Frederick Schell, S.J.
"the Providence of God is amazing. I needed to have the scales taken from my eyes to appreciate men like Father Frederick Schell. And I will never cease to pray to Our Lady so that those who remain after him - and those who will come along after them - will one day be recognized by Holy Mother Church herself as nothing other than priests who care about true reverence in Mass and integrity in handing on the Deposit of Faith in all of its purity. It is men such as Father Frederick Schell who kept the Traditional Latin Mass alive in the midst of a veritable revolution to flush the past down the Orwellian memory hole."
Our Lord is so very merciful. He
permits us weak vessels of clay enough time here in this vale of tears to
learn how stupid we have been in the past, to see how others cooperated with
the graces made available to them to see clearly the state of the Church and
of the world. This gift of divine mercy is ineffable and gratuitous,
thoroughly unmerited. Its bestowal upon a soul is a cause for great rejoicing
in the humble recognition that all is grace, that
without the graces won for us by the shedding of Our Lord's Most Precious
In His great mercy, Our Lord, working through His Most Blessed Mother, has led me to understand how much I did not know in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, how much I permitted myself to be influenced by the slogans and positivism of the postconciliar era, how I tried to defend the indefensible and to reconcile a revolution with tradition. Although I have always recognized the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass, I did not until about twelve or thirteen years ago realize its importance as the instrument that best gives honor and glory to the Blessed Trinity and most efficaciously sanctifies human souls. Even though I came to realize the importance of the Traditional Latin Mass over a decade ago, I remained supercilious in choosing where to hear such Masses, eschewing anything that could be tainted in my clouded eyes as disobedience and schism.
The lifting of the scales from my eyes came
gradually. Oh, I made it a point to go to an indult Mass only on Sundays and
Holy Days of Obligation for quite some time. And I made it a point to attend
Traditional Latin Masses in approved venues during my week as best I could
during my travels across the
As bad as I knew the Novus Ordo to be,
I tolerated it insofar as daily Mass was concerned, offering up the
profanation and banality experienced there to Our Lady's Sorrowful and
Immaculate Heart. My wife, who loves God so purely, just cried and cried and
cried when she experienced just how bad the Novus Ordo is while I was
Well, Our Lady showered us with the mercy of
her Divine Son. The Mass of our fathers was offered frequently at the
Indeed, I had gone to that chapel for the first time in 1998 the day after some traditional Catholics held a fund-raiser for my Right to Life Party primary race against Senator Alfonse D'Amato. I was more than a little uneasy about it. However, I learned shortly thereafter that Father John Hardon himself had told attendees at a Seton Home Study conference that a person is acting with a clear conscience if he believes that the only way to save his soul and to protect the integrity of the faith for himself and for his children is to attend a chapel run by the Society of Pope Saint Pius X or an otherwise validly ordained priest who recognizes the Vicar of Christ. And I learned that other priests I respect gave the same advice to their directees, which made it easier for me to return to the Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel in January of 2001, after experiencing the terrible hybrid Mass that passed for the only indult Mass available on a weekly basis in all of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay area, Saint Margaret Mary in Oakland. God was lifting the scales then, preparing me by baby steps to see that there were courageous priests who were willing to risk everything to offer the faithful the Mass which was either celebrated or heard by practically every canonized saint in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.
It was during our visit in February of this
year that Sharon and I also heard Mass celebrated by a priest of the
Archdiocese of San Francisco, Father Young, in a German social hall in
Sharon and I were very, very impressed with
Father Perez's reverence, to say nothing of his profound knowledge of the
development of the Traditional Mass and of its rubrics. He told us that he
was ordained for the
You see, God in His great mercy kept me from meeting Father Young and Father Perez and Father Schell before I did because I was not yet ready to meet them before I did earlier this year. I was too blind. I would have gently but firmly told them they were being disobedient, that they were further dividing the Church. I was stupid and I was blind. I had a lot to learn and a lot to see, coming to understand that it was men such as the aforementioned priests who helped to keep the Mass of our fathers alive in a area of the country that had been devastated by Roger Cardinal Mahony and the lackeys he has helped to put in place up and down the Pacific Coast in California as ordinaries of dioceses. Far from being renegades, these men are heroes who have helped to maintain reverence in worship and integrity of doctrine in an area of utter liturgical and theological devastation.
It was through Father Perez that
We got to Father Schell's Monday morning Mass
a little late. The traffic from
Father Schell took Sharon and me out to
breakfast. It was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. I
understood at that moment that I was in the presence of a great hero of the
Catholic Faith, one who would not have his reward until he died, a man of
humility and self-effacement, but nevertheless a man of great manly courage
who was willing to defend the Faith and all of its traditions with his fists
if he had to do so. A personable and plain-spoken man, Father Schell exuded
the true happiness and joy of one who is an adopted son of the Blessed
Mother, one who simply lived to offer the propitiatory sacrifice of the Son
to the Father in Spirit and in Truth in an unbloody manner every day of his
life. There was not an ounce of pretense or affectation to him. He was a boy
Father Schell was born in 1916 in
The breaking point for Father Schell came,
however, when he was told in November of 1977 that he would have to give out
Holy Communion in the hand. Pope Paul VI had granted the American
bishops the permission they sought to regularize the abuse they had
"tolerated" (actually, initiated) in many places ever since the new
Mass started in 1969. "They told me I would have to give out Communion
in the hand on
Father Schell opened up shop about fifty miles north of Los Angeles, attracting a steady stream of parishioners who had grown sick and tired of the liturgical irreverence, the improvisation, the showmanship, and the doctrinal impurity found in their local parishes. Although he was then in his fifties, he drove from Granada Hills to Garden Grove to Bakersfield to Ventura to offer the Mass of our fathers week in and week out. He placed everything in the hands of the Blessed Mother. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles knew all about him, but never lifted a finger to sanction him.
Father Schell told us the story on
Father Schell minced no words about the state of the church. About the bishops, "They're bums, each and every one of them. Bums. . . . They're fence straddling mugwumps. One week they're mugs, the next week they're wumps." He agreed with my assessment about in "A Mere Matter of Preference?" that the Novus Ordo was ultimately harmful to the Faith. "That's right," he said very matter-of-factly. "I agree with that."
I kept thinking while at breakfast with him that he would have enjoyed meeting the late Father John J. Sullivan, whose life and priesthood I described in "Jackie Boy" just about two years ago now. When I told him about a priest at Holy Apostles Seminary who had said that Our Lord was conceived in a perverse, violent manner, Father Schell jumped right in, "I would have punched him right in the nose." I told Father Schell that's exactly what Father Sullivan did. Father Schell was very pleased. It should be noted, however, that Father Schell told us after he had treated us to breakfast, "I'm all talk now. I don't too much fighting these days."
Sharon and I were amazed at the physical
condition in was in after all of the years of driving hundreds and hundreds
of miles every week. We were also amazed at his "breakfast of
Both Sharon and I came away from that meeting with the belief that we had met a saint. Naturally, Father Schell did not believe he had done anything extraordinary. He simply offered people the Mass, giving them an oasis in a desert of the Faith. And he had the humility to recognize when he was slowing down, being willing to turn over the network of parishes and the academy he had built up over a quarter of a century to Father Perez, who he had just met a few years before. Father Schell did not build up a cult of personality around him. He simply was a priest who wanted to offer Catholics the Traditional Latin Mass and pure instruction in the Faith.
I realized after meeting Father Schell how wrong I had been over the years, that the circumstances of the postconciliar church had produced men of remarkable courage, men of such profound humility that they did not care what anyone thought of them or what sacrifices they had to make to be faithful to the Church's living liturgical tradition. And I prayed all the more fervently that the Holy Father would erect an Apostolic Administration so as to give these courageous men the canonical recognition that is their due as they seek to honor the Blessed Trinity fittingly and serve the cause of the formation and salvation of immortal souls.
We kept in contact with Father Schell after
We met Father Schell at his home in Granada
Hills. He took us to a wonderful restaurant perched above the intersections
of Interstates 405 and 5 and California Route 118, a place that had a
breathtaking view of the entire
Father Schell, who was so happy to met our daughter, told us that he was retiring from all of his active work, giving it all away to Father Perez. "I'm praying to Our Lady for a quick exit," he told us, "probably sometime within the next six months. She usually gives me whatever I ask of her." Selfishly, we hoped that he would be around for a lot longer than six months. We so enjoyed visiting with him, partaking of his wisdom and being inspired by his great love of Our Lord and Our Lady.
I was told several days later that Father Schell's used his last sermon to urge his parishioners to read the issue of Christ or Chaos he had had reproduced. "I've given you many things over the years," he told them. "This is the last gift I am giving you." To say that I was touched and honored beyond words is an understatement. That a man of his courage and wisdom and foresight would find my work in any way edifying for his people is a gift I will always cherish.
We spoke on the phone several times in the
last few months. He told me that he was doing all right, but that he was glad
he had made the decision to retire. Again, Sharon and I were hoping to see
him on our next journey
Humanly speaking, it is sad to realize that
we will never see him in this life again. If it were at all financially
possible, Sharon and I would fly out to
Father Schell cared nothing for honors,
nothing for prestige, nothing for the perquisites
that so many priests (even those who are orthodox and who recognize in the
Traditional Latin Mass the best way to worship the Blessed Trinity and to
sanctify souls) are willing to sell their souls in order to obtain. He cared
only about fidelity to Christ the King and Mary our Queen by giving the souls
who sought him out access to the closest thing to Heaven imaginable: the
Yes, the Providence of God is amazing. I needed to have the scales taken from my eyes to appreciate men like Father Frederick Schell. And I will never cease to pray to Our Lady so that those who remain after him - and those who will come along after them - will one day be recognized by Holy Mother Church herself as nothing other than priests who care about true reverence in Mass and integrity in handing on the Deposit of Faith in all of its purity. It is men such as Father Frederick Schell who kept the Traditional Latin Mass alive in the midst of a veritable revolution to flush the past down the Orwellian memory hole.
While praying for Father Schell's soul (he probably gave "Jackie Boy" Sullivan a punch in the nose in eternity for not "getting it" about the Traditional Mass), we also give Our Lord and Our Lady thanks for his courage and zeal, his humility and self-effacement.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May his souls - and the souls of the faithful departed - rest in peace. Amen.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.