QUAERITUR: seminarian wants advice about going to a fuzzy seminary

From a seminarian:

I was wondering if you could offer some advice. I am what people in today’s church would call ‘ultra-conservative’ I love the Old Mass, Old Breviary etc. etc. I’m at a very [minor] seminary right now …. The problem is that in a year I’m going to end up being sent by my bishop to a warm and fuzzy pastorally correct seminary for theology.  I’ve seen many people who have a ‘traddy tendencies’ go there and come out very warm and fuzzyish, and most certainly do not want this to happen to me, however, the chances of me being somewhere solid for theology are extremely poor.

My dream is ultimately to be ordained in the old rite, however I know this will most likely remain only a dream, but could you offer some advice? It gets hard always trying to fly under the radar.

First, we don’t know what is going to happen in another 5 years, which seems to be about your length of time if God wills and you persevere to ordination.  It may be that by then you will have a bishop more traditional than you are!  Look how things have changed in the last five years.

Wherever you are sent, go there with a measure of acceptance and put your back into your studies.  That doesn’t mean you can’t read other things on the side.  You can get out of your seminary what you put into it.

As a priest of the Latin side of the Roman Catholic Church you have the responsibility to know both forms or uses, the Ordinary and Extraordinary.   So, when you are at the fuzzy seminary, you will learn the Ordinary Form, plain and simple.  Many priests in days far darker than those you will face learned the Extraordinary Form on their own.  If that is necessary because the seminary you attend is so benighted as to cripple priests with inadequate formation (i.e., they don’t teach the older, Extraordinary Form also), you will simply have to work a little harder.  That’s life.

Also, start practicing now the discipline of keeping your mouth shut.  Yes, things are changing, but there are still huge swathes of the Church which are dominated by those who are decidedly not on Pope Benedict’s side.   Smile a lot and keep your mouth shut.

Finally, do your best to remain in the state of grace and avoid the intellectual pride some of the strongly traditional stripe can fall into when they are young and enthusiastic.  You must not give the impression to your fellows (or faculty) that you look down on the Novus Ordo, etc.  Even practically speaking, that will result in problems you don’t want to face.

If people have something useful to contribute, please send it to me by e-mail.  It is NOT useful simply to say “Go to a traditionalist order” or “Find a better bishop” or “Just go to a good seminary”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Henry Edwards says:

    Look how things have changed in the last five years.

    I wonder whether actual changes in seminaries can be documented. Can any anyone give specific examples, such as seminaries where the TLM is newly being offered?

    Or, on the other side of the coin, where there are certain things a new seminarian ought not do if he wants to be invited back for the second semester. Like requesting to receive communion on the tongue, genuflecting before the Tabernacle, visiting the chapel to say a rosary, etc.

  2. Christo et Ecclesiae says:

    Remember always: A licit mass is a mass, pleasing to God. Also, each stage of one’s life is a type of formation – you will certainly grow if you approach everything prayerfully, God does not let His people down.

    Most of all, please just BE Catholic. Do not be traditional, do not be conservative, do not be liberal. If you ARE Catholic you will come to embody those great truths of the Church and hold high its traditions in all their beauty! All good priests ARE Catholic and follow the precepts of the Church and celebrate its liturgy with the utmost of sanctity and pay proper honor to the respective forms (Ordinary and Extraordinary).

    God bless, my prayers assured, and thank you for following God’s will in your life. It sounds like you will make a great priest. :)

  3. I’d have to say one of the keys is developing a network of prayer, of fraternity between the seminarians. My advice to the seminarian, you’re not in this alone. It’s quite important that you develop your fraternal relations between your brother seminarians. Cling tot he BVM and the Cross, you will make it if it’s God’s will. My prayers are with you anon seminarian.

  4. A response from a seminarian via email:

    I would like to tell this young man to not worry about these thing. Oh yes, they will be trails and he will agonize over them but why cause more angst?

    The important thing is to pray, pray, pray, and pray. There is not need to be a poster boy for anything. Work on formation, be honest and interactive, live a Christian life, sincerely be well balanced, and by that I mean charitable to all people. I considered it a victory when my formattor told me “you are conservative but we are not concerned because you work well with allpeople”. I believe firmly if we seminarians pray and have a devotion to the Sacred Heart there is nothing to worry about. We should care more about being a good shepherd and modeling ourselves after the Sacred Heart than fighting battles which aren’t necessary.


  5. A reader sent this:

    I like to use the example of red ants based on an actual encounter my uncle had with the little buggers when he first moved to Florida. It seems he stood still too long in one spot, and a little too close to a red ant mound. Vibration from very little movement brought them out in force. He said he was unaware that they were climbing up his legs until they were all over his legs. He said that they must have signaled one another because they all started biting at once, which nearly brought him down.

    Using this example, seminarians need to make like the red ants because those who bite too soon, give away their position and risk being slapped down. They also have a negative effect on the larger effort when they give away their position. Follow Father Z’s advice: Be patient. First, get ordained.

  6. From a seminarian:

    I too am what many in the Church would call an “arch-conservative” because of my love for the TLM. I entered a fuzzy seminary two years ago but I was determined to be disciplined and keep my mouth shut. I wrote to a retired priest (he was my godparent at my baptism six years ago) and I told him that while I have my views and the faculty had theirs, my seminary was much better than I was expecting. But, I continued, I was still going to run silent and run deep until ordination. Long story short, he took that to mean that I was being dishonest with my formators, so he sent a copy of my letter to the rector, who took it the same way, and I was dismissed. My vocations director and my bishop still support me and I will be applying to another seminary for next year. I still feel a desire to be a priest, and I pray for the grace of perseverance if it be God’s will that I should be a priest. But even if it is not, I hope that my experience proves edifying for other seminarians everywhere: 1) the Church is slowly recovering from the silly season, but it’s far from over; and 2) if you are of a conservative or Traditionalist bent, by all means be disciplined and don’t pick unnecessary battles. But be very careful about the manner in which you fly under the radar as well. And never, ever put anything in writing.

Comments are closed.