sense of irony in the idea, that seems to be surfacing from many of the comments, that the TLM is the only True Catholic Mass and the Novus Ordo is some Protestant-patronizing version. I have great respect for the TLM mass, but when I look at the general characteristics of such a mass (priest faces the tabernacle with back to the congregation during the Eucharistic prayers, the congregation has little effect on their surrounding members of the faith, etc… etc…) I see the corollary with the, often Protestant-Fundamentalist associated, belief of “All I need is me, myself, and Jesus.” This is a FAR cry from Catholic Tradition. In some ways I think that belief is what makes Protestant-converts so zealously orthodox within the Catholic Church, because they can still hold onto the “me, myself, and Jesus” belief and yet be in the Catholic Church.

    Even in the Novus Ordo there can be and are reverent celebrations. And yes there are a lot of BAD liturgies out there; mostly stemming from the fact that a lot of people running liturgies don’t know a whole lot about liturgy. It is ashame.

    However, Catholicism, is a communion, not just with God and Christ, but with one another. The community aspect is ever important. Aside from books on the strictly orthodox side of the Church, my recommendation would be to also look up and research the actual liturgical documents that explain the mass. Perhaps the woman referenced in the post is being called to become a Director of Liturgy and help direct a parish on the right path to a more authentic Catholic liturgy. Which is not necessarily a TLM mass, but it could be, depending upon the needs of the Congregation.

  39. Kathy says:

    My New Years Resolution! Thank you, thank you, thank you Fr.!!!

    I so needed to read this post this week.

    I’ve passed this one along to many and have received grateful responses.

    Have a blessed, healthy, and happy new year!

  40. Ed says:

    In line with Elestethane’s

    “my recommendation would be to also look up and research the actual liturgical documents that explain the mass”

    I can recommend Romano Guardini’s “Meditations Before Mass,” which doesn’t explicate Church documents, but which does treat so many of the issues about mass, recollection, and especially congregation that are of concern here, based on the responses.

    Also, to keep a comment more directly on your request, if you are reading a shelf of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings, you are in very safe, very good hands.

    I said the Rosary driving home from work yesterday; Fr. Z’s good advice does get through.

  41. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Father, thank you for your great advice. I will try to follow it every day.

    I was catechized by a not-too faithful priest but once I was “in” I parish-shopped and landed at a very faithful parish run by Dominicans (hmm, they seem to be always popping up here, don’t they?). It’s too bad that Catholics have to parish shop like Protestants do but there it is. I had expected the Church to be more the same from parish to parish than it is. Maybe it was in the old days but maybe not, as I hear people from back then tell me about their own struggles with lack of orthodoxy in parishes.

    The Church is full of imperfect people but She will always be indefectible.

  42. Geo. F. says:

    They so dread the “bad old days” of the “pre-Vatican II Church” they want no part of those who speak of fidelity to Mother Church—and keep them out of CCD and RCIA classes!

    Boy does that hit home, I was called on the carpet for teaching orthodoxy in a N.O. CCD class.
    It ended up leading us out of the local parish church and into a TLM community, so in the long run it was a good thing.

    I am saddened by parishes that are run by lay-people, the children who are being led into error and the general lack of charity towards orthodoxy and its adherents.

  43. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Geo., that is why I ended up at the Dominican parish. Can you imagine this– the priests actually teach RCIA themselves?! It is great. Some of us are taking RCIA there as “remedial students.”

  44. Perpetua says:

    Elestathane’s comments on fundamentalists’ “me, myself, and Jesus” attitude and traditional Catholicism deserve a reply. Yes, it’s not about “me, myself, and Jesus” at Mass — it’s about offering sacrifice to Almighty God. That’s why the priest faces the Cross (not the creatures) and why we all pray the Mass silently together with the priest.

    After 40 years wandering in the Novus Ordo desert, I can promise you that you find full communion not only with Christ, but also with your fellow worshippers, when you pray the TLM.

  45. meg says:

    Re: Elestethane’s comments

    “I have great respect for the TLM mass, but when I look at the general characteristics of such a mass (priest faces the tabernacle with back to the congregation during the Eucharistic prayers, the congregation has little effect on their surrounding members of the faith, etc… etc…) I see the corollary with the, often Protestant-Fundamentalist associated, belief of “All I need is me, myself, and Jesus.” This is a FAR cry from Catholic Tradition…Catholicism, is a communion, not just with God and Christ, but with one another.”

    I adore having the priest facing Christ in our TLM, I didn’t understand the Mass completely until I witnessed a priest ad orientem, and it was like a light went on. You’re missing something essential here.

    I don’t know much about Fundamentalist services, but this comparison sounds false to me. Anyone more familiar care to comment?

  46. Grovetucky Ann says:

    meg, all the fundamentalist denominations i know are very communally oriented at worship. especially those ones which worship in huge halls that are like auditoriums.

    I was attracted to Catholicism in a very small way because I found the communalism of the Protestant churches to be very false and off-putting. I was happier to go to Mass (the New Mass) at a parish and just be sort of alone in a crowd.

  47. Elestethane says:

    I guess I have a different perspective from Grovetucky Ann. I would find the “communalism” of the Protestant Churches which she defined as false and off-putting, similar to being “alone in a crowd.” So many people around but there is no defined activity bringing people together, I can only picture the big mega-churches in California akin to a massive bio lecture at a pre-med university. I prefer the close-knit community atmosphere of a Catholic Parish, one that knows that my family likes to sit in the first pew in order for our young children to see what’s going (it helps them pay attention and they’re less likely to disturb anyone, as much as a 4 year old and 19mth old can keep quiet for an hour). One that is aware that I sing in the choir and therefore attend mass twice on most Sundays. One that is acutely aware of how well-behaved and reverent our oldest son is and while he maybe only 7 it never hurts to start planting the idea of becoming a priest.

    Meg- I guess part of my problem with the priest facing the tabernacle, that is Christ, is that the action ignores the fact that Christ is also present IN each and every member of the Congregation. A very important idea in Catholic dogma. I feel this is one of the reasons why this was changed in the Novus Ordo and consequently why it was suggested that the Tabernacle be moved to place of reverence all its own. So that no one, especially during the Eucharist, is turning their back on Christ.

  48. Patricia K says:

    Elestethane said: “I guess part of my problem with the priest facing the tabernacle, that is Christ, is that the action ignores the fact that Christ is also present IN each and every member of the Congregation.”

    Look at how the Holy Father addresses your point. There are those who say: “when priest and faithful look at one another, they are looking at the image of God in man, and so facing one another is the right direction for prayer”. His reply to this claim: This is not even a serious argument and barely bares addressing, one can’t see the image of God in such a simplistic way. This can be found in “The Spirit of the Liturgy” Part II Chapter 3.

    In an earlier posting you said you respect the Mass in the Extraordinary Form and then go on to compare it to “Me and Jesus Fundamentalism”. Actually, I find this disrespectful. Having come from this wing of Protestantism I can tell you that the incomporable beauty of the MEF has absolutely nothing in common with any prayer meeting and certainly not in the more ‘expressive’ forms of worship that are common to fundamentalism.

    To the woman who wrote this: I love that you came in with a ‘distinctively conservative hermeneutic’! I too was confused by some of the things you mentioned. Before I returned to the Church, a very devoted Catholic said “Come on in, it’s a mess!” Well I suppose in some ways she was correct but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and I guess neither would she. Welcome to the Holy Catholic Church, so glad you’re home.
    Patricia K

  49. Roland de Chanson says:

    Perpetua recte dicit. Voces nostrae in deserto novi ordinis clamantes non diutius comprimentur.

    [Perpetua is right. The voices of those of us in the desert of the novus ordo will no longer be silenced.]

  50. meg says:

    Elestethane –

    I strongly dislike the tabernacle anywhere but in the middle. Churches used to be designed AROUND the tabernacle – it was like a light at the end of a long tunnel, would draw you toward it as soon as you entered the church, it was your goal, what you longed for, why you were there. There could be no more perfect place for the tabernacle than where it is placed traditionally. Moving the tabernacle off to the side or, horror of horrors, out of the main body of the church is a terrible insult to Christ. If the priests chair is placed where the tabernacle used to be, even worse.

    “I guess part of my problem with the priest facing the tabernacle, that is Christ, is that the action ignores the fact that Christ is also present IN each and every member of the Congregation. A very important idea in Catholic dogma.”

    I don’t know if this is an important idea in Catholic dogma or not. But I feel that when we attend Mass, it’s not at all about us – we actually don’t even need to be there; the Mass doesn’t need any of us to take place. We are there to witness a consecration and to worship Chirst. A centered tabernacle with a priest facing it solves the problem of anyone having their back to the tabernacle.

  51. wsxyz says:

    Christ is also present IN each and every member of the Congregation. A very important idea in Catholic dogma.

    I’ve never heard that “Catholic dogma” before. What about the mortal sinners who are present?

    Of course it is true that God is present everywhere, so by your logic everyone is always turning their backs on God, since He is present in the space behind them no matter which way they turn.

    But you are confusing different types of presence. Jesus Christ is not substantially present in the souls of the just, but He is truly, substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament. He is bodily present just as if He were standing before you. For this reason, our behavior with respect to the Blessed Sacrament must be different than it is with respect to the insubstantial presence of God.

    As others have said, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not about the faithful. It is indeed with the faithful and for the faithful, but it is about God and to God. We all face in the same direction towards God, beg Him for mercy and join ourselves with the Holy Sacrifice to Him.

  52. Grovetucky Ann says:

    elesthane, interestingly, i attended a megachurch in california and it was very different than what you describe, most people think as you do as they only see the sea of people in the crowd and don’t realize that in the megachurches the worship service is only the beginning (as it should be in a parish too). the megachurches do a very good job of creating a sense of community by having numerous small groups to be involved in. i was involved in a weekday intercessory prayer group called “Fresh Rain” (good name for a desert place, huh?). the community feeling there was actually much greater than at all 3 Catholic parishes that i have attended so far. the Catholic parishes around here do a very poor job of getting people connected. some even use RCIA as a way of making people involved in the social club atmosphere rather than using it for teaching. it is discouraging.

    the worst are the parishes where the priest will only talk to his friends after Mass. a forego the cursory handshake and search out a little old lady with bright eyes to talk to. the little old ladies know all.

    fortunately, if you ASK somebody who has been involved in a parish for a while, they can help new people learn what things are going on. that is how i found out about the other people who like to make rosaries.

  53. Grovetucky Ann says:

    It occurs to me that what some of us describe as communalism as actually insularity or clubbiness. We must guard against that. Seek out the new faces everybody.

  54. Ed says:

    Thank you, Grovetucky Ann,

    I tried making this point a while back and got hammered by the responders, who felt that any such welcoming approach to “the stranger” was somehow disrespectful in church precincts.

    Pope Benedict XVI has penned some marvelous thoughts on this topic, in “Jesus of Nazareth,” the section on parables, specifically the parable of the Good Samaritan. I don’t have the book handy, so can’t quote, but the Pope speaks very clearly on the issue.

    Just days before Jesus relates this parable, two of the Apostles, John and James, the “Sons of Thunder,” are wanting to call down the fire of God on a Samaritan town that refused to welcome Jesus; a seemingly direct expression of “piety and respect” for the Master. But Jesus says no.

    There’s also an incident of sacrilege during the Passover, perpetrated by Samaritans, a real abomination, apparently.

    This is the context, says Pope Benedict, in which Christ relates the parable of the Good Samaritan, i.e. the person least likely to be considered a “neighbor,” least deserving of being loved. And how this Samaritan is moved by God’s love to do what the various church clergy wouldn’t even do.

    A very powerful catechesis on loving, helping, and welcoming, from Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

    I’m both convicted and convinced by it, regardless of popular or traditional opinions.

  55. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Ed, I first went to my parish because i heard it was very orthodox and i stayed because the people there actually talk to strangers and are helpful. And they still remember that it is considered polite to introduce yourself with your first AND last name.

    A typical incident: at the lighting of the Easter fire outside, I was the first one back inside the door and was blinded in the dark. I was blocking the door. A nice lady was there and took my arm and led me until I could see the candle again that i was supposed to be following. She turned out to be the choir director! A very busy lady took time to help a doofus. I was impressed by that.

    Remember every week is Be Kind to Doofuses Week!

  56. Grovetucky Ann says:

    I remember the gauntlet of greeters you had to go through at my church (PCUSA) in California. There was one at the parking lot sidewalk, one outside the outer doors and one in the narthex. They made certain you were taken care of, shown where the bathrooms were, where you could talk to the choir director, the best seats for hearing, etc. None of the “if you want us to notice you, fill out an envelope and put it in the basket and we may or may not acknowledge you at some future date.”

  57. Cricket says:

    I completely agree with all the responders, here, & God bless you, every one! But let me just throw the cat among the pigeons. Do those of us Catholics who may be somewhat “better-formed” (read: traditional, with the Mind of the Church) have a sacred obligation to populate less-orthodox parishes for purposes of evangelization & catechesis? By huddling together exclusively with like-minded folks are we creating traditionalist “ghettos?” Would love to know what others think…

  58. Rachel says:


    I have asked myself the same question and the conclusion I’ve come to is that the traditionalist “ghettos” show people like the person who asked this question where to flee. My husband and I were at one of the worst parishes in our diocese as far as orthodoxy is concerned. We actually spoke with the Parish Director (the deacon who ran the parish) about our concerns and what we’d like to see before we left. His response indicated they had no intention of changing. We are blessed to have a parish run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in our diocese. It is the ghetto in our diocese but I’m thinking that as more and more people move to the “ghetto” and the other parishes shrink, it will accomplish the task of moving us en masse in a more orthodox direction.

  59. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Cricket, I have wondered the same thing. I divide my time between two parishes. If a parish is just impossible, for example if the priest is abusive to you I think you are justified in leaving. But since this isn’t all “about us” and our “worship experience” I think we have an obligation to help somehow in any way we can. I endure the occasional really bad liturgy and rotten behaving people and priests to try to be the salt and light. I know others who do the same.

    But there was one parish I just can’t set foot in because when the priest sees me he says rude insulting things and I found myself getting angry and upset so I stopped going there. That is my fault though. I should be able to take it better.

  60. Ed says:

    In offering a prayer for Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, I had the thought, again, that the Enemy attacks everyone, bishops, priests, and laity. My local parish is a circus, sometimes, in the things that go on at mass, extra-liturgically, so to speak. At times it has felt definitely dangerous; my confession has been interrupted, for example, by people ignoring the “busy” light and entering the confessional booth, while I’m sitting with the priest in the confessional room. A war in progress that I stumbled into.

    Last time, the priest had to argue with the person to get her to leave until we had finished. What does one do with such a thing?

    This priest, a Dominican recently replacing the prior pastor, is not popular, and has altered the church back to it’s original pristine configuration, i.e. he removed the massive fountain that had been placed between the pews and the altar. Other simple changes, too, that didn’t sit well with some of the congregation.

    It’s such a tough trial. I’m reminded by one of the Church Fathers, to, no matter what, not let go of Jesus, but it’s hard, often. Kindness and regard for one another seems one clear road through these times.

  61. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Ed, wow, it’s those Dominicans again! I have never heard of such a thing, interrupting a confession??!! If you stay there you will certainly be able to make a difference though it may not seem so at first. Any little thing you can do to support this faithful priest will be appreciated both here and above. Actually telling the priest he has your support is lots of help too. Priests need to know we are on their side.

  62. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Rachel, we are seeing this in our diocese too. the priest at my “other” parish referred to my “orthodox” parish disparagingly as a “go-to parish” because it is in the inner city and nobody actually lives there and everybody drives there from somewhere else. I felt like asking, yes why is it a go-to parish. why are so many people going-to there from your parish? why are people driving by numerous parishes to get to the “go-to parish?” But i just smiled sweetly. Maybe I need to stop smiling sweetly and try to explain!

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