The Bonfire on ad orientem worship

At the Bonfire, Fr. Fox is picking up on the ad orientem dimension of the new reform of the liturgy Pope Benedict is using as part of his "Marshall Plan".

I was interested to see Fr. Fox speak about this on the tails of my having read Alcuin Reid’s comments here.  Whereas I have in the past made a connection between how the Pope celebrates in the Basilica as being a model for bishops, Reid made a connection between the Pope’s recent ad orientem celebration in the Sistine Chapel as a model for parishes.

Let’s look at a bit of the end of Fr. Fox’s piece here, but I want you to go there, read his piece, and spike his stats!    

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ad Orientem

….

I was just reviewing the Missal, and it’s right there, in red print: at various points of the Mass, it notes when the priest "faces the people"; why would the Missal highlight this if, as so many assume, the Missal expects him to be facing the people throughout? Rather, what the actual rubrics of the Mass say (as opposed to what people and even priests think they say) — or, rather, don’t say — is which way the priest is facing at most of these moments, leaving the matter open. But at certain points, the priest is told he must face the people; meaning, obviously, he may–or may not–at the other times. It’s all very clear, all one has to do is actually read the Missal.

I have found it shocking and distressing that at least some folks in the pews do not consider the pope’s wishes and guidance on these matters to be of overriding importance. This came up as I have introduced a bit of Latin (my critics would not call it a "bit"–but anyone who cared to compare the ratio of Latin to English words used in our Masses here would find I am right; they are reacting to Latin per se, not to its quantity); when people asked why, I cited the Second Vatican Council and Popes Paul, John Paul II and Benedict; to which came the response, from some: who cares? One parishioner accused me of worshipping the pope.

Now, in fairness, in one homily, I said that some had told me they didn’t care about Vatican II, and that drew audible gasps from the assembly; and when I was installed as pastor, at each parish, part of the ritual is that the pastor publicly swears–on the Gospels–that he will teach and celebrate the mysteries faithfully. That was very well received. (If you have never seen that ritual, it may be because it doesn’t have to be done publicly; but in this diocese, a pastor must make this oath.) So I am confident most parishioners reject this mindset; but it’s out there.

So, this will require quite a lot of discussion and explanation–which is why I’m posting this. I know many parishioners read this and I want to get people reflecting on this.

It is necessary to say that I have no immediate plans actually to offer regularly scheduled Masses ad orientem; I think it would be best for all concerned that any change such as that be discussed, explained, and handled without too much abruptness; and given all else that is going on in our parishes, I just don’t know when the right time will be for any of that. So those who think I’m up to something, well, I’m showing my cards right now. After all, I didn’t make the pope do what he did; and when the pope acts, it means something! So I am inviting reflection on, and consideration of, what the pope is teaching us. But I do think there will come a time it would be good to try this. When, where, how? I have no idea. I am trying to proceed calmly, I hope others will observe the same approach.

 

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29 Responses to The Bonfire on ad orientem worship

  1. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    If I would have allowed myself to be influenced by the small group of malcontents that exist in every parish I would have done absolutely nothing.There is a tendency in priests not to displease any one or any group and to try to get along with everybody.But that is impossible,all it accomplishes is that the parish goes nowhere.In all three parishes I have pastored the moment I mentioned a Latin mass (OF) some people got upset and said that I was anti-VII.When I announced I was goingto purchase a pipe organ I received several letters opposing my decision claiming that all the youngpeople would leave the parish.They didn’t.When I announced I was going to redo the church some said they would leave the parish as soon as the marble went in.They did.So what?The same thingI faced with Gregorian chant and Latin and the EF.Some parishioner wentonone of the blogs to decry the Latin OF mass because it drew only 150 people,when I established a Sunday mass in the EF and the attendance rose to 400 she was noticebly silent.If a pastor is going to lead he must give prudent consideration to any thing new.But if he decides it is for thegood of the parish he has to do it and stay the course.When I left myfirst parish in my farewell homily I told the congregation that if I would have listened to some of them nothing would have been done and the church would have remained neo-ugly.The congregation gave me a standing ovation.

  2. Tom Lanter says:

    Fr. Z;

    For years I have been telling people, Vatican II does not call for our priest to face the congregation all during the Mass . Thanks to you, Fr. Fox and many others for continuing to point this out. How did this start? On Jan. 1, 1970 at 1200 GMT did a telegraph go out to the whole Catholic world and say this is how we are going to “do Mass”?

    JMJ

    Tom Lanter

  3. Andrew says:

    Tom Lanter:

    “… how did it start?”

    I don’t know how it started by I do remember as a young student in a certain city in the late sixties at a Sunday Mass a young priest showed up and celebrated the Holy Sacrifice at a small wooden table in front of a magnificient stone altar facing the congregation. He explained to all that this and many other changes were called for by the recently assembled Council Fathers.

    I was puzzled then and I am puzzled now. And I am puzzled why today, some select bright members of the clergy have to “discover” what we uneducated dummies knew all along: in the sixties, in the seventies, in the eighties, and to this very day: that the versus populum is a VERY BAD IDEA. And something else puzzles me: why it was so easy to find the audacity to change some ageless customs while it is so very hard to restore them. Is it because “facilius est apta dissolvere quam dissipata connectere”?

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Tom: On Jan. 1, 1970 at 1200 GMT did a telegraph go out to the whole Catholic world and say this is how we are going to “do Mass”?

    No, it happened well before 1970, in the mid-1960s soon after the close of Vatican II, apparently with little official written (or even telegraph) communication through Church channels, when hordes of mostly self-appointed (I believe) “liturgical experts” fanned out saying “Vatican II says this … the spirit of Vatican II mandates that …”, taking maximal advantage of the fact that it would be years before any printed documents of Vatican II would be available for people and priests to see for themselves that none of it was true. Before it was known that Vatican II actually had said none of these things, the lies had already been believed and altars had already been jack-hammered, altar rails and statues torn out, the whole sorry business was most places a fait accompli.

  5. Diane K says:

    I commend priests like Fr. Fox, who work to bring people along, in spite of the flack.

    Christ desired all Christians, especially priests and bishops, to be counter-cultural. When I ponder this, I can’t help but think that to some degree, there will always be some tension between pastors and parishioners. This is like the toddler wanting things his way, but the parents knowing and understanding what is best, put up with the tantrums rather than cave in. Some people act totally childish, and do not take the time to listen. La Sapienze is the latest, greatest example of such behavior.

    I would say to priests, don’t worry about what the people will think. Don’t worry about the collections. Don’t worry about how many people will leave the parish, or complain to the diocese. Cast the net of Truth and your catch will be plentiful. For every vocal person in the pew, there are many more who are silent, listening and learning.

    I pray daily for priests and bishops, that God will give them courage to teach, and prudence to know how far to go on a given matter at one time, especially with the liturgy.

    My own parish has witnessed a gradual transition, which set us up quite nicely for Summorum Pontificum. It was not a shock for us to begin a weekly 9:30am Sunday Mass in Extraordinary Form. But, we did not get here overnight. It was through the slow, persistent, forward push of my pastor. Deo Gratias!

  6. Marysann says:

    I want to send a message to all of my lay brothers and sisters: pray for our priests!

  7. Joe says:

    Deo Gratias! People get on me for saying that Vatican II didn’t call for priest facing the people. it’s very frustrating.

  8. Habemus Papam says:

    Mass facing the people originated with the Liturgical Movement in the inter-war years. Vatican II was used as an excuse to implement this world-wide.

  9. Tomas Lopez says:

    Father Martin Fox says that he will leave it to others to make the argument that the Missal presumes the ad orientem posture. May I be the one to make the argument? Father Martin Fox says that four times he finds the words ‘facing the people’ in the ICEL-ized rubrics. Though rendered ‘facing the people’ all four times, the editio typico twice says ‘versus ad populum’ (once before the Orate fratres and once before the Ecce Agnus Dei) but twice says ‘ad populum conversus” (once after the initial Sign of the Cross and once before the Pax Domini). Could all of these legitimately be rendered ‘facing the people’? Well, perhaps ‘versus ad populum’, yes. Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid that ‘conversus’ is the past participle of ‘convertere’ and a more honest translation is ‘having turned toward the people’. Ergo, the editio typico presumes ad orientem orientation (perdonen la redundancia, as we say here in Puerto Rico). Thoughts?

  10. Tomas Lopez says:

    Uups, I the the computer ate a line of my argument above: Addendum, right before the word ‘ergo’: It could not read ‘having turned toward the people’ if the presumption were that the celebrant were already facing them.

  11. Habemus Papam says:

    Tomas Lopez, the evidence is building that not only did Vatican II never call for Mass facing the people, but even the Novus Ordo presumed an ad orientem position.

  12. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Fr Z:

    Thanks for the link; but I’ve noticed a problem, I don’t know why: on my end, the headline disappeared, on your end, the link did. My web page is: frmartinfox.blogspot.com for those wishing to visit the site. Perhaps Msgr Martini is spending time online since he’s no longer papal MC?

    Fr. McAfee: I appreciate your advice and the spirit in which I know it was offered. All I can say is I’m proceeding at the pace that seems best; what affects my decisions is that I have two parishes, and they are already experiencing a lot of change as it is, so I am trying to be mindful of how much change, regardless of its nature, the people can digest.

  13. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Fr Z:

    Thanks for the link; but I’ve noticed a problem, I don’t know why: on my end, the headline disappeared, on your end, the link did. My web page is: frmartinfox.blogspot.com for those wishing to visit the site. Perhaps Msgr Martini is spending time online since he’s no longer papal MC?

    Fr. McAfee: I appreciate your advice and the spirit in which I know it was offered. All I can say is I’m proceeding at the pace that seems best; what affects my decisions is that I have two parishes, and they are already experiencing a lot of change as it is, so I am trying to be mindful of how much change, regardless of its nature, the people can digest.

  14. Liam says:

    Actually, the change in orientation occurred in many places *during* the Council. A commonly experienced date in the US appears to have been Septuagesima Sunday 1965.

  15. TJM says:

    Heck, Father Fox, why not just ramrod it through like the “reforms” were shoved down our throats? Just kidding. We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. I believe that faithful Catholics with the proper catechesis will come around and take to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, ad orientem. Best wishes and my prayers. Tom

  16. Dob says:

    God Bless you Fr. Fox.
    “so I am trying to be mindful of how much change, regardless of its nature, the people can digest”
    I think any change which helps your flock to draw closer to Christ will never be burdensome no matter what else is happening.
    Had to laugh at the comment who cares about vii, if it’s any consolation we’ve had parish feedback on some changes in our parish. Some people proposed using anglican ministers to offer Mass. One really charitable person proposed GIVING AWAY our churches to other denominations, I could go on. The neglect of Catholic formation it is really shocking. So, you’re not alone.
    Also I think it’s only right and proper to allow yourself to be led by Pope Benedict, he’s very wise and full of faith. You might ask your parishioner if he/she is as wise the next time you hear a remark accusing you of pope worship.
    May God bless your efforts.

  17. Diane K says:

    Fr. Fox: Your pace is fine, imho. You are gradually introducing, and catechizing your people along the way.

    Fr. Perrone got Assumption Grotto to where it is today one step at a time, catechizing the parish with each change they would see. He wrote about it in the bulletin; he spoke from the pulpit. It all started some 5-6 years ago. It takes patience on the part of a pastor to know what is best, yet to not try to turn the ship so fast as to lose half the passengers.

    Every now and then I find myself back in my childhood parish for one reason or another, where things are status quo for “St. Suburbia” as we call it (chatty, casual, lack of reverence, etc.). I don’t get angry any more like I use to. I merely bow my head and pray, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”, and I mean it with all sincerity in my heart. Even when I’m not there, I am praying for that pastor and his congregation, and all others in m diocese.

    It is only by the grace of God, and acting upon that grace, that many of us “get it”. If I can have an ounce of pity on those poor souls who don’t get it, how much more does our Father in heaven pity them? My capacity for mercy is not nearly that of the Lord’s. He knows that not only have the people been taught wrong, but many of the priests were taught wrong in seminary. It will take them time to rediscover the Mass in a whole new way.

    God bless Pope Benedict with the motu proprio, because it will be the catalyst for this learning and I am hopeful it will find it’s way into how the Novus Ordo is celebrated.

    Deo gratias!

    To my mind, the best approach is to take small steps, offer consistent catechesis, persistence in application (not running the other way because people will be upset), and more prayer and adoration than we ever have had before.

  18. TonyM says:

    Re: “And something else puzzles me: why it was so easy to find the audacity to change some ageless customs”

    Why? Because Catholics “believe things.” We are the last people to jump off a
    sinking ship. The priests and bishops were all doing experimentation with
    the liturgy, and since they know better than us lay people, well then,
    it’s got to be right.

  19. Doyle C. says:

    I don’t think that it can be over emphasized that the Missal rubrics assume that the priest is “ad orientem”. This has been clearly shown by several of the other posters.

    I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that our pastor has been saying Mass “ad orientem” at the original High Altar in our parish for several years. This is done at every Mass of the week and our people have accepted it and have really come to appreciate the significance of “turning toward the Lord”. I might point out that I think sometimes preparation, while necesary, is drawn out to extremes and the people lose sight of exactly what their being prepared for.

    For those of you in the Charlotte Diocese drop by and visit us in Mt. Airy sometime.

  20. Tom says:

    When Summorum Pontificum was released last year, a great many posters to Fr Z’s blog and similar blogs (blogs run by holy, orthodox Catholics…priests and laymen) demanded that Traditional Latin Masses be offered at as many parishes as possible and as soon as possible.

    (I am not saying that the above necessarily represented Fr Z’s stance on the Motu Proprio._

    Posters were thrilled at the immediate success that the resurgent TLM enjoyed…and continues to enjoy.

    With little practical preparation of the laity, priests offered the TLM immediately…and posters to this and other blogs applauded said priests and even today, demand that bishops and priests promote the TLM.

    The point is that everywhere the TLM was offered…and will be offered (particularly for the first time at a given parish), the Faithful at said Masses will encounter ad orientem for the first time in decades…if not the first time ever.

    Hundreds of Catholics at this or that parish assisted at ad orientem Masses.

    However, posters to this and other like-minded blogs did not urge priests to “proceed slowly regarding ad orientem…take your time…years of preparation will be required before a parish should be exposed to even one ad orientem Mass.”

    Conversely, when certain priests speak well of ad orientem, but state that much preparation and discussion is required throughout the Latin Church before we could even think of offering even one ad orientem Mass at a parish, posters declare…”good idea, Father. We cannot possibly expose Catholics at this time to even one ad orientem Mass…the Latin Church isn’t ready for such a thing.”

    I don’t get that.

    1. I don’t buy the argument that an ad orientem Mass would “scandalize” the Faithful.

    2. I don’t buy the argument that tremendous preparation of the laity is required before a parish could even think about ad orientem.

    3. Priests, it’s just not that complicated. Just tell your people why you intend to offer Mass ad orientem…then offer Mass ad orientem. Your people will support you and your decision.

    I really don’t get it. It is not that complicated.

  21. Tom says:

    I am convinced that except for the hardcore liberal parishes, should a priest offer Mass ad orientem today at any Latin Church parish, 99 percent of parishoners would respond…”fine.”

    Hardcore liberals aside, I literally have never encountered anti-ad orientem sentiment among the laity.

    If a priest were to change the language of the Mass suddenly, then yes…trouble would result. Even conservative Catholics would not appreciate the sudden change in language.

    But regarding the direction at Mass in which the priest faces, nobody cares. If the Pope and bishops explained to the laity the richness of Mass of ad orientem, then the laity would develop an appreciation for said practice.

    But as far as offering Mass ad orientem today, nobody (hardcore liberals aside) would be shocked and “scandalized.”

    For better or worse, parishes play “follow the leader” and take on the personalities of its pastors.

    A parish accepts a liberal priest.

    A parish accepts a priest who restores tradition.

    Offer Mass ad orientem today, and tommorow, 99 percent of parishioners would say…”Father, why didn’t you do this years ago?”

    In fact, the majority of Latin Catholics would welcome Mass ad orientem as they have grown weary of having Father’s personality be the focus of Mass.

    Everybody knows that Mass today (Mass versus populum) is “Father’s Mass”…it’s all about Father acting as a showman.

    It is beyond me as to why good, orthodox priests who know better continue to offer Mass versus populum.

  22. Matt Q says:

    Dear Father Fox:

    What an intersting analysis of Ad Orientem vs Ad Populum. Your writing is clear and thoughtful and also with charity. In your last paragraph, however, I was struck by a few statements which I thought were peculiar.

    “It is necessary to say that I have no immediate plans actually to offer regularly scheduled Masses ad orientem; I think it would be best for all concerned that any change such as that be discussed, explained, and handled without too much abruptness; and given all else that is going on in our parishes, I just don’t know when the right time will be for any of that. So those who think I’m up to something, well, I’m showing my cards right now. After all, I didn’t make the pope do what he did; and when the pope acts, it means something! So I am inviting reflection on, and consideration of, what the pope is teaching us. But I do think there will come a time it would be good to try this. When, where, how? I have no idea. I am trying to proceed calmly, I hope others will observe the same approach.”

    ()

    While you may not be aware of the right time, Father, there comes a point when you will need to make the time. Unless you are actually looking for the right signs ( of which I am certain you are ) of the parish by which you are biding time, merely waiting for the moment will come and go and it won’t happen at all. Please do pray more and ask God to reveal to you the right moment. We shall pray with you. ;)

  23. Deborah says:

    Excellent article, Fr. Fox.

    One thought I have in regards to implementing changes is that often when there are several small steps taken toward the bigger goal, the faithful will complain that things are always changing – which in a way is true.

    To most of the faithful a change is a change, no matter how big or small.

    My recommendation would be a good catechetics piece in the bulletin and in the homily and the next week full out ad orientem. One change rather than many changes leading up to the goal.(This is the way I tend to do things with classes and groups I teach since often the anticipation of a change is worse than experiencing the actual change itself.)

    In the end the pastor knows his parishioners better than anyone else therefore knowing how they adjust in general.

    God bless you, Fr. Fox, and be assured of my prayers for this initiative you have taken on to lead the faithful ever more closely toward Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  24. Hugh says:

    When I was in the UK in 2003, the great Knights of Malta in that country were discerning the ad orientem question. By Lent, it seems, they had made up their mind. Some time in Holy Week, the wooden altar in front of the high altar in their chapel (in St John & Elizabeth’s Hospital, St John’s Wood) disappeared. At the Easter Vigil, there was a hearty paschal fire … comprised of the chopped-up forward altar. What a dignified send-off for services rendered! And at this moment in the Church, what an appropriate suggestion for a dignified, ritualistic farewell to versus populum altars everywhere!

    If one is going to do it, I say, do it with trumpets blaring and sacred fires. Heck, even solemnly bless the axe! The kids will be vying to strike the first blow, and you’ll have them forever.

  25. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Matt:

    Realize my blog posts are not only written for the world at large, they are also written for my parishioners; that last paragraph especially so.

  26. Monica says:

    When are priests like Fr. Fran and Fr. Fox going to come to the Richmond Diocese. There is no uniformity in our diocese. For example, one parish will have liturgical dancing while another parish has females giving the homily while the more traditional parishes have moved their tabernacles behind brick walls. We have nothing but liturgical chaos in this diocese and it is very disheartening to the faithful who only want what the Holy Father is teaching us.

  27. Mary Conces says:

    IMHO, some parishioners really ought to be informed and/or educated (not appeased and probably not consulted). These include those who are “active” in whatever capacity: office employees; heads of committees and organizations; Father’s friends and supporters whome he counts on for help with “projects” charitable, educational, financial, or liturgical; maybe daily Mass-goers. Surprising/offending these people would be uncharitable and potentially disruptive to the parish. Others–believe it or not–won’t mind such a relatively minor change as the ad orientum posture; they may not even notice. Not that conflict is ever totally avoidable. With or without advance preparation, there will likely be individuals who “come out of the woodwork”, either pro or con, who must be dealt with individually. In any case, I think any pastor should do what appears to him to be right after prayer and study, and not worry too much about timing.

    Mary Conces

  28. PMcGrath says:

    [Fr. Fox states:] My firm hope is that our Holy Father himself plans to talk more about this subject; I feel very confident he will offer Mass publicly in this fashion again. If … he continues, then we can correct the mistaken belief that Vatican II “did away with that”

    There’s an opportunity coming up for that — on his trip to the U.S. in April. He’s going to say Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York — the first ever Papal Mass there — and this Mass will be for priests, not the general public (who will see him at Yankee Stadium).

    Now — wouldn’t it be great if he did ad orientem at St. Patrick’s? In front of thousands of priests? It will be a historic mind-blower.

  29. kat says:

    Monica,
    It is like that all over. We just moved from the Richmond diocese to the Raleigh diocese and we have to travel at least 35 minutes to get to a semi-decent NO, the rest are suburbia-Mass hippy-dippy parishes. The only TLM is 1 hour away, but we see change coming in a monthly High Mass at the Cathedral and other developments are slowly coming along. Up in Maine there seems to be no change, the only TLM is in Portland, which is 4.5 hours from our farm. But, we don’t know what the future holds, we certainly didn’t expect what has been happening all over the world this past 6 months with TLM being said in Ireland, England, the Philippines…
    There are 2 TLM parishes in the Richmond diocese: one in Richmond and one in Chesapeake. Go check it out and if you go to St. Benedict’s say hi to everyone for me, I miss them so much!