Ever the optimist. Fr. Z’s first rants of the year.

This year 1 January, the Octave of Christmas or the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God fell on a Sunday.  All Sundays are Holy Days of Obligation.  Next year, 2024, 1 January falls on a Monday.  That means that, in these USA, Catholics will not be obliged to go to Mass.  The bishops say that if 1 January or 15 August or 1 November are on a Monday or a Saturday, people don’t have to go to Mass, as if going to Mass on days back to back is somehow too much of a burden.

In itself this isn’t necessarily a terrible blow to Catholic identity, considered either amongst ourselves for ourselves or considered by non-Catholics observing our behavior as Catholics.  However, combined with the relaxation of other practices to the point of their invisibility both to us and the wider world, it is indeed debilitating.  Our Lenten practices have virtually vanished.   A one hour Eucharistic fast is almost risible.  While chapel veils are making a come back, they are still not widely seen by ourselves or by the watchers.  Lack of reverence in our churches is rampant, and the lack of reverently built churches is telling.  Music for worship is by and large appalling.  Confession schedules are a joke.  Religious communities that aren’t tradition minded are dying out and their un-habited members are unrecognizable.

The bishops, priests, religious and complicit lay people have succeeded in telegraphing to observers within and without that being Catholic isn’t all that important, not important enough to do anything about anyway.

Some action items come to mind.  Perhaps with the change of a calendar year of salvation, salvation will be considered and actions taken to achieve salvation for as many as possible will be implemented.  Yes, one can hope.   To this end, I propose…

  • Restore obligations: Holy Days, longer Eucharistic fast, Friday penance
  • Diminish Saturday vigil Masses and emphasize the Lord’s Day, which is Sunday
  • Phase out Communion in the hand
  • Sideline Traditionis custodes, etc.
  • Return to ad orientem worship
  • Multiply devotions: novenas, processions, Forty Hours, etc.
  • Overhaul music: repertoire and get choirs out of view
  • Return to traditional confessionals and increased times
  • Foster silence before and after Mass
  • Stress the value of sacramentals

Some might believe that I am overly optimistic in even thinking these things much less posting them as real proposals.  Indeed, my optimism is tempered by experience.

I am reminded of the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.  The pessimist says, “Things can’t possibly get any worse!”  The optimist cheerfully responds, “Oh, yes they can!”

That’s where we are at, I’m afraid.  Things can get worse.  For a while they will.  It takes a long time to change the direction of a very large ship.  Not changing, however, endangers even more immortal souls.  I don’t want to be complicit with that.  What is is that Sam’s old gaffer used to say?

‘It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish, as my old gaffer used to say.

The quote, from the chapter “The Mirror of Galadriel”, continues…

And I don’t reckon that these folk can do much more to help us, magic or no. It’s when we leave this land that we shall miss Gandalf Benedict worse, I’m thinking.’

We have to push our sleeves up, set our faces towards the goal, and get to work, collectively and as individuals.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, ACTION ITEM!, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maximillian says:

    “Sideline Traditionis custodes, etc.
    Return to ad orientem worship”

    Fr Z you still refuse to live in the real world.
    Neither of the above will happen.

    [And you seem to be part of the problem. Happy New Year.]

  2. piobaire says:

    Thank God the SSPX has maintained these practices while the rest of us went headlong off the cliff. I didn’t even know about most of these practices growing up in the Canadian church

  3. BaltDeacon says:

    I love your list of action items. What a beautiful Church of Christ we would have if that’s what we had!

  4. Sevens Dad says:

    #1, #6, and #7…Please, for the love of all that’s holy. Jeez. The NO sanctuary is turning into a social hall in many places I go to Mass.

    My favorite is when the “pregame announcer” gets on the mic and encourages everyone to “more fully participate in the Mass by silencing their devices”, then precedes to ask everyone to stand up and greet the worshippers next to you.

    That, and the 85 inch TV/Jumbotron right outside the doors to the Sanctuary are two massive distractions imho. Those need to go, too.

    Can we add that to the list of things to “phase out”? Please?


    And yes, the rest of the list is totally spot on.

  5. Rob83 says:

    It appears the powers that be have decided that the optimal way to renewal is yet another new administrative idea, to combine several parishes (seems to be about 4 to 6 on average) into some kind of new structure, combining programs, staff, and eventually overhauling the times for Mass and confessions to better space them out. The pessimist would compare this to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, the optimist to the slow demise of Sears, and the realist would be wondering why the elephant in the room – lack of priests – is not the top priority.

    That’s part of the demographic sinkhole oft-mentioned, as the diocese expects – without any other self-inflicted wounds – to lose 1/4 of its active priests in the next 8 years due to age, with another 1/4 of the current number to still be serving but in the Septuaginarian+ club. This is on top of a 2/3 decline in the number of active priests from 30 years ago. The kicker is the diocese actually has had ordinations, averaging 3+ per year the last decade.

  6. From your lips to God’s ears, as my Jewish friends would say about sincerely expressed wishes.

    Unfortunately, taking @Rob83’s last paragraph, the demographic sinkhole IS a reality and accelerating, at least in the diocese I’m in right now (name deleted to protect the innocent or guilty, depending…). There is a constant process to form “collective” parish structures (i.e. 3 church buildings with their own identity, but centrally administered that are the combination of 6 parishes that don’t even, with the reduced number of sanctuaries, have the combined number of people who were attending the 6 before it became 3.

    Throw in the plandemic of ’20-’22, and the ‘dispensation’ forced by the government dictates ‘for the common good’, and the rise of ‘streamed’ Masses…and backsides are not even coming back after they opened up the doors (some parishes ‘closed’ officially, but somehow the doors were left unlocked on Sunday mornings) when the civil masters and bureaucrats said it was ok (but, strangely enough, booze stores and convenience shops were immune…guess the bug didn’t exist in those places).

    More priests are retiring than are being ordained; men 2 or 3 years out of seminary are being named pastors; long forgotten is the day when a parish had a pastor and an associate or two to help. That can’t be good, and isn’t.

    So, in my view, it’s up to GOOD lay people to step up. Face to the front, push on. Not the normal chattering classes that seem to have settled in, but lay people with a purpose aligned with the Church. Get the training if you need it from reputable sources, help (or lead, with the pastor’s blessing) with RCIA, St. Vincent, Rosary Altar, cleaning the sanctuary, serving Mass, acting as a Reader. Talk UP the great things the parish is doing. Be part of the solution, and pray your son discerns a vocation to the priesthood. It’s too late for someone like me, but, the younger generation isn’t carrying the baggage of the late 60s-80s liturgical/pedagogical deformations, sketchy formators in seminary, and loosening of societal bounds.

    As someone a lot smarter than I observed: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

    And hold fast to the Rosary, Confession, faithful Masses, and Adoration. THAT will prove to be the catalyst to true renewal. We already know Who will win in the end…we just have to get out of His way and let Him work as He will.

  7. JGavin says:

    The difference between the optimist and the pessimist is the pessimist is better informed.
    Father , you are spot on with your observations. We have functionally become Protestants . I should say, my impression of most Protestants. I do not understand cutting the number of Masses. Many of the Masses have all of the sense of the Sacred of Mickey and Judy put on a show.

  8. JohnW says:

    Father Z, all of the items on your action list are practiced at my FSSP parish. We are so blessed to have our parish and I wish we could have had it forty years ago. I pray for vocations everyday so that everyone in our Catholic church will have traditional priest.

  9. BrionyB says:

    O God of battles! steel my soldiers’ hearts;
    Possess them not with fear; take from them now
    The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
    Pluck their hearts from them.
    Not today, O Lord, O, not today…

    [Henry V – IV,1]

  10. makreitzer says:

    At our Christmas party on Sunday (SSPX chapel Linden, VA) after New Year’s Mass, Father blessed wine. Next Sunday he will bless water and chalk and we were encouraged to bring vessels to carry the blessed water home. I look forward to the blessing of candles later in February. I keep a holy water font filled at my front door and use it frequently. As the SSPX expands, everything you look forward to, Fr. Z will happen or already is. I believe the SSPX is the yeast and the salt. May it expand the true, the good, and the beautiful and add flavor to 2023.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    Attending the high mass last Sunday at St. Mary Providence RI really brought home to my wife and I what we have been missing. Our home parish was making progress toward tradition under our previous pastor but the new priest for whom this is his first assignment as a pastor seems to be moving in the opposite direction, including the banning of singing the propers in Latin. I am torn between considering moving to a location where I can attend the TLM (or alternatively the Eastern Rite) vs. staying put and doing the best I can to fight for the liturgy as Brian talks about above.

  12. sjoseph371 says:

    I can see why you’d want those action items and hear you on your seemingly pessimistic view, [ummmm….] but I’ll offer you a bit of hoper, of all places, in New England – at least in my parish. In my NO parish (Our Lady of Hope), we have been blessed with holy pastors of late. The current pastor has brought back kneelers for those who choose to receive the Eucharist in the reverent manner (not a full communion rail, but hey, it’s at least a start), he has instituted the adoration of the Eucharist every Friday (not jus the 1st Fridays) and keeps the Church open in the evenings, reintroduced Latin and chants in parts of the NO Mass, and recently during the October Month for Life he organized a 24 Hours for Life Adoration of the Eucharist with every hour being filled with parishioners (my son and I took the graveyard 2 – 3 AM shift).

    I know it may not fulfill your full list, but it is at least a start in the right direction. For what it’s worth as well, in many of the NO Masses I’ve attended in the area at neighboring parishes I HAVE noticed an increase in the practice of women wearing their veils to Mass as well, so there’s that.

    Finally, I believe I e-mailed you about one of the most reverent NO parishes I’ve seen in New Hampshire – St Anne’s in Berlin. Here’s the link for all to see – from the absolute beauty of the church itself (you wouldn’t know it from the plain exterior) to how they describe the sacraments (they do STILL have and use their Communion Rail and highly encourage receiving the Eucharist on the tongue).
    PS. If you’d like pictures of the interior of the Church, I can e-mail them to you as well. I would put the beauty of the holy art of this church up against many of the medieval greats any day, IMHO.


  13. Rod Halvorsen says:

    “It takes a long time to change the direction of a very large ship.”

    I was handed that line in RCIA by “Conservatives” whenever I simply observed and commented on some radical, revolutionary change that had taken place in about 2 weeks after the radical and revolutionary change of the novus ordo was summarily dumped on Catholics back in 1970.

    It’s actually not true at all, provable by simply observing what stands as maybe the greatest conversion of a religious group to another religion in all of history, maybe even exceeding the conversion of Latin America TO the Catholic faith in the 16th century: the conversion of Catholics AWAY from the Catholic faith to pagan secular liberalism or (at best?) a syncretistic blending of some elements of Catholic faith with the world view, morality and practices of liberal Protestantism since Vatican 2.

    Another whopper I was handed in RCIA and have heard over and over since then is: “Catholics are poorly catechized”.

    Oh, no they are not!

    They have been amazingly catechized in all the ways you state above in your article beginning with, as you say, being taught week after week at Mass that the novus ordo and its entire system is optional and/or just another “denomination” existing under a “Big Tent” and aping Anglicanism with its virtual “pantheon” of optional beliefs and practices including but not limited to acceptance of so-called “gay marriage”, acceptance of abortion, acceptance of divorce, acceptance of universalism and the denial of any coherent version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    In short, the Catholic Church from 1965 to 1970 demonstrated in historical terms capable of a high velocity, almost instantaneous conversion to something else, something not Catholic, something foreign, something new. What took just a little more time was for a Pope to describe this new religion and that we have now in Francis and his “Different Synodal Church” sobriquet.

    For myself, I pray for a high velocity, almost instantaneous change in direction from the one headed for the cliff that we are on now and back to the straight and narrow.

    It’s possible.

    High velocity, almost instantaneous changes have happened before.

  14. anthtan says:

    Foster silence DURING mass as well. It’s in the rubrics. Just do it, please!

  15. L. says:

    It will be interesting– that is to say, horrifying– to see what is attempted now that Pope Benedict has died. I’m really tired of the “god of surprises,” though. I don’t know who he/she/they is, but I’m sure he’s an “anti-God.”

  16. L. says:

    But, Father, if we return to using the real confessionals, WHERE WILL WE KEEP THE BROOMS AND COLLECTION BASKETS?

  17. sjoseph371 says:

    OK – pessimist may have been a strong term now that I’ve re-read your post. . . but I still stand by the rest of my comments.


  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Rod Halvorsen wrote:

    “In short, the Catholic Church from 1965 to 1970 demonstrated in historical terms capable of a high velocity, almost instantaneous conversion to something else, something not Catholic, something foreign, something new.”

    In the Foundation trilogy, Issac Asimov has the psycho-historian, Hari Seldon, point out that the center of the galactic empire, Trantor, looked unassailable, but, if you looked through the lens of psycho-history, you could see it creaking, ready to collapse.

    The sudden shift of practice from 1965-1970 was prepared for by nearly fifty years of the slow, relentless machinations of a Nouvelle Theologie counterculture that existed along side traditional practice. They were always pushing forward, always resisting Thomism, always planning, even when they were shut out of the universities. By 1962, they had the revolutionary machinery in place. All they needed was cover fire. They got it from Vatican II.

    They way back could be just as dramatic, but many of the liberals of pre-Vatican II did not play fair and had an agenda – this is something Traditionalists will not do – play dirty. That is as it should be, but one should not be looking for a return to Tradition in practice only, anyways, since that will only create, in the long run, alternating liberal and conservative cycles.

    What one must want to do is to go on the offensive, as one would with any heresy (how could the Vatican declare Nouvelle Theologie a form of modernism, a heresy, in 1946, and then do an about face a decade later – this is the staggering contradiction on which the modern malaise in rests). In other words, just as the New Theologians took to journals and conferences to tout their ideas, only an equally vigorous refutation will set the seeds for its eventual demise. There are some analytical voices, today, trying to explain the errors in this form of theology, but there is nothing like the organization and the sheer rabid glee that drove the New Theologians to grasp every opportunity to put forth their doctrine. There is no organized underground movement of Tradition. There are traditional groups, to be sure, but by their very nature, they tend to be reserved.

    There are things even everyday Catholics can do. Prayer comes first. Then, study the liberal movement and its arguments. Do what Aquinas did – give them the benefit of their strongest arguments and see where they break down. One does not have to be a scholar to do this. One just needs to have a level-head. It was the arguments of the New Theologians that were never compellingly refuted that allowed them to fester and rise up at Vatican II. Those arguments need to be exposed and defeased.

    If I sound like a revolutionary, I do not mean to. I prefer to think of myself as a janitor – doing the cleaning that needs to be done so that this particular set of bad ideas no longer bothers the Church.

    The Chicken

  19. Sevens Dad says:

    “They way back could be just as dramatic, but many of the liberals of pre-Vatican II did not play fair and had an agenda – this is something Traditionalists will not do – play dirty. That is as it should be, but one should not be looking for a return to Tradition in practice only, anyways, since that will only create, in the long run, alternating liberal and conservative cycles.”

    This is spot on. Well said.

  20. One of the great graces I received in the Traditional Mass was the strong Catholic identity. We’re unapologetically distinct and different. One of the things I find deplorable in the Church nowadays is the appalling laxity of discipline. I heard a saying: “ A religion that doesn’t make demands on you, isn’t a religion worth practicing. “ One of the things I love in traditional Catholicism is the discipline and the demands the Faith imposes. Like Ember Days, vigil fasts, the Lenten fast of all weekdays. We need to bring more of that back into the Church at large.

  21. hwriggles4 says:

    I grew up going to 6 PM Saturday evening Vigil Mass where my brother and I were the defacto altar boys (late 1970s, early 1980s mostly). It wasn’t until years later I learned that the intent of Saturday evening Vigil Mass was primarily for those who had a hard time making Mass on Sunday, such as a nurse, police officer, caregiver, or if one is say leaving early for a trip on Sunday morning.

    While I wish more Catholics would learn this theory I have Catholic friends who regularly attend Saturday Vigil in part for convenience (the parish where my Knights of Columbus council meets has a good turnout for Saturday evening Mass in part due to the overcrowding of the 10:30 am Sunday morning Mass) and some groups have an activity after Saturday evening Mass. I sometimes go to Saturday Vigil but I prefer Sunday Mass. There are also some rural areas where Saturday Vigil is the only time a priest is available, particularly if he is covering a Church cluster.

    I do admit when I was a student at a Catholic college (mid to late 1980s) our school had a 10 PM Sunday Mass which I attended fairly regularly even though quite a few would find 10 PM a little extreme but it does work for several colleges.

    Here’s an observation: As someone who turned 50 a few years ago I recall that as a kid NONE of us would have sporting events scheduled on Sundays until at least 1 PM, which gave the majority a chance to attend Sunday services (Protestant churches are now having Saturday evening services). Nowadays, kids have soccer games at 9 am on Sunday and the shopping mall opens before 11 am. I hope people will wake up and realize that God is needed in our lives.

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