So much has been written about the renaissance underway in many dioceses and parishes across the country. With the increasing number of Tridentine Latin Masses that are offered, the newly ordained priests who bring orthodoxy and the Roman Canon to their parishes, and the renewed interest in our Catholic patrimony, the Church in the United States has great reasons for hope.
However, all of this can change with the swipe of a pen.
Before our family moved to our town from out of state, the multiple worship sites that make up our parish had languished in heterodoxy for twenty years. The priest had little interest in Church teaching or reverent liturgies, but golly, the people loved him. No fussy “Father” formality with Bob* the priest. He spoke freely in favor of contraception, universal salvation, and the “family meal” that is Mass. The newly deceased from the parish were added to the Litany of the Saints on All Saints’ Day each year. Confession was limited to 90 minutes per week across four worship sites.
Soon after our family moved into the parish, a new bishop was sent to our diocese. This bishop moved (Father) Bob to a new parish and assigned to our parish his best and brightest new priests. One of these newly ordained priests hired an organist who played beautiful Latin hymns. Both used the Roman Canon at Mass, cleaned the vessels with love, and taught the authentic Catholic faith from the pulpit. They offered more confession times, introduced Adoration multiple days per week, and brought in a Saturday Latin Mass. These welcome changes gave hope to the people of the parish who were thirsting for the Catholic faith.
During those four beautiful years with these priests, my sons learned to serve Mass in both forms. They learned reverence at the altar. They learned that priests are regular people who hike and play football and like fast cars. My sons talk about being priests themselves. As a parent, I was able to trust these priests to tell the truth to my children in confession. I trusted them to preach the Catholic faith from the pulpit. I trusted them to be good examples to my children. These priests exceeded all of my expectations. They are, without a doubt, worthy of my trust, and in these times of crisis, that is no small feat. It has been an amazing four years of spiritual growth for our whole family.
The most vocal people in the parish did not like them. They complained about the organist who played traditional hymns. They hated the Roman Canon because it adds minutes to the Mass. They hated waiting around for Father to “wash the dishes.” These vocal people complained, backstabbed, and slandered these priests who had given their lives to lead their flock to Heaven. It seemed that the loudest complainers did not like Catholicism, which is what these priests brought to our parish.
People began to leave. Perhaps these people were looking for the “church of nice” in the next county; they certainly did not seem to be looking for Catholicism. Meanwhile, those disgruntled people who stayed complained and did their best to sabotage these priests. It was devastating to watch.
Finally, it seemed that the complainers got their way. With the bishop’s June letters, these faithful priests were sent hours away across the diocese. Whether it was because of the complaints or because it was simply time for these priests to move on, I will never know. What I do know is that we have lost our Latin Mass, perhaps Adoration, and definitely our no-option Novus Ordo Mass where only the Roman Canon was used. My family is heartbroken, especially my sons. They looked up to these men and have formed bonds that I hope they never lose.
I’m sure the new priests who are coming to our parish will be nice. I’m sure they’ll be friendly. I’m sure they will give what they perceive as their very best to our parishes. But I’m also sure they’ll use Eucharistic Prayer II and clean the vessels with a lick and a prayer. They’ll wear regular clothes and go by Father First Name. How do I know this? Because for my whole life until four years ago, that was all I had ever encountered as a Catholic. Our parish’s new priests do not know the Latin Mass, and with four churches in their charge, I don’t know whether they will have time to learn it if they want to. I do not know whether I can trust them in the confessional to share the truths of our Catholic faith with my children. I do not know if I will have to undo the damage of a heretical homily in the car on the way home from Mass.
Despite these unknowns, our family will be kind to these new priests. We will love them and be supportive of the positive things they do. However, I fear that the bishop has abandoned us to the land of liturgical options. After four years of seeing the very best ars celebrandi and enjoying consistency at every Mass, I do not know how I can go back.
Because we are in a rural area, the closest Latin Mass is now nearly two hours away. We have few options apart from moving, and our family business is here.
But just as I write this letter expressing my sadness, others in the diocese should rejoice at their new bastion of orthodoxy. The two priests who left us are in close geographical proximity with one another, and in their area, a weekly Latin Mass will soon begin. These young priests will drive vocations in their new parishes. If you are one of their lucky parishioners, be grateful. Thank God for these priests, and take good care of them. Pray for them. Enjoy every moment. Because it can all change with the swipe of a pen.
Editor’s note: This article comes to 1P5 from an anonymous Catholic.