ASK FATHER: Seminarians required to stand for Communion. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Okay… this is going to be hard.

From a seminarian:

I am currently a ___ year seminarian attending ___ .

antecently, a new ‘policy’ was adopted here: all must receive Holy Communion standing.

The Holy See has made it absolutely clear that we all have the right to receive the Blessed Sacrament kneeling and on the tongue.

Some of my brothers are afraid to kneel due to being labeled “traditionalist”… and eventual grounds for seminary dismissal.

I want to humbly ask, what is the best response to this situation?


Your best response?

Shut up.  Smile.  Stand for Communion.

And the next day?

Shut up.  Smile.  Stand for Communion … until you get ordained.

I am not going to get into the merits of standing or kneeling.  That is irrelevant where you are.  You have to live in the real world, the here and now.

Standing for Communion in seminary is not your battle.

You men could fight this, with your bishops or with the Congregation in Rome.  You might… might… win the battle.  The victory would be Pyrrhic.

You men are now experiencing a smidgen of what it was like for us in the 80’s, when a man could be expelled for kneeling, wearing black pants, having a statue of Mary in his room, not condoning homosexual sex, saying that women can’t be ordained.  Receiving on the tongue?  You’re toast.

As you contemplate your bitter lot, young padawan, consider that we were forbidden from using the word “priest”, to which we referred as “the P Word”.  There were only “ministers”, ordained or non-ordained.  Everyone’s a “minister”.

Ahhh… those were the days.

Many of our seminaries were entirely staffed by liberals, aging hippies, modernists, even deviants.  They were able to hang on in sufficient numbers for a few decades.  Also, there are now some staff around who weren’t around before, of another generation.  But they are weak-willed, their identity is thin gruel, they go with what they perceive is prevailing trend.  They are ambitious. Right now the prevailing trend is “eradicate tradition”.

Hunting season is open, my young friends, and you’re the prey.

It is time to toughen up.  Get seriously tough, spiritually tough.

You need to develop a prayer life that will keep you calm in the face of injustice and profound stupidity.  You will need that anyway in your lives as priests, especially in the times to come.  You may as well learn now. Burnish your spiritual armor now.

Also, you must quietly – discreetly – read the right books, learn the “rite” stuff.  Form strong friendships among your brethren and agree together to smile and shut up and get ordained.  Find support among faithful priests who are also savvy, discreet, even who have bled in the past and who have their scars.

Finally, and this comes in part from a priest friend with whom I shared this, don’t become cynical.  That’s the kiss of death for a (future) priest.

Rejoice that you are not being asked to deny the faith (as we were in the 80’s).  If you were, there would be no choice but to stand and fight.

Use this as an occasion to grow in empathy. Resolve never to bully people into giving up the legitimate exercise of their freedom.

Meanwhile, use your God-given brains to figure out what is important in the big picture, the long run.  If they tell you to stand, do it and shut up.  Offer the whole mess to God as an act of reparation, of self-abnegation, of humility, and then don’t complain, even among your friends unless you are at least 300 miles from the seminary and under the influence of a good cigar and adult beverages in moderation.

The moderation queue is ON, but I doubt that I will let any comments through that aren’t expressions of support in prayer and wise advice from priests.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Cri de Coeur, Liberals, Seminarians and Seminaries, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, The Olympian Middle, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    Everyday, I pray for the Pope, all the Bishops, all the clergy and religious as part of my daily prayer petitions. I just realized I wasn’t specifically referring to the seminarians. I will specifically add them, immediately. I pray especially for those “who have gone off the reservation” in the hopes that their hearts will soften and that they will return to the fold. It must be especially tough for seminarians who suffer at those who abuse power – just because they can.

  2. This comment – from a seminarian – was in the queue. I am anonymizing it even more by cutting and pasting it:

    Have hope! I am also a seminarian in the United States. The seminary I attend has the same rule, and worse rules. I am finishing up my first year of seminary and have learned many things. I believe many men about to enter seminary, myself included, thought that kneeling and receiving communion and other “trad” practices would not be a problem when going into seminary, since my diocese is on the more traditional side. I thought since the college seminarians get sent out of state to a seminary in a different diocese approved by my diocese, I would be ok. In fact, I thought I could deepen my more traditional devotions in seminary. Boy was I wrong. I believe many men hear that seminaries are getting better about the Extraordinary Form and other traditional practices, but forget that there are many a seminary, mine included, that still frown upon, and seminarians even get bullied to an extent, for their love in the Extraordinary Form, Latin, etc. Since I was so open about my love for these things, I now have that trad label and get comments from other seminarians and seminary administration.

    What do I do? I “Shut up. Smile.”
    It is hard, trust me I feel your pain. My pastor at home went through the same issues and worse back in the 90’s and has given me this advice:

    – Shut up and get ordained
    – See it as a way of deepening your devotion to receiving our Lord kneeling, and makes those opportunities more special
    – Does not allow you to take these practices for granted
    – Gives you a way of learning obedience to one’s superiors, even if they are wrong. (On these kind of matters, of course)
    -Offer up my suffering to our Lord as a way of reparation for abuses to the Holy Eucharist in the world
    – Gather other seminarian brethren who are going the same thing you are and have a mini-support group.

    I hope this helps and be assured of my prayers!

  3. This comment – from a seminarian – posted, but I am anonymizing it even more by cutting and pasting it:

    I am a seminarian; I am very blessed to be at a seminary that supports the range of orthodox spiritualities. Last semester we had a Latin Novus Ordo as well as a EF Mass. When our auxiliary bishop offered the first public EF Mass at our Cathedral since Vatican II, those of us who wanted to attend were allowed. I think this orthodoxy in the seminary is one of the major factors as to why we are the largest minor seminary in the country, and together with the major seminary across the street we are the largest seminary system in the country. Many horror stories exist about our seminary’s past, and our director of spiritual formation readily will tell stories of his time in major seminary where the only day the priest faculty wore clerics is when the bishop was on campus. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are extremely grateful for the formation we have now, and have deep respect for those orthodox priests who had to suffer through such nonsense back 20 years ago.

  4. This comment – from a prospective seminarian – posted, but I am anonymizing it even more by cutting and pasting it:

    As a (hopefully) soon to be seminarian, my ardent and earnest prayers go out to that seminarian that he may stand firm in the Holy Spirit and not waver before ordination. May God bless you brother.

  5. rwj says:

    Fr. Z hits this one out of the park– I would add to all the advice mentioned: It will be important to carry the well developed virtue of prudence into the priesthood as well. In my first assignment as a priest, I was thought to be novel for using a Eucharistic Prayer besides EPII. As a parochial vicar or even as a new pastor, the same kind of silliness will be found everywhere. The good news, in my experience, is that the majority of faithful respond warmly when Tradition is experienced– so long as we have remained joyful in our love of Mystery we celebrate– rather than embittered because people should know better.

    Also, hang in there — life keeps getting better!

  6. Nicholas says:

    I was very surprised when I entered seminary to encounter this rule. The argument was that since bowing and receiving is the norm in the US we should all do it.
    1) it taught me obedience early on. It wasn’t a rule I particularly liked, but I accepted it since my rector was ordering it.
    2) it actually helped me show more reverence, because genuflecting before receiving was a very ingrained habit that I had to actually make a point of bowing.

    So in short, use it to learn obedience and foster interior reverence. Just hope that’s the worst thing you have to endure from the faculty!

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    You speak wisdom, Father Z. That phrase is key “…it is not your battle…” I would hear that in the monastery from a wise confrere and it got me a long way. But these seminarians must also be stealth. The left is known to be adept at fascist tactics. They must also keep their own counsel — I learned too late “…the walls have ears…” Be still.

  8. ray from mn says:

    It may not be over, even when these seminarians get ordained. But at least they will be priests forever in the Order of Melchizedek. A good friend who became a second vocation priest a few years ago was incardinated in a small diocese that paid for his schooling in another part of this country that is extremely short of priests. But my friend happens to like the Extraordinary Form and that just didn’t sit well with the leadership of that diocese. They would rather go without priests rather than have one who is too conservative. So my friend took an early retirement, breaking his agreement with the diocese to serve for at least ten years.

    I figure it will be a long time before conservative priests will be gladly accepted.

  9. Fr. Erik Richtsteig says:

    Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.

    Sage advice for seminarians.

  10. liquidpaw says:

    Tough it out and get through. Then your numbers will increase over time and the heretics teaching you will die off.

  11. agnus says:

    This went on in the 80’s for Permanent Deacons,too. When my husband and I went through our work (wives came once a week), we were told there were no angels, that Jesus didn’t resurrect, that devotion to Our Lady wasn’t necessary because She “wasn’t a modern woman ” and that She “never rode in a car” (from a nun, yet). When we were given a modernist catechism to work from, my very wise confessor told us to read the assignments and then go to Fr Hardon’s catechism and read the same topics. What did we do? WE SMILED, SHUT UP AND HE GOT ORDAINED! There was a great deal more, the suffering was real, AND HE GOT ORDAINED. You bet you better get tough…he was dismissed after 6 weeks from a parish because the pastor was just using him to vacation in Europe. At the next inquiry he was greeted with “oh, we’ve had deacons…they aren’t very good.” But he persevered and found a holy priest in a great parish and has served there ever since.

  12. WYMiriam says:

    May God bless that seminarian and others like him with a double portion of fortitude, wisdom, and prudence! I need to ramp up my prayers for all seminarians — and will try to remember them often.

  13. Stephen Matthew says:

    From an ex-seminarian:
    Keep in mind, while it may be your right to receive the Eucharist kneeling at your own option (in the Roman Rite at this particular moment), you don’t have a right to be a seminarian. The man on the 6 year path to orders has 6 chances for his seminary formators, or vocation director, or bishop to decide to say “no”, the college seminarian on the 8 year path has 8 such chances. God may well be calling you to the priesthood, but you also have to say “yes”, and so does the Church (in the person of your bishop or superior).

    Also, be very careful about any assumptions or judgement you may make about those charged with your formation. Never think of any of them as the enemy, [I’m not sure about that.] but don’t assume they are on your side in any matter of controversy either, their duty is ultimately to God and the Church. Some of them may turn out to surprise you when someday you learn what they really think about things. In the meantime, they have to try to form you, and they have to try to test you, find out who and what you really are.

  14. Praynfast says:

    Scrupulosity, scrupulosity, scrupulosity! It is from the devil, it will ruin a vocation, ruin priests, and cause division within the Church! Fr. Z. identified the problem without explicitly labeling it scrupulosity: “Rejoice that you are not being asked to deny the faith (as we were in the 80’s). If you were, there would be no choice but to stand and fight. [INDEED, STANDING TO RECEIVE COMMUNION IS NOT SINFUL, which Fr. Z. implies with the following sentence] Meanwhile, use your God-given brains to figure out what is important in the big picture…” Standing to receive communion, even in the hand, is not sinful. Communion for the divorced and “remarried”, is gravely sinful! Mis-pronouncing a word in the Our Father is not that big of a deal; mis-pronouncing the Eucharistic prayer is a big, big, deal, which could result in Jesus not being present! Distinctions, distinctions, distinctions!

    As for scrupulosity – God uses “guilt” to motivate us to do good and avoid evil, but the devil uses “guilt” to blur the lines and eventually get us to, at minimum “avoid good”, and eventually, “avoid good and do evil.”

    Now, consider this, too: there are physical realities at play here. Priests and extraordinary Eucharistic ministers are often older people….older people often have difficulties seeing, AND hand-eye coordination decreases as one ages. Furthermore, aging people often develop “the shakes”, where hands/arms shake somewhat uncontrollably.

    The end result is that it is much more difficult for a Eucharistic minister to insert the Eucharist into one’s mouth…especially when one kneels and is no longer at eye-level with the Eucharistic minister… which ultimately results in dropping Jesus on the floor! So, what do you want? Do you want to “feel” pious (an indicator of scrupulosity) by kneeling and increase the risk of dropping Jesus, or do you want to ensure that He is not dropped on the floor? I know a holy older man who is a Eucharistic minister; I use to receive only in the mouth from him, until I could tell that I made him extremely nervous and he was afraid of dropping Jesus on the floor because he couldn’t see well and his hands shake. I changed to receiving in the hand, and I could tell it relieved his fears of dropping Jesus. I was tempted to scrupulosity but overcame it.

    The reality is that we can never “humble ourselves” enough to receive God in the Eucharist. Try as much as you want – you can lay flat on the floor, eyes face down on the carpet, whipping yourself, and fasting for 12 years, but that is still not going to make you worthy!

    Avoid scrupulosity and avoid sin! Make the distinctions!

  15. This comment – from a prospective religious seminarian – posted, but I am anonymizing it even more by cutting and pasting it:

    As a prospective religious, this is something that has always worried me. What if I end up in a place that will put my habits to test, will I be able to stand firm? In the end, I realized that I only have to stand firm in the faith, and for the rest ‘be sober and vigilant’. Our Lord is calling us to serve His church and will without question give the necessary means to persevere. One may find comfort in accepting these situations as mortifications. Moreover, if we are not able to tolerate these unreasonable impositions, we will never be capable of penetrating in the modernist coup of the Church to change it from within.

    Be reassured of my prayers for this seminarian. I will offer today’s rosary and Holy Communion for him and all those who are persecuted.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Being in contact with several seminarians, I have told them over and over to be at “submarine level” until they are ordained, and then some.

    I firmly believe that God is preparing them for worse in the world. Prudence and temperance are virtues. One picks one’s battles. But, if there is out-and-out persecution, which there will be in their lifetimes as priests, these lessons of silence and patience will serve them well under tyrannies which will try and stamp out the Catholic Faith in America and in Europe.

    I call the seminaries, on the whole, “boot camp”.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    P.S. my little private mobile chapel is dedicated to praying for priests and seminarians…daily

  18. aviva meriam says:

    On the one hand, while I am deeply sorry these seminarians are going through this, at least having this blog allows them to see they aren’t the only ones. Knowing they are not alone with their feelings and experiences is helpful.

    Also helpful is hearing from others who were there are “got the t-shirt” means getting through, and learning perspective, patience, and obedience through all of this is possible.

    Keep going. Pray. Smile. and know that so many of us out there are grateful you said “yes”.
    Will continue to pray for you.

  19. dans0622 says:

    Fr. Z’s advice is excellent. As a student in a state university, sitting through philosophy and religious studies classes, and a few occasions in diocesan seminary, and a few occasions in a religious community, and a few occasions in canon law school, I put that advice into practice. There is no better way to go about dealing with it.

  20. LA says:

    Wouldn’t this problem be solved if all these trad-minded seminarians went to a trad-minded seminary instead of to a liberal-minded seminary?

  21. pattif says:

    As a wise priest said to me, when a seminarian friend of mine was going through it, “Tell him God never called anyone to be a seminarian. He is calling him to be a priest; tell him to keep his head down and get through it.”

  22. catholiccomelately says:

    Seminarians and all priests are in my prayers …. and the prayers of many … every day. DO NOT FALTER OR FEAR. You are held in our hearts and prayers.

  23. M. Olavi says:

    Just felt that I had to register and comment on this post. At the local, the encouragement for standing communication is motivated by a canonical rigourism; can. 20 of Nicaea 325 (which has never been formally abolished?) is cited against complaints.

  24. Nordic Breed says:

    Great advice from Father Z. I do not understand why bishops who purport to be orthodox in the Faith send seminarians to schools where this kind of thing happens. But seminarians must persevere so when they come into power they may influence their bishops to select better places for formation. As to the laity, why not refuse to support the diocesan development fund collections and write the bishop telling why if the bishop supports substandard seminaries like the one described in the post? If enough of the laity stood up and shut their wallets, things might change for the better sooner.

    Pray for all seminarians and all priests. We are indeed in a ferocious battle with the powers of darkness and we must be strong in fortitude and prudence to overcome. The Church will survive and be strong, even if it is smaller in number. Nobody can take our Faith away from us no matter what they do. Study the Bible and know the CCC, hide under Mary’s mantle and walk with St. Joseph. Then, no matter what anyone does, God will be able to use us for the good of the Church.

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  26. cl00bie says:

    I’m a little late to the game, but I’d like to add my two cents. When I was in my first two years of formation for the permanent diaconate, I encountered a teacher who basically taught out and out heresy. I made an appointment to speak with the newly installed Director of Formation about it. He had to cancel. I tried rescheduling, and he had to cancel again. Then I felt as if I were getting a message, and didn’t reschedule.

    I then made an appointment with a young priest known for his orthodoxy. He graciously agreed to meet with me even though I was not a member of his parish. He gave me some sage advice: “Smile learn what they teach you, be able to spit it back to them. Keep your own council. When you are ordained, you will be in a much better position to address these abuses.”

    This is advice I took to heart. I never did talk to the Director of Formation. :)

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