To save the world, we have to save the liturgy. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

My mantra in these electronic pages for years was and is and will be “Save The Liturgy, Save The World“.

Sounds odd at first?

Consider that of all the relationships we have, that which we have with God is and must be the most important, put before all others.  If that relationship is disordered, all others will be too.

We have to give to other persons what is their due by the virtue of justice.  But the Triune God is qualitatively a different person, so we have a different virtue that governs what is due to God: religion.

We fulfill the virtue of religion especially in our sacred liturgical worship, as individuals and as groups, small and large.  So, the sacred liturgical worship of the Church orders everything we do, gives it sense and purpose.  Hence, every gesture and word of sacred liturgical worship is significant and has effects on us and everything we do as Catholics.  And the more sacred the rite, the greater impact.

Eucharist is to be understood not only as the Eucharistic species, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ.  Eucharist is that, but it is also Its celebration: Holy Mass.  The Eucharist (Host and Mass) is the “source and summit’ of the life of the Church.  If our treatment of the Eucharist (Host and Mass) is disordered, everything else we do will be disordered.

Just as the Fall of our First Parents produced devastating “ripples” through material creation, so that we are out of order with it and it with us on many levels, so to do liturgical abuses or even poorly intentioned sacred liturgical worship produce “ripples” in the cosmos.

Celebrate the liturgy well, good results.  Celebrate poorly, bad results.

In my “Save The Liturgy, Save The World” manifesto in 2007, I wrote:

If we really believe that, then we must also hold that what we do in church, what we believe happens in a church, makes an enormous difference.

Do we believe the consecration really does something? Or, do we believe what is said and how, what the gestures are and the attitude in which they made are entirely indifferent? For example, will a choice not to kneel before Christ the King and Judge truly present in each sacred Host, produce a wider effect?

If you throw a stone, even a pebble, into a pool it produces ripples which expand to its edge. The way we celebrate Mass must create spiritual ripples in the Church and the world.

So does our good or bad reception of Holy Communion.

So must violations of rubrics and irreverence.

I stand by that.

Now a young priest has taken up the theme, or so I read at LifeSite.

Fr. Mark Goring has called for a return to Communion on the tongue while kneeling.  Why?  To avert apocalyptic disaster, due to irreverence.

“Is receiving the Eucharist on our knees going to fix all the world’s problems? I think it will,” he said.

This is timely, in light of the new book by Card. Sarah and Benedict XVI, who are both champions of a return to the better and more reverent and entirely reasonable practice of reception of Communion directly on the tongue while kneeling.

Fr. Goring says what I have been shouting for over a decade.  He says it in his own way, but it is, effectively, the same thing.

We deserve – collectively – sharp correction from God due to our collective laxity when it comes to our sacred liturgical worship.  We have not been fulfilling the virtue of religion, giving God what is His due.  Chastisement would be deserved.  We can avert some of that, or lessen it, by revitalizing our worship and by acts of reparation: in other words by getting serious.

Please allow me to rant.

I’ve been talking to people who are just plain tired of “yet another book” which effectively says what we expect the writers might say in the first place.  Yes, the books are good because the chronicle The Present Crisis for future generations, and they really do contain great spiritual material.  Yes, the books are good.

But do books constitute action?  Does reading a book constitute action?

They might help, but they are not themselves enough.

What is needed is concrete action in the lives of more Catholics.

We need priests to start priesting as if their souls depended on it.  And that pep speech has the added benefit of being exactly true: their souls do depend on it.

We need lay people to start demanding priests to priest, as if their souls depended on it.  Again, true.

I have a quote on the sidebar from Fulton Sheen:

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops.”

Sound about right?

Here are some ideas.

  • Fathers, begin a process of liturgical catechesis and start your parishes on a return to Communion on the tongue while kneeling
  • Ditto, a return to ad orientem worship.  Remember, Klaus Gamber, who influenced Ratzinger deeply, said that versus populum worship was the single most damaging thing done in the name of Vatican II.  There are priests who have successfully done this in their parishes: seem them out and get their advice.
  • Fathers, learn the Traditional Roman Rite.  I know that Latin is intimidating.  But what part of priesthood did they promise you was going to be easy?  Anything that produces big benefits requires work.  It can be done.  If priests in the past did it, you can do it.
  • Lay people: start forming “base communities of Faith”.  This might take the form of Saturday morning coffee groups where you read the Sunday readings and study the Catechism… a catechism at least.   Then, if you hear something weird from the pulpit, show up, as a group, in front of the priest, with your catechisms and sources and pin him down.  “What was that, Father?”
  • Lay people: Prompt, cajole, urge, beg, persuade your priests to move to ad orientem worship and Communion on the tongue.  Tell them you will help in any way to make it happen, even paying for all the carpentry, etc.
  • Lay people:  Prompt, cajole, urge, beg, persuade your priests to learn the TLM.  Promise and execute when it comes to buying things, provided help and time at the church to set up, take down, everything.  Give 110% support.
  • Fathers and lay people: GO TO CONFESSION.

Get clean for this battle.

A special note to SEMINARIANS:

Men, be careful.  You are young and zealous and these are hard times.  Many of us older guys went through the bad times before.  There were some years of relative calm.  Now tough times are returning in many places… not everywhere, but in many places.   You might be disoriented having grown up in the time of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and relative sanity.

Keep your heads down.

I recall our old Rules for Seminary Survival in the 1980s. Where you are they may pertain once again:

Rarely affirm.
Never deny.
Seldom make distinctions.
Smile a lot.
Say very little.
Never wear black.

In my day, you could be called in for wearing black socks!   These days that last one might be something else… like… back out of the room?

In the 80’s, it was as if we were officers-in-training, but in the military academy of the enemy.

I don’t want you to look for problems where there aren’t any.  Also, there are so many more good bishops now who really care about their seminarians.  That wasn’t the case back in the day, believe me.  So, if this are good and calm and peaceful and solid and faithful and clean, then… FORWARD!   But still be careful.

This is what you must do if your profs and the staff are modernists: don’t fight them.  It isn’t your job in the seminary to teach or to correct or to defend.  Smile. Learn what these modernist oppressors have to teach, parrot it back to them, and read good books on your own, with a flashlight and shades drawn if necessary.

And if you have to give up the internet, then for the love of God and His Holy Church give it up.

Get ordained.

Your day will come.


  • Keep your mouths shut.
  • Assume that your use of the internet is being monitored.  Avoid using the seminary’s internet to look at anything other than neutral or liberal sites.
  • Cough up the dough to get a separate plan for data for your laptops and phones.  Use VPNs.
  • If several of you must pool resources to do that, do that, and then – discreetly – do the samizdat thing.
  • Use your personal handhelds or phones for surfing good Catholic sites but avoid seminary WiFi.
  • If you can’t find a way around their logging, or you can’t afford the data in your country, then either give up traditional sites when surfing or give up the internet completely!

Go silent and go deep.

And if you get a biretta through the BIRETTAS FOR SEMINARIANS Project, and you are in an iffy situation, keep the biretta at home.  Don’t have it at the seminary.  Your day will come.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. AutoLos says:

    An additional idea for your list (and it relates to the liturgy too) is for lay people to listen carefully to the absolution and work up the courage to inform their priests when it is pronounced incorrectly. In the last year the number plainly invalid or dubious absolutions I have “received” is truly disheartening. If we don’t say anything, misinformed or malicious priests will go on NOT forgiving sins.

  2. abdiesus says:

    “We need priests to start priesting as if their souls depended on it. And that pep speech has the added benefit of being exactly true: their souls do depend on it.”

    Thank you Fr. Z!

    Might I add (although it is implied/included in the above) that “We need BISHOPS and CARDINALS to start BISHOPING and CARDINALING as if their souls depended on it…..and their souls do depend on it.”

    In fact, it is precisely this lack which seems to indicate (whether or not this is in fact true – only God knows) that many, perhaps most, of the hierarchy in the developed world do not, actually, have any supernatural faith at all. Because they could not say or do the things they say and do if they REALLY believed that there was a God to whom they were accountable, and before whom they would stand in the Last Judgement.

    I am intensifying my prayers for all Bishops, Priests, Deacons, & Seminarians, particularly as I am reading the wonderful book In Sinu Jesu

    I highly recommend the book even though it is primarily about a Priestly relationship with Jesus and Mary, because it helps us all to see how important restoring and re-invigorating Priestly ministry is for our Lord and our Lady – and of course all Bishops are Priests first of all. It will also make you want to do more Adoration, and that’s never a bad thing!

  3. The Egyptian says:

    Good news, maybe my feeble attempts at prayer and much hoping, has paid off, a Latin mass is coming to my little home country parish, seems that a group wanted it and the pastor of our cluster has agreed to it but not at the BIG church in town but at our little church in the country, I am thrilled, sadly our parish council wanted it at 10 am however it has been set for 4 in the afternoon
    from the bulletin
    “LATIN MASS:Parish Council recently approved that the “Cross-Tipped Churches Latin Mass Community” may hold two Latin Masses per month at St. Joseph Church, which will be held on the second and fourth Sundays at 4 pm. The collection taken at these Masses will be provided to the St. Joseph Parish. The anticipated time that the Latin Masses will begin taking place is late February. ”

    I hope and pray this goes well, if anyone sees this and is near, please come and support it
    google map : Egypt, Jackson Township, OH
    google : St Joseph church, Egypt Ohio, for pictures, beautiful old church, sadly rail is gone, I believe it is in storage
    Thank You

  4. Andreas says:

    Father Z. wrote, “Fr. Mark Goring has called for a return to Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Why? To avert apocalyptic disaster, due to irreverence. “Is receiving the Eucharist on our knees going to fix all the world’s problems? I think it will,” he said”.

    I have always received Communion on my tongue, but here in Austria I have been doing so in the same manner as everyone else; whilst standing….that is, until some weeks ago. It was last October or so when, after Confession, I broached the notion of kneeling when receiving Communion. Our beloved Pfarrer Simon smiled and simply quietly replied, “Then kneel”.

    I had not done so since then for whatever unsatisfactory reasons. However, at Advent I knew that I must. On that beautiful Sunday I took Communion on the tongue and on my knees; the first time I had done so in a very many years. I was the only one to do so that day. Thereafter there were neither comments nor criticisms made by anyone; nothing changed, that is, except in me.

    If humility is a virtue devoutly to be wished when receiving Communion, then I believe there can be no better way to express that state of mind than being on ones knees in the presence of Our Lord. God Bless Pope Benedict, Cardinal Sarah, Father Z, Father Goring and others who with great zeal and patience make certain to remind us of this.

  5. ex seaxe says:

    Father – please make sure this comes back into view after the hysterical brouhaha over that book is out of the way. I had to scroll halfway down your page (which is long) before finding anything other than ‘AbpG said, MF said, …’ tweets. I hope, and expect, that Pope Francis will stick to his repeated affirmation of clerical celibacy as the norm; but time will tell.

  6. tho says:

    The church stood against the world for 1965 years. From that year forward we have attempted to join the world, to the detriment of our souls. We must adore God with all the dignity that we are capable of, the Council of Trent gave us a true way to show that dignity. We must return to our roots, and throw off this cloak of modernism, what has it gotten us, homosexual behavior, abortion on demand, heretical teaching, same sex marriage, and countless Catholic’s abandoning their religion. Empty church’s are a not uncommon sight, neither are empty convents. We are being led by a Pope who has obviously abandoned his duty of showing us the way. Only prayer can save us.

  7. Luminis says:

    Thank you for this Fr Z! Last summer I began to kneel down to recieve Holy Communion at my old parish. I still attend daily Mass there but thanks be to God we attend a parish that celebrates both forms beautifully and has no altar girls.
    My old parish has altar rails in both the church and the chapel and it broke my heart to see them not used .
    I know it doesn’t matter but I suspect that some of the people think I am not all there! Around two years ago I began to veil and now I am kneeling for Holy Communion!!
    It all began at an Opus Angelorum retreat I attended two years ago. We knelt and women veiled and there was Latin and so much reverence! This past summer I did a consecration to my Guardian Angel and I am in a two year formation to consecrate myself to all The Holy Angels.
    I mention this because I know that my dear friend and guardian had been persuading me to veil and after that to kneel. Both times on the first time I wore a veil and knelt on the ground for Holy Communion. I experienced an overwhelming push and I was unwell physically until I obeyed my Guardian Angel. Once I obeyed I was in a complete state of peace and joy and I wept the most beautiful tears of ecstasy.
    I always kneel now at daily Mass and on Sunday we head to our new Mercerdarian Parish to kneel at the altar rail and watch our youngest son on the altar amongst the men! Kneeling for Communion transformed my spiritual life to a level I never knew was possible!

  8. Fr. Kelly says:

    Save the Liturgy save the world is exactly right.
    For it is Our Lord’s action that saves the world and getting liturgy right means getting ourselves in proper order to support and benefit from His saving action.

    On a gun crew, if the loader decides to do his own thing in his own time instead of loading shells as instructed by the Gunner… Disaster ensues.

  9. Salient says:

    Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve barely been in this fight but it’s easy to be disheartened and think that there won’t be universal widespread change anytime soon. May our liturgical exile come to an end with a return to the sense of sacred and a transcendent focus on God!

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  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Great post and comments.

    In the opening chapters of “Christus Vincit” Bp. Athanasius Schneider discusses his family background, and how the Black Sea Germans, who settled in Russia in the 19th century, preserved the Catholic faith under Communism, hard labor, and several internal deportations to the Urals and Central Asia. A few brief quotes:

    “When Communism began, there were over two hundred priests from this diocese. What’s beautiful is that no one apostasized. Not one.”

    “Unfortunately, they had to go ten years, more or less, with no priests. But the families transmitted the faith, and every day they prayed. For example, in Lent, on Fridays in the evening after this hard work, neighboring families came together and prayed the Stations of the Cross in a room.”

    “There were no priests in Kyrgyzstan, and only very rarely would a priest come secretly. My mother could not leave me without baptism- it was impossible for her. So, one week after my birth, she baptized me herself because she knew her catechism well, and she knew that it was possible.”

    Bp. Schneider gives an inspiring account of the strong faith of his grandmother Perpetua and Blessed Fr. Oleksiy. He also describes his family’s shock after their emigration to West Germany in the 1970s when people at their local church received Communion in the hand “like a cafeteria.”

  12. samwise says:

    Isn’t saying “we save the Liturgy” a tad “promethean neo-pelagian”? Shouldn’t Christ be the One to “save” the liturgy? PER IPSO, ET CUM IPSO, ET IN IPSO


  13. robert hightower says:

    The Egyptian, I will see you at St. Joseph’s! Only in Ohio can you travel a few miles from Russia to Egypt for a Latin Mass

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