Liturgical worship… priestly vocations… Is what we are doing working or not?

I had mentioned that I was re-reading Robert Hugh Benson’s prophetic Lord of the World.  I finished it yesterday. US HERE – UK HERE

Just as I finished it, I found these things.

First, I want to preface with this: When you are on a journey towards a goal, and you discover that you are heading in the wrong direction, you stop, turn around, and correct your course.  Right?

Put that side by side with a) the fact that in the next few years, many dioceses will see a sharp decline in the number of active priests and b) some people are going to push viri probati really hard in the next months as we approach another (probably rigged) Synod.

Now, my friend Fr. Ray Blake, the PP of Brighton, reflects:

“Has it worked?” the question we dare not ask

In this centenary year of the Soviet Revolution, it is worth reflecting that after 70 years the Russian people actually asked the question, “Has it worked?” It is the question an efficient business asks regularly, I suspect parents in a healthy family ask that question. it should be the fundamental question of the spiritual life.

Fifty years after the implementation of the liturgical changes, it is the question the Church should be asking itself, any business would have product tested before a change of brand. I suppose that Summorum Pontificum was Benedict’s way of doing this retrospectively.


QUAERITUR: Has it worked?

Fr. Blake continues:

There are two areas where, ‘has it worked?’ should be asked, the first is liturgical reform, the second is the modern use of the papal fiat that introduced them, it was an unprecedented use of papal power.

[… Go to Fr. Blake’s page for that part…]

Apparently a large number of French Seminaries are closing, [Do I remember correctly that, last year, 25% of ordinations in France were for traditional groups?  How many seminarians does all of Ireland have?] as are a whole lot of ancient monasteries and practically every convent has become a retirement home.  I am not sure what the number is this year, but last year, in our diocese [Arundel and Brighton] we had only 3 seminarians. Whilst I was at the seminary we had in this city of Brighton and Hove almost 30 priests, in 17 years time by the year 2030 we will be lucky to have 2 under 65, they will age prematurely out of exhaustion. [If they haven’t been martyred a la Lord of the World!]

The thing is that there isn’t an absence of vocations, [RIGHT!  YES YES YES!  See this HERE] from my little parish we have three men, two preparing for the priesthood and one in a rather rigorous contemplative monastery but they were very much involved in the Old Rite and have gone to communities outside of the diocese. It isn’t even that there is an absence of contemplative religious, there are new convents opening in the Channel Islands and in the Diocese of Lancaster but again the sisters will worship according to Old Rite. The only monastery flourishing, without scandal, in Italy (despite episcopal opposition) is Old Rite, at Norcia. The same in France, where a quarter of this years ordinations were of priests attached to the Old Rite, and where monastic life is retracting but Old Rite monasteries like Fontgombault are actually making new foundations. I am quite willing to accept that it is not necessarily the Rite itself but if it is not then it is the theology that goes with the Rite, or the ‘ecclesiological experience’ that goes with it. On a practical level the Old Rite seems to work.  [Fr Blake, if I am right about this… and I am… we are our rites.]

Why are we incapable of asking, “Has it worked?”, presumably it is because of an ideological attachment, rather like the politburo of the Soviet Union that will not allow itself to question givens until long after they had collapsed.

I was told that there was recently a meeting in the Vatican of heads of dicasteries of the Curia.  One of the topics discussed, though this was not published, was viri probati.

I wonder if anyone had the courage to bring up the obvious.

I’ll bet not.

The priesthood numbers crisis was an self-inflicted wound, I think intentionally.  The continuing crisis of numbers is a continually self-inflicted wound by those who want to remake the Church to the world’s liking and by those who are too cowardly to stand up, say “NO!” and then do the right thing.


  • The post Vatican II liturgical reform – imposed by fiat: has it worked?
  • Approach to vocations to the priesthood while excluding tradition: has it worked?
  • Where liturgy “works”, what is going on?
  • Where there are vocations to the priesthood, what is going on?

We ARE our rites.

Change them and you change everything about who we are and what fruits we produce as Catholic, as the baptized.

For anything initiative in the Church to work, we MUST have a renewal of our sacred liturgical worship.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Oh gee, I lost it when I saw that little boy prostrate on the floor imitating the priests/seminarians. So beautiful, snif snif

  2. L. says:

    Fr. Z: I will refrain from ranting about my diocese that drives out orthodox Priests and has few vocations, to relate that recently I laughed heartily, out loud, when I reflected on the fact that our Ordinary will be 75 in less than a year and wondered who might replace him, then thought of YOU! Would that it would happen, although it would be no picnic for you.

  3. tho says:

    Father, you are so right it is scary. I am trying to think of an analogous event in history that would correspond to the church’s attempt to be relevant. Maybe the protestant reformation, they left the one true church and wound up creating 28,000 more. Now they are floundering worse than we are. The only thing that I can think of is to pray that our hierarchy wakes up. Particularly when it come to appointing, or electing liberals who think they can change the world by being nice.

  4. PTK_70 says:

    What is the point in coming to a Catholic Church on Sunday if not to worship God? We’ve taken our eye off the ball, I’m sorry to say…..

  5. rbbadger says:

    As a veteran of three different seminaries in the USA, I have seen how good men with vocations have sometimes been persecuted and driven out of formation. The dioceses and seminaries can make it difficult, if not impossible for them to be picked up by another diocese.

    I myself had to wait for close to ten years from the time I left to the time I reapplied. By that time, the former bishop had died and the vocations director was completely removed from the circles of power under the new administration. Other men have had to wait much longer.

    In speaking with brother priests, I have found there are others with far more harrowing experiences than mine. Is it any wonder that there is a shortage? I can think of a number of good, solid men who ought to have been ordained but who for one reason or another were driven out. Sadly, I can also think of a number who should have not been ordained and who have gone on to cause scandal and have left public ministry.

    If anyone is in a similar situation and considering returning, I really would want to encourage them. Being a priest has been a tremendous joy and it was worth the wait.

  6. chantgirl says:

    I have to think that the Church being brought to her knees is leading up to something. The devil was apparently given 100 years to try to destroy the Church, and I can’t say that I know when those 100 years started, but we seem to be in the thick of them. The kneecapping of our liturgical life, the implosion of religious life, the plummet in priestly vocations, the attempted destruction of marriage and family, the wholesale slaughter of our children by abortion, the prevention of untold numbers of souls via contraception, the pervasive loss of faith, the decay of western civilization, the annihilation of education, and the explosion of scientific discovery seem to be leading us to a climax. I believe that these factors indicate that the enemy is going to attempt to deal a death blow to the Church over the next few decades. We are so weakened right now, and as we see the fruits of Summorum Pontificum grow, the enemy is not going to allow us to find our feet again before hitting us hard. The Church is so close to collapse, and the devil can probably almost taste victory. There’s no way that we are going to be allowed to stand back up without some severe violence thrown our way. I can only guess that the persecution of the Church, both from within and without, is going to intensify.

    Summorum Pontificum seems to be the life-raft that God allowed to be thrown to us, just before an attempted ecclesial Good Friday.

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  8. JabbaPapa says:

    One small quibble with Fr. Blake’s generally excellent piece —

    the second is the modern use of the papal fiat that introduced them, it was an unprecedented use of papal power

    erm no, not “unprecedented”, given that this power was defined as belonging to the Roman Pontiff by the Ecumenical Council of Trent, and was first made use of by Pope Saint Pius V in his Quo Primum establishing the liturgical revision resulting in the Tridentine Mass and simultaneously abolishing all non-Roman Rites created later than the 14th Century.

  9. Christine says:


    I agree wtih everything you said. I think, though, there is more cause for hope than despair. God always raises saints that the Church needs when the Church needs them. Just look at the saints during the Reformation. Our best defense against what is going on in the Church is to fast, and pray and keep to the sacraments.

  10. chantgirl says:

    Christine- I agree that we must hope, and I am sure that God will raise up great saints in the coming persecution. However, I weep for our many, many fallen-away Catholics who may never make it to Heaven, and the many seekers of truth who will not find the Church because she is almost unrecognizable right now. Yes, the Lord will be victorious and the Church will endure and the gates of Hell won’t prevail, but the casualties are going to be innumerable.

    Agreed about prayer, fasting, and frequent reception of the sacraments.

  11. “By their fruits you shall know them:”

    There are diocese where there are vocations. Here in Wichita we have maybe 200,000 Catholics and some sixty seminarians. When I lived in Arlington, Virginia there were plenty as well, although not quite so many under the current regime. (Before Bishop Laverde there were no altar girls. Our parish, St. Leo’s, had 90 altar boys. How many dioceses do not have 90 in the whole diocese!)

    What are the secrets?

    1) Orthodoxy pays.

    2) The bishop matters. Alpina had no vocations for thirty years. A new bishop and there were 12 his first year. That is an ugly story I rather not write of in public.
    Finn cleaned house in Kansas City-St. Joseph and after a dearth of vocations in the home of the Fishwrap, ordained at least a dozen new priests. Unfortunately the anti-Catholic DA did him in, no doubt with some help from the chancellery and the NCR crowd (the latter I can’t prove yet, but…) He could have won in court but bankrupted the diocese in the process.

    3) Liturgy holy and prayerful helps. Yes, the extraordinary form is a good thing. But Benedict’s stealth agenda is to infuse the ordinary form with the reverence that the extraordinary form must impose through rubrics. Young priests are learning from the extraordinary form how to do the ordinary form right. I am ancient enough both to remember the mystical experience of those of us in the pews during the old mass and the less than desirable praxis in my youth that we were less conscious of. (To date me, brontosaurus was still roaming the earth in those days.) In our parish, we now have communion at the rail and ad orientem at the 6:30 masses and the 5:15 mass on Wednesday (which is often in Latin.) St. Mary’s in Norwalk, Ct. not only does the extraordinary form, but also ad orientem masses in English and Latin. I expect many vocations to come from there, but I have no data.

    4) The Liturgical Movement sanctioned by Pius X and built on a century of progress going into Vatican II, before it was hijacked by the radicals. Its work of renewal will bring vocations not just by reviving the missal of John XXIII, but more fundamentally by enacting the reforms that should have flowed from Sancrosanctum Concilium, but didn’t.

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