ASK FATHER: How to support young priest whose pastor doesn’t want the TLM?

From a reader…


Our parish has a 1 year ordained assoc pastor trained in TLM and would love to say it. Pastor is 62, new to us, would probably have a stroke if assoc pastor said TLM. How can I help(not in pastor’s graces)? I don’t want to harm the assoc pastor by creating a firestorm. Also, pastor heads deanery.

Sometimes the best help you can render is through prayer.  Pray both for the young associate and for the pastor’s change of heart.

The young associate is probably savvy enough to understand the pros and cons of offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form if the pastor is opposed.  After all, he survived the crucible of seminary formation.

While supporting the good young Father, trust his judgment. Don’t push the issue too much. He may have determined the best course of action is to avoid, for now, using the 1962 Missal, at least publicly, at this time and in this parish. I’m sure Father appreciates the support of kind parishioners, but it would be unwise to put any sort of pressure on him to go against the pastor’s wishes.

The best support could simply be that of an extended hand of friendship. Let him know that there are those who hope for better times.  They will support him if and when he sees it opportune to move forward with any plans.  They will also support him if he deems it unwise to do so for some time. Let him take the lead.

Meanwhile, write a supportive letter to the bishop about this good young priest!  It will go into his file.  Don’t mention the Extraordinary Form, or any quarrels you’ve had to land you outside of the pastor’s good graces.  The the bishop what a delightful young priest this associate pastor is.  Remember: bishops tend to only get letters of complaint.   Obvious letters of support will get his attention and, in time, could pay off.  They wind up in a priest’s file and counterweigh any difficulties in the future.

Keep the letter simple.  Something like:

“Fr. Moneypenny is a good, kind young priest with superb preaching skills and a great attitude. Thank you for sending him to us!”

Rather than, “Thank you for assigning Fr. Moneypenny to us. He does things right by the book unlike that crotchety old Fr. Mankiller who mopes around in his burlap chasuble preaching about socialism. Fr. Moneypenny wears his biretta every chance he gets and doesn’t tolerate that kind of wishy-washy liberal nonsense.”

That second letter, no matter how well-meaning, might get read by the chancery folks in an entirely different light than it’s intended. It will go into his file too, along with a snarky memo about how they ought to “stretch” this priest… as if on the rack.

Keep in simple.  Be positive.  Avoid controversial topics.  Sometimes people – in their zeal – hurt priests more than they can imagine.  Believe me.  I know this from personal experience.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. MrsMacD says:

    Organize a spiritual boquet for your pastor.

  2. Pearl says:

    Another way to support the young priest, while you are waiting for him to be able to say the TLM, is to ask him if there are any things he needs in order to be able to say the TLM at the first opportunity. Some of these young men don’t have the money handy to have everything they may need. Buy him an Altar Missal if he doesn’t have one (or get a group of people to go in on one as they are very expensive). See if he needs a nice set of altar cards. Does he need someone to sew some amices or maniples for him? Does he have a Latin breviary? These are all very costly, so may not be easy for Father to obtain. Let him know that they are HIS and that you are not donating them to the parish so that when he is transferred, if the new pastor is more open to it, he will have with him what he needs. Then, in the future when he is transferred back to your parish as the new pastor, everything will be all set! :)

  3. ChuckShunk says:

    Thank you Father! This is an incredibly useful piece of advice. I’m ashamed to say that writing letters of thanks for good priests to the bishop is something that never occurred to me before. I will write one today if I can, or tomorrow by the latest.

  4. acricketchirps says:

    I forget–don’t only Self-absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagians do that?

  5. Chatto says:

    You could always invite the young priest round to yours to pray the older Breviary – Vespers on a feast day, and then put on a feast for him (and invited other guests). Or make it a bring-and-share kind of thing! It’s not Mass, but it is the Extraordinary Form of the Office, and perhaps Father will even be able to teach you all how to sing it, which is surprisingly simple. It’d be better in a church, admittedly, but it’s not nothing.

  6. Lots of good suggestions!

    Might I also add that priests are often overtired and overworked, and may need a pick-(perk-?)me-up…perhaps in the shape of a subscription to tasty, caffeinated Mystic Monk Coffee? After all, it’s swell!

  7. St. Rafael says:

    The priest can also celebrate his own private TLM Masses. Why not celebrate in private homes during pastoral visits? We have been living in times when the faithful have had to go back to the catacombs. There is no reason why the laity cannot be present when a priest is offering his own daily private TLM Mass outside of a scheduled public parish Masses.

  8. Thorfinn says:

    Why not – collect a group of parishioners interested in the EF, with a spokesperson (ahem) who IS in the pastor’s good graces? Then – going directly to the pastor – request a one time Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the EF for some special occasion or holy day? One time could become annual, semiannual, and so forth.

    I would think that this approach respects the pastor’s authority while keeping the young priest out of the line of fire if the pastor reacts negatively.

    I ask “Why not?” because I am no expert, and who can say how the pastor would respond? It is not inconceivable that, even when bypassing the young priest entirely, a paranoid pastor might accuse the young priest of being behind it all and fomenting a revolt against him. Which could in turn delay the young priest getting a parish of his own. Still, it is not healthy to stifle one’s own legitimate aspirations for the EF, presented in a Christian way; and what if the young priest asks the pastor for permission to use the EF and the pastor can say that there has never been a (reasonable) request for it from the people? What happened to “Do not be afraid?”

  9. kekeak2008 says:

    What if the young priest is a member of a religious institute? Should we address such a letter to the Provincial Superior or the Superior General? Should such a letter still go directly to the archbishop? I certainly don’t mind writing to both of them!

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