Father James Jackson, member of the Traditional Latin Mass Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, holds a special place in my heart. In 2017, before entering Carmel, I became a member of Littleton, Colorado’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel FSSP parish, where none other than Father Jackson was the Parochial Vicar. My first encounter ever with him, was when I first dropped out of college to pursue religious life. I say this with all love, but most “modern day” Catholics and priests for that matter, near my college parish, were giving me such a hard time for leaving my supposed path of success, that I was beginning to doubt myself. I believed, and knew, in my heart that I made the right choice, but even Christ’s clergy were turning up their noses at me. That is, until I met Father Jackson. A good friend of mine, who was already close with Father, brought me up to him after Mass and said, “this is Jade, she just dropped out of school because she wants to be a nun”. He stopped, stared me in the face for a good five seconds, and without saying a word he clenched his hand into a fist and did this:
I have no idea who the above person is, but it’s the only way I can describe to you Father’s excitement, and the closest thing to his expression. We busted into relieved laughter, and I was over-joyed because it was the first real warm embrace, I had received for wanting to leave all and follow Jesus and Mary. Father David Nix was excellent as well, but Father Jackson was the first member of the clergy, I saw in person, when choosing to leave school. But then, this is how GOOD priests, REAL leaders of the flock, feel when they see a young man desire to enter the priesthood and a young woman in becoming a bride of Christ. Latin Mass priests are excellent this way; they are immersed in tradition, sound theology and understand that there is such a thing as too much discernment where modernism has seeped its way into Catholicism. True shepherds understand that oftentimes, Our Lord simply says, “come follow Me”. Not, “come follow me after you finish your degree and ‘feel’ peace”. This is extremely dangerous; Our Lord’s call is urgent and when He asked His apostles to leave all, they dropped their nets and obeyed. And when Peter asked about staying behind to bury His Father-In-Law, Our Lord said, “let the dead bury the dead”. How often do even faithful Catholics miss these words of scripture, or choose to disregard them, and even say: “well, that’s too harsh”. This was not the case with Father Jackson.
But later, when I officially decided to make the move to his parish to finally experience the riches and glories of daily Latin Mass, it was THIS critical time that helped me realize…. Our Lady needed me to choose between the Old and the New Mass, and the former it would always and forever be. It was a most intense time of study for me, getting familiar with using the missal on a daily basis and let it all soak into the crevices of my soul. This Mass was transforming my interior into something glorious, unrecognizable. It was also the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and I do not think it was a mere coincidence that during that very year, Mary led me to devote all my time outside of the Traditional Latin Mass, to studying the fullness of Her Fatima message. Scales fell from my eyes, like Saint Paul, and I saw how the Fatima message and the Latin Mass were/are connected.
When I noticed this direct link, I would ask Father questions, and his answers often astounded me- in a positive way. What other priests were not willing to speak about, or rather, did not know about, he would give his opinion and I would walk away enlightened. Once I remember thanking him for being excellent in the confessional and I told him that I noticed how Latin Mass priests seemed to be more in tuned with the Divine. He paused and said, “there is much truth to this, because Latin Mass priests receive more graces”. I was always waiting for him to contradict me in my questions or reflections; he never did. In fact, he confirmed them. I couldn’t help but marvel at this firmness of character and child-like simplicity. Another instance I confided that I was having evil thoughts against Paul VI and John XXIII quite frankly for disobeying Our Lady (as when anyone decides to treat Mary this way, I have a temper problem) and, “how are they Saints?” I could not help but ask.
Expecting him to chastise me, instead he said, “on the day of judgement Our Lord will separate the good from the bad, and we will be surprised to find who is among the bad”. Whistles. But there was also this, he often left such an impression on me when he would answer my questions, pause to truly think it over, and then respond. He did it in such a profound way, that I was almost always sure that it was Our Lord speaking through him. When holy members of the clergy place themselves entirely in the hands of Our Lord, this is the affect. When a priest embraces the Old Mass, lives in constant state of grace all the while admitting their weaknesses and living true devotion to Mary- when these three are united- priests like Father Jackson are the true fruit produced from the Tree of Life.
What I especially love about Fraternity priests, is in seminary it is not only important to learn the Latin Mass rubrics but the basic chants for the Mass propers, are studied as well. One will find, whether they can sing well or not, the mystery of the Old Mass is unveiled (never fully in this life) when one studies the sacred music- that is never random or out of place- in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I always felt like the Carmel of JMJ nuns received a taste of this method of training as three things are connected, which helps one to better understand how Our Lord set up His Church:
1.) The Gregorian chant, Mass propers chanted throughout a High-Mass.
2.) The Traditional Latin Mass.
3.) The Roman Rite Office (in our case, the Carmelite Rite).
Which is exactly what the FSSP priests are expected to recite, chant, and celebrate; this was what I had the privilege to study in Carmel. I had more negative, then positive experiences, in the Carmel of JMJ and I do not recommend any of their foundations at this point to young women, but aside from that, I give them an A+ in all matters having to do with my above, 1-3, bullet points. Yet, I never would have had that rock-solid foundation, laid down by Our Lady, if I never had my months of preparation under the care of Father Jackson at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. While I respect the Society of Saint Pius X, because we would not have the Latin Mass without them, as we know the FSSP stemmed from them, I do not believe they are the only group that embraces exclusively the Old Mass. The Body of Christ has many members and functions, and The Fraternity has an entire separate mission, a different white martyrdom, if you will. The Fraternity of Saint Peter has produced traditional fruit within the bosom of the Church, and because of them, Catholics are flocking to the Old Mass, when perhaps the SSPX confuses the average member of the flock. Everyone is different; I completely understand these questions. I have friends who are members of the Society and while I am not a part of them, I do all I can to sew unity among Latin Mass Catholics in general.
I do not see the SSPX as a cult, uncharitable or “sinfully disobedient”, but nor do I see them as the only group that choose strictly the Extraordinary Form. Dozens of men, also, specifically enter the FSSP precisely because they are not interested in learning both forms of the Mass. They CHOOSE the ancient form that has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. Contrary to the one that was fabricated during the “summer of love” hippy generation, where even Pope Paul VI was found weeping after seeing the “fruits” of a new Mass, and said: “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.” In a special way, I feel bound to remain by the side of the Fraternity of Saint Peter through the upcoming storm Satan has chosen to wage against them, through the new motu proprio, because the very core of the “final battle” between “Her seed and his seed” is on the two things most dear to Christ:
1.) His Mother.
2.) The Traditional Latin Mass.
I want to end with a story of joy. When I left Father’s parish, I never was able to say goodbye to him; Our Lady reserved that for another time. A few months before leaving the Carmel of JMJ, Cardinal Burke came to our monastery for the clothing ceremony of Sister Maravillas of the Nativity. The Cardinal, just two days prior, had ordained Father Thomas Mary to the priesthood (a mutual friend of Father Jackson’s and myself). Anytime a Cardinal comes to celebrate Mass, they are automatically expected to have a visit INSIDE the enclosure of the nuns and take with him a few priests. On this occasion, one of these priests was none other than FATHER JACKSON. When he saw me, in a true tone of Fatherly affection, he said: “IT’S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU!” As he stayed for about an hour, before he left the enclosure, we shared a conversation I will never forget, at the end he said,
“You never said goodbye”. Something inside of me was urged to say, “because it’s not goodbye”.
Father Jackson, I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart, for being a true shepherd, Father and FAITHFUL member of the clergy. “If one is not willing to shed their blood for the Traditional Latin Mass, they should not be celebrating it.” I don’t think we have anything to worry about with Father Jackson in this regard.
Pray for Father as he says goodbye to Denver, Colorado and joins his new parish in Rhode Island!