To the defeatists

Some years back, 19 March 2013 to be exact, I published here a manifesto entitled “Dear Traditionalists” to which I return from time to time. I still adhere to it.

In that piece I featured a photo of aspiring Navy SEALs during BUD/S working and suffering together as teams to control heavy logs.

Now in my email and elsewhere I see defeatist grizzling about what might happen… boo hoo.  People are listening to the enemy and taking it to heart, which is what the enemy wants.  They want you to freak out and then watch your heads explode.

I say, we must never give up.

After all, when it comes to working and fighting and praying and sacrificing for what we need to get to heaven, the only easy day was yesterday.

Today I visited the US Navy Seal Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL.

It was a great visit.  All through the place there were reminders of the SEAL ethos.  At the core of that ethos is


During the hell and sifting that is BUD/S, when men have had enough and decide to quit, they can “ring out”.  All they have to do is ring the bell that is out in an open visible place, and they are out.  No problem.   Ring = Quit.   Unless… you get through and graduate.  Then all the successful aspirants can ring the bell as they leave.

Which are YOU going to be?

Are you quitters?

Are you satisfied with failure?

When are YOU going to ring that bell?

¡Hagan lío!

From my manifesto…

Dear Traditionalists:


Those of you who want the older form of the liturgy, and all that comes with it, should…

1) Work with sweat and money to make it happen. If you thought you worked hard before?   Been at this a long time?  HAH!  Get to work!  “Oooo! It’s tooo haaard!”  BOO HOO!

2) Get involved with all the works of charity that your parishes or groups sponsor. Make a strong showing. Make your presence known. If Pope Francis wants a Church for the poor, then we respond, “OORAH!!” [aka HOOYAH] The “traditionalists” will be second-to-none in getting involved.  “Dear Father… you can count on the ‘Stable Group of TLM Petitioners-For-By-Now-Several-Months” to help with the collection of clothing for the poor!  Tell us what you need!”

3) Pray and fast and give alms. Think you have been doing that? HAH!  Think again.  If you love, you can do more.

4) Form up and get organized.  You can do this.  Find like minded people and get that request for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum together, how you will raise the money to help buy the stuff the parish will need and DO IT.  Make a plan. Find people. Execute!

5) Get your ego and your own petty little personal interpretations and preferences of how Father ought to wiggle his pinky at the third word out of the way.  It is team-work time.  If we don’t sacrifice individually, we will stay divided and we won’t achieve our objectives.

At the midway point of SEAL training, BUD/S, there is a “Hell Week” to see how much you want it to keep going.

Do you want this?  Do you?  Or, when you don’t get what you want handed to you, are you going to whine about it and then blame others?

The legislation is in place.  The young priests and seminarians are dying to get into this stuff.  Give them something to do.

And to those of you will you blurt out “But Father! But Father!… I don’t like your militaristic imagery”… in order to derail the entry, here’s a new image from your own back yard.

Pope Benedict gave you, boys and girls, over the course of his 8 years, a beautiful new bicycle!  He gave you a direction, some encouragement, a snow cone, and a running push.  Now, take off the training wheels and RIDE THE DAMN BIKE!

Fathers, lay people.

Read this.  I’ve been recommending it to priest friends for a while now:


Let’s not sit back and relax.  SEALs want to win because they always want another mission.

We must be the same.  We want another mission.


SEALS Die First Then Quit

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, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Si vis pacem para bellum!, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. “People are listening to the enemy and taking it to heart, which is EXACTLY EXACTLY EXACTLY what the enemy wants.”

    Pardon my editorial intrusion. I just want everybody to be clear on that point.

  2. Windswept House says:

    #6. Properly assess the enemy.

  3. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Awesome, Fr Z, tell it like it is. We’re all signed up in England!

  4. Kevinbell says:

    The problem with this analogy is, Father, what if we’re in the middle of BUD/S training and the President abrogates the whole Navy SEAL program? Let’s not be defeatist, but let’s not be naive either.

    [For pete’s sake… it’s not an analogy. READ.]

  5. Toan says:

    Kevinbell: God bless you. I can’t respond on behalf of Fr. Z, but I can point out an important difference: In the Church, God is in charge. He is the president. Our hope is not in what a Pope will do or not do. Our hope is in Christ, who will ensure victory for those who love Him.

  6. RichardT says:

    The problem with your analogy, Father, is that the SEALS fight for their country and their brothers in arms, but we fight to do God’s will, and the Church is only worth fighting for because it was instituted by God as the vessel for our salvation. [No. There is no problem with my using the EXAMPLE of the SEALs. I haven’t drawn an analogy. Read.]

    If the Church were to drift too far from the Faith then it would clearly not be a divine creation, but merely a human institution. And that would not be worth fighting for.

    I am not saying that we have reached that point, and if the Church is indeed founded and protected by God then we never will. But that is what is at stake here. [Again, read.]

  7. jaykay says:

    Absolutely, Toan. Obedience, usque ad mortem. Well, a bit dramatic, maybe, but obedience even unto the “death” of all we hold dear, that’s more like it. After all, we’ve been obedient for 50 years or so. Others… maybe not so much.

  8. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Although it’s true that our hope is not in what a pope will or won’t do, I would say that it’s our *faith* in Christ which inspires in us faith in the unfailing truth of what the pope teaches, when he exercises his teaching office as it applies to the entire Church. Then, it’s not hope in the pope; it’s our faith in Christ, who directs us to place our faith in the teaching authority of Christ’s representative on earth, the pope.

  9. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:


    . . . Don’t know the meaning of the word!

    For, “If God is for us, who can be against us?

    “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Romans 8:31-32)

  10. JMJLuke says:

    Thank you so much for your constant encouragement, father! As a seminarian, it really means a lot to me. I’m sure the struggles I go through are far lighter than what you had to go through back in the day, but I still struggle often with wondering whether or not I’m doing the right thing. Reading posts like this really helps me keep focused!

    As a side not, I finally figured out what the little Japanese note on the side of your blog says (???????!) That’s a nice bit of advice, and I’ll keep it in mind, along with my other two mottos:
    Nunquam vincar!!!

  11. JMJLuke says:

    Well, drat I guess Japanese characters don’t go through. Oh well…

  12. Y2Y says:

    Defeatist? Never.
    Freaking out will accomplish nothing.
    Just lie in the weeds with your finger on the trigger, wait for the right moment, then squeeze.

  13. Curley says:

    There is more to be hopeful about. Nuns on the bus the movie is coming! Seems like they’re having trouble raising money though.

  14. Ultrarunner says:

    Concerning the “the enemy”,

    In His day, after being betrayed, Christ was crucified by the Romans at the behest of complicit local religious authorities.

    Fast forward to today, and many American Catholic laymen, like myself, are keenly aware of who their enemies are, and who has betrayed them.

    They wholeheartedly promulgated the nationalization of healthcare by the pro abortion state; relentlessly advance the global warming narrative in a push for the universal redistribution of wealth; profit from their moral imparitives as in the form of lucrative government contracts to import Middle East Muslims into the US; they speak in favor of homosexual civil unions; as accomplices after the fact, they helped rape and abuse our kids, then lied and covered it up to minimize financial liability; they are the social justice warriors; who rail against private property, market capitalism, human freedom, and the operation of free will; they lament the loss of religious freedom without the slightest sense of hypocrisy…

    With all due respect Father Z, feel good bromides [?]like “Work hard!” and “Don’t quit!” utterly[?] fail [?] to acknowledge the fact that today, like Christ, the Catholic laity are being crucified by the Romans at the behest of their compilicit local religious authorities. [This is silly. First, perhaps you have assumed that these are the only things I have written on this blog. Second, stop whining and DON’T QUIT.]

    As for me, a layman, the life presented in Psalm 23 seems much more preferable than one worrying about a bell.

    The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Amen

    [There is no conflict between this psalm and DON’T QUIT.]

  15. stephen c says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf, this was a great post in many ways. With all due respect to Seals, though, wars are not won by Special Forces. [Sigh. I DIDN’T SUGGEST THAT THEY WERE. Good grief.] Wars are won by the average grunts and GIs who would rather be home and who just want to be close enough to the action to get off a few shots, by the boring generals who read over the enemies’ plans again and again while more fortunate mortals get to practice swimming underwater and shooting over and over again lots of different guns, and by the rear echelon guys who get shot at without having the right weapons to shoot back but who nevertheless get the supplies up front so that wars can be won. (By the way, I do not know if this is true, but I knew many Vietnam vets whose military careers overlapped mine, and I remember being told that the most dangerous common job was driving in the mostly unprotected convoys of refueling trucks up to the war zone). Anyway, Seals are just coddled -albeit, for what little it is worth, tough and brave – equivalents of frivolously elite athletes if they do not know or care what they are fighting for: from that point of view, I was glad to read the comment by the commenter who said rule #6 is “know the enemy”. I have another rule to add, rule #7: do the best you can to keep your leaders from befriending the enemy (when Pius XII was criticized again and again for praising or cooperating with unrepentant Jew-haters, I felt fairly confident the criticisms were unfounded : with the recent praise and promotion of unrepentant abortionists by the poor old man who has most recently succeeded Pius XII, I feel less confident: well, that means that even the prayers of an average grunt or GI are important).

  16. progressive says:

    May I offer a personal thought as a daily reader of this blog, an elderly liberal catholic who loves the old liturgies, novenas and chant.
    Progressives have learnt to organise and work together, setting certain differences aside to create change. We work very hard in small groups, praying together analysing the particular situation and putting together a strategy for change. Most important – each member commits to getting ONE more person on board to attend meetings. If this is at your core, group numbers increase and create momentum.

    If you want to change anything in your parishes (always start local) get organised, start analysing then put steps in place for small changes and keep going and going and going.

    Don’t complain – Act.

  17. Dan says:

    The timing of this post is perfect.
    Tonight we will walk a pilgrimage 33 miles overnight to the cross of Father Juan De Pilla the protomartyr of these United States.

    At some point during the night the Priest leading the group of mostly young men (all men but some of us are less young than others) will read the transcript of this speech given by Navy Admiral William H. McGraven.
    You can skip down to the 10 steps if you like and the Priest while shouting it over a bullhorn in the middle of the Kansas night will change one line from “if you want to change the world….” to “if you want to convert the world…”

    It is a profound statement on what we might do as Catholics and the lessons that we can take from the seals.

    If you want to know more about the pilgrimage here:

  18. KateD says:

    Jesus would not deprive us of the most beautiful form of Liturgical worship, and it’s His Church.

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    To those defeatist traditionalists who despair that the ancient Roman Mass will ever be fully restored throughout the Church, from the beginning of Chapter 1 in Prof. Kwasniewski’s book reviewed here yesterday:

    In 1988, there were only about 20 places in the United States where one could find a traditional Latin Mass on Sundays; by 2013 that number had risen to almost 500. . . . The average age of Catholics attending traditional Latin Mass parishes or chaplaincies is lower than the national average, while the average family size is higher. It is a vibrantly youthful, flourishing, and expanding movement.

    The percentage of Catholics attending the TLM has certainly more than doubled in the decade since 2007. Suppose this percentage continued to double every decade for the next century. What would be the result in 2107?

    Suppose the 2007 percentage was only 0.1%. Since 0.1% x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 100% (approximately), this means the TLM would be restored to the whole Church in a mere century!

    Defeat? Not if we’ve just begun to fight.

  20. WVC says:

    Seriously – after all the Church has been through – vicious persecution by the Roman Empire, the Arian crisis that infected almost all bishops and even got to the pope, heresy after heresy, scores upon scores of bad popes, wars, famine, plagues, the Protestant Revolt, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Communist and Fascist regimes . . . .etc. . . . seriously, after all that we, sipping our lattés and whining about having to drive an extra half hour to go to a Latin Mass – WE have the AUDACITY to WHINE? At the Final Judgment, when you will stand face to face with St. Lawrence, fresh roasted on the griddle, or St. Joan of Arc, betrayed and burned by her own country men and church leaders – do you REALLY think they’re going to say, “Yeah, I know you had it really hard, what with having to deal with the pope’s random tweets and some rumors on the internet – I understand why you would have lost hope and all.”?

    Get a grip. Be thankful you have a role to play in the battle, and be THANKFUL for any suffering you GET to endure. Suffering is the gift of Our Lord allowing you to PARTICIPATE in His work. Whining is NOT a part of this equation.

    So, to the whiners – kneel down and offer it up. That is, after all, the TRADITIONAL way of dealing with it.

  21. @WVC THANK YOU!!! You took the words right out of my head and wrote them down! This is exactly how I feel every time I see and hear people complaining about how hard things are… in the grand scheme of things we’ve got it pretty easy.

  22. Grant M says:

    In my corner of Java, I take inspiration from King Leonidas:

    Submission… that’s a bit of a problem….

  23. Semper Gumby says:

    Great post Fr. Z. Well said Dr. Peters.

    Ultrarunner: You raise good points. However, about your “feel good bromides” criticism of this post, please take a closer look at Fr. Z’s “manifesto” section of this post. Cheers.

    progressive: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I would suggest, however, that “progressives” have not learned to work together. There are many factions within that movement, and many credible reports of infighting. And not to be provocative, but merely accurate, “progressivism” is almost exclusively used in practice as a pseudonym for Socialism. Socialism is definitely not a friend of Jesus Christ or His Church. “Progressivism” is used today as a term for a movement that is actually Regressing to the failed and lethal policies of the 20th century Socialist tyrannies of Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, etc. It seems unlikely that most “progressives” are sincere and long-term friends of the TLM. Pax.

    Henry Edwards and WVC: Good points.

    Stephen c: Please recall that more than “grunts” and logistics are required to win a war, such as: mechanics, medics, and military chaplains. On the home front: farmers who grow those tasty MREs, educators, and carpenters who build the new barracks and the training areas. It is unclear what you mean by “boring generals”- see Admiral “Bull” Halsey or Gen. “Mad Dog” Mattis. And I never knew a SEAL who was “coddled”- but I would be interested in a no doubt amusing anecdote about a coddled SEAL. For Pius XII a good book is Rabbi Dalin’s “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope.” Cheers.

  24. mbutton says:

    My cousin, to his credit, didn’t ring out he passed out underwater with a cylinder block tied to his foot.

  25. Grant M says:

    Hebrews Chapter 12.

  26. Maineman1 says:

    Respectfully, Fr. Z, the Marine Raiders and Navy Seals are not fighting the White House and the United States.

    Meanwhile, Traditional Catholics are at severe odds with their own church. [Then you have no idea what “Church” means.]

    [Your comment has precisely nothing to do with the post.]

  27. MWindsor says:

    Wow, Fr., I’m glad you posted this. So many people don’t seem to get it.

    If we had just basic training for Spiritual Warfare, half of you would be out before Hell Week. Suck it up, people. There isn’t a bell to DOR this fight.

  28. stephen c says:

    Semper Gumby – from God’s point of view, all of us need to do more than Seals (who, in training, have the option of quitting, and in combat, are no more brave than any other man in combat (at least not by simple dint of being a Seal)). Here and now in 2017 every little Christian kid in a stroller will, unless the current generation prays a lot more than I think it will, one day be called on to be as brave or braver than a Seal. (Extrapolate from that if you want to know why I used the word ‘coddled’ in the context I used it in). Also – I do not think Halsey was boring, or Mattis: please reread my comment, if only for your own good: it is unpleasant to make fun of what other people said, without even trying to understand what they said (in case you do not want to reread – I used the word boring about hard working generals to describe what other people, not me, thought) . And if your “cheers” was condescending: no problem, I send you back sincere “cheers”; simple misunderstandings are never a big deal among friends and decent people. We are all in this together (I was not a Marine but I served with Marines, and actually had a few Marine NCOs working in my unit way back when I was a USAF captain: I don’t get the Gumby part, but I get the semper part. And, in case you don’t know, USAF captains are, at their best, just as tough as anyone else. Next time you are in DC I will walk around Arlington Cemetery with you and show you what I mean). And please do not mock other commenters again without more careful reading – you are clearly one of the good guys, and I personally do not care when you say something thoughtless, but you are a Christian and the people you mock might not be solid Christians, and might take offense, and that is the last thing you want.

  29. WVC says:

    setphen c

    Semper Gumby is a common military phrase (adopted from Semper Fi) to mean “Always Flexible.”

    Also, ease your rudder. I didn’t read anything intended as condescending in Semper Gumby’s post. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt . . .

  30. stephen c says:

    WVC: I disagree. There are an awful lot of condescending things said in this world. I call people out when they are condescending because I have seen so many brave people mocked by less brave people who think, for reasons of their own – that they have the right to be condescending. And no, semper gumby is not a common military phrase. Maybe it was common in your little corner of the military, but I was in the military for 20 years and never heard it once. The fact that you would tell me it is a common military phrase when I know that is not is something only you and me know – and God. Well I give you the benefit of the doubt – you are sticking up for your buddies. Good for you. I too stick up for the people I know who were braver than they were given credit for. I know you probably won’t read this – well, if you happen to read it, thanks for your service. And if semper Gumby was not being condescending, he didn’t need you to stick up for him, he could have apologized to a fellow soldier. He didn’t. I assume he did not read my comment: I give him the benefit of the doubt. But he should not have been condescending in the first place.

  31. Semper Gumby says:

    WVC: Thanks. stephen c: A buddy brought your comment today to my attention (I’m on a business trip- sometimes I read Fr. Z’s blog twice daily, sometimes three or four days go by).

    Here is the beginning of your first comment- from 28 July- and Fr. Z’s remarks in red:

    “Father Zuhlsdorf, this was a great post in many ways. With all due respect to Seals, though, wars are not won by Special Forces. [Sigh. I DIDN’T SUGGEST THAT THEY WERE. Good grief.]………”

    I stand by my comments. Thank you for your service. Have a pleasant day.

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