A Mass that Looks Like A Mass in a Church that Looks Like a Church




As I have said many times, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a reverent Novus Ordo Mass. There is also nothing wrong with a three-legged ballerina, but how often do you see one?

People who live up north, in cities with large Catholic populations, tell me that they don't have a problem finding a reverent N.O. Mass. That's great for them. But should it be the case that your ability to find a reverent Mass has everything to do with where you live?

I'm a convert and this is my 29th year as a Catholic. I have lived the bulk of those years in Los Angeles and Orlando. Both are places where a reverent N.O. Mass cannot be found. Trust me, I have put a lot of miles on cars in an effort to find, as I always said, "A Mass that looks like a Mass in a church that looks like a church."

St. James Cathedral in Orlando can be counted on for a reverent Mass, but there were years where it couldn't be counted on for a priest that anyone could understand. We gave up on it because our son was young and we were afraid he would be bored, plus we wanted him to be able to understand the homilies and learn from them. The Cathedral now has excellent priests and their Mass is a reverent as a N.O. Mass can be. We would be going to Mass there, had we not found a home elsewhere.

Our oldest kids were raised at a big fancy parish in the wealthiest area of Orlando. As they were growing up, we had a priest who liked to throw a lot of ad lib into the Eucharistic prayer, which drove me nuts. It was all very happy-clappy and, as is the case with most modern N.O. parishes, there was no pressure on anyone to do anything. God was cool with whatever.  Our oldest kids learned nothing about the faith.  I remember one night we asked our son Brian where he was going and he said, "Religious Ed, otherwise known as bowling." So yes, I think there's a cause and effect thing there.

Yes, we tried to teach them what the Church teaches and why it was important, but we are SO out-numbered by teachers who were making secular humanists out of them. This is why it is important for the Church to teach the faith. Otherwise, Catholicism just looks like some kind of lunacy that their parents cooked up. We got a lot of "no one believes what you guys believe." And the Church was not putting up any argument with that.

The following things happened to us while we were members there: (1) a priest made the congregation sing "Jesus Christ is Coming to Town." (2) a different priest made us sing "If You're Happy and You Know It." The entire thing. (3) a third priest made us turn to the person next to us and say, "Hello, Sweet Pumpkin." (3) yet another priest used to sing songs he had written in the middle of the homily, and tell us where we could get his CD's. (4) another priest, who was the pastor at the time, introduced -- at the end of Mass, so right after communion -- a teenage girl with long, stringy blonde hair, who came to the front with her acoustic guitar and sang a song about the security code to the Adoration chapel, to the tune of "Sunshine on My Shoulders." (Yes, we went through a lot of priests. Each one worse than the one before.) We put up with all of this for years because it was the church closest to our house, which was my only hope of getting there on time. My husband is a lovely man, but they don't call him "the late Chris Walker" for nothing.)

There was no praying to be had at the swanky modern parish. Before Mass, everyone talked to keep from being bored. Lots of conversations about which section of the parking lot had been the most crowded, lunch or dinner plans (depending on with Mass we went to), and a LOT of talk about kids' sports. During communion, the choir (which came with drums and a cowbell) sang loudly. Depending on the Mass, the music was either taken from "praise and worship" Christian radio or the St. Louis Jesuits. I would wake up on Sunday mornings knowing that Mass was going to make me furious and dreading going to church. This went on for years.

Full disclosure: my husband and I liked going to 5 pm Mass because we are night owls and retired (sort of) and don't like getting up early. That was "youth Mass." ( Can I just say there is a reason Jesus didn't choose 12 adolescents?) Our son loved the Mass because all of his friends were there, and because he became very active in the youth ministry. So we continued to put up with it because of him. We rarely heard anything heretical from the pulpit, and when we did, we pointed it out to him. We were blessed with two years of an incredibly good and reverent associate pastor. But the bishop found out that the associate pastor was holding extra nights for Adoration and sometimes -- egads -- saying Mass Ad Orietum for the teenagers. The teenagers both loved and requested it, but this could not stand. The good priest got shipped off to the outskirts of town and the bishop installed his favorite priest in his place. That priest had only been ordained for a couple of years, but he became pastor in record time. And he is Fr. Happy-Clappy on steroids.

Our son graduated from high school and went off to college. We kept going to the same Mass out of habit (and because we could sleep in.) But Fr. Happy-Clappy was dropping in a lot of things that were against Church teaching. Even though we knew better and we were no longer in charge of impressionable young minds, it bothered us. More than that, the lack of reverence was really weighing on us -- perhaps convicting us -- and one Sunday we hit the point where we just couldn't take another minute of it.

We toyed with the idea of going to the TLM parish one town over, but in an effort to give Mass in English one more shot, we decided to try the Anglican Ordinariate. I knew exactly one thing about the Anglican Ordinariate parish: they were the only Catholic Church in Orlando that did not close their doors during Covid. We figured that was a very good sign.

And so we walked through the doors of Incarnation Catholic Church and were greeted by the smell of incense and candle wax. The church was full and everyone was on their knees, praying. NO ONE was talking. The men were dressed in suits and the women were wearing dresses and prayer veils. It was like we had gone through a portal and ended up in the early 1960's. My husband said it was just like the Mass he had served as an altar boy.

We have now been there for over a year. I wake up on Sunday mornings thrilled that it's Sunday. I leave the Mass feeling like I am ready for whatever the world wants to throw at me. It has been a great year because our spirits have been fed and our priorities are straight. (By now God must be really tired of hearing me thank him for answering my prayer: Mass that looks like Mass in a church that looks like a church.) We are finally able to worship with people who pay God the respect He deserves!

The priest at Incarnation is Fr. "Doc" Holiday. He is a former Marine and a former cop. He used to be on the Orlando SWAT team. And Fr. Holiday -- as the kids say -- he don't play. Don't get me wrong. He has a great sense of humor and his homilies are highly entertaining. But he is not there to "accompany" us. He is there to set us straight.

You will be hearing about all of this in the blog's future. My husband and I feel like we have found an oasis where we can ride out the storm. (That is, until Pope Francis has finished destroying the TLM and turns his attention to the Ordinariate, lest any reverence for God remain on the planet.) Yeah, I've got some things to say about the so-called Holy Father, too.

As I discovered the last time I tried blogging, writing about the Church is like putting a "Kick Me" sign around your neck. Actually, these days, it's more like a "Cancel Me" or even a "Kill Me" sign around your neck. (George Neumayr reported that he got a lot of death threats.) The difference between last time and this time is that I'm old now. What one loses in physical ability is made up for in the freedom of not giving a damn what anyone thinks of you. I wouldn't be young again if you paid me. So kick me, cancel me, kill me, whatever. There's a lot to be said for martyrdom, either white or red. That's one way I could make up for my misspent youth.

The Church is in horrible shape. Someone has to stand up for Her. I volunteer as tribute.

I'm Back, Sort Of...

Woman-checking-water-swimming-pool-260nw-1653387460I would like to re-join the blogging world, but I am approaching it like I approach a cold pool. I'll put a foot in and see how it feels. Once the foot is not freezing, I'll put my leg in up to the knee. You get the picture.

I just spent a little over two years writing a book for Ignatius Press. The working title is "The Sound of Silence" and it is a memoir of my friendship with Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, of happy memory. The book is full of emails that passed between us and we both did love a good rant, so I should have a lot of ranting out of my system, but it doesn't work that way. I won't live long enough to have all of the ranting out of my system. St. John the Baptist did a lot of ranting. For that matter, so did Jesus.

There is plenty to rant about these days. The world is a cesspool and the Church doesn't seem to be much better. Many of the things that I loved are now gone from the world: manners, logic, and a love for the Truth. I used to say that we were living in a post-Truth society, but we have now reached the point where we are living in an anti-truth society. The things that used to comfort me are gone: book stores are gone, movies are all horrible, and now the president is coming for my gas stove. These are not hard times. These are INSANE times. We have a president who hates the country and a pope who hates Catholicism. How is a normal person to live in times such as these? That is what I'm working my way through right now. I wish I could go back in time, but no one has invented a time machine yet. (To my knowledge.) 

Flannery O'Connor said it perfectly in Wiseblood: "“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.” I have been finding ways to get away from it. I will be blogging about those in the days to come.


Fr. Mankowski Talks About Flannery O'Connor

First, the book news: I am on schedule to finish a draft before Christmas. I will then go to work polishing it, inserting footnotes, etc. and I will be submitting it to Ignatius Press (and thanking them for their patience!) in mid January. (Unless God knows something that I don't.) I am happy with how it has turned out, but just as in television, when you turn in the first draft, that's when the REAL work begins.

(The "I'll turn it in before Thanksgiving" didn't happen because, as fate would have it, I received a motherlode of new material that very week, so I got an extension to go through the new stuff and insert what I wanted to use into the book.)

Meanwhile, I just stumbled upon this wonderful video of Fr. Mankowski giving a talk on Flannery O'Connor at SLU in 2019. It is called "Flannery O'Connor: Hillbilly Thomist." Enjoy it and happy Advent!

(Embedding the video did not work, so you will have to cut and paste. It is well worth the effort.)


I have almost finished the first draft of my book about Fr. Mankowski. The working title is "The Sound of Silence," and I have not been able to come up with a title that I like better. It tells you what I'm about to tell you, which, for my money, is what a title should do.

In Nascar terms, I have completed the 4th turn and I'm headed for the checkered flag. Even then, I'll have a lot of work to do before someone hands me a trophy. But I spent a good two years listening to the demonic voice in my head that said, on a loop, "there's no book here." I have at least managed to shut that voice up.

I have promised Ignatius Press that they'll have a draft before Thanksgiving, and they will. In other news, I sold a mini-series that I have been trying to sell for 22 years. It is called "Iñigo" and it is about the unsaintly years of St. Ignatius. Knights and princesses, a lot of sword fights, and a dwarf who is based on an actual person who, like St. Ignatius, was a ward of court treasurer Juan Velasquez. It was bought by Zebra Producciones, the company that made the El Cid mini-series. It will be in English for global release, and so far it looks like the distribution rights will go to Amazon.

I have several other projects that look very much like they will sell. It cracks me up that my career is peaking in my golden years. That is exactly what I would have requested, had I been given a vote.

Stay tuned...

Weighing In

I am closing in on the first draft of the book about Fr. Mankowski. I have two research trips left to make and two chapters left to right. Then, as all professional writers know, the REAL work will commence.

It took me a year to be able to really write about it. I spent that year doing research and organizing my notes. I am finally at the point where I can write about my friendship with Paul without feeling any crippling pain. I have almost hit the point where the writing is cathartic.

Paul died at the height of COVID hysteria. As life has slowly returned to normal, so have I. The country is insane, the world is insane, and I no longer have a best friend who can tell me what this week's gospel REALLY said. But life is still good. I just keep going.

Long time no update. Sorry. I have been insanely busy. Aside from working on the book and college professing, I've been... Frankly, I don't know what I have been doing. One project that had to be tackled after another, the latest being 2021 taxes. Writers' brains were not made for spreadsheets, so it takes me months to get everything ready for the CPA.

I am creating two new courses for Regent. One is a course on Dialogue that I have been teaching for a couple of years, and now a lot of time-sucking formalities have to be completed so it can become a permanent course. I am also creating a course on Plot Structure. I haven't taught plot by itself and it really needs its own course. It is too important to be studied along with other aspects of screenwriting. It's like telling someone who wants to build a house that they need an architect's blueprint and some cabinet nobs.

Work on the book has been slow and excruciating. I thought the work would be cathartic, and it will be, someday. But getting through it is agonizing because everything I write makes me miss Paul even more. And getting through life without his perspective is hard. His satirical emails made the insanity of the world so much more bearable.

I spent months trying to wrestle the structure of the book into submission. After untold hours of thinking about it, I concluded that, above all else, this is a book about the importance of truth. The truth of Paul's story needs to be told. This is my opening quote, borrowed from the transcripts of hearings on the Chernobyl disaster:

"Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid." -- Valery Legasov

The lies told about Paul incurred a debt to the truth. The Jesuits are not likely to pay back that debt, so I'm going to do it for them.

I'm in Facebook jail, and I am incapable of shutting up for fourteen hours, so I'm over here.

Fr. James Altman has just been fired by his bishop. The guest priest at Fr. Altman's parish read a statement from the (cowardly) bishop to the congregation, and then immediately started extolling the virtues of silence. "Silence" covered up sex abuse for five decades, so it ought to have no problem with one little parish priest and his fans.

If you're reading this blog, I probably don't have to tell you what St. Catherine of Siena said about silence, and I'm with her. Especially in this age of cancel culture.

When I gave the publisher (Ignatius Press) the title of my book about Paul Mankowski, I was lukewarm about it and thought of it as a place holder. Now, I think it's a good title for a book that is going to have a larger audience that I'd originally thought.

My title is "The Sound of Silence." Yes, Fr. Altman's name is going to come up, along with all the other conservative priests who have been silenced. Fr. Mankowski was canceled long before it was a thing. Now untold thousands, if not millions, are getting a taste of it. (I am in Facebook jail, like I said.)

I am of the strong opinion that both the world and the Church would not be in such abysmal shape if not for the silence of priests. Some of them, like Fr. Mankowski, were silenced by decree. Others were silenced for fear of losing offertory dollars, tax exempt statues, or just the ability to party with the cool kids. Morality has decayed because priests were not allowed to or didn't have the guts to open their mouths and speak about it -- loudly.

St. Catherine absolutely nailed it, all those years ago.

The Book

An update: I am now in the process of writing a book about Fr. Mankowski for Ignatius Press. I will keep you posted on it. The other day a friend of mine said, "We need this book." She meant "we" the friends of Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ. We do need this book but I hope other people will need it, too, so I can earn back my advance! 

I am interviewing friends of Fr. Mankowski for the book. If you happen to be one and you have a good story or two, please let me know in the combox.

The Witness of Fr. Mankowski

Here is an excellent article: Catholic Claims and the Witness of Fr. Mankowski by David Deavel. It begins with this pull-out quote: "For those of us who believe in the claims of the Catholic Church but are disheartened by her sinking into chaos and corruption, what are we to do? Perhaps the beginning of an answer might be found in Flannery O’Connor’s evergreen observation that we do not so often suffer for the Church as from the Church. One who lived out this difficult truth was the late Fr. Paul Mankowski."

Fr. Mankowski's death has changed my life in ways that I would not have imagined. I want to be better, because he was. In fact, for the first time in my life, I want to be holy. And I want that because of the witness of his life. I mean, honestly, if I can be holy and still have a sense of humor, then why not give it a shot? (Something St. Phillip Neri should have taught me, but it's different when holiness-with-a-sense-of-humor is walking down the street beside you, or waiting in your email box.)

I have been a different person since he died. It's one thing to put on your big brain and your best behavior for the length or a dinner or an email. Now I have to be on my best behavior all the time. (A mutual friend told me, two days after the funeral, "I have already stopped myself from doing two things, because I was afraid he'd see me.") 

Granted, it has only been a little over a month since Fr. Mankowski died, so who knows whether or not my newfound quest for holiness has "legs," as we say in show business. But I am optimistic, because of the strength of his witness. My own version of the Flannery O'Connor quote is this: I think I can be holy, if God lets me live long enough.



"Shut Up, You're in This"

The picture that follows this post was taken in Rome in 2007. It was an extraordinarily lovely evening in late May, and I had taken my two dear friends, Fr. Mankowski and Catholic author Mary Jo Anderson, out to dinner at my favorite restaurant, the dearly departed Il Passetto, of happy memory.

(The waiter in the picture was named Romeo. I had eaten there enough to get to know and love him. He had a wonderful explanation of why a good waiter is like a priest, which I wish I could remember. And a deep devotion to St. Rita, whom he was convinced would someday help him come into a lot of money.)

At the end of the dinner, I had a plan. I was going to get someone to take our picture, so I'd have a remembrance of the evening. I knew I had to act fast and with stealth, because I knew that Fr. Mankowski would object to having his picture taken. As I handed the camera to a waiter, Fr. Mankowski initiated his move to exit stage left by scooting his chair out of frame. I gave him my best executive producer "you WILL do what I say" look and said, "Shut up, you're in this." I must have convinced him that I had some leverage (I certainly did not) because he scooted his chair back over, put on his best "I'm not thrilled about this" face, and this picture has been in my office ever since.

As I wrote the title of this post, it occurred to me that "Shut up, you're in this" was pretty much the Jesuits' attitude about Fr. Mankowski. Definitely the "shut up" part, as they officially silenced him years ago and, in my opinion, thus robbed the world of the God-given treasure of his voice. As for the "you're in this," part, their attitude was "we're stuck with you." They tried every way they could think of to make him miserable enough to leave. It was a waste of time, resources, and energy. I have never met a human who took a vow more seriously. St. Thomas Moore would have caved first.

I have many stories to tell about my friendship with Fr. Mankowski, but I am not going to tell them here. (Well, maybe one or two of minor note.) I'm writing like a fiend. When I know where these words will emerge, I will let you know. In the meantime, I am going to maintain and update this site, so you will have access to everything written by Fr. Mankowski that has been published, and everything that has been written about him. (And also several videos, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of hearing him speak.)  The link to that post will remain in the upper right hand corner.

If he had not been silenced, the things that are coming to light now would have been known all along. There would, in my opinion, be far fewer "Catholic" Democrats, and far more people who know and love Holy Mother Church and the 2000+ year magisterium. The modernists knew that, and that is why had to keep him quiet. That, and the fact that he knew where the bodies were buried. I am going to do everything I can to un-silence Fr. Mankowski. It has long been my plan, should he die first. it's the only thing consoling me right now: the thought that I can help undo the evil that was done to him.

I am in this. And I will not shut up.

Paul Me Romeo Mary Jo