ASK FATHER: Frustrated by a lack of reverence, liturgical discipline. Am I in the right church? Is this Really God’s house?

From a reader…


This is my first letter to you. I am old and grew up with the old Mass. I have tolerated the NO for years and years. But it has grown steadily worse. Today’s Sunday Mass (in England) was like a protestant Sunday school. The priest is from Africa. He is very jolly but lacks the gravitas at Holy Mass. There is a big focus on little children. There is a reading out of parish lottery results there is clapping. The sermon is unintelligible due to his African accent. It is mostly full of platitudes that could be heard in any protestant church. I kneel before I receive Holy Communion , everyone else receives on the hand standing. I feel frustrated and unfulfilled by a lack of reverence. By a lack of liturgical discipline. I wonder if I as a Catholic am in the right church? Is this Really God’s house.? Is His sacrifice truly acknowledged on the altar?. Does Christ really act through the priest? I know that He does but there is no sense in the priest or the people of these realities. Should I stop going to Sunday Mass for the benefit of my Faith? Or should I suffer in silence? I pray to God to bring back the Latin Mass And the preaching that went with it.

Your frustration is palpable.  I’m frustrated just reading about it.

This is part of the problem with the Novus Ordo, I’m afraid.  There are so many options, too many opportunities for the priest to impose himself on the Mass.  At the same time, the priest is in a tough spot because the Novus Ordo pretty much requires him to perform.  Add to that the versus populum altar and you have massive potential problems.

Some men do better with that pressure than others.

At the same time, I’ve heard an awful lot of platitudes and cliches come out of priests who say the Traditional Mass.

Let’s put it into perspective.   Yes, it is God’s house.  I am sure that the Masses are valid, and His Sacrifice is renewed on that altar, though it doesn’t seem as if it is being acknowledged.  Yes, Christ really acts through the priest, though the priest may not act like it.

Consider that last point.

What an amazing proof of the love of Christ that He permits Himself to be commanded and manipulated, called and handled, by the crass and the clever, the holy and impious, the negligent and the scrupulous.

Pray for your priest.  Ask his and your Guardian Angels to gang up on him and nudge him in the right direction.  It is probable that this is what he was taught to do and doesn’t know better.

Don’t stop going to Mass. You don’t have to go there exclusively.  You can also go elsewhere.

Suffering in silence is commendable.  Offering your pain in reparation for sins against Our Lord and Our Lady is meritorious.

You can also make your concerns known, in charity and with tact.

You can give yourself a break and go somewhere else, too.  You can do that.

Finally, many people here in these USA also have problems understanding the priests from other countries.  It seems to me that some of these priests are probably really frustrated with themselves!   They must know that they are hard to understand.  It could be that some of these men would do well to seek some help with “accent reduction / improvement training”.  Yes, that it is a real thing.  I know what it is like to live in another country and have the pressure of preaching in a language that isn’t my native tongue.  I worked on my pronunciation.

I am reminded of how England became Christian in the first place.  St. Augustine of Canterbury was born and raised in Rome.  So daunting was his mission that on the way to England he turned around and begged Pope Gregory to recall him.  No dice.  Augustine arrived in Kent and was, probably, pretty hard to understand by the average Kentish denizens.   With the highborn, he could probably use Latin, but not so with Hengest the fuller.  I’ll bet they were pretty frustrated with each other for a while.    Eventually, it worked out.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    My local church is similar to this (which is why I travel further to the TLM when I can). I don’t want to criticise the priest, as he is a kind and hard-working man who is likely doing his best. And of course a lot of the nonsense was already “parish tradition” when he arrived; I can imagine there is a lot of pressure to keep certain people happy and not get a reputation as a troublemaker, especially for a young priest far from home.

    Mostly I just feel sad that we (collectively) seem to have so much lost the sense of what the Mass is. By the time we’ve had all the readings, sermon, announcements from parish council members, the children’s liturgy group coming up to show their pictures and answer questions about what they’ve learned, offertory procession, interminable “bidding prayers”…. the Eucharistic Prayer (shortest version) feels almost like an afterthought rather than being the heart of the Mass.

    No wonder there are people checking their phones or carrying on whispered conversations even during the consecration. They’ve never been taught better, and the liturgy itself gives them no reason to think anything special or important is happening at that moment. I suspect it seems like just more words, when we’ve already been talked at for so long that most people have long stopped listening by that point.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19. If even the Lord Himself could experience frustration at an apparent lack of belief, it’s not surprising that the rest of us can lose heart when we see the Holy Sacrifice apparently reduced to a prayer meeting. Our saving grace is that He puts up with the wandering faithful now as He did back then. If one person alone is showing due reverence at a Mass, it may be that that one person is doing just what God wants him or her to do by providing an example. A rosary brought along to Mass can help weather the worst sermons, hootenanny music, and NO accretions as well. God save us all, because it’s all too apparent we don’t do well when left to our own devices.

  3. LeeGilbert says:

    “Finally, many people here in these USA also have problems understanding the priests from other countries. ”

    Generally I have found priests from other countries to be an impressive bunch and they are, besides, living evidence of the universality of the Church. Still, after suffering through many Masses in English strangled by Spanish, Polish and Indian accents, I decided to become a lector so that the congregation could have the relief of hearing clear, understandable English at some point in the Mass. Since xenophobia is a very common temptation, and may actually lead to people of weak faith to worship elsewhere, I would encourage others to undertake this as well. Better we should have the Traditional Mass everywhere, but in the meantime there are things we laity can do to make the NO more reverent and comprehensible.

  4. Simon_GNR says:

    ur parish (in England) has had a Nigerian Vincentian priest for about four years now. On the whole one can understand what he is saying but he still has quite a strong accent. It’s much harder to understand what he is saying than it would be if he were a British man whose first language were English, but with a bit of effort by the listener his sermons are audible and understandable. The actual content of what he says is pretty sound and traditional and he’s no “showman”, unlike his two British predecessors as parish priest tended to be. He has tried (thankfully unsuccessfully so far) to include extempore petitions from the congregation during the bidding prayers – English Catholics are generally very reticent and reserved and probably regard congregants who participate in that sort of nonsense as show-offs.

  5. ocleirbj says:

    Re: foreign priests. Probably every country in the world was first evangelized by people from somewhere else, who spoke with accents that were hard to understand. Christianity really is a religion of translations. The Good News brought by foreigners, the Gospels recorded in Greek rather than Jesus’ native Aramaic, and at the core of everything, Divinity translated into humanity in the Incarnation – the Divine Word, given to us in our own many languages. Sometimes we struggle to understand; but always, what is being communicated is so much more than the words used to speak about it. If we seek to understand, if we long for Jesus, whose life is always being offered to us even in a really bad translation, He will come to us, and give us what we desire and need, in the language of the heart.

  6. RosaryRose says:

    A kindred spirit! Keep going to Mass. Yes take a rosary, pray it during Mass, offer up the pain. It is truly a heartfelt, aching, wrenching pain to see the indifference of the congregation when we have our King truly present before us.

    My Dad was an SSPX’er, and I have seen what we have lost. I pray daily for a reunion with the SSPX.

    I am a mole – sitting with the congregation praying fervently.

    I pray the Fatima prayer during Mass, especially during the consecration. The prayer that starts, “ My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you…”

    Be strong.! Remember, most of us will win more people by our example than our words. Genuflect before the tabernacle, keep silence in the church, receive on the tongue kneeling if possible, etc.

    If I get your message from across the ocean, think of how many souls Mary & Jesus have heard. Keep the faith! Keep praying!

    Peace to you!!

  7. teomatteo says:

    My dilemma is that my 20 year old daughter is away at college and the catholic church across the street from her is …. difficult. Priest is seated to the side, the choir front and center the tabernacle ???? I suggest that she attend but i’m almost thinking that for her spiritual tenderness to not. pain.

  8. Whenever I have found myself assisting at a Mass where the priest quotes Marianne Williamson or teaches the congregation to use the greeting “Namaste”; or where the “cantor” leads ‘70s ditties with a strident, insistent voice like a farm animal in labor; or where a middle-aged, Birkenstock-shod, female graduate of the William Shatner School of Overacting delivers a “dramatic” rendition of the readings; or where the sign of peace devolves into a cocktail reception; or where a phalanx of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion distribute the August Sacrament out of ugly earthenware vessels; or a combination of some or all of the above; I have tried to look at it this way. Jesus is present at each and every one of these (or worse) travesties, hundreds of times a day, every day, all over the world. He only asks me to grit my teeth through one, one time per week — and not even every single week anymore, since now we have a monthly TLM. He, through the Church, requires this of me, even though I do not in the least enjoy it; and, as bad as it is, it’s nothing compared to what He suffered for me.

    So even if you have no other options for Mass, you should still go to Mass, lest you hear Jesus asking you: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?”

  9. Diana says:

    I love this response. Thank you, Father. I have recently (in the last year) been blessed with an FSSP parish in my backyard (not literally), and I feel as if–and I have told my pastor this, as well–I’ve never been to a more beautiful Mass in my life. For the first time, I feel that God truly deserves every part of this Mass, that it is as beautiful as it can be, and that we give it to Him with love. I cry tears of gratitude every day there. I will keep your reader in my prayers, and everyone else who is in this pickle. It’s a tough situation, but I am grateful to not have to deal with it (for now–God only knows what is in my future).

  10. tho says:

    I have a strong feeling that the degradation of our culture has a parallel with Vatican II. There are certainly good priests saying the Novus Ordo, as there still are decent, courteous, and respectful people in our society. But the lunatics are dictating our lives, and sexual mores, what could be more hallucinogenic than men wanting to be accepted as women, or vice a versa.
    The point that I am awkwardly trying to make is that we are living in terrifying times without the 7:am TLM to comfort us. In fact, unless we live fairly close to a traditional order we are like orphans. As Father says we must become mentally tough, because God never abandons us. But I do wish He would hurry, as I would like a Requiem Mass, not some celebration of life.

  11. Leonius says:

    Our duty is clear: first of all, we must have no fear, we must avoid bitterness, we must not become deserters, we must advance, we must remain firm in the Faith!

    It is the night: let us stand fast and fight. Happy are those who, like the young she-goat, are determined to fight to the death, who refuse to lie down and die before the break of day. For it is by enduring till the dawn that true victory is won, that our task is accomplished. And even if the Wolves withdraw only after they have torn us to pieces, the dawn is, in fact, the time when the Wolves flee the light; the time when they take flight from the flock; the time when even the cowardly take heart; the time when the flock can advance without fear.

    May God make of us true soldiers of Christ! And when the time comes for us, too, to lie down and die, may we see in the East that brilliant light, not of a star but of that “Lumen Gentium”, of the “Sol Justitiae” which is the Christ: the dawn of a new Christian order in the world!

    The rest matters little. Since he who sows does not reap, of what account is it if we are no longer there at the break of day? The glory of the Church is no human glory: She is Holy in spite of our unworthiness.

    We are, indeed, in the throes of an agonizing trial, a trial which is the test of our Hope and of our Faith in the Church: the test of our Hope and our Faith in the Cross. So let us regain our courage, and as the Imitation tells us: “We have begun: we may not go back, nor may we leave off. Take courage brethren: let us go forward together. Jesus will be with us. For the sake of Jesus, we have taken up this Cross; for Jesus’ sake, let us persevere in it. He will be our Helper, Who is our Captain and our Forerunner. Behold our King marcheth before us, Who will fight for us. Let us follow Him manfully, let no one fear terrors, let us be ready to die valiantly in battle; nor let us bring disgrace upon our glory by flying from the Cross!” (The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Chap. LVI)

  12. visigrad22 says:

    When unable to drive two hours to Latin Mass, I bring my 1962 Missal to the local NO…..I find it really helps !!!

  13. Hidden One says:

    Some of the faithful are tortured for the Faith for years on end with regular and irregular beatings, scant sustenance, in dark and cramped conditions, alone but for the rats and the cockroaches, with no knowledge of what has happened to their families, no prospect of release, and no access to the sacraments in any form.

    Meanwhile, some of the faithful are tortured by bad liturgy at Sunday Mass.

    Keep attending Sunday Mass.

  14. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    Before every Mass I attend, I beg Our Lady to obtain for me through her intercession the grace to assist at this Mass in the way most pleasing to Jesus, and to receive Him in Holy Communion in the way most pleasing to Jesus.

    Then I let Mary “drive.”

    Although I attend a Novus Ordo parish, I’m only rarely troubled by late arrivals or other examples of irreverence I see from others. I’m aware of them, but they don’t bother me as much as they used to.

    Because Mary is “driving” during my assistance at Mass, and I’m captivated by the beauty and love she give me to offer to Jesus in the celebration.

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  16. LT Brass Bancroft says:

    visigrad22, in the increasingly rare occasions in which I am stuck at a Novus Ordo Mass, I like to do what J.R.R. Tolkein did. He would almost shout the responses in Latin. You could even say “pax tecum” during the sign of peace!

  17. pascal788 says:

    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

  18. pascal788 says:

    Thank you for that account and explanation. It is very helpful.

  19. pascal788 says:

    Great advice.
    Thank you.

  20. pascal788 says:

    Me too. I am lucky to have the Fr. Stedman ‘My Sunday Missal’. It reminds me of my childhood faith. The only faith that endures.

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