Being a Real Catholic
while the Church is in Eclipse
So you have been reading our web site, you have been praying and thinking, and you are inclined to believe that we are probably right in our assessment of the situation with regard to the Novus Ordo Sect and the Catholic Church, the usurpation by the Modernists, the changes in doctrine, worship, and discipline, and the papal pretenders. Naturally, there is now a burning question on your mind: “Now what? What do we do now? Where do we go from here? How can I be a Catholic today, and where is the Church? How is this going to be resolved?!”
These are very good questions. Some of them can be answered more easily than others. Let’s first recap what we know, and then proceed from there.
What we know
We know all of the following to be true, either from Divine Revelation and/or Catholic teaching, or from reason, or from deductive reasoning applied to empirical facts:
- We know that God desires us to be saved and that He will grant sufficient grace to all who sincerely desire their salvation.
- We know that holding fast to the Catholic Faith — possessing the virtue of Faith — is an absolutely essential condition for salvation. Nothing can substitute for it.
- We know that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to defect.
- We know that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to cease to exist.
- We know that whatever is not incompatible with the promises and guarantees of Christ with regard to the Church, is possible, even though it may seem extremely unlikely to us, or we find it terribly distressing or very difficult to accept. (Be sure to see Fr. Edmund O’Reilly’s commentary on this.)
- We know that it is necessary for salvation for every Catholic to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (see Denz. 469). If the identity of the Roman Pontiff is not known, the will to be subject to the Roman Pontiff suffices, for the essence of subjection lies in the will; likewise if there is no Pope reigning.
- We know that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to change her teaching substantially. While doctrine can develop (in order to become more explicit), dogma cannot; and while teaching can be further clarified, any clarification can never contradict what was taught before. Anything contradictory would not be a development or a clarification but a corruption of that teaching (see Denz. 1800).
- We know that the Novus Ordo Sect differs substantially in her teachings, her laws, and her liturgy from the Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII and his predecessors.
- We therefore know that the Novus Ordo Sect (a.k.a. “Vatican II Church”, the institution of which John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have been the leaders so far) is not the same institution as the Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII and his predecessors.
- We know that a teaching that was true at one point in the past cannot be false now.
- We know that our situation today has been foreknown by God from all eternity and is passively willed by Him at this very moment. It is part of the Divine Plan, not a negation of it.
- We know that no matter how heavy our crosses, God does not abandon us but offers to sanctify us through them, providing all that is necessary to enable us to do His will at all times.
- We know that the way to Heaven is the narrow, difficult, sorrowful road, not the comfortable, feel-good, easy path (cf. Mt 7:13-14; Lk 13:23-24).
- We know that towards the end of the world, there will be a spiritual deception so great that even the elect would be deceived if God did not prevent it (see Mt 24:24); St. Paul calls this the “operation of error” (2 Thess 2:8-11).
- We know that even though all seemed hopeless, humanly speaking, when Christ gave up His spirit at the Cross on Calvary, nevertheless God found a way to make this terrifying blasphemy, this greatest of human crimes, this Deicide, into the most exceptional and most abundant source of blessing and grace for this world, and to allow our Blessed Lord’s apparent defeat to be His Eternal Victory. Though it seemed different at the time, the Cross of Calvary was not the result of God’s plans being contradicted or impeded but of them being fulfilled and carried out.
Three Indispensable Elements: Faith, Hope, Charity
First, no matter how terrifying the times we live in, no matter how difficult the situation, we must at all times and above all keep our Catholic Faith. There is no question that the Faith as taught and believed until 1958 (when Pope Pius XII died) is true. For if it was true then, it must still be true now, since the truth cannot change. Hence we cannot go wrong by clinging to the Faith as it was taught in the Church’s catechisms and magisterial documents before the entire crisis came to be. It is important, then, that we educate ourselves in the True Faith, that we understand how it differs from that of the Novus Ordo Sect, and that we know how to refute the errors of the secular world and the Modernist Vatican II Church in Rome.
Second, we must not lose sight of the fact that God is in control and has not abandoned us. We must firmly hope in His grace and His assistance, in His Providence and His will for us to be saved. Since He loves us and died for us so that we could attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven, He will also give to our souls what we need in order to arrive at a blessed destiny. We must cultivate this hope, which, like Faith and charity, is a theological virtue and absolutely indispensable for salvation.
Third, we must take great care to live a holy life. We must practice virtue and shun vice. We must remain in the state of sanctifying grace and increase in it; or, if we are not in this state, we must eagerly seek to return to it (through sacramental confession or, if this possibility is lacking, through perfect contrition). Above all we must pray, and we ought to utilize all of the Church’s helps and advice in living a life pleasing to God, in accordance with our state of life. And of course, an essential part of all prayer, all charity, all virtue, all desire for holiness, is contrition, or supernatural sorrow for sin.
To facilitate our perseverance, Holy Mother Church has given us acts of Faith, hope, charity, and contrition, which you can pray at any time, and should pray fervently at least once every day. You can find these prayers at this link.
Holy Mass, Confession, and the other Sacraments
A particular difficulty that results from the terrible exile into which Almighty God has seen fit to place us for our purification and sanctification, is the near-total absence of normal parish life, which Catholics in most countries have been very much accustomed to. In fact, in most parts of the Western world, it is a given that a Catholic parish exists not far from anywhere, though we must remember that in Church history it did not always use to be this way. Numerous parish churches within a short distance of one’s location is not a Catholic’s right but a privilege, and the times we live in today simply no longer afford that luxury in most cases, as virtually all Catholic churches have been taken over by the Modernists, regardless of whether they offer a “Latin Mass” there or not — the Faith they preach and hold fast to is not the Faith of the Catholic Church, but the Modernist distortion thereof, which emanates from the Vatican II Sect in Rome.
However, even though almost all churches that carry the label “Catholic” today belong to the Modernist Sect, there are still (or should we say, again) some churches owned and operated by real Catholics, clergy and laity that profess the true, unadulterated Catholic Faith of the ages, that do not adhere, whether in word or in action, to the false papal claimants since 1958 and that do not profess communion with the Vatican II Church. It behooves all who desire to be genuine, traditional Catholics to find such parish churches — properly speaking, they are not parishes but missions perhaps or Mass centers, as it requires jurisdictional authority to set up canonical parishes — and see if any of them are in their part of the world, in their region, perhaps even in their neighborhood.
Because there is no (known) Pope in our day, and all the local diocesan clergy have defected to the Modernist Sect, it is often difficult to determine whether a particular church that claims to offer the Traditional Latin Mass is in fact an acceptable Mass center to attend, i.e. one that has validly-ordained clergy who profess the true Catholic Faith, and that does not suffer from any serious problems that would make attendance either dangerous or imprudent.
In choosing a good Mass center, we offer the following general guidelines:
- The clergy & laity there must profess and teach the true Catholic Faith, that is, the Catholic Faith as known, taught, and believed until the death of Pope Pius XII on Oct. 9, 1958.
- The clerics must possess valid Catholic orders, that is, they must have valid ordinations that can be traced back to a Catholic bishop consecrated under Pope Pius XII or any of his predecessors. Any cleric whose ordination was conferred in the Novus Ordo rite of the False “Pope” Paul VI (instituted in 1968), or who was ordained by a bishop whose orders were conferred in the 1968 Novus Ordo rite, must be considered invalid.
- The clergy & laity cannot profess communion with the Novus Ordo Church or acknowledge the Novus Ordo leaders as Catholic Popes (currently Francis, and formerly Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI, and John XXIII), whether officially recognized by them (so-called “indult” parishes) or not (Society of St. Pius X and various “independent” chapels that acknowledge the Novus Ordo Sect to be the Catholic Church and its leaders as legitimate Catholic Popes but refuse submission to them).
- The Mass center should be free from major problems. We are all members of a fallen race; we are sinners. It is natural for problems, difficulties, disagreements, and tensions to occur in church life. In normal times, the diocesan bishop would resolve such problems authoritatively, but in our times, there are no diocesan bishops left, so such problems cannot easily be resolved. What to do? First, distinguish: Is the problem minor or major? Can it be tolerated or not? If it can be tolerated, then tolerate it. In our imperfect world, there will always be disagreements on various things, and we just have to accept that. If, on the other hand, there is a major problem that cannot reasonably be tolerated, stay away from the Mass center. To determine this, just use common sense: If you don’t like how Mr. So-and-So plays the organ, or how long Father’s sermons are, that’s obviously a minor problem — deal with it. If, on the other hand, you find out that the priest had no real seminary training or that he breaks the seal of confession, that’s obviously something you cannot tolerate. (These are just examples.) Again, keep in mind that since there is no functioning hierarchy in your diocese, which is the way such problems would have been taken care of in the past, you must resolve these things for yourself.
So then, the big question is: Where is the nearest church for you? Where can you go to Mass? Where can you go to confession? Where can you get spiritual direction? While we do not wish to endorse (or not endorse) any particular church, we would nevertheless like to give some general guidance and suggest you use the following directories of sedevacantist Masses:
- Fr. Hector Lazaro Romero’s Directory of Non-Una Cum Mass Centers (PDF)
- Lux Vera Directory of Mass Locations in the United States
- Lux Vera Directory of Mass Locations in the World (outside the United States)
- Sedevacantist Mass Centers (Global Map View, updated)
The contents of these directories are explained well at the links above. Look for a Mass location that is close to you, and keep in mind that you may have to go across state or country lines for your nearest Mass. The editors of these directories try hard to ensure that all of the Masses listed are sedevacantist, that is, as far as they know, the clergy who offer them profess the true Catholic Faith, are validly ordained, and do not profess communion with any false papal claimant or the Vatican II Sect. However, sometimes mistakes may creep in, so if you discover one, please contact the editors of the respective directory and let them know. If you are unsure, please contact us and we will try to advise you.
What if there is no Mass or priest near you?
Depending on where you live, it is quite possible that there is no priest and no Mass/church in your region, or that it is not possible for you, for some reason or another, to travel to the nearest such location. Do not panic! Remember that God does not demand the impossible of you. If you cannot go to Mass, you cannot go. The obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holydays automatically ceases if it is physically or morally impossible for you to go. Besides, please consider the following helpful points:
- “You only miss Mass if you have a Mass to miss.” If there is no Mass within 1 hour of travel time near you that meets the specified conditions above, you do not sin by not going to Mass. (That said, remember that even though it would not be sinful, you would still be doing your soul a great disservice if you habitually skipped Mass for this reason even though you could reasonably go — for example, if your drive to the nearest Mass were 1.5 hours and you just didn’t want to go.)
- If your nearest Mass is a great distance away, say, a 3 hours’ drive, and therefore you cannot go on a weekly basis, consider going perhaps once a month, or as often as you reasonably can. It is better you go infrequently to a real Catholic church than not at all, or than going to a “Latin Mass” parish affiliated with the Novus Ordo Church instead, simply because it is much closer and you would like to attend every week.
- Be willing to suffer for our Lord. Christ Jesus suffered so much for us, shall we not suffer for Him? The most pleasing suffering you can give to God is not the suffering you choose for yourself, but the suffering He chooses for you, if you accept and endure it willingly and lovingly, for His sake. This suffering can include not having frequent or convenient access to the sacraments. We must remember that if we are willing to compromise with regard to the Faith for the sake of filling an emotional need, then it is not God we love but ourselves. Then we love not Him but our feelings. Think of all the martyrs endured rather than compromise the Faith! You must accept God’s will for you in your life.
- Assist at Holy Mass “virtually” — through the internet or by watching a video or DVD of the Mass; see links below under “Practical Tips”. Though not a substitute for assisting at Holy Mass physically, there are nevertheless real graces and benefits to be obtained from “virtual assistance” at Mass, as explained here.
- Remember that sacramental absolution is not absolutely necessary for you to be forgiven of mortal sin. If sacramental absolution is impossible for you to obtain, perfect contrition suffices to restore the state of sanctifying grace; however, it is important to understand what perfect contrition is and how it “works”. See here.
- Realize you are not alone: Get in touch with other real Catholics on the internet, and you will find out that there are others who are thinking and searching like you, perhaps even right in your hometown. See below under “Practical Tips” for links to various web sites where you can get to know other like-minded Catholics, who can help you with advice, best practices, encouragement, support, getting in contact with a priest, etc.
- If you have enough people in your area who are interested, you can start a new mission and request that a priest visit you from time to time. Don’t forget to pray! All things are possible with God! Begin with prayer, and be patient.
Practical Tips & Collection of Links
- Here are some Catholic forums and social/media sites you can join to get to know other Catholics and learn more about how best to be a Catholic in these distressing times:
- Subscribe to Catholic newspapers and magazines, such as the following:
- Assist at Holy Mass virtually (time zone converter here):
- Live Webstreaming of Holy Mass every Sunday at 7:00 am and 9:00 am Pacific Time (Mary Immaculate Queen in Rathdrum, ID)
- Live Webstreaming of Holy Mass every Sunday at 10:00 am Central Time (St. Jude Shrine in Stafford, TX)
- Live Webstreaming of Holy Mass every Sunday at 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 11:30 am, and 5:45 pm Eastern Time (St. Gertrude in West Chester, OH)
- Live Webstreaming of Holy Mass every Sunday at 10:30 am Central European Time (Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz in Treviso, Italy) – archived recordings also available
- Low Mass of the Immaculate Conception – Online Recording
- Low Mass of the Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Online Recording
- The Tridentine Latin Mass – DVD with Mass booklet
- The Traditional Mass for Children – DVD
- The Holy Mass Explained (instructional only — “Mass” in this video is not valid)
- The Traditional Rosary – DVD
- The Way of the Cross for Children – DVD
- Get in the habit of being perfectly contrite for your sins:
- Watch, listen to, and download traditional Catholic sermons, lectures, and conferences
- Sermons at Most Holy Trinity Seminary
- Sermons at TraditionalCatholicSermons.org
- Sermons and Apologetics Classes by Fr. Michael Oswalt
- Sermons and other content at True Restoration
- Conferences, Lectures, Liturgy and Interviews at True Restoration
- Work of Human Hands: How they changed the Mass and why
- Understand what has happened to the Catholic Church: Educate yourself!
- Learn the True Catholic Faith from approved catechisms:
- The Roman Catechism (16th century) – also available in print here
- The Catholic Catechism (20th century) by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri
- My Catholic Faith (20th century) – also available in print here
- The Baltimore Catechism No. 4 (19th century) – also available in print here
- The Catechism Explained (20th century) – also available in print here
- Listen to Francis Watch, a podcast program refuting the errors and scandals of “Pope” Francis
- Read the Writings of Fr. Francis E. Fenton, traditional Catholic pioneer
- Utilize authentic Catholic Resources: Holy Scripture, Canon Law, Magisterial Documents, etc.
- The Popes Against Modern Errors: Papal Teachings that refute the Vatican II Church
- Liberalism is a Sin: The Danger & Methods of Modernism exposed and refuted
- Tumultuous Times: Church History & the Problems of Vatican II and the New Sacraments
- We had been warned: The Popes warned against the Masonic Plots against the Church
- We had been warned: Warnings about what would happen to the Church before Christ returns
- How to answer the objection that Sedevacantists are so “divided”: When the Shepherd is Struck
- Why only Sedevacantism means that the Gates of Hell have Not Prevailed
- Why it is not possible to depose a true and valid Pope
- How to respond to the objection that we “don’t have the authority” to say Francis isn’t Pope
- Help others Escape from the Novus Ordo Church with former Novus Ordo Priest Fr. Michael Oswalt
- Be consoled and edified by various Catholic prophecies predicting our times, such as these:
- The Pope & the Antichrist: Cardinal Manning laid out what was to come (1861)
- The Papacy and the Passion of the Church
- St. Francis of Assisi prophesies a False “Destroyer” Pope
- Fr. Sylvester Berry predicts the Church will be without a Pope and suffer greatly
- Fr. Sylvester Berry predicts Satan will set up a False Church to imitate the Catholic Church
- Fr. Sylvester Berry predicts there will be a False Pope and a Vacancy of the Holy See
- Fr. Herman Kramer on the terrible trials of an impeded Papal Election
- Fr. Frederick Faber warns that the Antichrist will be helped by well-intentioned people
- Mgr. Fulton Sheen predicts Satan will set up a Counterchurch to ape the Catholic Church
- Other prophecies found on our Catholic Quotes page here
- Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s Visions of the “Church of Darkness”
- The Conclave of 1958: Here is where it all began
- Sede Vacante Since 1958: Reflections on the State of the Church Today
- Traditional Catholic Conference & Debate on the Sede Vacante Thesis (2002) with John Daly, John Lane, and Gerry Matatics
- The History of Christendom presented by Bp. Donald Sanborn — explains, step by step, how we got from the glorious Middle Ages, via the Renaissance, Reformation, and French Revolution to our distressing situation today, and what’s ahead
- Mary Immaculate Queen Center — Traditional Roman Catholic Books, Music, Devotional Items, Gifts
- Mother of Our Savior — Another source for Traditional Catholic Books, Statues, and more
- Confraternity Books — Another great source for true Catholic Books
- St. Jerome Homeschool Library & Bookstore — Traditional Catholic bookstore and library for homeschoolers
- Learn the True Catholic Faith from approved catechisms:
- Learn Catholic Prayers & Devotions
- Exhaustive List of Catholic Prayers & Beliefs
- The Divine Office (Roman Breviary)
- Another Divine Office site (choose only rubrics from before 1960)
- The Most Important Catholic Prayers
- Universal Prayer for All Things Necessary for Salvation (by Pope Clement XI)
The Future Restoration of the Church
Now that we have shared some important practical advice on how to spiritually survive the terrible spiritual wasteland we have been in since 1958, the question that remains to be answered still is when and especially how this situation will come to an end and the Church be fully restored to her former glory.
It would be presumptuous of anyone to claim to know the answer to this. At the same time, there are a few things we can say with certainty, and there are other things we may legitimately speculate about and hope for:
- Believe firmly that God can and will put an end to the Novus Ordo Sect and restore the Catholic Church; if it pleases Him to withhold from us knowledge of the ‘when’ and the ‘how’, may His will be done. We are not entitled to know or understand everything.
- It seems that the crisis in the Church is of such a nature and has reached such proportions now that it is beyond all human repair — in other words, it seems that there is nothing we can do to set things aright, such as a papal election, for various reasons which are outside the scope of this post to explore. The point is that it will probably take a miraculous, supernatural intervention by Almighty God to restore Holy Mother Church, just as it took miraculous, supernatural divine intervention at various points in salvation history for God’s designs to be accomplished.
- Though things may seem hopeless at times, Almighty God, who created the heavens and the earth from nothing, who parted the Red Sea, who granted David the victory over Goliath, who can turn stones into children of Abraham (see Lk 3:8), who converted water into wine, who fed 5,000 people with a few fragments of bread and a few fish, who raised Lazarus from the dead, and who worked the miracle of His own Resurrection, will certainly have a way to restore His Church fully and gloriously in the sight of all, when the appointed time comes.
- God does not require us to know how He will accomplish the restoration of the Church; He does, however, require us to have Faith and to persevere until the end.
- We must certainly pray that God will restore the Church soon, else we cannot complain that it has not yet happened. We encourage you to pray the Holy Rosary especially for the intention that God would once again grant us a true Pope. To do this, you can join the global “Pray for a Pope” Rosary network.
- There is a theological thesis known as “Sedeprivationism”, sometimes referred to as the “Material/Formal Theory”, or the “Cassiciacum Thesis”, which provides a way to solve the conundrum of how we could have a true Pope again. The theory has its strong and its weak points. People who are interested in it may read an explanation of it here but should keep in mind that it is not a doctrine of the Faith. We do not know if it is true, and people can legitimately agree or disagree with it. The thesis was first developed by the Dominican theologian Bp. Guerard des Lauriers.
- It is possible that there has been and currently is a true Pope in hiding, one who can trace his lineage back to Pope Pius XII. Perhaps the situation will be resolved by this Pope emerging and proving his legitimacy. There is a prophecy to this effect.
- Do not spend too much time trying to figure things out — it can lead to pride, vain curiosity, dangerous ideas, and a misplaced reliance on self rather than on God. In general, we are well-advised to seek after virtue rather than knowledge. Certainly we may suppose that living a holy prayerful life and seeking to be pleasing to God, cannot but hasten the day of Restoration.
- Do not be overly concerned with matters pertaining to the end of the world, wars, calamities, and so forth. Our Blessed Lord told us not to be troubled by these things (see Mt 24:6) — shall we doubt or contradict Him? Besides, whenever God chooses to end our life here on earth, it will be the end of the world for us. Be spiritually prepared, therefore.
- Stay away from any sort of unapproved alleged revelation, apparition, locution, etc. No matter how true it might seem, there is no surer way to be misled than to attach yourself to messages not approved by Holy Mother Church and to place your trust in them rather than in God and in the Faith. Our Lord warned us precisely against false “signs and wonders”, which would be so great as to “deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:23-25).
- Remember that Sedevacantism, the position that there has been no (known) true Pope of the Catholic Church since the death of Pius XII in 1958, and that the current Vatican establishment is not the Catholic Church, is entirely safe theologically. By adhering to it, you cannot be led into heresy, nor into schism, if you are faithful to Catholic teaching. Even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the position were false, where would be the danger? What could you be accused of? The worst that could be said of you is that you were wrong about who the Pope was. You believed, in good faith, that there was no Pope when in fact there was one — but at least you acted consistently and in accordance with Catholic teaching, to the best of your ability and in peace with your conscience. You could be accused of having made a sincere mistake, nothing more; a mistake regarding the identity of the true Pope, as many others did before in Church history, and quite innocently. This is the worst that could be said. You could not be accused of adhering to or spreading false doctrine (heresy), nor of refusing to be subject to the man you acknowledged to be the Pope (schism).
We hope all the foregoing explanations, considerations, suggestions, and links have been of help to you. If you still have questions, please contact us here.
In short, the answer to the question “Now What?” is simply: “Now be a Catholic!”