"You aim at a devout life, dear Philothea, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty," says St. Francis de Sales in his book "Introduction to the Devout Life".
And we can all be Philotheas, as St. Francis notes: "I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God."
The Diocese of Baker: "We Are Searching for a Priest to Say the EF Mass"
I have received a copy of an email sent by the Vicar
General of the Diocese of Baker in response to a request for an EF Mass in the
Bend, Oregon area.
Here it is, in its entirety:
Fr. Rick Fischer, Vicar General
My name is Father Rick Fischer
and I am the Vicar General for the Diocese of Baker. I am also pastor to a
parish 130 miles from the Chancery office, and I am also the Vocation Director
for the Diocese. I am also the Administrator to two other churches. I tell you
this, not to be pretentious but to give you an idea of the work load that is
already on most of our priests. We are searching for a priest to say the traditional
Latin Mass. We are a very small rural diocese. Bend is by far the largest city
in the diocese. Most parishes are small remote parishes. I spend a great deal
of time just finding priests to say mass in all of the parishes. Just in the
last year we have brought 7 priests from India, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria to man
parishes. The diocese of Baker is only 6% Catholic.
These are not excuses, but I
hope they bring to light the immensity of our problem. We are in desperate need
of Priests who can speak Spanish. Please know that Bishop Cary has a great love
for the traditional mass and has stated that if he had time to learn how to
celebrate it properly, he would like to do so. But when you are the bishop of
66,000 square miles, you don't have much free time.
I hope and pray that in the
future we will be able to provide the TLM. I noticed on your link to ecclesiadei
[sic]that many of these groups are
either on the east coast or the Midwest, and not near to Oregon at all.
Please pray for our diocese
that we may be blest with more priests.
God Bless you,
Very Rev. Richard O. Fischer V
Sounds so very reasonable, doesn’t it? Yes…and no…
Fr. Fischer makes the point that the Diocese of Baker is very
large geographically and very small numerically (in terms of parishioners). I
think it is difficult for people in the Eastern US to understand the distances
that our priests have to travel on a weekend. Many of them have a parish church
along with 1, 2, or even 3 “mission” churches that must be served. Many of them
say at least one Mass in Spanish each weekend.
It’s tough, yes.
On the other hand, of the 40 or so priests currently active
in the diocese, there are six who
are able to say the EF Mass. The Bishop, as the Vicar General notes above, is
also able to say it. There are also several priests (I can think of at least three) who are interested in learning
the EF Mass. And as the Vicar General notes, many foreign priests are brought
into this diocese, to the extent that quite a large percentage – 50%? I’m not
sure – are not US citizens and do not speak English as their first language.
So, if it is true that “we are searching for a priest to say
the traditional Latin Mass” then it appears
to me that “we” are not searching very hard. If the diocese is making the
choice to bring in priests from other countries, why not add “is able to say
the EF Mass” to the list of “job requirements”? Or at least, “knows Latin”?!
After all, canon law states quite plainly that seminarians are required to
learn Latin, right? Right…so how come so few priests seem to have any
experience with that language? When Bishop Skylstad was here, he installed a pastor in Bend who was notorious for having sent out an email to a great number of people saying that he hated Latin! So...I just don't think he was too amenable to the EF Mass, but what do I know? Who am I to judge? And of course that was a different administration; and that pastor has been dismissed from the Bend parish. But still... I'm just sayin...
A couple of years ago, there was a monthly EF Mass in Bend at the “historic” church, complete with organ and Gregorian chant. That came to an end due to administrative action taken by then-Apostolic Administrator Bishop William S. Skylstad. After the priest who had been saying that EF Mass was made “unavailable”, two other priests who were able to say the EF Mass were transferred from the Bend area to more remote areas of the diocese. So…Bend, the largest city in the diocese, with the most people desiring the EF Mass, was left without a priest to say the EF Mass, even though the EF Mass had been established and was attended by a “stable group” of people. But what do I know of the inner workings of the chancery office? Who knows what lurks in the minds of diocesan administrators? Who am I to judge? I'm just sayin...
And then there was the up-and-coming seminarian for our diocese who
was tradition-minded and knew how to serve the EF Mass. When he was due to
become a deacon, he suddenly became not-a-seminarian for our diocese (though he
is still a seminarian in another diocese). I know nothing of the details or the
reasons. I’m just sayin’…
Oh sure, the laity can’t possibly know the hard decisions
the administration has to make, and why priests are assigned and dismissed,
etc. But after a while, you just start to get a little suspicious. The lay
Catholic faithful really are not stupid.
My point is that there are
priests in this diocese who are able to say the EF Mass, or who are willing to
learn it. But it is not a priority for the bishop or the Vicar General to have
it made more widely available, or to encourage priests to learn it.
I’d like to address one more point, which is sort of
peripheral. It’s about language difficulties:
Some of the priests of the Diocese of Baker with Bishop Cary (center).
Fr. Fischer, in his letter above, notes that “we are in
desperate need of priests who can speak Spanish”. No one ever denies this. In
the Archdiocese of Portland, they are probably in desperate need of priests who
can speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and a multitude of other languages. Did
anyone ever hear that the official language of the Church is Latin?!?
I am not discounting the desire and need of non-English-speaking
people to have a priest who can understand them. But I’ll tell you this: if I
were going to live in a country where my
native language was not spoken, I would not expect to be catered to in that
regard. I would expect to learn the basics of the language of the culture to
which I was moving. Even if I were simply traveling overseas for a couple of
weeks, I would not assume that people should know English so that they could assist
Here’s an alternative solution to the problem: Since there
are so many more parishioners than priests, perhaps a new “ministry” could be
started in which English-speaking parishioners teach English-as-a-second-language
to the non-English speakers. That seems a very charitable thing to do, since
the non-English speakers have to deal with English in many (most) areas of
their lives in the US. I don’t think I’ve
ever seen a parish that has such a ministry listed in their directory, though.
Yeah, I know, that is NOT the politically correct solution.
But if you apply a little logic, it makes a lot of sense.
And this thought also occurs to me: Fr. Fischer is bringing
in foreign priests to fill the gap in the Diocese of Baker, and he also states
that we need Spanish-speaking priests. So he is bringing in priests from India,
Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. “Mexico” is strikingly absent from that list…I have no
idea why; I’m just sayin’.
Of course, some of our foreign priests do speak Spanish. They
also speak English. Now, I appreciate that they have come to our diocese to
help us with our need for priests, and I appreciate that they know how to speak
multiple languages (God bless them!!). But let’s be realistic: there is a “language
barrier” for many native English-speakers who have difficulty understanding the
English of a foreign-born priest.
Everyone knows this is true! Is it any less true for native Spanish
speakers trying to understand Spanish spoken with a Nigerian, Indian, or
Once, I listened to an African priest give a wonderful,
impassioned homily against abortion and abortion-promoting politicians.
Afterwards, I overheard another parishioner commenting, “He sure was excited
about what he was talking about. I don’t know what he was saying…I wish I did,
because he sure was excited about it!”
I'm just sayin’...
So…the Diocese of Baker is “searching for a priest to say
the traditional Latin Mass”. And who can also speak Spanish.
If you know of such a priest, send him to Fr. Fischer!