QUAERITUR: Use of the beretta at Mass in the Ordinary Form

From a reader:

Can a beretta be used in the OF? When would it be used?

Yes, without question!   But make sure that it is clean and in good working order so that it doesn’t misfire.

I would use the beretta primarily when there are too many extraordinary ministers charging the altar.  Another possible moment would be when the choir sings On Eagles Wings or another ditty of that sort.

The best way to use the beretta is to rise… first removing your biretta – which is perfectly correct to use in celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite – and, taking aim, go for center Mass shots (NB: some recommend head shots – auctores scinduntur).

I have learned through hard won and tough experience that you should immediately reload!

To save you and everyone else that embarrassing hitching up of the alb and digging in the pocket for a magazine, have ready on a silver salver, prepared before Mass, covered with a linen cloth about the size of a corporal.  The altar boy, or if it is a more solemn occasion, deacon, can bring you magazines as you should need them.

The beretta should be cleaned after the purification of the chalice and before the final prayer and dismissal.

The congregation will be quite patient and will, believe me, not leave before that final blessing.

[No actual extraordinary ministers of Communion or pop-combo members were hurt in the making of this blog entry.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    That’s fabulous!!! I like all of your proposed uses for the beretta!

  2. Nathan says:

    And remember, Father: Safety on the black, Fire on the red.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Z's Gold Star For The Day Award

  3. teomatteo says:

    Oh, BEE have!!!

  4. St. Louis IX says:

    Smiles all around.

  5. Maurus Petrus says:

    “To save you and everyone else that embarassing hitching up of the alb and digging in the pocket for a clip, have one … or more … ready on a silver salver covered with a linen cloth about the size of a corporal. ”

    And, if your maniple is already securely clipped to your arm, make sure you have a few extra magazines to reload your Beretta. :-)

  6. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Perhaps some suggestions for our altar servers on how to hand the beretta to the priest? Kissing?

  7. medievalist says:

    Quaeritur: Is it permissible to use the beretta after the Consecration, which would necessarily require the separation of the index finger and thumb? If not, is the use of this intriguing liturgical instrument to be confined to the forma ordinaria wherein no such admonitory rubric exists?

    [Very good question. It seems less than practical, when being attacked, to use the ablution cup before returning fire. If the priest can keep his cool, he should purify first, shoot after. An alternative would be carefully to purify the weapon, especially the trigger and make sure that the cleansing pad is then burned and the ashes put down the sacrarium.]

  8. wolskerj says:

    Wonderful advice Father! If I may suggest though, when surrounded by large numbers of liturgical terrorists or lidless-eye traditionalists, forego the impressive but time-consuming head shots and simply aim for the targets’ center of mass. A coup de grace may be administered later, if desired.

  9. AnAmericanMother says:


    Don’t forget also to have the other Beretta (the Xplor – or the Xtrema if it’s a wealthy parish) stored in an appropriate rack (perhaps next to the torches) in case of emergency. The altar boy (or deacon) could handle the extra shells along with the clips.

  10. AnAmericanMother says:

    Got me! And I have 2 rifles that use clips, too! (a Garand and a SMLE)

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    Or magazines. Sorry, Maurus.

  12. Titus says:

    Poor inquirer—proofreading saves especially the well-intentioned from embarrassment.

  13. FrCharles says:

    “What’s the idea of looking down in the chamber?”
    “Sir, that is to guarantee that the server is not giving the celebrant a loaded weapon, sir!”
    (With apologies to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and Private Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence)

  14. chcrix says:

    As Petrus and AAM implied, one needs spare magazines, not clips. This is after all a area where we are entitled to expect slavishly precise terminology.

  15. GirlCanChant says:

    You’re lucky I wasn’t drinking anything when I read this. It’s been the best part of a pretty dismal day so far.

    Who would be the headshot target during ditties? The cantor? The organist? Whoever’s in charge of picking hymns? Out-of-tune parishoners?

  16. medievalist: I can’t think of a situation in the Extraordinary Form wherein the priest would need to use the beretta. This strikes me as strictly an OF phenomenon.

  17. Obviously, it would be better for the celebrant to use his non-dominant hand in either Form.

  18. If the cantor waves her arms about, she is obviously consenting to become a target — unless she is doing so on the instructions of a superior, in which case subsidiarity demands shooting whoever gave the orders.

    But really, why shoot anyone? The power console’s in the sacristy, right? Just have the servers pull the plugs and switch off the switches.

  19. AnAmericanMother says:

    Quite right. Efficiency should be our watchword (mostly).
    Reminds me of that famous Good Friday Stations of the Cross when a tornado touched down near the church (our old Episcopal parish). Just as the priest chanted, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost,” there was a tremendous crash and all the lights went out. You could feel the air pressure dropping, and all the doors of the building flew open.

    Like Ray Stevens says, “And even without an invitation/there were at least 500 rededications/And we all got rebaptised whether we needed it or not.”

  20. TNCath says:

    What about the use of the “Beretta” theme song at an OF Mass, especially with the “eye on the sparrow” reference, Matthew 10:29-31? It might be especially meaningful during Lent.

    Don’t go to bed, with no price on your head
    No, no, don’t do it.
    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time,
    Yeah, don’t do it.
    And keep your eye on the sparrow.
    When the going gets narrow.
    Don’t do it, don’t do it.
    Where can I go where the cold winds don’t blow,
    Well, well, well.

  21. ejcmartin says:

    That is why my son is only allowed to serve in the EF.

  22. ipadre says:

    Don’t forget the safety! You don’t want that beretta to misfire, you don’t want to hit that saintly old lady in the front pew!

  23. Mariana says:

    For target practice – rats in a nearby rectory.

  24. mndad says:

    “I would use the beretta primarily when there are too many extraordinary ministers charging the altar. Another possible moment would be when the choir sings On Eagles Wings or another ditty of that sort.The best way to use the beretta is to rise… first removing your biretta – which is perfectly correct to use in celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite – and, taking aim, go for head shots.”
    Father you are such a ‘funny’ guy today – I am surprised you did not mix a nice
    ‘Slavishly accurate’ into it -biretta / beretta – head shots – such a good one Father- haha

  25. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Head shots? No. Center of Mass.

    A brief ejaculatory prayer to Blessed Junípero Serra or the Archangel Michael is also advised.

    Remember, “inhale for a count of three, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of three.”

  26. Ben Yanke says:

    Biretta. Beretta.
    Ah ha!! That’s what I did wrong…
    (FYI: the “reader” was me… DOH! )

  27. Saint Gabriel Possenti would be proud!!!

  28. EXCHIEF says:

    Minor point…It is a magazine, not a clip.

  29. cursormundi says:

    Oh Father! You are a wag!

  30. brassplayer says:

    I have no problem with macabre humor, but I do find it disturbing how some on this Blog can so easily joke about shooting fellow Parishioners within a Church. Curious what we find amusing.

  31. FXR2 says:

    With great respect certainly however, more rubrics are probably called for.

    ‘ The server should lock the slide to the rear, ensuring an empty chamber and positive safety. The server should then kiss and extend the weapon to the priest ensuring the muzzle remains pointed in the safest direction in such a manner that the grip can be easily grasped by the utilizing priest’s strong hand’

    Additional rubrics would be required for providing additional magazines.

  32. Luke says:

    I honestly don’t understand what everyone finds so amusing with Father’s advice. This is all very sound, practical advice.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    Take it easy, brassplayer.

    The only reason any of us joke about this is that it is so farfetched. Why, I’m almost positive that most of us can count the times we’ve had to shoot somebody in church on just the fingers of one hand . . . .

  34. AnAmericanMother says:


    Only if Beretta makes a .45 (I think they do). I’ve just never warmed up to the .40 S&W.

  35. mndad says:

    ” some on this blog”? frankly I was surprised that Father would touch this one in the first place-
    I guess Father feels he is in the entertainment industry and has to keep the ‘conservative’ masses happy – a sad spectacle really when one has to resort to this kind of ‘humor’ as a catholic priest.
    IMHO Father will come to regret this ‘funny’ post.

  36. pelerin says:

    Very funny. I also admire the questioner owning up to it.

    It reminded me of a poster/billboard all round town last week about an ‘Alter server’. Even journalists have trouble spelling!

  37. jlmorrell says:

    I love it! Hilarious!

    You had me laughing out loud in front of my computer.

  38. Henry Edwards says:

    AMM: “Why, I’m almost positive that most of us can count the times we’ve had to shoot somebody in church on just the fingers of one hand . . . .”

    As opposed to the number of times some of us have been tormented by a sadistic liturgist who desperately needed to be put out of our misery in some acceptable manner. Looks like some here are thinking of a more kiss-of-peace approach, like perhaps a biretta with extra-soft pom stuffed in the mouth.

  39. Will D. says:

    Oh, my goodness. That’s some fine shooting in that video! If only I had $1500 lying around to get me one of them shootin’ irons.

  40. Geoffrey says:

    I know that “The Church Visible” by James-Charles Noonan, Jr. has the rubrics for using the biretta at Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite!

  41. nanetteclaret says:

    AAM –

    Where is your picture of “nuns with guns” when we need it? :)

    nan c

  42. AnAmericanMother says:

    Suburbanbanshee had it recently . . . .

    Here ’tis. One of them anyway.

  43. AnAmericanMother says:

    How about an extra-large candle snuffer, applied over the head? I think that Growing Up Catholic had that in its clerical catalog for out of tune choir singers — would work just as well for out-of-control liturgists!

  44. AnAmericanMother says:

    Indeed he would be!

    St. Gabriel Possenti Society

  45. AnAmericanMother says:


    Brave man. Good on ya. Anybody could make a slight spelling error.

    I mistook ‘clip’ for ‘magazine’, and there’s absolutely NO question that I know better!

    Welcome to the Unforced Error Club. We’ve all been there one time or another.

    But if it weren’t for you we wouldn’t have this hilarious thread!

  46. AnAmericanMother says:

    Whenever somebody does that, I refer them to the spay and neuter clinic . . .

  47. 1) Fr. Z’s got nothing on St. Philip Neri. Sheesh, some of his actual real life, in church, pranks and spiritual direction would curl your hair. And that was St. Philip “I can’t hardly finish saying Mass for all the going into ecstasy” Neri. A few jokes aren’t a problem.

    2) Of course Fr. Z would never fantasize about killing anyone in church. Violent death in church means you have to reconsecrate the whole place. He’s just joking about a little wounding.

    3) Oh, c’mon. Your parents surely threatened the odd bit of death to you and your siblings, to prevent you acting up in church. Now that was serious!

    4) Usually we let the ushers handle all that. :)

  48. PostCatholic says:

    Interesting to see you embrace church shootings; and here I thought you weren’t about rolling with change.

    (Only a jab. I get that this was persiflage and not seriously advocating gun violence.)

    On a more serious note, “On Eagles Wings” as I remember it is lyrically just the Qui Habitat from Sunday compline with a little extra eagle imagery thrown in from Deutero Isaiah? It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it (and may it stay that way) but I am not sure why it provokes such a strong response from you. Musically it’s (like many devotional songs, old and new) quite saccharine and I remember it being not that easy to sing. Is there a theological objection you have to the song, or is it the quality of the music that makes it an exemplar of what you don’t like about recent Catholic hymns?

    (By the way, it is a Catholic one? Probably a presumption I shouldn’t make. I suppose I can go Google that now.)

  49. Oh, boy, this made me laugh so much…

    …and some of your commenters really need to lighten up a bit! It’s rather like the miserable bunch who accused me of belittling women with my Womynpriest post… not to mention your wonderful riposte… (or should that be re-post?)

  50. Henry Edwards says:

    PostCatholic: Musically it’s (like many devotional songs, old and new) quite saccharine and I remember it being not that easy to sing.

    My answer–a standard one, I believe–would be precisely that On Eagles Wings is devotional rather than liturgical music. In the sense of Pius X’s actuosa participatio instruction that one should sing the Mass, not merely sing at Mass.

    So it’s not a question of whether it’s old or new, good or bad music, easy or hard to sing, Catholic or non-Catholic, not a matter of whether anyone likes it or not. Might be fine for many devotional services, just not appropriate for Mass, not having an identifiable liturgical purpose.

  51. Elizabeth D says:

    I heartily agree with this comment.

  52. Elizabeth D says:

    His post was funny, but I think sadly he’s a little too clever here in not very good taste.

  53. brassplayer says:

    Thank you Elizabeth.

    I just read on the Associated Press that there was yet another shooting just a few hours ago at a Church in Youngstown, Ohio. http://snipurl.com/16vsyn

    This is not something to joke about, IMO.

  54. mrsmontoya says:

    Thank you, and God bless you, Fr. Z, for your sense of humor. I treasure these posts.

  55. ray from mn says:

    That’s 5 LJ’s (Laughing Jerries) for you, Fr. Z!!!!

    5 LJ’s

  56. scholastica says:

    I laughed to tears!!! This one is priceless…thanks!

  57. Charivari Rob says:

    I think that might be a first, in the full George Carlin sense of the term: “Nobody in human history had ever put that sequence of words together in a sentence – until me!”

    A regular reader of / poster to Father Z. citing Growing Up Catholic? Surely unprecedented.

  58. S. Murphy says:

    Reminds me of the school bus with the sign “Driver’s wanted.”

    Perhaps the omitted word was ‘licenses,’ although I trust the driving of most of the school bus drivers I used to work with over that of, say, the individual who ran into one, and then said “I didn’t SEE the [40-foot long, orangey-yellow, noisy diesel powered] bus.”

  59. S. Murphy says:

    I second what AAM said- kudos for being a good sport! and thanks for bringing out Fr Z’s inner wisecracking gunslinger.

  60. AnAmericanMother says:

    Yeah, I haven’t got one either, just a Rem 1100. It shoots better than I can hold anyhow.

    Sure is fun to watch the big boys shoot, though, isn’t it?

  61. irishgirl says:

    Oh, this post is soooo funny! What a difference one little letter makes!

    Thanks, Father Z!

  62. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    On a not very funny note, but one perhaps more useful to the original questioner, Father Zed has already answered this question:


  63. Microtouch says:

    One great laugh after a grueling day at work. Thank you!!

Comments are closed.