The effect of lay participation on the souls of priests

I was requested by a reader to repost something I wrote back in the relatively happier times of 2017. Upon re-reading it, I think it stands still, adjustments having been made for the cruelty of Traditionis custodes.

Published on: Jun 4, 2017


Today during Mass I was struck hard with something, which reinforced an observation I read recently in an email.  In effect, the priestly writer said that priests, who are under constant and insidious attacks by the Devil, are therefore also constantly at risk of losing their faith in the Eucharist.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, by the way, that priests sometimes struggle with belief.  Think of the priest who, having doubts about the Eucharist while on his way to Rome, had a Host at his Mass bleed upon corporal, thus leading to the establishment of the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Moreover, John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia that priests are at risk of losing their focus because of the onslaught of the things of this world.

We all must contend with the three great foes: the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Back to my priestly writer.   Given the trials and risks, the sight of the faithful kneeling at the altar rail to receive with such reverence, reminds us that what we do, what they are doing, is of the greatest importance.  The reverence of the people in that humble and reverent way of receiving can be extremely helpful for priests.

Do you, dear lay readers, think about that at all?  If how the priest celebrates Mass, his ars celebrandi, has an effect on you, doesn’t it make sense that your comportment and actions, your ars participandi will have an effect on the priest?

More and more I weigh the importance of the gift of Summorum Pontificum to the whole Church.

Learning to say Holy Mass according to the older, traditional Roman Rite has a huge effect on priests who didn’t know it before.  Moreover, learning how to participate at the Traditional Mass, the Extraordinary Form – and, yes, people have to learn how to participate – is also going to have its own knock-on effect, most immediately on the priest celebrant.

Think about this.  A seminarian, a deacon, who has been going to Mass with the Novus Ordo Missal for a goodly amount of time needs about 10 minutes to learn how to say Mass in the Novus Ordo.

However, even if a man has served at the older, traditional Mass for quite a while, he has to study and work on what to do as a priest celebrant.

Why would it not be the same for lay participation?

It takes work and time and effort.

On that note, I saw a post at Liturgy Guy about a priest, a convert (former Methodist), who learned how to say the TLM.  He wrote:

“After 9 years of offering the Latin Mass, I can say that it’s made me a better priest. I’ve loved being steeped in its tradition and being formed by its rubrics and prayers. Most importantly, offering the Latin Mass has improved the way I offer the Novus Ordo Mass. The discipline that the Latin Mass requires in offering it has certainly carried over into the way I offer the Novus Ordo Mass. I’ve certainly experienced the mutual enrichment that Pope Benedict XVI hoped would happen when the Latin Mass and Novus Ordo are offered side by side, and I believe our parish has, too. I definitely have a renewed and greater appreciation for the awesome dignity of the Mass.”

This is from Fr. Timothy Reid.  I’ve written about him before.  HERE  Also, he was recently on Marcus Grodi’s show, The Journey Home.  In a few ways he had some remarkably similar experiences in his conversion to Catholicism that I had.  But I digress.

It is hardly a leap to imagine that that experience, that transformation, would not have its own effect on the people of his parish.   However, it was a group of people who approached Fr. Reid and asked for the older Mass.   There is an interplay of roles.

Imagine the impact that you, dear readers, can have.  I, for example, as a priest am profoundly moved by people who devoutly practice their faith.  I am blown away by good confessions.  I am stirred and edified when distributing Communion to people whom I know are really striving.  Imagine, what it is like for a priest to give Communion to saintly people.  Try to fathom the knock on effect that that must have, you on him, him on you.

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, Mail from priests, Priests and Priesthood. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Fr. Reader says:

    “Think about this. A seminarian, a deacon, who has been going to Mass with the Novus Ordo Missal for a goodly amount of time needs about 10 minutes to learn how to say Mass in the Novus Ordo.”
    During our training we spent hours learning and practicing how to celebrate the Holy Mass in what people call novus ordo.
    Perhaps if it is according to the “spirit of VC2” 10 minutes are more than enough.

  2. maternalView says:

    Beautiful post, Father. Certainly worth keeping in mind.

  3. Littlemore says:

    ?The reverence of the people in that humble and reverent way of receiving can be extremely helpful for priests.?

    Our last parish priest was describing an ordination card that he’d received from another diocesan priest… Remember that you make your parishioners the people they are, I later said to him that the parishioners can also have a profound effect on the priest, which is exactly what you have written here. Both here can influence the spirituality of the other. Thank you Fr Z for all the influences that you have upon your readers.

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  5. iamlucky13 says:

    I have indeed thought about how my reverence affects others. At Mass, I’m typically more inclined to think about my actions and attitudes helping communicate to other lay persons the significance of our shared worship. It has occurred to me that the priest may notice it, too, and that it serves as a sort of gentle feedback, but less frequently.

    I think of how it affects the priest more with respect to confession: I hope he finds value in his role from seeing that many of us sincerely believe the sacrament is vitally important to our spiritual lives, and we respect the moral teachings of the Church, so while I earnestly hope he trusts our contrition unless there are signs to the contrary, he might also not give counsel that diminishes our responsibilities.

    I also try to remember to thank or compliment father when he puts more effort into the Mass than I am used to seeing. This past Lent, our young priest made the effort to chant the Eucharistic prayer, which I have no doubt took some difficulty to learn and even more difficulty to follow through with for a person I believe is a bit shy.

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