Wherein Fr. Z makes suggestions to young men thinking about seminary, seminarians, younger priests and the lay people who love them.

Dear readers, we have to get our heads into a place that will help us to maintain our cool and balance in a storm or wave of storms.

Mental and spiritual preparation before hand is needed.

It is possible – probable – that there will be another round of pogrom in the Church in the near future, in particular against traditionally minded-Catholics, lay and clergy alike.

It’s the people they want to crush even more than the rites.  They fear and despise the people.

From where I sit and from what I read and hear, we must stay cool.   We must stay cool and we must plan.

I’ve written here before about house chapels.  Enough about that.  You know what to do.  Get your things together.

I address myself to young men thinking about the seminary.   

I write also to seminarians and young priests and not so young alike.

I write to lay people who might be in a position to help in what I am about to suggest.

Gentlemen, it could be a good idea before the really bad times start to learn a trade.  I don’t know if this might entail night school or crash courses or whatever.

If you are not yet in seminary, but you are confident in a vocation to the priesthood and you are able to live a virtuous life in the state of grace for extended periods (a requisite), I will NOT say don’t approach a diocese or institute or society right away.  Far be it that I should thwart a true vocation.

I suggest that you consider how you might gain some concrete and marketable skill sets before you must dedicate yourself to formation.  Or acquire them along the way.  Will that be hard.  Oh yes.

Don’t be dreamy about this.  Consider plumbing, electrical work, technical positions, EMT, etc.  Be practical. (Learning Chinese might be practical too, if you think about it.)

Progroms against tradition and traditionally-minded Catholics strike at the heart of the Church herself.  The knock-on effects of these cruel measures, present and future, will only result in negative ripple-effects that accelerate the widening of the demographic sink hole into which swathes of Catholics are falling.

A dark scenario.  Yes.

A key to this is to stay cool and to plan.  Do not fret.  We are not without means and without creativity.  Slamming doors in the faces of those who love Tradition will result in the opening of windows in another part of the house.

Let no one freak out about this new slate of bad news.  We must stay calm and soldier on.

All analogies limp, but this is a good reminder: a scene in the movie Bridge of Spies.

This analogy breaks down in that the man on trial really is guilty of a crime and those who want to have traditional worship are not guilty of anything but reverence.   They are – as is more and more evident – far more sinned against than sinning.

Nevertheless the response from the Russian spy about “bosses” and about worrying seem apt in the Church today.  We have our “bosses” too, don’t we.

I have cited that movie clip before.  It’s a good reminder that freaking out and running around with your hair on fire because something might happen, even going to happen is not helpful.  We must stay frosty and focused.  If anything, ramp up your prayer life and mortifications.  Pray for those who have attacked you and will attack you again.

And, meanwhile, to those young men out there and to those who could be of help to them, think about acquiring a trade skill so that, when the dioceses collapse under the weight of modernism and secularism and wokism and just plain fecklessness, you will be able to make a living or be of help by working “in kind” for the wonderful lay people who will want to give you support.

Do I think that things will be this bad?  I don’t know.  But I know that you are better off prepared, than not.  And you will never regret having acquired those practical skills.

Finally, before any other shoe drops, for the love of all that is holy, do all that you can to augment the numbers of people frequenting the Traditional Latin Mass whenever and wherever it is celebrated.  Be inviting.  Coax, urge, cajole.  Smile and offer to ride.  It is very important that everyone sees that TLMs are well-attended and growing.  If you are not doing something, every week, to try to help this, then if something bad happens where you are, you had best not utter a word.  We are in this together and we need you.

If the pogrom doesn’t come?  GOOD.  You will have maintained your cool and have benefited in the meantime, spiritually and temporally, without having made foolish mistakes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Semper Paratus, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. tzabiega says:

    Great suggestions, Father Z. There is another reason to know a practical trade. I know a priest who used to be a construction worker who helped renovate a convent for a group of contemplative nuns and routinely has inspected and fixed problems with the houses of poor elderly parishioners whose homes he visited. The priests with accounting, engineering, business, or even medical not only have something to fall back on, but also have lifeskills that help them be better shepherds of their flocks. Though those who enter seminary after high school are often some of the best priests as well.

  2. hilltop says:

    Dear Father,
    First: Thank you for all you do.
    I am a layman. For some time now I have been considering HOW to ask a priest or priests if they will be willing to offer Holy TLM -in what I understand will involve some degree of disobedience to his Ordinary- in the event the TLM is suppressed / forced underground. Is it right and just to request such disobedience? Does that unjustly / sinfully present a near occasion of sin for the Priest?
    I will welcome your guidance on this and I sense that this is a question that many will have.
    In the mean time, I am readying the Upper Room.

    [It WILL come to this, I’m afraid. And there are going to be priests who have been cancelled because they will not accept cruel manifest laws of questionable validity. As to “how” to ask a priest to say Mass at your home, you might try, “Father, will you say Mass at our home?”]

  3. JonPatrick says:

    Another useful skill is to be able to sew. Our former pastor was very skilled at this and made his own vestments for celebrating the Traditional Mass instead of using the bland poncho chasubles favored for the NO. Plus if times get tough and/or we can no longer get our cheap clothes from the Asian sweatshops, it would be a marketable skill to be able to mend people’s clothes.

  4. Not says:

    Father Z, You hit on something right up my alley. I have been in construction over 45 years. Learned from My Dad. I am technically retired but the phone is still ringing. Construction jobs take time to develop your talent, which is good. I counsel young men learning the Trades. I tell them if you don’t know how to do something, ask. It means being humble. Saying the St. Joseph the Worker prayer every morning.

  5. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    In my opinion, traditional communities should also have support networks to help employ dumped off seminarians. I say “dumped off” because that is what many of them do. “Get out and good luck.” It’s pretty shameful if you ask me.

  6. sjoseph371 says:

    Take heart young men (AND women who want to enter the consecrated life as well), remember that even Jesus had a backup plan as a carpenter if the whole saving mankind thing fell through ;) – obviously I’m kidding, but point being that even the Son of God learned a trade as well.

  7. Lurker 59 says:

    1. Learn to fix your own stuff. This will often indicate what would be a good trade for you to learn.
    2. Aquire professional tools when you fix your stuff. You are saving lots of money by fixing things yourself, invest that savings in quality tools. The right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world.
    3. Learn to cook from scratch. Learn to bake, if you can. Being able to bake real bread might come in handy. Being able to trade prepared food is very advantageous.
    4. Learn a craft. This can be done instead of a trade or can be a helpful hobby. This can be anything artisan, higher skill level cooking/baking, musical instruments, or even coding. If you can make a thing, people will buy it or trade for it.

    The advice of Fr. Z’s post really has a lot to do with acquiring a more rounded life skill set. It is what education should be and was in this country prior to the focus on specialization that began after WWII which necessarily resulted in the US becoming a consumerist society (as people couldn’t do things, they became reliant on consuming industry’s products).

    Getting people to TLM is something that really needs to be done. People don’t know what they are missing and they will not know until you invite them. There is a strong impulse to mind one’s own business due to the conservative nature of TLMers — this really needs to be set aside in the case of religion. It is important to have the desire that other have the opportunity to worship God more perfectly. BUT be mindful and don’t invite people who seek to be offended and would rush off to the chancery with sundry reports.

  8. UbiCaritas says:

    Agree 100%, and I would add that no matter what your vocation, some practical knowledge of basic home/auto repair et all never hurt anyone. As a wife and mom, I have saved our family a lot of money over the years by repairing appliances or doing simple home plumbing and electrical repairs myself. Better still, of course, if you have more in-depth knowledge or an actual trade education, but no wife ever said “darn, I wish my husband didn’t know how to replace a leaky pipe,” and no mother superior ever said, “it’s too bad that Sister Mary Joseph fixed that issue we were having with the refectory lights so we didn’t have to call an electrician.” And as a poster above touched on, it’s a work of mercy to help those who need it with minor repairs.

    While it’s not the same as a thorough trade education, don’t underestimate the usefulness of YouTube repair videos. There are a lot of repair techs, plumbers, and so on who post very easy-to-follow videos on YT that will teach you not only how to fix a given problem, but in doing so will teach you something about the appliance or system at hand so that you gain confidence and knowledge and are better equipped to fix the next problem that comes along.

    Common sense still applies, of course: I won’t touch anything involving natural gas, turn off the electricity at the box and then still check for a current, know how to shut off the water to your home, etc. And if you do realize you’re over your head and need to call a tech…well, I’ve learned a lot by offering the guy a cup of coffee and a homebaked treat and asking him to explain what’s wrong with the thingummy so that I know more in the future. Most tradespeople enjoy what they do, virtually everyone enjoys talking about their pet field, and a little respect and courtesy go a long way, as do a hot cup of coffee and a cookie.

  9. Kathy T says:

    I passed this article to the group in my area. Every single request we have made from singing Vespers in the Church to a solid priest offering a reverent English NO and confession time on his day off—and other things at no expense to the parish and all are welcome—have been refused. The 30-40 laity who attend every Sunday (some daily) are now going underground. There are home chapels. Donations to the parish seem to be drying up—I no longer donate to it, giving to Catholics who need help. We are trying to protect the solid priest. I’ll be asking him next week what he needs and does he have some life skills. Trying to stay calm while walking away from the parish.

  10. donato2 says:

    The Synod of Synods may ultimately serve to fortify tradition by elucidating where the attack on tradition is coming from and the nature of that attack. We need some help though from bishops, from cardinals. None seems to be forthcoming. Never has my respect for the bishops declined to such a low level. I remember I used to wonder why some people complained so much about the bishops. Now I understand.

  11. codycarver says:

    A search for ” house chapels” returns a “forbidden” message. As I’ve been involved with something of this sort for over a year now, I’m interested in reading those posts. How can I access them?

  12. rperozich says:

    A man applies for seminary studies and must be accepted. A man petitions for ordination and must be called by the bishop. A priest can be canceled numerous ways these days, so yes, Fr. Z is right to recommend a skill to provide for oneself in this world. I practiced Physical Therapy for 14 years before ordination, and kept my license. Despite good grades and a chaste seminary life, my bishop held up a decision to ordain me. One of his successors told me my teaching was not Catholic, forbidding me to express Catholic truth in my bulletin against his worldly opinions. Get a skill, preferably a construction trade. Hold onto the license. It may be needed to survive in the Catholic church of today if you are faithful to the Truth.

  13. Also learn a trade in case you get cancelled.

  14. Gaetano says:

    A Protestant minister friend of mine is an electrician. It’s great job security for him.

    A CDL also opens up many opportunities, as does becoming a railroad worker. Indeed, there is huge demand in those professions precisely because the busy, but irregular, schedule is difficult for people with children.

  15. Robbie says:

    For the past few years, I’ve operated under the belief the next pope would rescind these meanspirited attacks on the TLM. TC opened a wound where none existed and the bishops never wanted this fight. Yet, they were forced to deal with it.

    However, I now wonder if that may not be the case. Would the next pope want to wade into the liturgical wars for a third straight papacy? Or might the next pope, even if he is viewed as a conservative, decide to leave this issue alone for a good long just to avoid acrimony?

    I fear we may have to go through another 30 or 40 year period of indecision and persecution before a pope is ready to tackle this issue. The makeup of the College and much of the episcopy around the world, sadly, aren’t favorable to the TLM.

    If only a time machine existed.

  16. Benedict Joseph says:

    At once agonizing, sobering and prudent counsel, Father.
    Such concern has been on my mind for a number of years, much more so these past few weeks as a fine young man from our parish is to be ordained this weekend within a religious order. It is as if we are sending him off to a bitter war, but there is no other choice than to follow his call from Christ. He is part of a conscientious community, Novus Ordo practice of course, but they are a good healthy crew. The years ahead will require intelligent men able to navigate a tight-rope. Pray for this nameless chap this Saturday. We couldn’t hope for a better man.

  17. MarianneF says:

    I hope this is allowed, Father…there is a gorgeous property in Shenandoah that was designed to be a self sustaining Catholic farm community. There are people living on the property and there is a gorgeous church and retreat area, along with other buildings that pertain to farming, woodworking, etc. Too much to discuss here, but I have known the owners for years and they are getting up there in age. Their health is not great, either. They have been looking for a religious order or Catholic apostolate to buy it or partner with them to care for it. It seems like a perfect opportunity for the traditional community to help relocate some of the cancelled sisters or other traditional orders of priests. If anyone knows of a group that is looking for holy and gorgeous property, would you let me know?

  18. Chiara says:

    Another thing to consider, regardless if a seminarian is TLM-minded or Novus Ordo, is business courses. I was appalled to learn my diocesan seminary, which is very faithful after having been cleansed of unfaithful influences by a late holy bishop, offers absolutely no business courses to the seminarians. Even a small parish requires some accounting and business skills just to do the paperwork, and many parishes cannot afford to hire an accountant or bookkeeper. Most seminarians can expect to become pastors at some point. And increasingly, they are asked to pastor more than one parish, as my own pastor does. Just something to keep in mind. I do not think it will be a waste of time and money to have some grounding in practical business courses.

  19. The Vicar says:

    St. Athanasius was exiled from his diocese several times. A mob of soldiers sought his arrest while he was celebrating Mass; he feigned injury and his clergy dragged him out of the packed church unseen by his potential captors.

    Pope Liberius was imprisoned and exiled.

    Saint John Chrysostom was exiled twice and died in exile.

    And that’s when Christianity was “legal”

    We’ve seen this drill before.

    Pray the rosary three times a day and don’t worry.

  20. summorumpontificum777 says:

    Is an all-out pogrom coming? It would seem so. The attitude of the roaches in power appears to be “Missa Latina delenda est.” It’s heartbreaking. I have homes in two different dioceses. In both, we have wonderful, well-attended TLMs in regular diocesan parish churches with the full support of the local bishops. From what I’m reading, though, it would be appear that my masses are on borrowed time. At the moment, assuming that this papacy has another year or more, it seems highly likely that the word will come from Rome to my bishops to shut down my masses. Best case is probably that we move out of the parish church and into the gymnasium/hall. Next best case is that we move into a some non-parish shrine-type church. After that, I suppose that the next option will be moving to some non-church site (e.g., community center, public park, private home). And, of course, worst case is no mass. Regardless, hell or high water, I won’t be bullied back into the Novus Ordo. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

  21. I’ve heard the rumor and I’m sorrowful at all this. As well as perplexed. I’ve only been a trad since December, 2021 and if God allows, I’ll live and die a traditional Catholic. I don’t ever want to go back to the Novus Ordo and neither do my sons.

    While waiting to see if the rumor comes true, I’m going to keep cool, continue to hear Mass at my FSSP parish and I’ll continue to offer Vespers in my 1961 Breviary for clergy, seminarians, religious, the good of the Church and the restoration of the traditional liturgy.

    Perhaps offering up fasting, the day’s Office and penance on Fridays for this rumor to be averted.

    The associate pastor said something really cool to us last year at Our Lady of Lourdes:

    “ Pray well, suffer well, don’t give in, don’t sell out! “

    Christus Vincit

  22. Fr. Reader says:

    Also, it it not for dificult to learn:
    * a bit of Latin. Duolingo might not be perfect, but I think it is very useful for basic Latin.
    * Excel and Word beyond basic level. I don’t use these commercial programs, but free equivalents.
    * how to frame paintings.
    * basic accountancy.
    * how to clean: metal objects and vestments.

  23. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear Robbie,

    well, if a formal rescinding is what you ask for… then my speculation is that this will be done on Judgment Day by our Lord Himself, but not a second earlier. Not that I wouldn’t be grateful if it were otherwise.

    If the question is whether the thing is quietly allowed to rot being ignored, things look more hopeful, and realistically hopeful at that. I was shocked when Traditionis custodes came out. After I’ve seen how it has been and is being ignored (granted I may be living in an island of the blessed) and the ones responsible for the motu-proprio with all the further things they do (though I hesitate to compare them to a good guy) start to look more and more like Colonel Stauffenberg in Valkyrie desperately pulling some string here and there, not yet admitting but hiddenly realizing that the plot has failed, what’s the use of further excitement?

    I do have threesuggestions, if ones from a layman be allowed:

    1. Get a robust conscience concerning obedience. Do not, of course, sin, but get used to anything short of that and get used to excuses and glossae the more preachy type of person will accuse you of selfishness for.

    As a training program – this is brainstorming and not a developed thesis of course, but considered as brainstorming I am serious -, at least for a couple of weeks cross streets on red light if noone is present. Do not stop at 4-way stops when you’re obviously the only one around; slow down to 3mph for safety if motorized maybe, but do not actually stop.

    2. If you intend to actually celebrate the Old Rite later as a priest, at least sometimes, and that while playing by the rules, then go to a society, institute, order that officially has that as part of their carism. Do not, if that is the case, go to a diocese. You will not get a dispensation; in fact you probably should not apply for one, either: it could be read (though incorrectly, and you wouldn’t be commiting a sin) as accepting the general rule, and more importantly you would possibly be somewhere blacklisted, and all that for nothing.

    3. As for learning a trade, well I will not discourage it, and it may actually help. But then, that is a secondary notion and the primary one is that it’s on God to provide; so in my view it is more important still to come mentally to terms with the fact that what He does provide might in this life be less than we had wished for (though often it is not, not even in this life).

    I know of a priest – he’s dead now, God rest his soul – whose conscience forbade him to give Communion-in-the-hand (a conclusion I think that, while from laudable motives, is not in this extreme correct, but that is immaterial here). He could not do pastoral work for 50 years, so he prayed a public Rosary with a group of faithful once a week instead. I do not say I could do it (but I’m a layman), but it can be done.

  25. Kentucky Gent says:

    Fr. Reader says:

    “Also, it it not for dificult to learn:
    * a bit of Latin. Duolingo might not be perfect, but I think it is very useful for basic Latin.”

    I started using Duolingo to learn Latin back in 2021. I did it daily for about a week, until I got to the lesson that promoted homosexual marriage. They wanted me to say something like “She has a wife” or some such. I don’t recall the exact wording.

    I quit that very instant, but never could find a good substitute elsewhere. Maybe Rosetta Stone?

  26. Kentucky Gent says:

    Father Z wrote “It’s the people they want to crush even more than the rites. They fear and despise the people.”

    Father, can you say who exactly are “they”? If not, no worries, but I am a bit ignorant on who (besides Pope Francis) wants to crush the old rites (and people).

  27. sjoseph371 says:

    Just as another tip – if you don’t have the time nor funds to actually learn a trade at a formal school, you can actually use the internet for GOOD (imagine that). I have no formal training in cooking, plumbing, small engine repair, nor automotive repairs, but I’ve saved thousands of dollars just by watching Youtube videos on how to do those things. I know this sounds so obvious, but even my tech savvy kids don’t even think of this option when they’re unsure how to do such tasks!

  28. daughteroflight says:

    Fathers, especially those who are pastors in suburban parishes, might I point out that many of your parish campuses have essentially enough wasted real estate to grow enough veg or raise enough chickens to replace your local food shelf? The ability to raise one’s own food is valuable knowledge but not easy to acquire without genuine practice. It can be as simple as growing a raised bed of tomatoes, or you can be super industrious and make it a parish charity project by involving parishioners and donating to the community (or having a streetside produce stand manned by your gawky teenagers fundraising for youth group). You gain a skill, you reduce your own grocery costs, you get healthier food, you can even scale up and give from your bounty. And weeding is great therapy for the soul.

  29. Gaetano says:

    I strongly advise seminarians & young religious to work regularly (even weekly) with Habitat for Humanity.

    You will learn how to build, repair & maintain houses while helping needy people into home ownership.

    You will work alongside the future owner, so there is a strong Personalist element (see Jacques Maritian, Cardinal Wyszy?ski and others) as well.

    Lastly, you will work with your hands & escape the seminary hothouse/asylum.

  30. Fr. Reader says:

    @Kentucky Gent

    I haven’t found in Duolingo anything suspicious of ideology. It might appear sooner or later.
    What I would do in such case is to give a wrong answer and “flag” it as “the answer should have been accepted,” and explain the reason (the reason being I don’t accept that definition of wife). The system would accept it as a correct answer and send feedback to those in charge.

  31. MrsBridge says:

    Best suggestions ever! Having a workman’s skill opens up amazing new ways to connect with other men. St. Paul, the tentmaker, knew what he was doing. To be a real “influencer,” go fix a car or paint a house with a kid. Or, of course, build a tent.

  32. Jones says:

    Oh my the disrespect the trades have gotten since I came of age. I even had my share of disagreements when I first met my husband since he does white collar work. I told him our son will not being going to college to just go and fall into the trap of crushing student loan debt like many in our cohort. I mean he’s only a toddler but I expect the Steubenville St. Joseph the Worker Trade school should be up and running with the kinks worked out of it by then. Off ya go kiddo.

  33. Fr. Marc says:

    You are quoting Ainsley Hayes: “you don’t like the people. Think about that!” (Y)

    [GMTA. And I know the series well. Ainsley, of course, was a breath of fresh air and her office was the inspiration for the nickname of my digs for some years. That trope, however, cuts through much of the B as in B, S as in S (to use a phrase of Soucheray), to bring into fuller view why these attacks are on. “Why are they attacking our Mass?!?” “They are really attacking you.”]

  34. Someone sent me this…

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