A box of Chocolates?

Sometimes due to work, etc, I can’t be at my home parish. I totally get that a big part of being Catholic is the practice of obedience. But is there anyway of knowing in advance which parishes favor a more orthodox approach to their liturgy?

@ez3714 Sometimes you can get a hint or even direct statements regarding the liturgical practices on the websites of different parishes. I enjoy exploring all the websites in my diocese and in a neighboring diocese, since I’m near their common border.


There isn’t a Yelp for Catholic parishes, if that’s what you are looking for. :wink:

You’ll probably have to do the leg work yourself. I’d start with the parish’s website. A lot of times that will give you some sense of the flavor of the parish.

EDIT: I see Minks and I were on the same wave length. :smile:


Go online and look at the parish bulletin


The bulliten is a good indicator.

In my opinion, not a hill worth dying on…one liturgy if properly celebrated is as orthodox, licid, and valid as another.


I think the poster might mean not OF v EF but rather, "at the local, probably OF, parish, is the teaching and the practice of the liturgy more inclined to the GIRM, or does the priest favor liturgical practices on the more illicit side --people round the altar at the consecration, omission of any creed, ad libbing, etc. "


I’ve seen the typical review sites (like Yelp mentioned above) have had some attempts at this by random users. I’d be cautious, though - you’re getting some random person’s opinion rather than a verifiable source. Of course, actual personal experience may be the only way to achieve that.

@DIERM. — amen x1000

How widespread is this problem? Anecdotes alone won’t tell us. Neither will church bulletins, frankly.

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Skipping mass would be a mortal sin. A horrible mass may be licit and would satisfy the law, but that’s about it. Best to avoid that hill altogether.

As others have said, exploring a parish website, and their bulletins (most are available online these days) is probably your best bet. Checking out a parish’s Facebook page is also a good tactic. It’s hard to give a list of what is good to look for and what should raise a red flag, but I can throw out some examples:


  • If a primarily OF parish also offers the EF, or the OF in Latin or even just ad orientem, it’s definitely a good sign. You also can’t go wrong with FSSP or ICKSP.
  • Confession times are frequent (more than once a week for an hour).
  • The parish has abundant opportunities adoration, or even perpetual adoration.
  • Offerings for activities in the bulletin and/or writings from the bulletin seem generally orthodox.
  • The Church design leans more traditional (altar railings, tabernacle in prominent position, abundance of images of saints and BVM, etc.).
  • Altar servers are wearing albs or surplices.
  • Frequent daily masses and masses on Holy Days of Obligation.

Red Flags:

  • There is an abundance of “secular” or other questionable language in the bulletin or website (words like “inclusive”, “LGBT”, gender neutral language when referring to God, etc.).
  • It is difficult to find times for sacraments, like confession, on the website or bulletin, or they are not there at all.
  • The parish is administered by a layperson.
  • The parish seems well funded, but lacks statues of saints/BVM, crucifixes, religious artwork, or kneelers in the Church.
  • No organ or piano, especially in a large or active parish.
  • Few daily masses during the week or on Holy Days of Obligation.

Now, before people start dumping all over me because they go to a parish that doesn’t have something on the good list, or has something on the bad list, and their parish is perfectly orthodox, I am NOT saying that just because a parish doesn’t have an organ that it is clearly a satanic temple with an invalid mass that you should avoid. I am merely giving examples of signs that you should look for in advance if you want to go to a more traditional parish for mass. If you were to pick out a church at random and go to it, the chances are you would be fine. But it is fruitless to deny, that there are some weird parishes out there where the content of their masses/homilies is not exactly by the book and there may be better options out there for reverent masses. In the end you’ll probably have to go to attend a mass, or multiple masses, and get to know the people there to know if it is a good, orthodox parish.


One big caveat I would add for these lists is to weigh such things as frequency of Mass and availability of Adoration against the size of the parish and especially the availability of priests. When you have 2 small parishes that are 30-60 minutes drive apart served by a single priest it is hard to have frequent daily Masses or Adoration, or even more than one Sunday Mass per church. My wife and I ran into this situation last summer while on a weekend getaway, but the church was beautiful (if very small), the priest was as orthodox as any I have seen, and the Mass (OF) was, as far as I could tell, well within the rubrics.

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For the person who experiences troubles it won’t matter that one other, 10 others, 100 others, 1000 others, or 10,000 others have the same or similar difficulties.

As another poster mentions, bulletins and websites can give a clue. If the bulletin is full of prayers to “Mother God”, there is no mention of adoration, Divine Mercy, links to the Vatican Web site or EWTN but links to “Busted Halo”, “Father James Martin”, “Unity”, “Womynpriests”, those are ‘red flags’.

Yes, "Busted Halo’ can have decent articles. Yes, Father James Martin is more than his LBTQ agenda. Yes, even links to protestant groups (though not the last!) can be judiciously used. But on the whole absent the OTHER links, they are problematic.


I personally find the words “Faith Community” or “Catholic Community” used in the bulletin or in the description of the church to be a huge signifier to not expect much “tradition” when you get there. The more times the C-word is used or referenced or hinted at in the bulletin, the more “modern” it probably is. Back in the day we had a church in the area that wasn’t even named after a saint or anything Jesus-related, it was called “The Catholic Community of (town)”. It seems to have disappeared during the 18 years I was AWOL. Can’t say I’m too sorry.


I suppose that I haven’t seen bulletins like this . . . and that’s while living in Portland, lol! St. Francis of Assisi may be a noteworthy exception of a parish. But all in all, I’m not seeing evidence that these practices are common or widespread.

I frequently look at a parish’s website before I attend Mass there. The language they use, the feel of the website including the pictures, and the links can sometimes give strong hints. It doesn’t always work, but it sometimes gives you an idea. For example, if there is an invitation to join the liturgical dance ministry, that tells you something.


These Mystery Worshipper reviews don’t cover a large number of churches but they can be a fun read:

Sometimes you just have to attend Mass, and then you’ll know. Also, the great thing about Catholic Churches is that you can pop in to say a prayer, so a look at the interior may tell you a lot.

Where in the discussion is the box of chocolates mentioned???

This is what came up in my head: http://resources.mynewsdesk.com/image/upload/c_limit,dpr_2.625,f_auto,h_700,q_auto,w_360/ybmu5bo62na3fnvflcrv.jpg

It’s a pop culture reference to the movie, Forest Gump. The poster is arguing that “you never know what you’re going to get” when visiting a Catholic parish.

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