No, this isn’t a war zone.

I saw a piece at the Daily Mail with beautifully horrible photos of wrecked and run-down church in Philadelphia.   HERE

Here is one of them.

No, this isn’t a war zone (technically, at least).

First, Our Lord promised that, in the end, Hell wouldn’t prevail against His Church.  He didn’t say anything about Hell not prevailing in Philadelphia… or where you live.

Second, if you want your parish, you can keep your parish.  Gosh, in the wake of the “Affordable Care Act”, that sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it.  The point is that parishes have bills to pay and parishes need priests.  If you don’t pay the bills and if you don’t provide solid vocations to the priesthood through prayer, promotion and sacrifice, this is what happens.  That means that you, dear readers, must with joy support interest in a vocation to the priesthood in your families.  It also means that you should also provide feedback and support for formation for priests.  Lousy priests can equate to everything from emptying pews to emptying coffers.  Be engaged.

So, photos like these can also underscore the creative destruction that takes place from time to time everywhere.  Sometimes things break down.  Then something new is rebuilt.

But none of what you want and need as Catholics is free.  You can and must (it is a precept of the Church) contribute by your time, your talents and your treasure.

If you don’t contribute, you are part of the problem.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    How sad. I recall seeing some similar pictures coming from run-down churches in Detroit.

  2. CrimsonCatholic says:

    You nailed this one one, we need to contribute more. Especially time, we need to get the hippie crowd out of a lot of the ministry work.

  3. Robbie says:

    Fruits of the Council.

  4. Priam1184 says:

    Hell not prevailing against the Church eh? I believe that the correct phrase is that “the gates of Hell” will not prevail against the Church. And the difference between these two wordings is an important thing to meditate on as we look at this picture: gates are not offensive weapons, they are defensive. No one attacks anyone with a gate. Ergo what our Lord was telling Simon Peter was that the Church is going to be his OFFENSIVE weapon to destroy the power of Hell in this world.

    Too many of us, especially those who like to call themselves traditionalists, and really the Church as a whole in the centuries between the Councils of Trent and Vatican II have viewed the Church only in a defensive light i.e. a bulwark to defend themselves, their families, their culture against the evils of the world. But that was not what the Church founded for and we should we realize that immediately when we survey the disastrous history of the Church and the world over the last half millennium. The Church’s mission is to STORM THE GATES OF HELL as we did at the beginning, and when we learn to do that again we will stop seeing pictures like this.

  5. persyn says:

    Priam, I can’t award gold stars, but I sure do like what you said. Spot on, in my estimation.

  6. Mike says:

    When the Church started sounding like something you could get from a televangelist or self-help book at home — especially when respect for the Blessed Sacrament dissipated, mention of sin and Hell become subdued or outright suppressed, and sermons homilies became distillations of Democrat talking-head rubbish — what was to come to Church for?

    The saving message of the Faith as authentically proclaimed for two millennia is, God be praised, being carried forward by more than a few brave souls. That may or may not stave off a chastisement in which many more scenes like that in the photograph (and far worse ones) will be recorded. Prayers for fortitude and perseverance are essential.

  7. acardnal says:

    Who would ever treat an organ like that!

  8. Siculum says:

    Is it possible that artificial contraception had anything to do with this as well, similar to the way in which having more babies would have allowed us to better pay into Social Security as a nation?

    This might be too “divisive” and “controversial” an explanation, but in light of Fr. Timothy Sauppe’s now widely-circulated article about contraception closing our Catholic schools, do the math. (

  9. Actually…this is a war zone.

  10. St. Rocco says:

    Actually, Anita, you’re right. But then there was St. Bonaventure in Fairhill. Was.

    But there is hope here in Philly! Holy Trinity, built in 1789, just two blocks from Independence Hall, is the third oldest parish in the diocese, the first German Catholic parish in the USA, and has the a High Sung Mass (in the Extraordinary Form) each Sunday at noon. I’m really glad I get to go there. They have *free* parking, too, which is almost as miraculous as Summorum Pontificum itself.

    And I can’t wait for the Solemn High Mass at the Cathedral for the Feast of the Assumption, with Fr. Z’s friend Fr. Pasley as celebrant.

    Ever onward!

  11. Gerard Plourde says:

    As a native Philadelphian I can provide some background. St. Bonaventure (Est. 1889) was closed in 1993 and was merged with St. Veronica’s one mile away which serves a mixed anglo-Hispanic population and maintains a school staffed by a religious and lay faculty. St. Bonaventure was located in North Philadelphia which experienced an exodus of its Catholic population between 1950 and 1970 for other more prosperous parts of the city and it suburbs. North Philadelphia had been heavily Catholic and had a number of parishes that were located in similarly close proximity. Cardinal Bevilacqua consulted with the pastors in the area – some of the parishes that consolidated were reconstituted under new names ( For example the parish located in what formerly had been St. Columba (1895 – 1993) became St. Martin de Porres, and the one taking over Holy Child (1905-1993) was renamed Our Lady of Hope).

  12. yatzer says:

    I think I read of a Middle East terror group that called itself the “Gates of Hell”.

    acardinal: I have been astonished at how many attendees at the local round churches hate organs. They want pop music and worship bands. I can’t imagine that happening at any of our local mosques, synagogues, or the Sikh temple. Not that they have organs, but that they don’t trash their own traditions. If I wanted to be Protestant, there is a very nice mega-church withing bicycling distance.

  13. Andrew D says:

    The article doesn’t say this but the church in these photos (St. Bonaventure) is actually in the process of being demolished. The church has been closed for some time as Gerard noted and the neighborhood surrounding it (Fairhill) is now one of the worst in Philadelphia. I wouldn’t even think of driving through there even in the early morning before all the drug addicts are awake. Sadly, many neighborhoods in Philadelphia did go downhill over the years and in those neighborhoods were some of the city’s most beautiful Catholic Churches. The changing of some of these areas from majority white to majority black presented an opportunity for the Church for evangelize. Sadly, that did not happen and with the whole changeover from the TLM to the “spirit of Vatican II”, the newcomers probably didn’t see much difference from the protestant churches they were used to so why convert? Today in the Philadelphia area there are a lot of parish closings and consolidations taking place. From what I have observed, the parishes facing closure are ones that offer “spirit of Vatican II” style Masses. There are ones that are doing quite well though (Our Lady of Lourdes in the Overbrook neighborhood, Holy Trinity in Society Hill) not surprisingly, are the ones offering the TLM. If more parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese would offer the TLM and the whole country for that matter, we would see a reversal of this trend and an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and religious.

  14. An absolute shame.

  15. Gerard Plourde says:

    As Andrew points out, Holy Trinity is special. It began as a German Ethnic Parish and closed in 2009. It now is technically a worship site for Old St. Mary’s (about two blocks away). Since July of 2013 it is also is home to the Archdiocese’s Traditional Latin Mass Community Apostolate and celebrates a solemn High Mass each Sunday at Noon.

  16. jacobi says:

    This picture is nothing to what I suspect is coming. Mind you, Herself says I have always been a pessimist and exagerate, and I hope she’s right. But I really do fear that we are just at the start of a massive upheaval or rather collapse in the One True Church which will possibly be as bad as the Arian crisis.

    In my diocese, we have just had the first of what will be a long series of priestly resignations, mostly because of old age but some possibly for other reasons and recruitment is near zero. What is needed is for the number of parishes to be reduced to probably less than half. But of course it will be done piecemeal and reluctantly – thus ensuring maximum drawnout chaos and despair.

    Oh yes , the fruits of Vatican II.

    @Siculum. I suspect contraception, aborticides, abortion has everything to do with it as you see “Catholic” families with their 1.4 children all trooping up to Holy Communion

  17. John6 says:

    My parish, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, was fortunate enough to get some magnificent pieces of St Bonaventure incorporated into our recently built church. We have the magnificent marble back alter, as well as some terrific wood work and stained glass.

  18. jflare says:

    I walked into and through many a church in Germany, Bavaria in particular, and was thoroughly awed by what the Europeans had built. I had no idea that churches of such grandeur existed here in the ‘States too, until I attended a sort of seminar after Mass a few years ago.
    I find it remarkable: Even this wretched and sad state, we still see the afterglow of beautiful architecture and art.
    THIS is why I would like to earn several million dollars in my lifetime! I would LOVE to restore these churches–and others all over the country–to their intended beauty.

    acardnal: RE the organ, I agree, and I can’t even play one yet! Grrr!

    Reminds me of an occasion about five years ago now: Our choir director had learned of a church and convent that was due to be torn down and had acquired keys–and permission–to go through the place, see if we could find anything useful for our parish. We wound up retrieving a large water tank, an air conditioner, and some other items.
    Sadly, because we had no way to move it or any place to store it, I reluctantly agreed that we would not attempt to also retrieve the standing piano we found in a hallway. The whole building was demolished about 1 week later, piano and all.

    Oh, that was painful!

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