Frequently Asked Questions

The Society also has seminaries in France, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Australia and the United States. Please see this page for more information.

The Society, as of 2013, has 575 priests in 65 countries, 119 brothers, and 215 seminarians in six international seminaries.

There are many traditional religious orders for men and women: Benedictines, Capuchin Franciscans, and Dominicans for men, and Carmelites, Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans for women, to name just a few. Please contact the U.S. District of the SSPX for more information.

The Society has its own congregation of sisters, which has its U.S. novitiate in Browerville, MN. For more information, please visit the Vocations Index.

These are hours of the Divine Office. The Office is the daily prayer of priests and is sometimes referred to as "The Liturgy of the Hours." Lauds and Vespers are sung at the Seminary on Sundays; while Prime, Sext, and Compline are sung every day.

Of course. We are Roman Catholics and firmly adhere to the Primacy of the Successor of Peter. In accordance with the rules of the Roman Missal, we pray for him by name, along with the local Ordinary, in the Canon of every Mass said at the Seminary.

Put simply, the Tridentine Mass is the Latin Mass that was being said in every Catholic Church of the Roman Rite before Vatican II (1962-65). It is the Mass that has nourished the piety of countless saints throughout the ages. It was “canonized” or set in stone by Pope St. Pius V in 1571, but is not essentially different from the oldest recorded liturgies that history has left us.

The Society is a priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for the preservation of the traditional Catholic priesthood. For more information, please see our section on the Society.

It is located just outside of Dillwyn, VA. See our Contact page.

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary
1208 Archbishop Lefebvre Avenue
Dillwyn, VA 23936
Phone:  (434) 505-7007

For those interested in pursuing a vocation, the best time to visit is when classes are in session, i.e. from the middle of October until the middle of June, excluding the two weeks following Christmas and Easter. If possible, a prospective seminarian should visit for a week in order to get a well-rounded view of seminary life.

For those who are not visiting to discern a vocation, the ideal times to visit are at the various ordinations that take place during the year:

1) Reception of the cassock and the Clerical Tonsure – February 2

2) Reception of the Minor Orders and the Subdiaconate – fifteen days before Easter

3) Ordination to the Diaconate and the Priesthood – the Friday that falls between June 18 and June 24

You can call the seminary for more specific information. Click here for our contact information.

No, even if one knows all about the Catholic Faith and knows all the prayers of the Mass. The course of life at the Seminary is far more than the classes and the Mass. The whole body of liturgy, courses, work, and prayer, all in a sacred environment and under the watchful eye of experienced spiritual directors, contributes to form the heart and mind of the candidate for priesthood. Whether or not he is aware of it, the Seminary changes a man and forms Christ in him, as long as he maintains a docile, humble attitude. The formation process has developed over millennia in the Church; bypassing these normal channels would be gravely imprudent.

In addition, the ordaining bishop is responsible before God for the priests he ordains, so he wisely refuses to ordain everyone who asks for orders willy-nilly. He needs to make certain, by the testimony of the Seminary professors and especially the Rector, that these men are worthy of the grace they are about to receive. The long Seminary formation gives them a chance to evaluate the seminarians.

It is extremely difficult to discern a vocation in the midst of the distractions and bustle of everyday life. A man needs silence, prayer, and reflection if he really wants to find out what God wants him to do. If you are attracted to the priesthood or the religious life and think that you have a vocation, take the following steps, remembering that your salvation might depend on your answering God's call:

1) Talk to a priest of the Society of St. Pius X. He can advise you on the direction you ought to take. Here is a list of chapels in the USA; or find the SSPX District that is closest to you at this site.

2) Go on an Ignatian retreat. God speaks in silence. A retreat is a highly structured spiritual program based around silence, prayer, and discernment. With the help of experienced preachers and spiritual advisors, you will be able to see what God asks from you and to order your life.

3) Visit the Seminary. Coming to the Seminary and speaking to the professors and seminarians will give you a fuller understanding of seminary life and the Catholic priesthood. For making an appointment, contact the Seminary's Guest Department.

4) Read the article that Fr. Barrielle wrote on the discernment of a vocation. Fr. Barrielle was chosen by Archbishop Lefebvre as the spiritual director of the seminary in Écône.

The General Superior of the SSPX decides where to assign each priest of the Society, posting them to priories on every continent (excepting Antarctica), to say Mass in one or more of the 60 countries in which we maintain chapels. After ordination in June, the new priest has a couple of months of vacation to rest and prepare for his new assignment. Then, in the middle of August, he reports to his new home, which could be in his home state or on the other side of the world.

Failing to pass a test or two doesn’t necessarily mean dismissal. The Seminary works with all its students to help them acquire the knowledge necessary to carry out their priestly duties. Seminarians may take an extra year or two to complete their studies. Nonetheless, consistent failure to meet a minimum academic standard could be taken as a sign of no vocation.

No. Most seminarians do not receive a sufficient Latin formation in high school or college to make this feasible, so classes are taught in English.

The first year, the year of Humanities, gives the seminarian a natural foundation for the supernatural formation ahead, through courses in Catholic Doctrine, Latin, Literature, English, and Music. The year of Spirituality follows, wherein seminarians learn about the spiritual life in Ascetical and Mystical Theology, and take introductory courses on Scripture, Liturgy, and the Acts of the Magisterium (major Church documents setting forth important points of doctrine). Next come two years of Philosophy, which cover the History of Philosophy, Logic, Cosmology, Psychology, Ethics, and Metaphysics. The seminarian completes his formation with three years of Theology, following St. Thomas' Summa Theologica in Dogmatic and Moral Theology, along with Canon Law and Pastoral Theology. Each of the last five years also contains courses in Scripture and Church History.

It lasts seven years. The Seminary formation is designed to develop in the seminarian a love for souls and an ardent thirst for holiness, along with sufficient knowledge to guide the faithful entrusted to him and feed their souls. To reach such a lofty goal, seven years is a very short time.

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary forms priests absolutely faithful to the 2,000-year-old traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The formation that the seminarians receive is traditional in every aspect: doctrine, liturgy, spirituality, the curriculum, and even the daily schedule. The philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas forms the core of the seven-year program of studies. Unfortunately, few other seminaries provide this kind of total formation today.

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary is a house of studies of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), established in the United States in 1973, for the formation of Roman Catholic priests according to the traditional teaching of the Church.

The word “seminary” comes from the Latin word “seminarium” meaning “seed bed.” A seminary is a place where a vocation to the priesthood develops, from the original call that led the young man to enter the seminary, to its full growth at his priestly ordination.

For a list of the SSPX's chapels in the USA District, click here.

The list also includes a number of recommended non-SSPX chapels.

FAQ #5

The Novus Ordo Missae was introduced in April 1969 by Pope Paul VI. From the start, this new rite was intended to have an ecumenical nature as declared by its chief architect, Fr. Annibale Bugnini in 1965:

We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren—that is, for the Protestants.”

A. Preliminary remarks


  1. A criticism of the New Rite cannot be a criticism of the Mass in itself, for this is the very sacrifice of Our Lord bequeathed to His Church, but it is an examination, whether it is a fit rite for embodying and enacting this august Sacrifice.
  2. It is difficult for those who have known nothing other than the Novus Ordo Missae to understand of what they have been deprived, and attending a “Latin Mass” often just seems alien. To see clearly what it is all about, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the defined truths of our Faith on the Mass (principles 11-18 are some of them). Only in the light of these can the “new rite” of Mass be evaluated.

B. What is the Novus Ordo Missae?

Let us first examine the elements of the Novus Ordo Missae. Some are Catholic:

  • a priest,
  • bread and wine,
  • genuflections,
  • signs of the Cross, etc.,

but some are Protestant:

  • a table,
  • common-place utensils,
  • communion under both kinds and in the hand, etc.

The Novus Ordo Missae assumes these heterodox elements alongside the Catholic ones to form a liturgy for a modernist religion which would marry the Church and the world, Catholicism and Protestantism, light and darkness. Indeed, the Novus Ordo Missae presents itself as:

  • a meal (vs. principle 11). This is shown by its use of a table around which the people of God gather to offer bread and wine (vs. principle 18) and to communicate from rather common-place utensils, often under both kinds (vs. principle 15), and usually in the hand (vs. principle 16). (Note too the almost complete deletion of references to sacrifice).
  • a narrative of a past event (vs. principle 12). This told out loud by the one presiding (vs. principle 14), who recounts Our Lord’s words as read in Scripture (rather than pronouncing a sacramental formula) and who makes no pause until he has shown the Host to the people.
  • a community gathering, (vs. principle 13). Christ is perhaps considered to be morally present but ignored in his Sacramental Presence (vs. principles 16 & 17). 

Notice also the numerous rubrical changes:

  • the celebrant facing the people from where the tabernacle was formerly kept.
  • just after the consecration, all acclaim He “will come again.”
  • sacred vessels are no longer gilt.
  • Sacred Particles are ignored (vs. principle 15)
  • the priest no longer joins thumb and forefinger after the consecration.
  • the vessels are not purified as they used to be.
  • Communion is most frequently given in the hand.
  • genuflections on the part of the priest and kneeling on the part of the faithful are much reduced.

Moreover, the Novus Ordo Missae defined itself this way:

The Lord’s Supper, or Mass, is a sacred synaxis, or assembly of the people of God gathered together under the presidency of the priest to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. (Pope Paul VI, Institutio Generalis, §7, 1969 version)

What is the aim of the Novus Ordo Missae as a rite?


...the intention of Pope Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy... there was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or at least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist service...*

*Jean Guitton on December 19, 1993 in Apropos (17), p. 8ff, also in Christian Order, October 1994. Jean Guitton was an intimate friend of Pope Paul VI. Paul VI had 116 of his books and had made marginal study notes in 17 of these.

That Paul VI's intention was accomplished is made clear by Michael Davies:

When I began work on this trilogy I was concerned at the extent to which the Catholic liturgy was being Protestantized. The more detailed my study of the Revolution, the more evident it has become that it has by-passed Protestantism and its final goal is humanism. (Pope Paul's New Mass, pp. 137 and 149)

This latter is a fair evaluation when one considers the changes implemented, the results achieved, and the tendency of modern theology, even papal theology (cf. question 7).

Who made up the Novus Ordo Missae?

It is the invention of a liturgical commission, the Consilium, whose guiding light was Fr. Annibale Bugnini (made an archbishop in 1972 for his services), and which also included six Protestant experts. Fr. Bugnini (principal author of Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium) had his own ideas on popular involvement in the liturgy (La Riforma Liturgia, A. Bugnini, Centro Liturgico Vincenziano, 1983), while the Protestant advisors had their own heretical ideas on the essence of the Mass. 

However, the one on whose authority the Novus Ordo Missae was enforced was Pope Paul VI, who “promulgated” it by his apostolic constitution, Missale Romanum (April 3, 1969). However, his proscription was highly unclear.

  • In the original version of Missale Romanum, signed by Pope Paul VI, no mention was made either of anyone’s being obliged to use the Novus Ordo Missae or when such an obligation might begin.
  • Translators of the constitution mistranslated cogere et efficere (i.e., to sum up and draw a conclusion) as to give force of law.
  • The version in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (which records all official texts of the papacy) has an added paragraph “enjoining” the new missal, but it is in the wrong tense, the past, and reads praescripsimus (i.e., which we have ordered) thereby referring to a past obligation, and nothing, moreover, in Missale Romanum prescribes, but at most permits the use of the “New Rite" (The Angelus, March 1997, p. 35).
  • Can it be true that Pope Paul VI wanted this missal but that it was not properly imposed (it is known moreover, that Pope Paul VI signed the Institutio Generalis without reading it and without ensuring that it had been previously confirmed by the Holy Office).

Judgment on the Novus Ordo Missae

Judging the Novus Ordo Missae in itself and in its official Latin form (printed in 1969)*, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci wrote to Pope Paul VI:

...the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXIII of the Council of Trent." (A Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae, September 25, 1969)

*A Novus Ordo Missae celebrated according to the 1969 typical edition would look very similar to the traditional Roman Rite, with the celebrant saying most (if not all) the prayers in Latin, facing the tabernacle and wearing the traditional Mass vestments, with a male altar server, and Gregorian chant, etc. None of the current abuses, e.g., Communion in the hand, Eucharistic Ministers, liturgical dancing, guitar-masses, etc., have part with this official form. Hence, the aforementioned cardinals' (as well as the SSPX's) critique of the Novus Ordo Missae is not of its abuses or misapplication, but rather of its essential and official form.

Archbishop Lefebvre definitely agreed when he wrote:

The Novus Ordo Missae, even when said with piety and respect for the liturgical rules impregnated with the spirit of Protestantism. It bears within it a poison harmful to the faith."  (An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 29) 

The dissimulation of Catholic elements and the pandering to Protestants which are evident in the Novus Ordo Missae render it a danger to our faith, and, as such, evil, given that it lacks the good which the sacred rite of Mass ought to have. The Church was promised the Novus Ordo Missae would renew Catholic fervor, inspire the young, draw back the lapsed and attract non-Catholics. Who today can pretend that these things are its fruits? Together with the Novus Ordo Missae did there not instead come a dramatic decline in Mass attendance and vocations, an “identity crisis” among priests, a slowing in the rate of conversions, and an acceleration of apostasies? So, from the point of view of its fruits, the Novus Ordo Missae does not seem to be a rite conducive to the flourishing of the Church’s mission.

Does it follow from the apparent promulgation by the popes that the Novus Ordo Missae is truly Catholic? 

No, for the indefectibility of the Church does not prevent the pope personally from promoting defective and modernist rites in the Latin Rite of the Church. Moreover, the Novus Ordo Missae:

  • was not properly promulgated (and therefore does not have force of law; cf. above),
  • the old Roman Mass (aka, the Tridentine or traditional Latin Mass) was not abolished or superseded in the constitution Missale Romanum, hence in virtue of the of Quo Primum (which de jure [by law] is still the liturgical law and therefore the official Mass of the Roman Rite), it can always be said (principle 19),
  • and lastly, the constitution Missale Romanum does not engage the Church's infallibility.*

*Let us remember that a pope engages his infallibility not only when teaching on faith or morals (or legislating on what is necessarily connected with them) but when so doing with full pontifical authority and definitively (cf. Vatican I [Denzinger §1839]. But as regards the Novus Ordo Missae, Pope Paul VI has stated (November 19, 1969) that:

...the rite and its related rubric are not in themselves a dogmatic definition. They are capable of various theological qualifications, depending on the liturgical context to which they relate. They are gestures and terms relating to a lived and living religious action which involves the ineffable mystery of God's presence; it is an action that is not always carried out in the exact same form, an action that only theological analysis can examine and express in doctrinal formulas that are logically satisfying."

It should be also be understood that the papal bull, Quo Primum is neither an infallible document, but rather only a disciplinary document regarding the liturgical law that governs the Tridentine Rite.

Is the Novus Ordo Missae invalid?

This does not necessarily follow from the above defects, as serious as they might be, for only three things are required for validity (presupposing a validly ordained priest), proper:

  • matter,
  • form,
  • and intention.

However, the celebrant must intend to do what the Church does. The Novus Ordo Missae will no longer in and of itself guarantee that the celebrant has this intention. That will depend on his personal faith (generally unknown to those assisting).

Therefore, these Masses can be of doubtful validity.

The words of consecration, especially of the wine, have been tampered with. Has the “substance of the sacrament” (cf. Pope Pius XII quoted in principle 5) been respected? While we should assume that despite this change the consecration is still valid, nevertheless this does add to the doubt.

Are we obliged in conscience to attend the Novus Ordo Missae?

If the Novus Ordo Missae is not truly Catholic, then it cannot oblige for one’s Sunday obligation. Many Catholics who do assist at it are unaware of its all pervasive degree of serious innovation and are exempt from guilt. However, any Catholic who is aware of its harm, does not have the right to participate. He could only then assist at it by a mere physical presence without positively taking part in it, and then and for major family reasons (weddings, funerals, etc).

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