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Specialized ProfessionIamA Roman Catholic priest. AMAA!

Aug 24th 2017 by fr-josh • 72 Questions • 302 Points

I'm a Roman Catholic priest here in the US. I've been a priest for over five years and I've been on reddit for quite a while. I believe with the Church and I love being a priest.

This is my somewhat annual AMA. I'm happy to talk about what it's like to be a priest and other priest-specific questions, especially with some background music. If you want to know what we Catholics believe about something, then I suggest that you try /r/Catholicism or Catholic Answers or the Vatican's website. If you need more music, then have this going and see how it goes.

With all that said, AMAA!

edit- I don't usually have caffeine but I had some soda to be alert for this AMA. If my answers get crazy it's because I feel like I'm jumping out of my skin. Ha!

second edit- I'm going to go grab some lunch soon. Be back a bit later. Oh, and, I'm a diocesan priest, not in a religious order. I usually mention that but I forgot it earlier.

3rd edit- I'm back, baby. I'll be answering questions periodically for the rest of the day as I'm available. God Bless and I'm praying for you.

fourth- I'm mostly done. I'll still answer comments periodically and I'm sorry if I missed anyone's. My inbox is being funny.

Q:

Is there anything in Scripture (or in the deposit of faith more broadly) that you interpret in a way that challenges your faith?

A:

Absolutely. I'm challenged by the call to holiness and sanctity every day. I'm not good enough and I'm not perfect at cooperating with God's grace. I experience concupiscence and I'm a sinner.


Q:

I'm not sure if you responded to the wrong comment -- surely you don't mean that being intellectually challenged by difficult historical or theological issues is just a (by)product of sin?

[Edit:] Ah never mind, I see how you interpreted my question. But yeah, my question was intended to refer to some of the more intellectually-based historical and theological issues (in Scripture or philosophically) -- not whether you find, say, celibacy or other aspects of your vocation difficult.

A:

I believe with the Church. What I had questions about I had answered long before becoming a priest, mostly. Since then it has been challenges in being a better priest and son of God and pastor of my parish.


Q:

One of the things I had in mind here is when there's an unresolved theological issue in the Church.

Obviously in this case, I don't think it'd even be meaningful to say that you believe with the Church, if it's unclear precisely what the Church's stance on the issue is (or if it even has one) in the first place.

So I guess with that in mind, are there any unresolved theological issues that you could foresee posing a challenge to the legitimacy of (your) Catholic faith?

A:

I don't know of many unresolved theological issues. What in particular are you interested in? Because usually there's a sense of the Church and I go with that.


Q:

Well, to the extent that Church is in some degree of dialogue with outside academic disciplines, and (again to some degree) navigates its own internal theological subjects in light of these, there are any number of extremely important issues in which there are any number of uncertainties and unresolved problems.

The coherence of orthodox Christology has been a really big topic in analytic theology for a few years now. (I'm currently working on a canon on Christ's omniscience from the Second Council of Constantinople.)

The issue of the contours of the Catholic theology on Biblical inspiration/inerrancy has been one of the most neglected and/or problematic issues of recent years. Although many Catholic theologians have affirmed the traditional position of inerrancy, there's very little understanding of how exactly this works, much less how it relates to current work in academic Biblical studies -- which obviously veers about as far away from inerrancy as you can imagine. Not to mention the issue of the viability of patristic exegesis and how it relates to modern criticism.

On that note, there are interpretive issues around the Hebrew Bible that touch on a variety of disciplines or problems, from issues of historicity and hermeneutics to the problem of evil and divine plurality and impassibility. For the New Testament, there are also debated issues of historicity, Christology, and in particular eschatology (as the mainstream academic theological world starts to more widely embrace the notion of the earliest Christianity as a failed apocalyptic movement).

The issue of salvation in Catholicism and the relationship here to other denominations religions -- in light of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and so on -- continues to be a debated topic.

Scholars like A. Edward Siecienski have done some very important historical and theological work especially on historic Catholic-E. Orthodox relations recently: cf. his recent The Papacy and the Orthodox and his monograph on the filioque.

There have been several very important recent publications (or, really, lines of research in general) that could significantly affect our approach to Trinitarian metaphysics, like the work of Dale Tuggy and R. T. Mullins' book on divine timelessness.

Metaphysics more generally -- you know, constituent ontology, realism and nominalism, substance dualism, etc. -- will always be big in analytic philosophy and theology; and there are any number of intersections with Catholic theology (and Christian theology more broadly) here, from (obviously) the divine nature itself to transubstantiation, and pneumatology and philosophy of mind.

Or course, as I kinda hinted at earlier, there are any number of issues that might have received a lot of attention in the secular academy, but have been neglected in terms of Catholic theological work. I think often times academic Catholic theology can be fixated just on whatever's sociopolitically sexy at the current moment.

That's just to pull the first few things that come to mind. I'm sure we could come up with dozens if not hundreds if we spent a little bit more time thinking about it.

A:

Gotcha. I'm in the new school of theology right now (those who back up Sacred Tradition as well as how things are traditionally explained) even though I was trained in the post-Vatican II school of theology (largely established and codified in the 70's and 80's). I see the value of disciplines like historical critical analyses of Scripture and spiritual interpretations, too, especially when I prepare homilies.

I'm not much of a theologian because I'm a pastor and primarily focused on that. I'm not current enough in theology (I've given in to the temptation of not reading much theology after ordination) to have conflicts in my faith. You may want to engage the more scholarly types at /r/Catholicism.

Thanks for the questions!


Q:

What's a typical weekday look like for you?

A:

The Mass time varies, but usually it's Mass and appointments and meetings that are scheduled around that Mass. Sometimes a devotional is going on (like adoration) and sometimes it's my day off.

Typically I get up and get ready for the day. Usually that's with Mass starting, but sometimes my day starts with working out. Occasionally I have errands to run and other normal things that I have to take care of. Thankfully there isn't much paperwork, but I have to get it done during the week because on Sunday my time is all about Mass and seeing people that I haven't encountered all week.


Q:

(Hopefully) future priest here! How much 'time off' do you have in a week?

A:

Typically one full day a week and some other time here and there. Usually my afternoons are light because people are in school or working and make appointments and meetings for evenings and weekends.

And good luck with your discernment!


Q:

Do you celebrate Mass daily? If so, is it always with a congregation or do you celebrate privately? How does one even celebrate Mass privately? Just make the responses themselves? Hahaha!

A:

Do you celebrate Mass daily?

Usually!

If so, is it always with a congregation or do you celebrate privately?

I rarely celebrate Mass privately. So, with my congregation.

How does one even celebrate Mass privately? Just make the responses themselves? Hahaha!

Ha! I'll do some of the responses. I'll skip the homily and make the intercessions really short and do a bunch of it sub-vocalized (as much as possible). So, it typically takes only 15-20 minutes.


Q:

Or turn the snow to wine and drink themselves to church

A:

That sounds like a plan right there.


Q:

What do you think of the dubia questions? Why do you think the holy father won't make a firm statement one way or another?

A:

I haven't looked into the dubia questions too much. I think that it's important to remain firm on "no communion for remarried people" and to make sure that the world's bishops don't try to deviate from that.

I'm not sure about the pope's motivations. I try to leave that sort of thing to him because I don't know him extremely well.


Q:

My question is somewhat related. My mom (a devote Catholic) finally divorced my abusive father, and has been trying to get an annulment so she can move on with her life and remarry when she finds someone. She's been trying to make this happen for years now, and the Church seems to be making it more and more difficult as the process progresses. Seeing her being f'ed over by the Church after devoting her life to it has pissed me off to the point of not wanting to be Catholic anymore. Do you have any suggestions on how to stay faithful, when the Church has caused my family so much pain?

A:

She's been trying to make this happen for years now, and the Church seems to be making it more and more difficult as the process progresses.

Has she completed all the paperwork? How long has it been since she turned in the paperwork? It can take up to 24 months for the decision to come. They should only require the paperwork (and for witnesses to send their documents in). And lots of places don't require money for it.

Do you have any suggestions on how to stay faithful, when the Church has caused my family so much pain?

I would encourage you to look to the truth of the Faith and Our Lord and not the broken instruments present in the Church. It is quite easy to see how sinful the members of the Church are (myself definitely included) and this can lead to disillusionment, for sure. I would go back to whatever led you to greater belief and depth in your faith and dive back into that. I would also seek other ways to deepen your faith despite.

You also may want to talk to your priest and tell him about all of this and how it's affecting your faith and your family.


Q:

I assume that you have friends that you would hang out with like any other person. How do you incorporate that into a busy schedule as a priest?

A:

I do have friends! Shocking, right?

I incorporate it by being intentional and going to see them. I don't do it as often as I would like, but it helps chatting with them on facebook and talking on the phone on occasion. I also try to hang out with parishioners and that helps immensely, too.

My seminary was clear on the emotional health that friends bring and how we can't be shut-ins as priests. I totally agree with them.


Q:

Cool. Thanks father josh!

A:

You're welcome!


Q:

Someone once told me that following Jesus more closely and increasing their devotion/love for Him leads them to more loneliness and suffering in their life (which I don't doubt - i.e. Mother Teresa). They, therefore, don't want that and want to be an "average" Catholic; one who doesn't miss mass on Sundays, goes to confession once a month, and tries to live a better life, while understanding that living an "average" life still entails some suffering.

What would you say to this person?

A:

Someone once told me that following Jesus more closely and increasing their devotion/love for Him leads them to more loneliness and suffering in their life (which I don't doubt - i.e. Mother Teresa).

I haven't found that. I've found more authentic and deep friendships since I've focused on being as Catholic as I can be. And Mother Teresa was surrounded by loving people, even if she underwent a dark night of the soul. There certainly will be suffering, but that happens regardless of who you are.

They, therefore, don't want that and want to be an "average" Catholic; one who doesn't miss mass on Sundays, goes to confession once a month, and tries to live a better life, while understanding that living an "average" life still entails some suffering.

We are called to be saints! We are not called to be mediocre. Now, for some people, those "averages" would be the epitome of a normal, devout person. I would say to look at the Bible where God calls us to do far more than the minimum with His help. We'll wish we had before long, that's for sure.


Q:

Great - thank you!!

A:

You're welcome.


Q:

Do you disagree with me on any contentious issues? I need to know so I know if I should get mad for no reason.

A:

I think that your hairstyle is weird and that your skinny jeans are the worst. Are those contentious? Because they're definitely issues.


Q:

I was raised Lutheran and Catholic, confirmed in both churches, but I have become an atheist over the last two decades or so. That said, I had an experience I could not explain and chalked it up to an "acid flashback" or something to do with the use of hallucinogens in college.

However, it finally got the best of me and I approached a local Catholic church on the matter to get some perspective from a priest. Instead, I was shuttled into a room where some secretarial-type female tried to sell me on the young adult Bible study group...

Is this how the Church typically deals with spiritual issues? Or, should I find myself another priest in another parish and try making contact again?

While I am basically now a non-believer, I haven't been unable to shake the feeling that I should alert someone who does believe in saints in an official capacity so as to know that at least I tried to tell someone. Clear conscience and all that.

It's not like I'm a schizophrenic or have mental illness, but if you guys believe in angels and Satan and demon possession and whatnot, you'd think you'd also have some interest when an apparition appears to someone in the shower and says, "______."

Right?

Just typing this makes me feel insane...

A:

Is this how the Church typically deals with spiritual issues? Or, should I find myself another priest in another parish and try making contact again?

Try again, for sure. Get an appointment with the priest, not just see the secretary. People are weird and sometimes think that they know better than you what's going on in your life and what you need.

As for the vision, maybe write an email to the local bishop?


Q:

However, it finally got the best of me and I approached a local Catholic church on the matter to get some perspective from a priest. Instead, I was shuttled into a room where some secretarial-type female tried to sell me on the young adult Bible study group...

If I may say something: priests tend to be busier than ministers of other Christian communions. This means, first, you really should be prepared for them to be unavailable if you show up at the rectory without an appointment; and second, even when they are available, parish secretaries are likely to think they are "helping Father" by insulating him from all these people with immortal souls who want to talk to him. By all means, call ahead and try again. :-)

A:

^


Q:

Are you really sworn to secrecy when hearing confessions, even if the sin being confessed is highly illegal?

Extreme example, but let's say that a serial killer comes in and confesses the murders everyone has been talking about that have been happening in your local area. Are you not allowed to tell authorities about this person they are looking for?

A:

Are you really sworn to secrecy when hearing confessions, even if the sin being confessed is highly illegal?

Absolutely. Nothing that's said at confession may every be tied to an individual by the priest. You can talk about what you said in confession, but I cannot.

Extreme example, but let's say that a serial killer comes in and confesses the murders everyone has been talking about that have been happening in your local area. Are you not allowed to tell authorities about this person they are looking for?

This has happened before. And, no, there are no exceptions for confession- every sinner gets to keep his conscience between him and God, even if we tell him that he should turn himself in and that he definitely has to make reparations some way (and turning yourself in is the only way that I can see).

Have you seen the Hitchcock move "I confess?" Check it out.


Q:

Do you ever try to convert people?

If so, has it ever worked?

A:

I've never gotten on a soap box and yelled at people as they went by, but I've spoken with people (friends included) and tried to lead them to the Lord.


Q:

Has it ever worked?

I was under the impression that people usually don't join a religion, they are born into one. I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

A:

I've had friends tell me that I helped them to convert. Mostly people stay in their religion, but lots join the Catholic Church every year. We have whole programs for them and they're in most parishes.


Q:

Do you wear the cassock and zucchetto 24/7 ? If not, why not? I would! :)

A:

Well, one has to bathe some time.


Q:

What made you join reddit?

A:

I actually know /u/spez a little and heard about it not long after he founded the site. I stay here for /r/Catholicism and cat pictures.


Q:

Huh, the more you know!

Also, you might have a condition known as Cat-holicism.

A:

meow


Q:

Verified

A:

Thank you!


Q:

How do you balance being pastoral and meeting people where they are, with affirming the Truth, especially regarding difficult emotional issues?

And also, do you prefer pancakes or waffles?

A:

How do you balance being pastoral and meeting people where they are, with affirming the Truth, especially regarding difficult emotional issues?

It's really difficult. It's a fine line to walk and there's always the temptation to go to either extreme: denounce things and fly off the handle when someone does something wrong or allow everything and never say that something is wrong.

Much of it hinges on what a person will hear at the moment and in the future (and relying on the Holy Spirit). Some people will totally and categorically reject and condemnation of their actions and see it as a personal attack. So, you have to show them Church teaching and lead them to seeing how their action was incorrect for themselves. That's best done in private, like any fraternal correction.

Some people need to be called out in public, even if it's anonymously (like talking about what the Church says on social issues and abortion in a homily). Sometimes we get it wrong and people are offended- we have to be ready for that and we pastors aren't always good at living with possibly offending folks.

And also, do you prefer pancakes or waffles?

A bad waffle is still better than a bad pancake.


Q:

What biblical book or story would you say is in the most pressing need of adaptation as a major motion picture?

Follow-up question: why is it Maccabees?

A:

What biblical book or story would you say is in the most pressing need of adaptation as a major motion picture?

Probably not the one with children being eaten alive by bears because of insulting a prophet. Maybe Acts would be best- lots going on and it's really Catholic.

Follow-up question: why is it Maccabees?

Because it would mess with people who decided to omit it from their bibles and it has lots of fighting.


Q:

I feel like Maccabees is a pretty solid historical story even for those who don't include it in the Bible.

A:

It's also great remnant theology.


Q:

Do priests ever tell rude jokes to each other when no one else is around?

A:

Some do. One priest in particular that I know can make anyone blush. It's embarrassing.

I try not to because I used to be really awful about that. I do like to poke fun at people inside of and outside of the Church, though, and they would probably find some of those jokes rude.


Q:

Do you think the TLM has a place in the majority of parishes or should it be relegated to a small number of churches in orders such as FSSP? Are most priests capable of celebrating a TLM or do they have to train for it?

A:

Do you think the TLM has a place in the majority of parishes or should it be relegated to a small number of churches in orders such as FSSP?

I don't know about most parishes. More parishes? Definitely. Kept to a few orders? Absolutely not. A lot of diocesan priests can say it and more young priests are learning than in recent decades.

Are most priests capable of celebrating a TLM or do they have to train for it?

No, you have to be trained. Most seminaries don't have it as a requirement as far as I know. You learn it on your own from folks. I, for one, don't know it and I graduated from seminary.


Q:

The most important question for Catholics: What's your poison, Father?

Also, what's your favorite devotion? Any in particular you would recommend for the laity? Besides the rosary, which is kind of a given.

What's the most random thing you've been asked to bless?

What do you priests think of Catholics who kneel to receive the sacrament during Novus Ordo? Are they weird?

What do you think of the Jesuits and their secret plans for world domination?

A:

What's your poison, Father?

Currently it's craft beer.

Also, what's your favorite devotion?

I'm a huge fan of St. Anthony. I recommend him all the time, for sure.

What's the most random thing you've been asked to bless?

I have some good ones and I'm blanking. I've had the usual (cars, medals, houses, food) plus some neat devotions, like bread at Easter.

What do you priests think of Catholics who kneel to receive the sacrament during Novus Ordo? Are they weird?

I don't mind. I usually think that it's their devotion and that they're more interested in following God than the norm. I think that's great, even if I don't kneel when I'm in the congregation for a Mass.

What do you think of the Jesuits and their secret plans for world domination?

We reptoids keep our secrets to ourselves.


Q:

Were you raised Roman Catholic or did you join the religion later in life?

A:

I was raised Catholic but I got serious about it by my senior year of high school. That's also when I started seriously discerning the priesthood.


Q:

father where is good place to look for somewhere online the explain book of revelation i just read it for the first time need someone to explain it?

A:

I have a great book for you and you should be able to get it from the library (on inter-library loan, at least): it's this book and this talk gives a synopsis of it.


Q:

Was natural tonsuring a sign that you were called to the priesthood?

A:

I'm not that bald! And I had more hair at ordination. Now there's less because of PEOPLE LIKE YOU, MISTER!


Q:

What's the hardest part of being a priest?

A:

Seeing people suffer and not being able to do things about it. That's the hardest part of my parish life. There are people who go through immense pain (loss of a loved one, cancer in their own lives, etc) and it often leaves me feeling a little useless. Also, being a guy, I want to fix everything and sometimes you just have to listen and show support. That took a long time to learn.

Thankfully, our faith helps enormously in so many cases and I then get the beauty of leading them through a loved one's funeral and helping with the grieving process. That's one of my favorite parts of being a priest- helping someone through a difficult part of their life (with God helping much, much more) to a better place than they were.


Q:

Follow up for someone discerning: how emotional do you get about the loss of a parishioner, and is more beneficial for the priest to mourn with his flock or to be more stoic?

A:

It depends on the person and the day. Sometimes I'm calm about it (it has happened many times before and often to people who have lived good, long lives) and sometimes I'm torn up. I usually try to be calm for the liturgies but I occasionally tear up at eulogies at the grave side.


Q:

Catholic here. What do you personally believe the Catholic Church needs to do in order to combat a recent fall in Church attendance, particularly in younger generations?

A:

Go to our roots of who we are and live the Truth. Be self-sacrificing and everything that the saints are and not try to appease the world (in the biblical sense of "the world").

Authentic Catholicism is countercultural and young people are drawn to that authentic witness. They're not usually drawn to what 60-70 year olds think young people like.


Q:

What does prayer actually do? If I pray for a sick relative to get better, does God say "Hey, good idea, wish granted!" or how does intercessory stuff like that work? It seems like prayer is just meditation dressed up to look like communicating with a supernatural entity, and doesn't change anything but the mindset/attitude of the person doing the praying.

A:

What does prayer actually do?

Prayer is communication with God. It's all about that conversation with Him and growing closer to Him, much like the communication between spouses: sometimes it's verbal, sometimes it's formal, and sometimes it's informal. All of it is important and sometimes it helps other people- but every time it helps the person praying.

If I pray for a sick relative to get better, does God say "Hey, good idea, wish granted!" or how does intercessory stuff like that work?

God is not an ATM. Also, this is going into general knowledge areas that I mentioned that in the OP text.

It seems like prayer is just meditation

Actually, we have a tradition of Catholic meditation and it's ancient in our Church.

and doesn't change anything but the mindset/attitude of the person doing the praying.

Miracles have happened and I've known a bunch of people helped by prayer in my own life and I'm far from the only one.


Q:

God is not an ATM.

I checked the FAQ thing and it says that prayer is way of aligning your desires with God's.

That's exactly what I mean. When you pray to intercede for someone you are actually coming to accept whatever outcome transpires, not trying to influence the outcome. That sounds like one-way communication at best. It actually sounds exactly like "living in the now" and "accepting your circumstances" which are both essential elements in tons of religions, but those don't call it a communion with God. They frame it as reflection meant to change your own attitude about circumstances you cannot control. But if you squint they look like the exact same thing which is why I wonder why a god-figure has to be in the picture.

A:

Did you see the parts about intercessory prayer and it having an effect in this life and in others' lives?


Q:

What do you think the main theme of the Bible is?

And, secondly, why do you believe that you must report your sins to a priest? Aren't we saved by His grace, not man? (1 Timothy 2:5)

I do apologize if that sounds aggressive; it's not my intent. Just not sure how else I could word that. I'm a Christian and I have very recently been perplexed with Catholicism and why they operate as they do.

A:

What do you think the main theme of the Bible is?

Depends on the book. Some groups of books kind of have themes (like prophets), but each book is its own work. The gospels, for instance, are oriented towards different audiences.

Overall the best thing that I could say is to come to belief in God, but it has to be in the context of the Church or it's just another religious book.

And, secondly, why do you believe that you must report your sins to a priest?

This is a general knowledge question that I mentioned in the OP text. And we Catholics believe in God's grace saving us.

Check out what we believe from our sources! Often times other folks get it wrong.


Q:

What was your discernment like?

How does parish life differ from seminary life?

How big is the parish you are currently at?

How well did seminary prepare you for parish priesthood?

Have you ever encountered someone you thought was possessed or targeted by a demon? If so, what was that like?

Are you able to pray the ex form Mass?

Where is your favorite place to go on retreat at?

A:

What was your discernment like?

Like working in an elevator. It had its up's and down's.

How does parish life differ from seminary life?

There's a much different community to it. You don't have people looking over your shoulder in the same way and you don't have mandatory prayer in the same way. Plus, you're in a leadership position as the priest and not just another student.

How big is the parish you are currently at?

Small for my diocese, but not the smallest.

How well did seminary prepare you for parish priesthood?

Very well for the sacraments, but not great for administration. Pretty well for some counseling and things, but definitely not everything. They said that we would learn as associate pastors before becoming pastors and I did, but not enough. I made mistakes and still do!

Have you ever encountered someone you thought was possessed or targeted by a demon? If so, what was that like?

I've had people bothered by demonic forces come talk to me before. I helped them as best I'm able. It scares me, for sure, but it's a healthy fear in my opinion.

Are you able to pray the ex form Mass?

No, I can't do the EF.

Where is your favorite place to go on retreat at?

Places that are free, of course!


Q:

If you ever want to learn to say the EF, I can get you the resources in like, 4.3 seconds. I'll even include the foamcore elephant needed for a proper epiclesis.

A:

Oh, I know where I could learn it. I have to find the time and motivation and then get my buddy to teach me when he has the time. I have a lot on my plate right now and I've only gone to the EF a handful of times.

And what are you talking about with the elephant? Ha!


Q:

Oh, you don't know about the elephant?

Modernist scum.

A:

I've been called worse by better people. (jk)


Q:

father do you ever think TLM will ever become main mass again?

A:

That I don't know. It kind of is in some areas (apparently it's what a ton of the weekly Mass goers do in France, for instance) but I don't see it taking over universally any time soon.


Q:

Do you only work Saturdays and Sundays?

A:

Only when I've been drunk all week.


Q:

Are you honestly allowed to get drunk? Or were you joking?

A:

No, getting drunk is a sin. But we are allowed to drink in moderation (and smoke cigarrettes! woo!). I actually don't drink much and I don't smoke at all. Except when I'm wearing that new clerical collar. I'm like Jim Carrey from the Mask with that bad boy.


Q:

Is there a list of sins? Like honestly how do people know? Everything seems so arbitrary. And isn't smoking way worse for you than occasionally getting drunk?

A:

It's the judgement being impaired that's the problem, not the health effects (although personally I don't know what moderation with cigarettes would be). You aren't yourself when you're drunk- you make decisions that you normally wouldn't if you were sober.

And there just so happens to be a list!


Q:

What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

A:

Love God and love your neighbor. Demonstrate that love of God by following the Commandments and what the Church teaches.


Q:

What would you say to someone who is say... less than 16 years old who is considering the priesthood?

Also, if it's not too much: What do you think of young FSSP "madtrads"? I instant message some of them almost daily and a lot of them are very prideful. Almost as if they need a spiritual director. There are a lot of crazy people on the internet, and it doesn't help that there's so much negative content like VaticanCatholic videos that may influence such youth.

A:

I would tell him to pray a lot and find good friends who lead him towards God and His Church. I would tell him to pick a really good school for college so that his faith is enhanced, not lost.

I would also tell him to hang out with priests and seminarians (at the parish and on retreats and maybe on service project trips) to get to know them and see what priests are like as well as those seriously studying to be priests are like.

Being involved with the sacraments and one's faith are key and necessary and a huge part of what we priests do. I would also, before his senior year, have him talk to the diocese or religious order that he's most interested in. They may even have discernment retreats available to him now.


Q:

Have you noticed demographic patterns of ethnicity changing your church? For example, I live in Toronto, and when I was growing up, churches were mostly Italian and Irish; now there's a lot more Filipinos, for example, particularly among the clergy.

A:

I have! We don't have many Irish priests any more (we used to have a few from Ireland itself) and we have more foreign born priests. In the parishes themselves we have more Filipinos, too, as well as more Hispanic people. Part of it is national trends and part of it is my region of the country (mid-Atlantic region).

Other parts of the country are very different from a couple of decades ago and I think that this can be good for us Catholics. We don't want ethnic churches again (segregated by Irish/Italian/Polish/what have you) and it's fun to have a melting pot. As long as people get along and don't bring too many foibles with them.


Q:

Do priests ever feel the need to learn additional languages to better serve their parishoners? Does the Church pay for any language training or do anything to help in this regard, or are priests on their own when trying to pick up additional skills?

A:

Do priests ever feel the need to learn additional languages to better serve their parishoners?

Yes, absolutely. I met a Vietnamese priest in California who learned Italian for seminary in Rome, Spanish for parishioners at home, and then had another upcoming because of a different need at his parish. That was impressive.

Does the Church pay for any language training or do anything to help in this regard, or are priests on their own when trying to pick up additional skills?

Sometimes! They should pay if they're giving you a ministry to do. Many dioceses pay for men to spend a summer studying Spanish in Texas or Mexico. Sometimes there are classes during seminary, especially in bi-lingual dioceses.

Most everything depends on the diocese because each one does things slightly differently.


Q:

Bishop Barron has mentioned that he's taking Spanish classes now that he's an auxiliary bishop for a lot of Spanish-speakers.

A:

Good for him! Great example.


Q:

How do you get promoted up the ranks in priesthood to like the cardinal/bishop level? Is there a competitiveness among priests to move up in rank?

A:

There is no sure way. The nuncio usually submits names to the pope and he chooses them. Some priests compete, but they're usually the types that shouldn't be bishops.


Q:

What is your opinion of acceptance of gay people? Should they be denied any sacraments?

A:

No one can be denied the sacraments for being gay. I know gay priests and they administer the sacraments, not just receive them.

I have had gay parishioners (and probably do at the moment) and I accept them the same as everyone else. I usually don't even known until they mention it to me.


Q:

As a gay catholic, I think fear has kept me away from the church more than anything. Especially living in as conservative a place as I do.

A:

I would encourage you to make an appointment with your local priest and talk to him about things. It's a great time to go to confession and be ready for Mass on Sunday.

Plus, there are groups for gay Catholics to offer support and be as Catholic as possible.


Q:

What are prayers and devotions every young man/college student should be doing to help them be secure in their identity, understanding in their vocation, and geared to find a spouse?

A:

Each person has different devotions that are attractive to him. I usually encourage finding a great group of friends that lead you to God and His Church. Finding a parish that supports that really helps and will help with your vocation and, often enough, finding a wife.

Lots of guys like service project and mission trips and, if they're done with the right group, they can be an enormous help with growing in the Faith and discerning one's vocation.

As to understanding one's vocation, I think that I go into a little depth in another reply here.


Q:

What is it like being celibate?

A:

It has its joys and sufferings. I'm pretty used to it now and I wasn't a wild man before ordination, so I'm content with it. It really helps me to be a priest for all the people at my parish.


Q:

Is mayonnaise a musical instrument?

A:

Does the pope beat up heretics in the woods?


Q:

Where is your favorite place that you have been able to celebrate Mass at?

Also, what's liturgy of the hours like for a parish priest?

A:

Where is your favorite place that you have been able to celebrate Mass at?

A tiny chapel ad orientem for some friends before going to the airport. It was great.


Q:

Does it concern you that the first thing that comes to mind of many people when the words "Catholic Priest" is mentioned is "pederast"? Is there any reason the Church doesn't move more aggressively to halt the many incidents?

A:

No, because I've been a priest since after the 2001 scandals really hit here in the US. I've done a lot of research and I've seen the programs that the Church has instituted as well as what the Church here in the US has decided.

We're actually one of the groups that children are the safest around. We're extensively screened before ordination and everyone keeps an eye on us afterwards, too.


Q:

I notice that the site talks about prompt response and disciplining offenders, but nothing about reporting incidents to authorities.

I also know of a priest in Amherst mass who complained to the hierarchy about a problematic priest and nothing was done. Finally, he resorted to approaching local authorities and the result was that the complaining priest was transferred.

How do you reconcile things like that and continued cover ups with the coatings l claims on the virtus site?

A:

I notice that the site talks about prompt response and disciplining offenders, but nothing about reporting incidents to authorities.

We're absolutely taught that when we're trained (and outside of training). I think that another reply to this same comment goes into more depth.

How do you reconcile things like that and continued cover ups with the coatings l claims on the virtus site?

Awful things have happened in the past and people need to be held accountable for them. We're largely doing so and we need to keep doing so. We need to be perfect in this area.


Q:

Are you allowed to masturbate? Did you ever broke a vow?

A:

I'm not allowed to sin and masturbation is a sin.

I didn't take any vows. We diocesan priests make solemn promises.


Q:

I think we should invite all Christians who believe in the authenticity of the Blessed Sacrament to receive it. It's more about Communion than division, is it not? What do you think?

A:

I believe with the Church as I stated in the OP text. I take the Bible seriously when it talks about receiving the Eucharist unworthily and how important the Eucharist is.


Q:

So i've been asking this question on a few of the faith subreddits, and it's been really productive and i've got a ton of interesting answers so figured i'd repost it here (apologies if you've seen it already)

At what age should a child be allowed to make the decision to stop going to church themselves (if they have decided they no longer believe in God)?

I would've assumed confirmation age, as this was my experience wheb declining to take that sacrament. This was a suprisingly uncommon answer though!

A:

At what age should a child be allowed to make the decision to stop going to church themselves (if they have decided they no longer believe in God)?

18, in my opinion, although I don't have children myself. The same age that they can decide about school and living on their own.

I would've assumed confirmation age, as this was my experience wheb declining to take that sacrament. This was a suprisingly uncommon answer though!

I think that it's okay to decline to take the sacrament then, but not okay to stop going to Church. You may want to postpone having the Holy Spirit stirred up within you, but you should still go to Church as long as you're under your parents' roof. And it's fine to go to Mass and not go up for the Eucharist because of personal beliefs/lack of beliefs.

I see it at least on the same level as education and nutrition and the like, but for the soul.


Q:

If you could learn and celebrate the Liturgy of any other Rite of the Church besides your own, which would it be and why?

A:

Ruthenian, for sure, because I like their chant better than any other Eastern Church's. Stuff like this blows me away.


Q:

What led you in your discernment to become a diocesan priest instead of a religious?

A:

I prayed about it and looked at both and God indicated that I should go with diocesan. One time in adoration in particular I went through and did a pro's and con's of both and diocesan won out.


Q:

What would you say to someone who wanted to reach out to other Catholics, perhaps be able to offer a challenge to how people view faith in our society? Within the bounds of Church teaching, of course. It seems in most parishes I've been in only priests and deacons are able to do that sort of thing and laypeople are expected to focus evangelization efforts entirely on those outside.

Edit: I would add a lot of what I would want to talk about especially concerns women and women's experiences. While I greatly appreciate the work of our priests and deacons, I think there's something to being a woman in the world that they simply can't see in the same way.

A:

What would you say to someone who wanted to reach out to other Catholics, perhaps be able to offer a challenge to how people view faith in our society?

I would encourage them to do so and to do so well. Facebook can be a good medium for this but I've also seen it go hilariously wrong. /r/Catholicism is more preaching to the choir but it can go okay on other subreddits. I've even had it go decently well here in the past.

It seems in most parishes I've been in only priests and deacons are able to do that sort of thing and laypeople are expected to focus evangelization efforts entirely on those outside.

Good point. I know that there are missionary lay people and perhaps you could take a similar approach. Or, you could do a "missionary at home" type thing and call people on to greater holiness in your week to week interactions at the Church and such. It's an interesting topic, for sure.

Edit: I would add a lot of what I would want to talk about especially concerns women and women's experiences. While I greatly appreciate the work of our priests and deacons, I think there's something to being a woman in the world that they simply can't see in the same way.

A women's bible study might be a good beginning or perhaps an already existing women's group. Going on retreat with them and helping to run the retreat (and maybe giving talks) might work well.


Q:

Do you think it's right that Christ is still on the cross in your congregations? Should baptism be done when the person becomes conscience of their decisions and not forced upon as a helpless baby? Thank you for your time in answering all our questions. God bless you on the race your running

A:

Do you think it's right that Christ is still on the cross in your congregations?

Yes! We preach Christ crucified, after all. And it's through the Crucifixion that we arrive at the Resurrection.

Should baptism be done when the person becomes conscience of their decisions and not forced upon as a helpless baby?

The Church has always practiced infant baptism so I think that it's fine to do today. I don't think that the baby being helpless has much to do with anything. It's about like forcing a child to eat dinner and sleep at night and go to school and at least as essential (the Faith is, that is).

God Bless you, too!


Q:

Hi Father, thanks for doing this. As a Catholic college student who found his way back to the Faith after many awkward angsty years, I've started to notice that my family has turned away from God quite a bit. My family doesn't go to Mass anymore, and my teenage brothers do and say things that hint at their loss of faith, much the same as I did when I was their age. They have trouble with the concept of the Catholic Church being the true church, the sex abuse scandal, the "boringness" of the mass, etc. What scares me the most is that my father is exhibiting some of the same signs. He makes excuses for not going to Mass, he takes communion after skipping weeks of Mass, and he doesn't really talk about God much anymore.

I feel I'm being called to bring my family home, but I don't know where to start. I've tried inviting them to Mass at my college parish. Masses there are much more reverent than our home parish, which I think contributes to the problem. Our home parish has gotten considerably less "Catholic feeling" over the years, getting lazy with the liturgy and such.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what can I do to get my family interested in the Catholic faith again?

A:

Hello!

I feel I'm being called to bring my family home, but I don't know where to start.

I would encourage you to ask over at /r/Catholicism. They have people in the same boat, for sure, and more time that I do at present to help you with ideas and such. The best thing that you can immediately do is to pray for them. The next best thing is to live the faith as best you're able (with God's help). Giving that great witness to your family is a great way to go.

After that, it depends on your family. Some people are open to you initiating talk of the Faith with them and some are not. Some will ask you after they've seen you living the Faith with joy.


Q:

I have a friend who recently became a Jesuit priest. I follow him on Facebook and through his many posts on doctrine I've been learning a lot about my Catholic faith. Even though I've grown up in it, I have to say I'm not a very good Catholic and am just now understanding the reasoning behind many of the rules. And to be honest it has me thinking about becoming Episcopalian. The main reasoning is because I don't think the primary purpose for women is to have children. It seems like that is what Catholicism focuses on telling women to do, and that's it. The other issue is homosexuality, which I'm guessing is a sin because sex outside of marriage is bad, and marriage is only for reproduction, which means homosexuality will never fit into the way the church is set up. (Simplified but you get the gist)

So my question actually is, how do you address these types of concerns people have? Are you seeing them more often? And I would love to discuss them more with my friend, but I'm a little nervous to tell him I've pretty much decided to jump off the Catholic boat. Any advice on how to approach him? I feel like I've almost let him down.

A:

It's neat that you have a friend who is a priest.

The main reasoning is because I don't think the primary purpose for women is to have children.

Neither do I! That would also be impossible for nuns and religious sisters, so neither does the Church. I think that your primary purpose is to love God and your neighbor, just like Jesus said about how to live (as well as do as He asks, especially as explained by the Church).

It seems like that is what Catholicism focuses on telling women to do, and that's it.

To be fair, we tell everyone what to do.

The other issue is homosexuality, which I'm guessing is a sin because sex outside of marriage is bad, and marriage is only for reproduction, which means homosexuality will never fit into the way the church is set up.

We think that marriage is for the enrichment of the spouses and about kids, too. Sex itself is meant to be "unitive and procreative"- for the couple to love each other more and be open to kids. There's no requirement that you have a million kids and that's good news for couples experiencing infertility.

So my question actually is, how do you address these types of concerns people have?

With compassion and empathy and actual Church teaching. Some people go full countercultural mode and decide to bring back incorrect things from before Vatican II. I think that it's best to show what the Church says and why and help people through differences that may come up, especially in areas like gay marriages and civil unions.

Any advice on how to approach him? I feel like I've almost let him down.

Bring up what I've said (in person, if you can) and be measured in how you talk about it. Ask about people that these posts don't seem to pertain to and how God has been speaking to you in your life.

It may be exacerbated by the fact that he's a young Jesuit. Many of the older ones are far from the Church's teachings and that would make anyone reactionary.

I hope that helps!


Q:

This is more about Protestant churches, but what are your thoughts on music in church or using music as worship, and more specifically- instrumental worship?

He commands us to sing and tells us that whatever we do, we should do in worship of Him, so I'm not sure how the line gets drawn for folks. Thanks, man!

A:

but what are your thoughts on music in church or using music as worship, and more specifically- instrumental worship?

I like some better than others. I was raised on modern worship (GIA publications book and Marty Haugen) to the point of being overexposed to it, so I prefer more traditional things or really new things (the best Catholic praise and worship). I go for traditional during Mass, but I like praise and worship in the right settings, like some adoration.


Q:

First of all thanks for having this AMA.

I am not a Christian so I want your help in verifying few things:-

1) I love history, but when I read about Christianity I noticed that there was a group who did not believe in the Trinity and believed in 1 god. They even believed that Jesus is a normal man. I assume this is related to First Council of Nicaea.

2) I also noticed that throughout history Christianity has changed. I mean some rules apply while others are considered somewhat "outdated". Is this normal? I mean the ones who change it are humans no? If that's the case then doesn't this interfere with what God actually intended?

3) Is believing the Jesus the way to heavens? If I am not mistaken Muslims believe in Jesus so does this mean they are also going to heaven?

4) Finally if Jesus died for our sins then aren't we clear from our sins? I mean I heard that the ones that killed Jesus are also going to heaven because of that (I will try to find the link of the person who said that, if needed)

Thanks

A:

You're welcome!

These are general knowledge questions that I mentioned in the OP text. Go ahead and see what I said there (and the links that I've given in this thread).

After that, go ahead and ask about what you're still unclear about and I can help.


Q:

Have you ever personally experienced a miracle? Preferably something unique, like the miraculous lactation experienced by Saint Bernard?

A:

Have you ever personally experienced a miracle?

Yes, but I haven't experienced anyone lactating during it.