Wherein Fr. Z is intimidated and just a bit scared.

This began as a note under a weekly “Your Sunday Sermon” posts, in which I attempt to elicit from you, good points from the sermon you heard. That post turned into something else. Hence, I moved the text from there to here.

I originally began with the fact that I didn’t have a parish Mass and I had said Mass on my own. During Mass I had a strong sense of how the older, traditional form of Holy Mass shapes and controls the priest. In the Novus Ordo, that’s reversed. All the options make him the boss of Mass, rather than the Mass itself being in control.

Now, more than ever, we priests and bishops need a Mass to which we must conform ourselves, rather than a Mass that we conform to ourselves through options, legitimate or not.

Mass.  Priest.  Inseparable.

I read those prayers today, which I and countless other priests have read countless times and, in the reading, they went deeper into my marrow.

They told me who I am NOT.

When priests can take all sorts of options, legitimate or not, they are saying who they are and imposing it.

Now, more than ever.

How did we get to where we are now?

About a year ago, I posted about some prayer cards in the sacristy of a Roman church.  They were in special niches with kneelers where priests, before and after Mass, would say certain prayers, if possible, recommended in the Missal and included in every Breviary.  HERE and HERE

When I wrote about them, I reflected on the deep formation they produced.

Now I also think about the spiritual ripple effects of alter Christus praying these prayers… day in – day out – kneeling near their brethren who were doing the same thing.

Day in.  Day Out.  Ripples upon ripples upon ripples.

As a young priest, still full of energy, still sort of happy, and without all the physical and mental scars I have by now accumulated, I regularly said those prayers from the back of my breviary.  There are wonderful, prayerful reflections for the different days of the week.  There is an entire, massive structure to help the priest, day in and day out, raised up and shored up by great priest saints, who knew what we go through because they went through it.

They provided all the help we need.   It’s like one of those movies where, to save the Earth, they have to dust off all the old stuff shut away in a massive vault and get it working again.

For most priests, they don’t even know the doors to the vault are there, much less the helpful treasures within.

I have known and I haven’t done enough.

Isn’t that the pattern of life?    As we get older, we sense strongly what we haven’t done but could have done.

Motus in fine velocior, and we remember.

Holy Church is the greatest expert in humanity that there has ever been or ever will be.

Mother Church has God’s own support.  She built up a treasury so that priests could dip into it and be stronger.  Why?  So by their strength built in Christ’s strength they could give you the strength only they can give you and which you need for your vocations more than air.

Fathers.  It is time.  Bishops.  It is time.

Aren’t you tired of mediocre yet?  Really?

I know.  I am wrestling with it.

When I wrote about that niche and those old cards, I was pretty intimidated and a bit ashamed.   Now I know why.  I was looking at a Cross that Christ offers priests and I didn’t want to get up there on it yet.

So, I was “impressed” by the card and their “cool factor”.  I really liked the “idea of it”.

This is part of the temptation of those who tend to the traditional side of the Church.

Do you want it all?  Or just the comfortable and fun stuff?

I know some priests whom I must ask that, perhaps, face to face.

And… even harder…

WHY are you doing what you do?


What are you going to do about what is going on right now?

Today, saying Mass, the weight of it all struck me hard.

Push through, past the cool to the content.  This is where our identity has been hidden and which awaits us like coals in the ashes at the back of the hearth.

Of all the universes God could have created, he created this one, in which I, born at X and in X place, would be, eventually, nolens volens, a priest.  And to gray me there has, by the digitus Dei, been given hardly to be believed advantages through “sheer coincidence”, from my early childhood to the present moment as I type.

But, as I look into the future through the lens of the experience I had at Mass today, I am pretty damn intimidated and more than a little scared.

I am not entirely sure I can do it.  Especially because I sense that the Enemy has finally been unleashed.

Is Leo XIII’s “100 year grace period” over?

You need to help us, friends.   There are crosses to be carried.  Help us to carry them.

There are priests and bishops, whom you know, who KNOW what they have to do, but they are afraid.

Please forgive us.  We are only human.


A priest dropped me a note.  There is a “striking” image in it that I must fix in my mind.

Yep. God always wants more, especially from His friends.

Iam non dicam vos servos sed amicos meos. It’s on my ordination card, but I scarcely understood anything of what it meant __ years ago, even at the comparatively old age of __.

The Mass forms us if we let it. Incidentally, this is why Archbishop Lefebvre said he could simply not form priests with the new Mass. He also said that priesthood and sacrifice are transcendentally related. No victim, no priest. Scary indeed. Tremendum et fascinans, even.

Anyway, as St Louis de Montfort says:

“You know that you are living temples of the Holy Spirit and that, like living stones, you are to be set by the God of love into the building of the heavenly Jerusalem. And so you must expect to be shaped, cut and chiseled under the hammer of the cross; otherwise, you would remain rough stones, good for nothing but to be cast aside. Be careful that you do not cause the hammer to recoil when it strikes you; respect the chisel that is carving you and the hand that is shaping you. It may be that this skillful and loving craftsman wants you to have an important place in his eternal edifice, or to be one of the most beautiful works of art in his heavenly kingdom. So let him do what he pleases; he loves you, he knows what he is doing, he has had experience. His strokes are skillful and directed by love; not one will miscarry unless your impatience makes it do so.”It’s hard not to squirm sometimes.

But John 16:33.

The thought of the Cross is worse than the reality most of the time. It’s the only way, especially for us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    I received the following invitation on Facebook:

    “Please join Bishop James F. Checchio as he gathers with clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen on the Feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist for a Eucharistic Holy Hour: For healing, truth, and hope as we pray together for victims of clergy sexual abuse and for strength, courage and perseverance for the Church of Metuchen as we strive to be faithful disciples of our Lord in these challenging times.

    This Eucharistic Holy Hour will take place August 29, 2018 at 7 pm at the Cathedral of St. Francis in Metuchen.”

    I will be going – will pray fervently or all you faithful Fathers.

  2. rtjl says:

    This is from a formation manual for lay Carmelites describing why Carmelites emphasize praying the Divine Office over using various forms of devotional prayer.

    “The second reason is you are not picking texts that are pleasing to you; that’s not prayer, that’s self-consolation. How can you hope to convert to the will of God if you are making the word of God convert to how you feel? You are taking texts that the Church says, offers, and gives, and you are adjusting your spirit to it. So we use the Liturgy of Hours to get us out of ourselves with the words of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and prayer.”

  3. RosaryRose says:

    Praying for you, Father Z! Offering my daily rosary for all our priests and the restoration of the Holy Catholic Church.

  4. Paul of St Paul says:

    Another great post.
    It inspired me to get down on my knees and say decades for you, my parish priest, my archbishop and Pope Francis

  5. Pingback: Viganò Watch: Tuesday First Edition – Big Pulpit

Comments are closed.