Day 1 – St. Paul Center Priesthood Conference

I’m in WV for the St. Paul Center (East Coast) conference/retreat for priests in West Virginia.

The trek from PIT by shuttle van was uneventful, if a little bumpy.   The location for this conference, Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, is impressive.  They have chosen well.  The land is beautiful and the facilities excellent.

Last night we had a first talk by Scott Hahn, who introduced the primary theme of these next days: holiness.

The sessions start with prayer, one of the liturgical hours depending on the time.

Hahn tried to provide a view of “the holy” that goes beyond our sense of holiness when in its presence (which reduces the creator to the reaction of the creature) and beyond righteousness (which reduces the holy to ethics).   This was very helpful.   Of course, both our reaction and our ethics are necessary in the pursuit of holiness, but holiness can’t be reduced to them.   He also said that the major crisis we face in the Church (and everywhere) is the loss of the sense of God and God as holy, of holiness.  What thrilled me, and I do mean thrilled, is that he also went to liturgy.   When he started talking about Isaiah 6 and the cleansing of the prophet’s lips with the coal, I nearly hyperventilated.   Moreover, this morning’s talk, by Prof. Bergsma, was about Isaiah, and it started with the description of the calling and cleansing of Isaiah before he could be anointed for the prophetic task.   Anyway, I was pretty engaged.

There is a good bookstore available.  Of course they are pushing books of the speakers pretty hard, but there are other things as well.

This was a great sight.  Sets of St. Thomas Aquinas, Latin/English facing columns, beautifully bound.   One Africa priest was sighing over them.  He, a student of systematic theology, will eventually return to his native place to teach.  He said that he had already saved and spent a lot on English only volumes.  If only he had known about these!

Frankly, the complete Summa is only $320, which is an amazing price. I have a couple of these volumes, commentaries on St. Paul, but I don’t have any of the others.

After the evening talk, there was some convivium including an open bar.  Quite a few of the brethren spent a couple hours hanging out.   I had some good conversations.

Also, the food has, so far, been good.  I took a big step today in that, for the first time in my life, I willingly helped myself to some grits (bowl not pictured).   After admitting this to my table companions, I was knowingly advised to eat the grits together with my scrambled eggs.

Grits.  Hmmmm.

I am not sure that I will have more grits tomorrow.   We’ll see.

We are on a break now.   The group has gone off for Mass.

AHHH!  That’s another thing I wanted to point out.

When I had written to the organizers of the conference about the possibility for priests who don’t want to concelebrate or who prefer the Traditional Mass (not to mention Divine Liturgy), I received a note back immediately that they would do their best to provide such a possibility.

Sure enough.  When I registered, I was hunted down and told and shown what my options were for celebration of Mass on my own or TLM.   Very friendly and accommodating.   

What that means, is that they are tradition friendly here.   Fathers, if you are in any way hesitant about such a conference because you think you’ll be railroaded into concelebration or funneled into only the Novus Ordo, put that aside.   Yes, for the group sessions we say the hour from the Liturgy of the Hours.  But, hey!  Say your office on your own.  And I did bring a minimalist Mass kit just in case.


  • great talks so far
  • good food
  • international and diverse
  • great conversation
  • open bar
  • tradition friendly


More later.


One of the wings of the place is dedicate to the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

Just one angle.  It’s a beautiful place.

Ralph Martin on New Evangelization.

At supper I was seriously tempted to go back for seconds.  Alas, I didn’t take photos at the beginning.

But… it was very Eastern European.


Pork and kraut, cabbage rolls, smothered chicken.

And there’s this!

Everything was really good.

Back in the conference room after supper… sigh… Liturgy of the Hours.  It seems that what we sang was a translation of Telluris alme conditor.  Oh yeah?  Look.  This is not a big deal.  The gains here are great.

Scott Hahn gave an energetic talk which reassumed a lot of what he said yesterday.  However, he delved into the concept of working out our salvation with “fear and trembling”.  And, yes, he went to liturgy again!

After the conference talk, there was a reception.  I had great conversations with a priest from Australia and a priest from Iowa.   Then for a few minutes I watched a few young guys play a card game that I couldn’t make out at all.  Clueless.  No idea what the heck was going on.  Definitely  generational thing.

Cribbage anyone?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gaetano says:

    How much does the African priest need for books? I imagine a few donors would be willing to help.

  2. PostCatholic says:

    Don’t miss the glass museum while at Oglebay Park. It’s quite a gem for a small city.

  3. Sandy says:

    What a blessing to be in the presence of a group such as this, who value holiness, and I’m sure, reverence in Holy Mass. God bless all of you who are there, Father Z.

  4. Sandy says:

    What a blessing to be in the presence of a group such as this, who value holiness, and I’m sure, reverence in Holy Mass. God bless all of you who are there, Father Z.

  5. brasscow says:

    I believe the summa is the same as found HERE

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Cheese is very nice with grits, and it’s very nice with scrambled eggs.

    Same thing with bacon.

  7. bobbird says:

    Fr. Z: Get over your Yankee disdain for grits. I did and my family loves them IN ALASKA. They are standard fare here in many restaurants. Healthier than potatoes as a breakfast side dish. They also go great with over-easy or sunny-up eggs. Grits casserole has been in high demand for years with my students. This recipe is on the side of every Albers Grits box, but take careful note of my own variations. Take a medium-sized casserole dish, make grits in a pot. Add an egg, bacon bits or sausage bits or diced Polish sausage (browned), a dash of garlic powder and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Now what is the kicker to make this both sweet& hot — add your favorite hot sauce. Mine is ENDORPHIN RUSH, which has some molasses in it. Caution — it is radioactive but delicious. 4-5 drops will suffice. Then, add a cup of sweetened condensed milk into this happy melange. Stir and pour it into the casserole dish until the the cheese is melted and the egg well mixed. Bake for an hour at 350. At 45 min add a sprinkle of shredded cheese to top it. You will get brownie-firm squares to serve with your eggs. It is addictive. You will change your mind about grits forever, and I have no doubt Claude Newman, the upcoming Saint of the Deep South, will approve.

  8. Skeinster says:

    Please do not allow those “grits” to define your experience.
    Bob’s Red Mill Polenta, with plenty of butter and salt.
    Yellow corn grits at their best.

  9. Dr. Hahn worships at St. Peter’s in Steubenville. If your schedule permits I can not recommend them enough. The Ordinary Form is celebrated with Kyrie, Gloria, Lord’s Prayer, etc in Latin. The preaching is solid. Communion at the rail on our knees. Extraordinary Form ever Sunday and some weekdays. I was there just two days ago. I always look forward to Steubenville so I can attend St. Peter’s. Dr. Hahn has two sons in priestly formation, they (and a few others) are prayed for each week in the bulletin. If professors associated with Franciscan U bring to mind the Charismatic Renewal, think again. Many on the theology faculty call St. Peter’s their spiritual home. My son is a graduate student in Theology there, I’ve meet more than one of his professors after Mass.

  10. Kevin says:

    This is good news Father! I hope the rest of the conference is as rewarding. God Bless you and all the Holy Priests in attendance!!

  11. APX says:

    What’s that “Gift of Self” book? I can’t make out the author on my phone screen.

  12. adriennep says:

    I too would like to know how to help contribute to that African priest’s book fund.

  13. Cheddar299 says:

    Amazingly a former pastor is attending the same conference. That he and Fr. Z. would be at the same conference is stunning. (He began a late Sunday Mass with Contemporary Christian music in our parish). Praying that some of Fr. Z’s thinking will, by some form of spiritual osmosis, take root in him.

  14. hwriggles4 says:

    Speaking of books, one book I plan on picking up this week is The Crisis of Bad Preaching. It is published by Ave Maria Press, and it is written by my Pastoral Administrator. Sounds like a good tool for homiletics. Personally, I am a little more motivated to attend Mass where I can regularly get a good sermon.

  15. Cajuns eat grits two ways..sugar and butter or salt and butter. Depends on your taste at the time.

  16. truthfinder says:

    It’s Janet Smith’s book of essays on JPII and Humanae vitae.

  17. L. says:

    I grew up in rural West Virginia a little south of the Mason-Dixon Line, which is still “northern” West Virginia, and never had or saw grits until I was an adult. Oglebay is even further north, above the Mason-Dixon Line, so I think that them having grits on the menu is an affectation.

  18. Gab says:

    I had to google ‘grits’. It’s basically polenta. Better than what I imagined ‘grits’ to be LOL

  19. acardnal says:

    APX: author is Janet E. Smith, Ph.D

  20. lgreen515 says:

    Cheese grits. You will love them.

  21. Gregg the Obscure says:

    a New Orleans style place in town serves shrimp and grits that is delightful

  22. capchoirgirl says:

    Good shrimp and grits is HEAVEN!!!!! Yummmmm.

  23. Geoffrey says:

    There is nothing inherently wrong with the Liturgy of the Hours.

  24. Amerikaner says:

    Anyone know what the game is called?

  25. Kevin says:

    Father Z, what Breviary do you use?

    [The Roman Breviary. The edition depends on my mood and, when traveling, space.]

  26. benkoca says:

    I’ll take you on at cribbage.

    Do you have contact information for the African priest?

  27. Kevin says:

    Thanks….I probably asked the wrong question. :) Which edition is shown in the photo above comparing the hymns?

  28. Just when I was beginning to think there might be at least ONE man-made structure in West Virginia NOT named after Robert Byrd….

  29. samwise says:

    I appreciate you being there Fr Z! My folks took our family there ages ago to hear Sen Byrd speak nonsense. The Oglebay branding is still the same. Seeing you Priests there does my memory great good: Memoria Dei vs nihil memoriae

  30. T0mmyT says:

    I believe the card game is called The Grizzled ->

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