ASK FATHER: Having a hard time at a TLM church.

From a reader:

I’ve been attending the TLM for about 5 years now. I came across it unintentionally as a revert and never intended on making it a regular thing, but I was awe-struck by the beauty and reverence it was celebrated with and couldn’t let it go. Furthermore, there was a very holy priest who was there, whose joy, happiness, humility, and strong conviction in preaching (both through words and actions) the need for us to become saints who really inspired the desire in me to become a saint in this life, which I’ve been striving for.

However, that priest was transferred and the priests who were sent to us don’t seem to have that same conviction that we need to become saints now and instead are very critical of priests in general who celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form, as well as the Ordinary Form in general, etc. What’s worse, many parishioners have taken this as a licence to follow in like behaviour and are openly bashing Diocesan priests and making assumptions about the internal state of their soul.

This hurts me and I can’t stand it anymore. I used to just pray for our priests and parishioners, but after it not having any positive impact, the anger is now it is having a very negative impact on my soul, and am debating whether or not I should just leave and stop attending the TLM. I have raised my concerns with our pastor and I was dismissed as being too critical and that my time would be better spent in prayer.


I am not particularly sure of why TLM communities exist, but I am wondering if there is a place for non-Traditionalists such as myself within these communities, or if I am out of place for wanting to use the TLM in order to help me become a saint and not being sympathetic to Traditionalists and their issues?

I am not sure about “their issues”.   Sure, there are some traditionalists who seem to be a bit like Catholic Amish, but they are few.  But let that pass.

I assume that you are going to a church, chapel, parish which has exclusive use of the Extraordinary Form.

These communities exist to provide for people who have a desire to foster their spiritual through the older form of Holy Mass and the sacraments, and with preaching and catechesis that will be solid.  They want the whole nine yards, rather than just Mass on Sunday.

Keep in mind that, if a lot of traditional lay people have – for decades – been beaten up even by their priests and bishops, treated like second class citizens, so have priests.  Priests, I remind you, are human beings too.  They also can become embittered or impatient and uncharitable.  Is the bar higher for priests?  Do we have greater expectations for them and the way they interact with people.  Of course.  Do they fail?  Sure they do.  This shouldn’t be a surprise.

I get your frustration, but keep in mind that you could be a great spiritual help to these guys.  Pray for them. Fast for them.  Offer them encouragement.  It is okay to express your dismay when you hear them, for example, “openly bashing Diocesan priests and making assumptions about the internal state of their soul”… if that really is what they are doing.  If they are really doing that, openly, they are doing themselves a grave disservice as well.  They are hurting themselves and their mission because that sort of thing will get out and around among the priests and to the diocesan bishop where they are.  I’d recommend that, if they can’t adjust their attitudes, they keep their mouths shut.

But for you… try to be an example of cheerful and patient charity there.  Don’t participate in the talk you object to.  Instead, try to change the subject.  Or, you could add an anecdote about acts of kindness and good things you know that diocesan priests have performed.

And, to keep your eyes clear, examine your own conscience and go to confession regularly.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I think I understand where this reader is coming from. Coming to the TLM as an escape from the many abuses in the ordinary form–there is a tendency for me to want to put higher expectations on the traditional priests and laity. Since they have access to this most holy liturgy–should they not be most holy individuals? In many cases they are. But being human–they are still full of all the problems and vices that plague humanity. It is difficult to realize that there is no place or individual where we can fully put our trust. Even a holy and beloved priest can scandalize you with some bit of prejudice or misinformation. At least, that is what I have experienced. The anti-novus-ordo rash has broken out among our local community (from the laity not the priests) and has become a bitter and divisive problem among a people who should be united in love and reverence for the Lord. Then there is the tendency among the traditional laity to be the catholic amish in style or catholic protestant sect in ideology (including what the reader mentioned of the clairvoyance to read others’ souls and condemn them to hell). It is tiresome and discouraging. Nevertheless, our family keeps trudging back to the TLM–because the prayer is beautiful and uplifting and we need that sustenance to make it another day in this broken world.

  2. lana says:

    The Sinner’s Guide has a section on being judgmental, and particularly about rash judgment of priests. Judging is bad always, but judging priests….. oh boy. Even the worst priest deserves our respect (out of respect for God). If David did not dare harm Saul because he was ‘the Lord’s Anointed’, what should be our attitude towards a priest, even in our inmost thoughts?

  3. APX says:

    With today being the feast day of St. John Mary Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, I think it would be fitting to provide one of his quotes regarding priestly sanctity which our priest quoted in one of his sermons for Good Shepherd Sunday.

    “If the priest is a saint, the people will be holy. If the priest is holy, the people will be good. If the priest is good, the people will be Godless.”

    We need saintly priests, and the only way we will get them is if we pray and do penance for the sanctificaton of both ourselves and for our priests. Let us ask for the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests, and St. Mary Vianney, patron of parish priests.

  4. skvie5738 says:

    We have also been attending the TLM for just 3 years and had previously been Novus Ordo Catholics our whole lives. I’ve found that TLM is wonderful, but my main problem is with the other parishioners. We probably would have started attending the TLM sooner if it weren’t for what we called “weirdos” whom we had encountered throughout our college days who would boast about how the TLM is the best thing since sliced bread but then would act completely opposite to what we would expect “holy” people to be doing. We got over that, and then started attending and found out that the MASS is great, but still, the parishioners, not so great.

    I’ve heard parishioners talk about how bad the Novus Ordo is and how superior TLM is. I’ve heard that the previous priest before we came to this parish told the parishioners that receiving communion in the hand is a sin. A very very grave sin. The list goes on. I find that TLMers can be very cliquey (sp?) and introverted.

    We just try to do our best, participate in the activities we can, smile at people and then just in the end not worry too much about how “different” TLM people can be– and usually are. It doesn’t mean I have to behave that way.

  5. New Sister says:

    I ache for the reader who wrote this – how sad and oppressive! This might be something for him/her to consider: — I learned of it from (M. Voris) “…a spiritual association of lay women (and lay men under the title of Sons of St. John of the Sorrowful Mother) who live a vocation of reparation for our own sins, and for consecrated souls not living their vows (priests). ” It won’t make the wrong hurt less, but can make it useful.

    The division doesn’t stop at criticism of diocesan priests and the NO — I have heard FSSP adherents rail against diocesan TLMs, and SSPX adherents criticize the FSSP and ICKSP.
    Saint Ignatius of Antioch (whom Benedict XVI called, “the Father of Christian Unity”) begged us, en route to his martyrdom, not to do this. OPN~

  6. HeatherPA says:

    Meh, most parishes have a cross to bear in the congregants. NO or EF.

    We currently attend NO simply because there is no EF option for a 2 1/2 hour radius. There are some real winners in the pews. It seems our family being “too Catholic” is offensive to many. By too Catholic, I mean using NFP, being open to life (I am turning 40 on the 25th and am pregnant with #7), sending our kids out I the diocese for good retreats, offering to pay for “traddy” materials for the kids and for parish retreats…
    I get a lot of crap from the “women of a certain age” for our family size. We still go to Mass there because the Mass is said very reverentially with sprinklings of Latin throughout. There is daily holy hour, unheard of in even most EF churches. It is about Mass after all.

    My husband used to serve at St. Benedict’s in Chesapeake when stationed in VA Beach. The people there I would take hands down over the NO parish we are at now, but even if they were holier than thou mean spirited people, I would just be eternally grateful for the EF mass and continue to pray for the priests and congregation.
    Prayer and sacrifice, even when and especially when it isnt easy. Think of the graces you can obtain for your parish.

  7. I am not a big commenter, but I had to comment on this.

    First, I want to apologize to the anonymous reader for any difficulties that they have encountered in the TLM. Like Fr. Z. said, priests are not perfect, but in the Catholic Church we do have a tendency to expect them to be closer to angels than the rest of us (you know, the whole “alter Christus” thing), so it can be much more hurtful when they let us down. I totally get that, and while I am not a priest, I am sorry if you have been let down.

    In regards to the parishioners, as someone who attends the TLM personally, I would like to apologize as well. I think it can be harder when TLM parishioners make mistakes than when Novus Ordo parishioners do, simply because when we see people visually trying so hard to get everything right, we want to think much higher of them. I am sure many NO parishioners do their share of TLM bashing, but somehow it does not come across quite as caustic – even if they can be much worse in their attacks! Strange, isn’t it?

    As far as the anonymous reader wondering if he or she is out of place in the TLM community, for not being a Traditionalist, all I can say is this: different types of troops train differently.

    Traditionalists are sort of like the “Special Forces” in a sense – they use every historical facet of Catholicism to their advantage. This means that they want more than just the TLM once a week; they want the entire life, way of thinking, way of living, way of choosing – everything – that goes with it. For them, Catholicism IS a way of life, and the Mass is the heart of that life. From the Mass flows their entire world, and all that they do.

    So in that sense, if you are looking to be a saint, you have certainly found the best Mass possible to help you in that search! This is because you have also found the best LIFE possible, because out of that Mass is meant to flow ones entire existence and way of living.

    If, however, you are not looking to use every facet of historical Catholicism to your full “spiritual training advantage,” then the TLM would still be ok to respectfully attend, but you might find a strange disconnect in many ways.

    It would sort of be like a newbie in the Coast Guard suddenly showing up in the boot camp of the Marines! Two VERY different worlds. If the Coast Guard newbie just likes to watch the fancy military displays on occasion, he will quickly become tired out by the day to day reality and long for the Coast Guard once again. If he can begin to appreciate the life of the Marines though, he might decide to stay – and find greatness there.

    If you admire the heroic fidelity of the saints though, and long to be one, maybe stick around a bit more. Pray for the TLM’rs, who are just human and have many times been just as badly bashed by the Novus Ordo, but try to see what their entire world is all about. Read the books they recommend on the history of the Church and the changes that were made. You might be surprised!

    You might end up preferring “Semper Fidelis” to “Semper Paratus.” :-)

    God bless you!

  8. VexillaRegis says:

    It doesn’t matter that you are right if you don’t know how to behave!

  9. chantgirl says:

    Dear questioner, as someone who usually assists Mass at an EF parish, and who also has a diocesan priest in her immediate family, I can empathize. However, every parish this priest has been assigned to has had its share of crazy and mean-spirited people. They should not keep you away from the Mass that nourishes your soul! Think about it- for centuries, the EF was the only form of Mass most Latin rite Catholics attended. Surely there were rude, selfish, lustful, greedy, and violent sinners in the Church during those times. The Mass does not erase our concupiscence. It does help us to fight it, though. If the EF Mass more effectively helps you to fight your tendency to sin, don’t let others rob you of this grace.

  10. Menagerie says:

    I find myself strangely alone in the middle between the Traditionalists and the regular folks in my parish, because I am uncomfortable with the attitudes of some on both sides. The TLM people are a closed and pretty unwelcoming group, and the women in the parish groups I volunteer with mostly hold young women who have large families and practice NFP in utter contempt. I am new to associating with fellow parishioners, having more time to join in this last year, so I was totally unprepared for this attitude.

    Fortunately, we are blessed with a young priest who bridges the divide with skill and respect, and we are having lots of opportunities to come together as a parish. God bless this good shepherd. I have, because of him, redoubled my efforts in praying for priests, and vocations.

  11. APX says:

    I recall when I first started actually socializing with people from our TLM community when I was still new and unknown. I was very scared and hesitant to talk about my family since I have only one sibling. When I mentioned it was just my brother and I, and that I worried people would look down on my parents for only having two children, I was told by the woman I was talking to, “Don’t worry about it. I don’t judge Traditionalist families with only a few children because I know with them there are extenuating circumstances for using NFP.” I don’t come from a Traditionalist family.

    There is a very staunch attitude of superiority amongst many traditionalist circles and it amazes me the subject of pride has not come up in a sermon in my 3.5 years of attending the EF. There’s often the praise of priests from certain groups who use the EF exclusively for preaching on contraception and abortion, etc. Great. They’re preaching to the choir. I will be amazed when I hear a sermon on pride amongst Traditionalists and spiritual dangers it puts them in.

    To whom much is given, much is expected. We are all going to have to stand before God at our final judgement and make an account of the talents we were given. It behooves us to spend less time worrying about what controversial thing the pope said according to some reporters, or that Mrs. Kerfluffel is wearing pants, or what rubrical mistake Fr. Senile made during his 5th Sunday Mass, etc.

    I don’t care to read about Lefebvre, or about all the conspiracy theories, etc. Such reading will not get me to heaven and will only serve as a distraction from my end goal, which is union with the Beloved. I honestly believe that a lot of these rad trad books are only helping many traditionalists to fall into despair.

  12. marcelus says:

    . The other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…”
    Benedict XVI

    It all depends on how NO,is celebrated. In Latin America where 50% of world Catholics reside NO is mostly solemnly celebrated. Always you’ll find exceptions but it’s mostly so. From what we hear, you have and issue with that in the US.

    Finally a quote from Benedict for the Benedict fans on this particular issue:


  13. Salvelinus says:

    @APX. Please don’t use the pejorative “radtrad” for any group of fellow catholics.
    This is term coined by the rabidly anticatholic SPLC.
    As one who attends both the TLM and the new mass, I’ve unfortunately heard this bigoted term thrown around by the latter on a regular basis for anyone who assists at the TLM.
    It’s like due to professional Catholic apologists who have disdain for the traditions in the faith, but needless, is still very derogatory and divisive.
    Regarding number of children, there are those of us who aren’t able to have any, do I wouldn’t consider this a bona fide for level of “traditionalism”.
    Additionally, there are some catholics who consider today’s seemingly “worship” of NFP (with some patheos-type bloggers devoting entire pages to it.
    Sure I’ve come across rude people in the TLM, but ive also regularly come across Obama Biden bumper stickers and ladies in tank tops and short shorts at the novus ordo. There are rude people everywhere, and there are many priests that celebrate the ordinary mass that consider the TLM “protestant” as one commenter above did.
    No TLM mass for is protestant, unless of course the subscribe to Protestantism.
    God bless.

  14. Salvelinus says:

    Interestingly, at mass today, right after the excellent (yet truly disturbing) sermon on the plight of our brethren at the hands of Islamic fighters in Iraq, we were reminded about attitudes that sometimes come from us that regularly attend the TLM.
    Father, who must also be a fan of this blog, asked us to smile, be nice to newcomers by extending a hand and treat others as we would like to be treated. Yes, it’s embarrassing to get reMinded of things we all should have down-pat and learned from 2nd grafe.
    Also, do everything possible to not give those that may come with preconceived notions and an axe to grind more ammunition to run to the bishop with (tattle tail, i suppose they are called). Not only that, but we should always be friendly, even if there weren’t nefarious reasons behind the new faces He must know something I don’t.

    But I personally get beaten down so badly, even by members of my own family for my love of the TLM. I guess my quick defense mechanism is common with others? Who knows. ..

    So, with my own experience with some snooty guy in a three piece suit, posted to the poster, an addition to the b reminder from my priest and fr z, I suppose the statement, “we are our own worst enemies” holds a lot of truth.
    Mea maxima culpa, if I every showed snootiness to anyone ever. I know how it feels, as we should all remember

  15. Reconverted Idiot says:

    If you truly want to be a saint, and you’re being tested by the attitudes around you, then thank God for putting you in a position where you can truly learn to exercise saintly virtues. Follow every word of Fr Z’s advice, and your saintliness will increase manifold. Think of it as a refining period.

    I’m fortunate enough to worship at a church with a completely flawless congregation: the people who lead prayers are always totally reverent, everyone dresses perfectly and has impeccable manners, the priests and deacons never do anything which upsets me or anyone else. I’m joking, of course. The truth is my blood has literally boiled on one or two occasions (and it gets worse if a particular scripture comes to mind which proves my point!) Pray, take it to confession, pray more. Try to be uplifting in what you say, avoid critical discussion/change the subject/smile sweetly and think of some of the dumb things those apostles did at times. Stuff like that helps me. Usually by day three after the latest ‘trial’ I’m asking God to help me combat my pride and take this here log out of my eye, yet again.

  16. APX says:

    Interestingly enough, next week we get the reading about the Pharisee and Publican, which always reminds me of this very topic, yet I have never heard a sermon related to pride or humility on that Sunday. Why does pride and humility seem to always go unmentioned?

  17. Mike says:

    Interestingly enough, next week we get the reading about the Pharisee and Publican, which always reminds me of this very topic, yet I have never heard a sermon related to pride or humility on that Sunday. . . .

    There is a diocesan priest a couple of counties away from me who is perfectly apt to preach on exactly that topic at his TLM next Sunday. I might trek out there to see if he does.

    On the other hand, he’s also apt (apropos of the topic, to be sure) to exhort people not to travel great distances to assist at a TLM while neglecting their home parishes, so maybe I won’t.

  18. APX says:

    Mike, you could go to the TLM, yet support your actual parish. Or, better yet, if this is an substantial issue, why not work to get a TLM at your parish?

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