Some food for thought about how to approach priests concerning liturgical aberrations

Here is something from a priest reader I think is appropriate right now.  A little food for thought.

My emphases and some editing.

A story came to me in the last week or so which struck me as potentially helpful for your readers.  ….

The first comes from a priest in _____.  His “cluster” covers five parishes in four countiesOn a typical weekend he says Mass seven or eight times, visits the regional hospital, and logs more than 100 miles on his car.  He’s a young hardworking priest who, in spite of the demands being placed upon him takes great care in his celebration of the liturgy, his instruction of the people, and his pastoral care of the poor (who are more plentiful in rural places than one might expect) and the sick.

He was recently saying Mass at one of the parishes under his care. It was his six Mass of the day, and he fumbled with the embolism after the Lord’s Prayer.  I can’t reconstruct it exactly, but he kept slipping somehow into the prayer before the Sign of Peace.  Anyhow, he caught himself, tried to correct himself, fumbled again, actually corrected himself, but then got to the prayer before the Pax and basically did the same thing in reverse.  This time he was able to land the prayer in a single try but was obviously embarrassed and genuinely dismayed.  He said he contemplated apologizing during the announcements but thought the better of it and went on as usual.

After Mass he was harangued by someone whom he thought was a strong supporter since he’s a young priest (the mother of a traditional Catholic family, six or eight kids, home-schooled, the whole shebang).  She couldn’t believe that he’d fall in in with “those” priests who tinker with the Church’s liturgy willy-nilly and was so disappointed.  He apologized profusely, admitted that he wasn’t being as attentive as he should have been, and asked that she pray that they find some way to have him say fewer Masses, but she was rude and left.

Later that week he got a call from the chancery.  There was a letter, and after speaking to someone (I think the V.G., though I’m not sure) the matter was settled.

Still, it was very discouraging for this young priest who so desperately needs support to be so rudely treated, especially from someone on whom he thought he could count.


I only mention this because while I think we have helpfully trained people to expect a liturgy in line with the Church’s tradition and in conformity with liturgical norms I do wonder if sometimes we’ve presumed a level of charity that isn’t always there.  At bottom, even the correction of a liturgical abuse needs to be about charity, the charity owed to the people who are due the Church’s liturgy, and the charity due to a priest (or whomever) is in error.  It’s hard enough for priests formed during a confusing period of the Church’s history to make sense of loads of correction from the pews, but it can be very, very demoralizing for young priests who are much more conscientious about these things to get jumped on for every single mistake they make.

Priests are people too, and so are prone not only to sin, but to weakness, forgetfulness, mistakes, and even fatigue (esp. when he is being asked to say an unreasonable number of Masses).

This is a good and timely reminder.

This is why I often quote those last paragraphs of Redemptionis Sacramentum and will urge people to give the priest the benefit of the doubt in many situations where something out of character happens.  Mistakes happen.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    It sounds more like liturgical fatigue than liturgical abuse. I’ll pray for this priest and for his parishioner.

  2. Flambeaux says:

    That poor priest…I’ll pray for him and for all the other priests like him.

  3. Mrs. M says:

    Amen Father! That person was way out of line. Self-righteous, arrogant and a few other things as well. The proper response of that woman should have been something like “father, are you alright?” or “what can we do to help make your day less stressful”. Even a simple smile would have been nice.

    For this priest’s sake, the woman’s sake and the children who she is homeschooling (I shudder at the thought of the kinds of lessons they are learning from her behavior) I hope that this woman realized just how un-Christian she was, apologizes to the priest and to anyone she may have gossiped about him too – including the chancery.

    Last but not least, if anyone reading this belongs to a parish that has a priest with that have that kind of schedule, they should go out of their way to thank him and try to find ways of supporting him.

  4. Sword40 says:

    You would think that after the past 40 years of experiencing a host of abuses that we could find a little “charity” in our hearts. Perhaps we are too sensitive to imagined abuses. We are about to begin the TLM with a priest who has been practicing for several years (in secret). I’m sure he’ll make a few mistakes. Of course so will our Altar boys. and I’m sure that the congregation won’t mess up. After all they have been so thoroughly catechised. :)

  5. Norah says:

    A newly ordained priest was assigned as curate to our parish. He said morning Mass and omitted the Lavabo. After Mass I asked an older member of the parish should I say anything to father. The “living treasure” counselled me not to say anything because father was still a baby priest. Of course he was correct.

  6. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    P is for “priest”; not “punching bag”.

  7. Alice says:

    I’m not sure who originally said it, but “When you work for the Church long enough, you know why they used to throw Christians to the lions.”

  8. basilorat says:

    Whan an absolutely infuriating read

    I’m sick and tired of traditionalists or conservatives deeming others “not conservative enough” etc… . This makes me worry or wonder sometimes if those who claim to be “orthodox” etc… are frustrated and angry people just looking for a cause to fit their needs. I realize no one has absolutley pure motives, but this type of behavior and those like her (and there are soooo many), demonstrates a lack of sincere peaceful disposition. I think the Mother Teresa prayer says it all:
    The fruit of silence is prayer
    the fruit of prayer is faith
    the fruit of faith is love
    the fruit of love is service
    the fruit of service is peace.

    – Mother Teresa

  9. Fr. Basil says:

    There is a big difference between unauthorized violations of the Holy Liturgy and simply making a mistake.

    One of the most devout and holiest priests I know was using a new edition of the Liturgikon for the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil and accidentally turn to the wrong page.

  10. paulbailes says:

    I wouldn’t want to excuse disrespect to a priest, but to be “the mother of a traditional Catholic family, six or eight kids, home-schooled, the whole shebang” is an amazingly stressful role that some may not understand fully. I hope she reflects on her mistake and duly apologises, but perhaps someone will be able to help her with her troubles. I wonder what other things compel her to home-school.

    The real culprits are of course the genuine liturgical abusers who’ve created the background environment for this sort of thing while running rampant for the last 40+ years; and those whose duty it’s been to stop them but haven’t.

    Dear basilorat: I think it’s rather unfair to suggest that “those who claim to be “orthodox” etc… are frustrated and angry people just looking for a cause to fit their needs”, especially in the case of this poor woman.


  11. JKnott says:

    I think there has been a shameful loss of humble respect for priests from all sides, and a growing over- familarity and informalism with them. Examples abound of parishioners reprimanding priests and calling diocesan priests by their first nicknames like chums. In some, or maybe even all Protestant denominations, the people in the pews hold the reins and can fire their pastors if they don’t like something. The NO may have been Protestantized but we are supposed to be Catholics.
    I know of a Friar who asked women to dress modestly in a homily and at the end of Mass there was a line up of “offended” women in shorts reprimanding him. The priest was immediately moved to another state. Another priest was never allowed to offer Mass for school children because he told the story of a young martyr saint on her feast day and a mother complained. Another priest got reprimanded for giving a decent homily on purgatory on the feast of Holy Souls and the list is endless.
    These don’t involve liturgical abuses but when it is the norm for priests to be nagged and threatened for no good reason except a lack of a myriad number of virtues on the part of the complainer, why would orthodox Catholics follow suit with the same behavior? These petty things show that a sad majority of Catholics today have lost reverence for our God given clergy. Alter Christus! I doubt anyone would want priests to treat them the same way in Confession. How could we even be forgiven of our very own blunders and sins if it weren’t for them. My rant.

  12. Pater OSB says:

    Nan hit the nail on the head calling it “liturgical fatigue”. Different priests experience it at different points in the Mass. As I go into a 4th Mass or more I try to remind myself not to close my eyes [which I normally do in certain prayers, out of habit], because if I close my eyes the next time I open them I’m not certain what part of the Mass we’re at. But it hits me most in the homily/sermon. Preaching the first time, it could use a tweak or two – the second/third time it is just right, 4th time and beyond I have no desire to hear my own voice.

    I don’t mean this to sound like a rant, I love celebrating Mass and preaching. But many Masses, though it may not seem like it can be tiring. People want/need to visit between Masses, and this is often the priest’s only real chance to engage with someone who may be ‘on the verge’ in one way or another.

    Driving is another issue – I’ve driven hundreds of miles some weekends [back and forth between parishes and missions] to meet all the pastoral obligations. One of the biggest helps I’ve received – and I appreciate it so much – is when parishioners [who have figured out my food tastes] drop off a meal on Sunday evening. That is great! To be able to have a good hot quiet meal on an evening when it is most needed.

    To all of you who are kind to your priests – thank you! To all who aren’t – 1Samuel 5.6 ; )

  13. I think it is all too easy for people to judge each other – it is especially problematic on the internet. Yes what happened was wrong but sometimes I wonder if many of the comments on the internet are more likely to be exhaltation of self since it seems at times we are trying to persuade others how great we are by tearing someone else down rather than true righteous indignation. On another note: Christ lets the very people we think we can count on to fail us at times in order to teach us to trust in Him alone.

    Possibly the priest shouldn’t have said to pray that he should have less Masses (doesn’t quite sound right if you don’t know the context) but rather just apologized and said he was exhausted and having trouble focusing. Still no excuse but sounds like one big misunderstanding that could have been avoided with charity and humility. Then again I have no wish to cast the first stone as neither am I perfectly sinless either.

  14. Sorry but I forgot to add aside from the issue of charity and other than a warning to everyone not to judge to hastily it is not as if some one was promoting false doctrine, perpetuating sacrilege, teaching bad morals, etc. It really isn’t the type of thing people should get all hyped up about.

    I am thankful for the warning though and hope it will remind me not to judge someone too hastily- it is all too easy to do. God bless.

  15. Shellynna says:

    I think it was Dale Carnegie who once pointed out that what people best respond to is agreement and what they most want is appreciation. The woman who chastised this priest was completely out of line and one can only hope she’ll eventually feel ashamed of herself. But had the priest not been so (justifiably) tired and hurt, he might have nudged her toward had he thought to thank her (rather than apologizing) and agree he’d been wrong (rather than explaining his actions). I’m not saying the woman deserved this — quite the contrary — but that fervent agreement with her point of view and appreciation for approaching him with her complaint would have left her with nothing more to say (including to the chancery). It may even have made her begin to feel guilty.

  16. Leonius says:

    Instead of apologizing he should have referred her to Cor. 14:34-35. If she was really traditional she would not have acted like this.

  17. As I was reading this post I was thinking that maybe the young priest was having a breakdown. An expression of concern for him after Mass from a number of the people present might have been helpful.

    But I was wondering why he has so many Masses at weekends, and six on the day that this happened, in the USA I presume. Fr Edward McNamara of Zenit has a very clear article on the number of Masses a priest may celebrate on Sundays and weekdays in that country: . It seems to be clear there that a bishop in the USA may give permission for a priest to celebrate three Masses on Sunday. Fr McNamara comments, ‘These restrictions are not made to limit a priest’s pastoral zeal but to ensure that each and every Eucharist is celebrated with the dignity and decorum demanded by such an ineffable gift’.

    Maybe the parishioner who berated the young priest was, like himself, tired. If anyone should be called to task it should be the bishop for expecting/requiring a priest to ignore Church law and over-extend himself, possibly endangering, in the long term, his health and faith. None of us is a machine.

  18. Gaz says:

    Saying 2 Masses a day is bination. 3 is trination. We used to joke about fournication. I know it’s not very “nice” to say that but we were commenting on the demands on our priest who offered the EF lovingly and faithfully every week after celebrating 3 OF Masses earlier in the day. 6 is right out! I really feel for the guy – it must be exhausting.

    We have 2 priests in our parish who sort of take it in turns to do the country run of churches in the parish on alternating weekends. Since an additional parish has been thrown to them, you realise that it’s not just a case of “Walk in: say Mass”. Each one requires quite a bit of preparation to ensure that you have doors, lights, mikes, candles, bells, books, gifts, lavabo ready. As the sacristan, I find it a little frustrating that every priest has his own preference for big bread/small bread, ciborium/paten, scruple stick/none, book of the chair/missal, trad-style vestment/mod, cincture/none, amice/not, missal stand/not, ribbon at the sung preface/said. When you set up for one priest and the other turns up because the one you were expecting has headed off to the next parish, well, how much to you undo or not bother doing in the first place?

    I just assist at one Mass on Sundays. Imagine having to be the Priest navigating that six times in a day going to different churches and dealing with different people in each place. Horrible!, especially if you’re even somewhat frail, unwell, depressed, worried or whatever.

    Some might argue that my earlier paragraph presents a case for removal of options and a return to traditional noble simplicity but let’s not go there because we’ll just end up blaming the priests for excessive inventatio. What I’ve seen of the EF is a lot of work The fact is that the demands on priests is perhaps greater than they have been in a long time. It behoves us to help them in their ministry in any way possible.

  19. MissOH says:

    I will definitely pray for that priest. The woman also needs prayers for her lack of charity. It should have been obvious that something was wrong with father (sick, etc) as most of the “liturgical creativity” I have witnessed differs from times when Father has missed his place. I have also been at masses where the priest started reading the wrong prayer or reading and he corrected himself. As others have said, priests are human and even with great care mistakes can be made especially it 6:30pm on a Sunday.

    I also agree there has been a loss of respect to priests. I am trying to instill it in my children.

  20. benedetta says:

    I always give younger priests the benefit of the doubt, always, no matter what. The fact of a priest of a younger generation making that kind of commitment, given the times, it is heroic. If one notices true abuse (which wasn’t the case here obviously) even then I usually give leeway because the younger priest is generally just following orders or is not even given any choice in the matter. But by and large the historical timeline is enough to demonstrate that it is not the current generation being ordained which led us to where we are now, they are blameless in that, and in the parishes often making the best of a very difficult situation that has so many aspects to it that even those working all the time to improve things are sometimes at a loss as to where to even start.

    As for the mom, though she has many children now and appears to be a pro, it would be helpful perhaps for her to remember the time when she was a new mother. In our culture, we are trained to be critics and consumers, without questioning it, it is now instinctual and automatic. And if we don’t regard parish life as something political or edutainment then the great majority still critique. In a place where things are generally solid, I wouldn’t have any cause for alarm as a parent and realize that the Church on earth will never amount to perfection. In a place that seems to be generally undermining the practice of the faith, then, on the other hand, the laity have a duty to do what can be done to improve, and if stubborn wills cannot listen then other entities in the Church should be involved to help bring things along, not necessarily to bring about a great improvement but just to stop what is immediately harmful.

    Anyone who has had a child will no doubt recognize that motherhood in our culture has become also one of those things which is up for constant critique and to a great extent derision. Any new mother will tell you that she regularly endures comments from total strangers on what she is or isn’t doing for the little one, and though in general people are quite permissive when it comes to parenting there is no shortage of discussion amongst mothers which includes put downs of another’s choices in parenting. To be a homeschooling mother of a large family also necessarily generates criticism, open, and even hostility, as if this decision is somehow anyone else’s business, even in parishes. I will pray for them both, the young priest and the mother, and hope that our culture at some point (maybe not in this decade) will be able to openly recognize all the good they contribute to so many.

  21. ipadre says:

    Many people say it is not that difficult to lift a chalice. They don’t realize the stress of celebrating Mass today. Saying the Mass is not just walking in off the street and following a ritual. A good priest invests his whole being into the Holy Sacrifice. What makes this situation worse is celebrating versus populum, and everything that goes along with that.

    It really is a crime that a young priest or any priest offer 6-7 Masses in a day.

    I think the mother of a “traditional family” is uptight, and has no excuse for her actions. If she is a regular, she knows her priest demanding day, and that he is being pushed beyond reasonable expectations.

  22. ipadre says:

    PS: The personel board better find that young priest some help, or cut back on his Masses, before they loose a good priest!

  23. The Egyptian says:

    I think the operative word here is habit, does he make a habit of changing the wording etc, the day one of us never makes a mistake, then case stones, until then have mercy

  24. Flambeaux says:


    I’ve seen several good men, good priests, burned up like this. The inhumane expectations and schedule on the one hand and the indifference of the bishop and chancery staff on the other. Caught between those two, even the best of men will be reduced to ash and dust.

    As my spiritual director has often commented, “the devil doesn’t care how he separates you from Christ and His Church.” If the Enemy can destroy one priest by overwork and exhaustion, the unthinking hostility of his wounded parishioners (someone hurt this woman once upon a time), and the indifference of whomever in the chancery is responsible for this kind of scheduling, he most certainly will.

    But, since I can do nothing more than pray in this particular situation, I shall do that and I shall endeavor to look after the good priests the Good Lord has set over me as well as the many with whom I am blessed to be friends.

  25. benedetta says:

    Will say that it’s one thing to speak privately to a priest about a concern but it is another matter to contact authorities, and the fact that this mother’s written complaint was apparently promptly followed up on tells me that not only was this a good young priest who was merely tired, but also that it appears that she lives in a place where her diocese is responsive and concerned about the possibility of abuse sort, and that the practice there is to immediately respond. This context makes a great deal of difference and would note that it is not this way everywhere. In some places, one could just not keep up with the myriad issues and truly dissenting teachings and practices. Do people who do follow up get responses like this very fast one where I am, I have not heard of this happening. Personally I do not even bother as it is so obvious that the prevailing view here is that those who complain are like lepers, not people who legitimately care about the Church, and further there is a concern for retribution, as sad as that is no one with a family wants to have to suffer that particular brand of persecution in these times.

    Kind of puts it in perspective. In places where things are working relatively well people should be thankful. It is not this way everywhere, and it of course we enjoy great affluence as compared to the meager resources and situations that some Catholics living on other continents are faced with, who carry on in faith nonetheless.

    I don’t think though that it is fair to blame “traditionalists” or for that matter “conservatives” or those who profess a preference for “orthodoxy” in a sweeping and generalizing manner for this incident as where I am overwhelmingly the prevailing approach amongst traditionalists and conservatives is to not complain or report, and in fact the laity here choose to suffer silently, more inclined to offer it up and continue on in faith, doing what they can that is positive. They do tend to seek out parishes which may be far from home base rather than stay around at places which don’t generally offer just one liturgical abuse once in a while but demonstrate a pattern of omission of teaching as well as strange liturgy. Here the places that at least try, albeit in a difficult area, to do things faithfully do it very simply and plainly, without any frills whatsoever, this is the most that can be hoped for at this particular time with little support from authorities and with few resources.

    I agree that the mother doesn’t appear to have any excuse for her actions in contacting the diocese about it, but still I think it’s worthwhile to pray for her as well. It sounds like a responsive diocese in which there are extremely (not just the shortage) few priests available and basically a supportive place for raising children in the faith, a place which may counted among blessings.

  26. merrydelval says:

    St Charles Borromeo once talked about how a priest cannot celebrate Mass devoutly if he does not prepare well in the sacristy. He is so true. But the reality of today’s parishes is that the sacristy is usually a zoo before Mass (and if you’re a parochial victim there is usually little you can do to change that), and that, any priest celebrating six Masses in different places is inevitably going to be distracted. I thought of that poor young priest, because I had a lapse yesterday as well. A series of bizarre and unfortunate events in the sacristy before Mass had me so flustered that I went so say Mass without stole and chasuble! I realized during the Confiteor that I did not have my wedding garment on, and raced back into the sacristy where the person who had caused all the confusion was holding out the chasuble for me to put on. Needless to say, I was embarrassed.

    Luckily, though, no one commented. It was obvious that I was distracted, and the people knew, because of my usual demeanor at Mass, that this was a singular occasion.

    Had Little Miss Sunshine attacked me the way she attacked that poor priest, I would have put her in her place immediately. I am all for criticism when it is valid and merited. When it is not, it is just plain evil.

  27. We need to be kind to older priests, too. If a priest consistently has trouble saying Mass, he may need a new prescription for his glasses or an adjustment to medication and parishioners can help. But it may also be nerves or tiredness.

    Just being patient and calm as a congregation can help a lot. And remember that Moses was a stutterer!

  28. Peggy R says:

    I had my own incident of criticizing a busy priest–though not that busy. (And who is of the 60s-70s modernist bent.) I have made my amends and peace with him and the parish and have found ways to contribute to the faith in the parish. Priests are pushed and pulled by parishioners of all stripes. It must be tough.

    The priest in this story could be from a diocese like Belleville, IL, which is the lower third of the state and mostly rural outside the St Louis metro area. A priest is often responsible for a couple or more parishes in a county or two. And I want to put in a bid for the fact that there is much poverty in rural America that is ignored. Our diocese contains 16 of the poorest counties in IL. There is no high-tech, finance, etc, industry to offset low incomes here as in Cook Co. [And most programs to help the poor and provide opportunities to “disadvantaged” children target the urban poor. Rural American kids are being left behind. The rural poor are mocked by the elitists. Somewhat related rant over.]

  29. I can imagine that the mother was tired as well, it isn’t easy getting all the kids cleaned up and in church. That said, I have been in that position; a 1st Saturday Mass, a funeral Mass, then a wedding and 2 anticipated Massed, plus 4 on Sunday – it left me completely drained but I did it because the only other options were to cancel a Mass or have a communion service. I wonder how happy she would be to hear a priest stumble while offering the sacrifice of the Mass after a month of communion services lead by a nun or lay people? So much for my charitible attitude! Pray for vocations!

  30. Gulielmus says:

    Oh dear. I have unfortunately been a witness to something similar only a couple of weeks ago, although it wasn’t a result of fatigue or confusion.

    A gentlemen who regularly attended the EF at St Mary’s in Washington passed away, and his family arranged for a traditional Requiem Mass. He was very active in his community, and the church was filled with many who were either not Catholic, or not familiar with the Extraordinary Form. The Mass was beautiful (black vestments), and the sermon one of the best I’ve ever heard at any funeral. The priest, aware of the majority’s unfamiliarity with the rite, occasionally interpolated “here we stand” or “here we kneel”,” even while facing the altar. At the conclusion of the sermon, he explained that communion would be distributed to Catholics able to receive, on the tongue and kneeling, but that others could kneel at the rail and cross their arms to be blessed. Perhaps that was wrong, or unwise, but a couple behind me, regulars there (as am I) sighed loudly and tsk’ed each time he gave a direction, and exploded into furious whispers at his instructions for communion.

    They then loudly and angrily berated him in the vestibule, with the family and other mourners standing nearby, for “ruining” the Mass. The deceased man’s son finally asked them to please take it up with the priest privately, and they then stormed out.

    I agree with others that this is NOT typical of traditionalists/conservatives and it’s unfair to characterize us as insensitive and arrogant. But the fact that this attitude and behavior exists (I thought of Fr Z’ past reference to “spittle-flecked fanatics”) even in small numbers, is something that is deplorable, especially among a community with so much to offer the Church. Certainly the other mourners were given a negative picture of those who care about the EF.

  31. irishgirl says:

    Poor priest-he’s beating his brains out going to all these outlying parishes, trying to do his best for his widely-scattered flock, and that is the thanks he gets! That lady was way out of line in criticizing him!

    Guilielmus-the experience you related was equally appalling! That couple should not have acted like that in front of the mourning family! If they had an issue, with how the Mass was done (especially since it was an EF Mass) they should mentioned it to the priest in private, not in public!

  32. everett says:

    Yet another case where charity is absolutely called for. Recently at mass we were sitting on the side of the Church that an EMHC distributes communion. We generally try to avoid this, but sometimes it happens. In going up, the older woman who was the EMHC gave blessings to both of my sons. After mass when I had an opportunity to mention to our pastor what had occurred, I tried as much as possible to just say something along the lines of “I know you may not be aware, but one of the EMHC’s has been giving blessings to those not receiving, and she probably doesn’t know that she shouldn’t be.” This then leaves room for the charitable assumption that the woman has never been told not to do this (and probably in the past told to do it), and that the priest has not noticed this (a wonderful older priest) amongst the other things he is doing. If you can always assume good motives, it greatly softens the blow so as to sound like less of a criticism and more a matter of bringing something to a person’s attention.

  33. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    While the woman should of course not have to do it, still it may be better if a priest apologises or explains the mistakes (or “mistakes”) if he did some…but it surely depends on many factors.

    I once (silently) strogly disagreed with a Capuchin priest who left distribution of Holy Communion to two Capuchin brothers and sat down (and normaly he “says the black and does the red”), until he explained at the end of the Holy Mass that he had injured his hand and he didn’t feel safe to distribute himself (and sure it is a difference to hold Chist’s body ofr a few seconds during elevation and for a couple of minutes during Holy Communion). I apologised to him in my mind.

  34. JaneC says:

    Poor priest. I really feel for priests in places where there are such shortages. We’re about to face a problem in our parish, as our parochial vicar is going to be reassigned and no replacement will be sent. Only the pastor for a parish with an anticipated Mass and four on Sunday, one of which is in a language he doesn’t speak well and none of which can be canceled because they’re all packed.

    At least he’s in good health; at my previous parish there was a similar Mass schedule, but the pastor was older and chronically ill. Pray for priests.

  35. Also, Fr. Z., please remind people about the ‘doctrine’ of invicible ignorance. (I hope I’ve described it adequately.) No matter how off the priest is, if he is validly ordained and the Mass offered is as licit as necessary, then the sacrament is all it needs to be. Our priests can flub their lines, sing off pitch, and blather on in the homily about nonsense; but their human frailty does no damage to the sacrament. The people will have received validly and will have fulfilled their obligations to assist at Holy Mass. This ‘doctrine’ is a protection to the faithful, and a safety net to the priest. All of us can sympathize with the over-worked priest. But there are protections built right into Church law, arent’ there?

  36. brassplayer says:

    I wouldn’t want to excuse disrespect to a priest, but to be “the mother of a traditional Catholic family, six or eight kids, home-schooled, the whole shebang” is an amazingly stressful role that some may not understand fully.

    As a new parent myself, I am well aware of how stressful the job can be. However, the Priest’s actions were an honest mistake, while the mother’s actions were a deliberate choice. Big difference.

  37. Hans says:

    May I suggest an alternative solution to the actual confrontation?

    It is possible (I’ve seen it) for another parishioner intervene and either defuse the situation or at least redirect the anger away from the priest. It helps to know both parties, and it takes tact and patience (know thyself), but it can be done.

  38. James Joseph says:

    Yet another reason for Latin.

  39. Hans says:

    Peggy R wrote:
    The priest in this story could be from a diocese like Belleville, IL, which is the lower third of the state and mostly rural outside the St Louis metro area. A priest is often responsible for a couple or more parishes in a county or two. And I want to put in a bid for the fact that there is much poverty in rural America that is ignored. Our diocese contains 16 of the poorest counties in IL. There is no high-tech, finance, etc, industry to offset low incomes here as in Cook Co. [And most programs to help the poor and provide opportunities to “disadvantaged” children target the urban poor. Rural American kids are being left behind. The rural poor are mocked by the elitists. Somewhat related rant over.]
    Peggy, what you describe is also part of the problem of the underpopulation of so much of rural America. Similar problems exist in remoter parts of the UK as well. The problem isn’t too many people, but too few.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    So many good people fall into the trap of Adversarial Thinking. They look for errors and fight those who may be in good faith doing the best they can in bad situations-including priests. The Adversarial Thinker loves to argue and fight, thinking that the role of the orthodox and conservative lay person is constantly to do so. Wrong, if I may counter and not fall into irony: What is needed is peace and patience. I am about ready to leave a small but earnest EF community, to which I moved hundreds of miles, as where I was living before, in a rural area, had no EF, and no intention of having one. Now, I find myself having to hear anti-Vatican II jargon, anti-clerical jargon, and anti-everything except “my view” jargon. It is very disconcerting. Adversarial Thinking and rash actions must stop if we traddies are to be taken seriously as obedient daughters and sons of the Church. Where is the rule of bearing with burdens of one’s brothers and sisters?

  41. Will Elliott says:

    James Joseph wrote:
    Yet another reason for Latin.
    How would this have fixed the situation? He was tired and stumbled through the prayers – the language used wasn’t the problem. He may have been praying those parts of the Mass from memory rather than reading along in the Sacramentary. Reading the Black, rather than Saying the Black From Memory, would help avoid accidental errors such as this.

  42. Supertradmum says:


    Your comment reminds me of an old cartoon: Two lions were sitting in the arena, picking their teeth. One addressed the other and said, “To tell the truth, Christians always give me heartburn.”

  43. JaneC says:

    James Joseph,
    I agree that Latin is a good thing, but this isn’t about ad-libbing, it’s about making a mistake. If anything, such mistakes are more prone to happen in Latin than in the priest’s native language. Furthermore, a priest stumbling over his words in Latin is just as likely to cause uncharitable people to accuse him of carelessness as making mistakes in the vernacular.

    If you made that comment because you think no one will critique Latin mistakes because no one will notice, well, you must not have been reading this blog for very long.

  44. gould says:

    My question is: Why did the original writer have to include the extra information about the woman being a homechooler and mother of many children? Seems to me that this wasn’t necessary to make the story effective and perhaps betrays a personal bias against all that “shebang” and others who have all that “shebang”. Of course her actions were not kind, but one might argue that any commenter who attacks her, might be guilty of the same. Sheesh, being a homechooling mother of 7 myself, I get a lot of grief from a lot of places (so much so that often I avoid going to places where I know I’ll be criticized) but it always hurts most when it’s coming from your own Catholic family. (Maybe that’s how the priest felt too.)

  45. Tony Layne says:

    I recently received word of a local priest with some (unspecified) health issues who was just released from the hospital. Seems his original medications weren’t dialed in correctly and he was having memory issues. But he finally realized something was wrong when he discovered he was skipping parts of the Mass.

    I offer this as a slight corrective to Will Elliott’s point: When you’re tired or suffering from illness, you may find yourself having problems even if you’re Reading the Black rather than Saying the Black From Memory. I also offer it as another example of how liturgical omissions and changes can happen without subversive intent.

  46. Tony Layne says:

    Supertradmum: Didn’t Chesterton have a line about somebody being “the kind of Christian who really ought to have been eaten by the lions”?

  47. Supertradmum says:

    It was either Chesterton or Belloc. Chesterton does talk about the lion and the lamb in Orthodoxy, a book I taught many years ago not only for its content, but its beautiful English syntax. Some of my students were not as impressed as I was…

  48. Alice says:

    From “Orthodoxy”: “Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions.”

  49. Gail F says:

    I think the person who posted about “Adversarial Thinkers” hit the nail on the head. There are some people — traditionalists, modernists, whatever — who think it is their responsibility to judge and correct everyone else, all the time. They are far different from people who are merely “follow the rules” types or very knowledgeable. They are the bane of any club, church, organization, neighborhood, school, and workplace. The woman may have been one of these people, or she may have had issues of her own. But anyone in charge of anything soon recognizes people who are habitually Adversarial Thinkers and learns from experience to take everything they say with a grain of salt. They can wreak a lot of havok but they are, in the end, their own worst enemies — and the enemies of whatever it is they love, because other people eventually ignore them, even when they’re right.

  50. kat says:

    I’ve seen sick, or exhausted, priests make mistakes. I say a prayer for them, and hope others will not attack him…

    My husband, serving, has had to remind the priest where he was in the Mass because of the pain medication the poor priest was on which made it difficult for him to concentrate : (

  51. Meredith says:

    What a sad little story. I hope that the young priest can cut back on his crazy schedule soon.

    What the mother did was really bitchy, but I can’t help wondering if she isn’t stretched to the breaking point as well. Homeschooling eight kids is NOT a cakewalk, and the pressure to look holy and perfect can be crushingly intense. Maybe she is punishing the priest because she is so used to punishing herself already. Let’s pray for each other!

  52. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    James Joseph tee hee!

    Meredith makes a great point about how having a large family brings one to the breaking point. I have five little ones and homeschool. My solution for this mother is to stay home. That’s what I do. There’s no way I could handle all my babies at Mass by myself w/o my spouse. God calls us to certain sacrifices, even ones we don’t expect such as giving up daily Mass. I used to be annoyed when people didn’t act welcoming toward me and my sometimes noisy little ones during a daily Mass. Now when I’m able to attend an occasional evening Mass by myself or with my oldest who is mature enough and I hear a fussy baby, I can’t help thinking that the mother should have probably stayed at home. But still, babies should always be welcome.

    I’m really sorry for this young priest. But I blame all the priests who went before him who think they can improve on the Mass. Hello it’s widespread and yes the laity is angry about it.

    A good book for this mother would be The Hidden Power of Kindness by Fr. Lovasik.

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