What to do if you don’t know what to do. Wherein Fr. Z … advises.

My in-box is filled with email from people who are frustrated, angry, confused.

I am with you.  I jot people’s names down and I pray for you.  I am shifting my other practices around to include mortifications.  After all, as St. John Vianney said to another priest: “You have preached, you have prayed, but have you fasted? Have you taken the discipline? Have you slept on the floor? So long as you have done none of these things, you have no right to complain.”  Therefore, I have to do more.

So, I pay attention to your notes and I can offer a bit of advice here and there (mainly about being patient).  However, I can’t do anything more for you than that.  Right?

That said, you are NOT without options.   Allow me to spell out a couple of them.

First, put your time and treasure where you don’t doubt that it will be well used and not abused.  Get my drift?

Next, write to your bishops and tell them exactly what you think and feel.

Of course, you need to follow also my rules for writing to ecclesiastics… unless you really want to be thought of as a crank and subsequently ignored.   Go ahead and be a jerk, if you want, and hurt your cause and ours.  Otherwise, keep it brief and be respectful, but also be crystal clear about what you think and feel.

Think about this.  Bishops talk to each other.  When they meet, they discuss what’s going on.  They share what they hear.  Give them a lot to think about and don’t let them off the hook.

You have the right and they obligation to make yourselves known:

Can. 212 … §2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

If they write a snippy letter back to you… write again!  And keep writing.

Bishop can (and do) grind priests into the gutter and wash them down the grate.

They can’t do that to lay people.

So, if you want something to happen – sure, you can write to me, but I am not in a position to do much.

YOU, dear lay people, have all the power.

And if your bishop is wonderful, doing great things, LET HIM KNOW!  Tell him that you support him and even send him a check to apply to whatever he wants.   “Your Excellency, I enclosed a check for a small amount.  Get yourself a new zucchetto or take seminarians to supper.  Whatever.  You are appreciated.”  Even if it is $10, the gesture will not be lost.  Believe me.  I get small donations from people and I am grateful for the gesture.  There is no priest on earth worth his salt who doesn’t respect and venerate “the widow’s mite”.

And, if you support him and you tell him that you do, also tell him what you are concerned about.

Do NOT sit silently, wringing your hands.  Fill that hand with a pen.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Wherein Fr. Z Rants. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maineman1 says:

    Father Z,

    I am sick and tired of modern Roman Catholic spiritual and liturgical anarchy. Pure and simple. I am finished with this utter madness. When a Pope and his clerics are the primary initiators of religious chaos, it makes me absolutely doubt the Roman Catholic Church’s claims.

    [I think that is a less than worthy response to the urgency we face.]

  2. donato2 says:

    Thank you Fr. Z, the tips are very helpful.

    I’ve been thinking that it might be useful to organize, and send to our Holy Father, a petition that expresses the signers’ love and spiritual need for the traditional Latin Mass; their anxiety as to whether bishops might be allowed to take it away from them; and asks the Holy Father to provide a public assurance that the faithful’s right, as expressed in Sommorum Pontificum, to the traditional Mass is not in jeopardy. It might also be pointed out that such a public assurance would go a long way toward closing the current rift in the Church.

  3. dinsdale says:

    Pray to the guardian angels of the Pope, your bishops, your priests, whomever you feel needs it and ask the angels to guide their charges.

  4. MacArthur says:

    So, if the local ordinary were to allow socialist agitators to use the cathedral to protest (whine) about the outcome of the Presidential election, would a Catholic of the diocese be within the limits of protocol to simply write his Ordinary with the question, “Perhaps the socialist agitators whining about the outcome of the Presidential election will consider helping to reduce the debt (on the new cathedral) ?” As the father of a family living from one paycheck to the next, who has donated what we do not have to the annual appeal and in the recent past has thanked the Bishop for what we appreciate, I felt the question respectful and relevant. Would be interested in your input?

  5. MotherTeresa says:

    It is great advice to ignore problems that you cannot solve and focus on ways to serve the Church that you *can* do something about. How about studying Church history–nothing is more encouraging that reading about the heroics saints and eternal reform of the Church over hundreds of years in situations *far, far, far* more trying that our present situation. Chesterton never fails to cheer me up. If the diocesan schools are terrible, how about homeschooling your children? This is our 19th year of Catholic homeschooling, and the movement is growing without bounds. If there is an exceptionally good priest anywhere in the area, how about driving out of your way to attend a reverent liturgy? We are fortunate to live only 25 miles from a Latin mass, but many parishioners come from farther away. How about getting involved in right to life, marriage encounter ministries, Newman centers, FOCUS, Eucharistic adoration, or other orthodox ministries where faithful Catholics find community. We have lived for 20 years in a diocese that has suffered 50 years of continuous deplorable leadership, but even here, there are promising signs–a thriving homeschool community, a re-energized right-to-life movement, a few really exceptional orthodox leaders, and most hopefully, a promising new bishop and a few heroic young priests. Best of all, I see young parents with many small children, dedicated to raising truly Catholic families all around us. . . . . my Generation was “duel income–two and done”, yet women 20 years younger than myself are far more knowledgeable about their faith than I was at that age. There is enormous reason for hope even in the midst of the Francis debacle. The Church has survived terrible leadership at all levels in the past and it will survive this papacy as well. “Be not afraid”.

  6. Pingback: TUESDAY EXTRA | Big Pulpit

  7. zag4christ says:

    Thank you for your dedication to Jesus Christ. I am one who is confused, but I hearken back to a wonderful priest who in answer to my questions told me to not to focus on what is going on in the Church, not to focus on what is going on with a particular priest in a particular diocese, and now I know not to focus on what is going on in Rome. He told me to focus on Christ. And I find that I am doing that from daylight to dawn.
    Peace and God bless,

Comments are closed.