Follow-up: Ad Orientem in Ann Arbor, MI – a priest reacts

Subsequent to my posting about the initiative of Fr. Gerald Gawronski at Old St. Patrick’s in Ann Arbor, MI to "re-orient" his parish worship.

In their parish bulletin the decision to celebrate ad orientem versus was discussed.  In this, it seems parishioner, not the pastor, is commenting.

My emphases and comments.

    A few weeks back when Fr. Gerald announced that he was going to start saying the Sunday 10:30 Mass ad deum (a Latin reference to the priest saying Mass while facing the tabernacle), I was unsure if I would like it or not.  I am someone who has read a lot of liturgical books and knew what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal said about it – that is, I knew the “rules and regulations.”  But I was uncertain how I would actually like it once he started doing it and how it would effect my subjective experience of going to Mass.  Therefore I decided to try to put out of my mind all the theology I had studied and the books I’d read and just observe the Mass as somebody just walking in off the street, like a blank slate.
    Several things struck me about the experience: [1] first, I think there is a great aesthetic beauty when the priest says Mass facing the Lord.  Everything seemed to come together up at the altar: the beautiful backs of the vestments (which we so seldom see), the elevation of the host in front of the crucifix calling to mind the sacrifice of Christ, the unity of the priest, servers and entire congregation praying and orienting themselves towards the mystery being accomplished on the altar. [This is not an inconsiderable point.  And it opens up the deeper realization of just how well the Roman liturgy was worked out and, of course, based on experience of centuries.  Holy Church is the greatest expert on humanity there has ever been.  There is the "psychology" of the liturgical experience to consider also: what impact does it have?  The Roman liturgy is unsurpassed in this sphere.  When it is simply carried out, as the books indicate, it has tremendous power.]
    I thought the coalescence of all of these elements made the experience something transcendent – takes our attention from the face of the priest, and refocuses it on the sacrifice of Christ.  This reminds us that the Mass is not about the priest or his “performance,” but about Jesus’ offering of Himself to God the Father.  [The point of liturgy is to create an encounter with mystery.  If liturgy doesn't do that, it has failed.]
    [2] Another beautiful theological truth came to me as I watched Fr. Gerald consecrate the host upon the altar, hidden from the view of the congregation, and then suddenly elevate it after the consecration.  The elevation reminded me of something wondrous, like the sun suddenly rising from behind the mountains and breaking forth upon the earth – just as Scripture refers to Christ as the Sun of Righteousness who rises up with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2).  [Each Rite has the genius of denying to the participants some aspect of their senses.  At various times people may not see or may not hear certain things.  This is part of the "psychological" impact of the rite.  It supports that encounter with mystery precisely in those heightened moments of the sacred action as described by the writer.]
    The fact that the consecration happens out of view of the congregation and that we do not see the consecrated host until the elevation brought to mind a profound truth: though the suffering and death of Christ was public, it was also hidden.  Many people witnessed the physical death of Christ: the women, the disciple John, and the Roman centurions.  But in another sense, the true suffering of Christ was veiled. Nobody can possibly get a glimpse into the agony He endured from bearing the sins of the world, from enduring the total rejection of love and the desolation that came with it.  No human being can ever comprehend this suffering. [mystery]  This is what I got out of the Mass: the consecration happening in secret, veiled like the interior agony of Our Lord at His death, but then followed by the elevation before all the people, just as He was lifted up upon the cross for the whole world to gaze upon.
    In the end, I found that I lost nothing by experiencing Mass said with the priest facing the altar, but that my experience was greatly enriched.  It made Mass a more beautiful and edifying experience, and refocused my attention on the sacrifice being carried out on the altar, which in the end is what the whole liturgy is about: divine love offering itself for the salvation of mankind.  As far as I’m concerned, anything that can bring this home to me more firmly is a welcome addition.  I mentioned this because I think it is good for us all to discuss it.  I was talking with Fr. Gerald the other day in the Church and he asked me what I thought about the Mass being said this way, and this article is my response.  What do you think about it?   Please let Father Gerald know.  He is available to talk about it.

I would be interested to know the responses.

When Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum I stated in the press and in interviews, in my articles and on this blog, that it would exert a "gravitational pull" on the way the Novus Ordo was celebrated.

I also said that Summorum Pontificum would affect the whole Church because it was such a gift to priests, especially to young priests.  As priests learned about the older forms – and in this case the older, or more tradtional celebration of Holy Mass ad orientem they would come to a new understanding of who they were at the altar and what they were doing.  In turn, this would impact an entire parish. 

Pope Benedict’s writings on celebration ad orientem are much better known now that he is Pope.  He has drawn attention to the proper orientation of Holy Mass through the so-called "Benedictine arrangement" of the altar, which is really just a transitional arrangement on the way to actually ad orientem worship.  Summorum Pontificum has also helped to reinforce the sense of continuity we must have in our worship when using the Novus Ordo.

This was not just a "brick by brick" event, I think.  It may have been "block by block" in Ann Arbor.
 

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30 Responses to Follow-up: Ad Orientem in Ann Arbor, MI – a priest reacts

  1. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    I was watching a programme on world faiths on the BBC (armed with blessed Icons) recently. It charts an Anglican vicar’s journey through 80 faiths small and large. What struck me in this episode is that all the faiths, even the wacky Cao Dai and Mother goddess people in the far east, pray facing the same direction as the prayer leader! So do Muslims and Jews. In fact practically everyone in the world orients themselves except for post V-II Catholics, low-church Protestants, and evangelicals.

    Perhaps this should tell us something. In fact, it must be quite embarassing for “progressive” “inclusive” “multi-cultural” liturgical planners that we’re the odd one out. Or, perhaps, they simply ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of the world doesn’t face each other in prayer.

  2. A Random Friar says:

    I give Father associate much praise for being open and acknowledging his stumbling blocks beforehand. It takes humility to write an article like this. Even if he didn’t like it, I can respect a man like this.

    And I also agree with your “gravitational pull” theory. I think S.P. will have the effect of correcting the wayward orbit of certain O.F. liturgical praxis and focus it more and more on the Most Holy Sacrifice, as it was meant to be by the Conciliar Fathers.

  3. One brick at a time, that’s the one thing I notice, the NO prayers don’t seem quite as lame (they’re still lame (the English translations)) when they’re offered Ad Orientem, it seems to all come together.

  4. Jayna says:

    I have a question about “denying to the participants some aspect of their senses” within the liturgy. One of my parish priests doesn’t say any of the inaudible prayers, well, inaudibly. I can’t tell if this is just another facet of progressive “inclusivity” (the other priests say them correctly, and they’re not any less progressive than he is as far as I can tell) or…really, I can’t think of another reason for him to do it other than that he just doesn’t. I can honestly say that I much prefer those prayers said inaudibly because it, as you said Father, reinforces the “psychological” aspects of the Mass and the encounter with mystery that it should promote.

    I am trying one by one to educate, or perhaps re-educate, my fellow parishioners regarding the significance of ad orientem worship. Hopefully if they find they are curious, or are interested in attending a Mass in which it is used, I will have some leverage when approaching my pastor about it.

  5. PNP, OP says:

    The liturgical left will allow S.P. to exert its gravitational pull on the O.F. if for no other reason than that they hope such an allowance will keep the E.F. at bay until the next (i.e. “better”) pope.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  6. When Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum I stated in the press and in interviews, in my articles and on this blog, that it would exert a “gravitational pull” on the way the Novus Ordo was celebrated.

    I also said that Summorum Pontificum would affect the whole Church because it was such a gift to priests, especially to young priests. …

    In Cincinnati, a local parish has started offering a Latin Novus Ordo (versus populum) on the second and fourth Fridays of the month on a trial basis. The celebrant is a priest in his thirties. Overall Cincinnati is still in the grip of ideologue-liturgists, but a Mass like this would have been inconceivable just a few short years ago. You can read about it at the following link, and I encourage my fellow Cincinnatians to support this effort:

    http://richleonardi.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-mass-of-year.html

  7. Jackie says:

    Why do we think a Priest wrote this? Above the article it says “from a parishioner”

  8. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    This is great. Thanks for the post! If only every priest could have the courage to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice facing the Lord. All it takes is courage by the priest and catechesis of the Faithful. The Sacred Liturgy would literally take a whole new direction and that alone would dramatically transform the Church in the US. Fr. Z, maybe you could begin a page with a list of those parishes where the NO is being celebrated ad orientem. This might spur other priests to have the courage to initiate it, once they see more and more of their brothers are doing it.

  9. totustuusmaria says:

    As a (very happy) resident of Ann Arbor (when I’m not at college), I am very excited about what’s happening at Old St. Pat’s right now. There is, actually, a lot of really good things going on in Ann Arbor, not only at Old St. Pat’s, but also at the other parishes, St. Thomas especially. There are even multiple priests willing and excited about offering the Traditional Roman Mass, and there have been a few traditional weddings recently (at two different Churches). Right now I have to travel to Detroit every Sunday (and thus out of my parish). May the day quickly be when we won’t have to travel. Fr. Gerald is a also a fun priest. I remember when he tried to convince me, in front of my pastor! to switch my parish affiliation to Old St. Pat’s!

    JUST A CORRECTION: This was written by a parishioner. Old St. Pat’s does not have an assistant priest.

  10. Central Valley Catholic says:

    This is wonderful news. I only pray the Bishop and more priests here in the diocese of Fresno Ca. would follow the lead of the Holy Father.

  11. Mickey says:

    More and more I find myself, a post-Conciliar Catholic, hungry for the ancient rubrics like ad orientem worship. I can’t help but believe that so much of what’s been lost can be recovered with simple adjustments to the Missal of Pope Paul VI (more precisely…suppression of the options that have given rise to so much confusion and abuse).

  12. A Random Friar says:

    Thank you, I stand corrected, but the ode to humility stands. :)

  13. I am the pastor of Old St. Patrick. First I want to thank you Father John, for posting the two items of news on your blog. (I met you at a workshop in Kalamazoo.) I hope your attention will help us continue to grow. I hope all who have seen us on this site will say a little prayer for my parish… I was made aware of these posts, of course, by my parishioners. I did not ask anyone to send this information to Father Z, but I am happy for how it may help us. The only reason I am writing is to respond to a post here by “Jackie”. The bulletin article was written by a parishioner who has some background in religious education, theology and Church history. But he is a young husband and father. He approached me with his thoughts which I thought were insightful and I asked him to write the article to stimulate discussion. Peace to all here and thank God for Father Z! — Father Gerald

  14. wsxyz says:

    !! Hooray for Father G. !!

  15. TP says:

    Greetings,

    The article mentions they he knew the rules, what the girm has to say about it. I don’t remember the girm mentioning ad orientem. What does the girm say about it?

    peace

  16. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    TP, read the Istituio Generalis again. It clearly indicates when the priest is to face the Lord and when he is to TURN to the people. It presupposes that he offers the Holy Sacrifice facing the Altar and not the people- ad orientem! Pax!

  17. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    For example:

    157. When the prayer is concluded, the priest genuflects, takes the host consecrated in the same Mass, and, holding it slightly raised above the paten or above the chalice, while facing the people, says, Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God). With the people he adds, Domine, non sum dignus (Lord, I am not worthy).

    158. After this, standing and turned toward the altar, the priest says quietly, Corpus Christi custodiat me in vitam aeternam (May the Body of Christ bring me to everlasting life) and reverently receives the Body of Christ. Then he takes the chalice, saying quietly, Sanguis Christi custodiat me in vitam aeternam (May the Blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life), and reverently receives the Blood of Christ.

  18. I am very glad to hear of this priest’s open-mindedness, and glad to see that he has taken the time to reflect and express his experience for the flock. Not to be nit-picky, now, but there was one point of citation that caught my attention. This priest goes back to scripture (Mal. 4:2) to ground the discussion of Christ as the Sun of Righeousness. Nothing wrong, there, though I wonder whether it were not ultimately more pertinent and informative to note that at Lenten Lauds, for example, the Church sings “Iam Christe sol iustitiae / mentis dehiscant tenebrae / virtutum ut lux redeat / terris diem cum reparas,” while in several other liturgical contexts, there is talk of us being “oriented”. In other words, there is a continuity, an organic unity of the Church’s whole official public worship that is better preserved and more appropriately expressed in offering the Mass ad orientem. There is also the matter of liturgical texts’ authority – they have their own, so there is no need to ground liturgical practice in Scripture.

    Again, my purpose is not to heap criticism for criticism’s sake on this priest, who is offering some valuable reflections on a wonderful experience. I am only trying to tease out an aspect of the issue that Fr.’s remarks brought to my attention.

  19. Make that, “this parishoner’s” as opposed to “this priest’s”, etc. I had somehow missed Fr. Gawronski’s correction. Apologies. Also, I’ll take the chance to reiterate my enthusiasm for the bulletin initiative, and my very good impression of its authorship. Like all well-written things about important subjects, it raises further questions in the right way.

  20. Chironomo says:

    Fr. Gerald…

    Was that the workshop last June in Kalamazoo (at which Fr. Z forgot to account for the change in time zones when arriving!)… if so than we have met before. This is a wonderful story and an inspiration to all of us who are working to accomplish far smaller gains in our parishes than this, and still facing huge obstacles. I try to keep my eye on the “five to ten years from now” goals, rather than the immediate future. Such changes will take time…

  21. What a great bulletin letter!

    It should be noted, and hopefully this notation doesn’t detract from the priest’s awesome message, that Father does not offer Mass facing the tabernacle. You can have Mass without a tabernacle. Father is facing the crucifix; Christ, crucified. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI addressed this issue in a book writtten before his elevation, it doesn’t make sense to consecrate the Eucharist in the direction of the tabernacle where Christ is already present; He is no less present in the tabernacle than he is at elevation. Rather, Father and the congregation are oriented to Christ crucified in the re-presentation of Calgary.

    Father Z also addressed this in a podcazt several months ago.

    That notwithstanding, God bless Fr. Gerald!

  22. Kevin says:

    It is good to see the enthusiasm with which the reintroduction of the Old Mass is being met. Many faithful and sincere people are rightfully welcoming this return to this revered usage. However, it seems that a word or two regarding the Vatican II Mass are in order. There is something to be said for Mass with the priest facing the congregation. I cannot imagine the Last Supper taking place with Christ with his back to the apostles. After all the priest is acting in the “person of Christ” at Mass. Seeing the face of a devoted priest during Mass (and especially during the consecration) can add to the importance of the moment. The mystery of the Mass is in no way lessened when the priest faces the people and his actions are in full view.
    The use of Latin and chant (associated more with the old rite) should have a place in both forms of the Mass. The blame for this exclusion in the New Mass falls to the bishops who have the ultimate responsibility for its mandated use in both Masses. The parts of the Mass should be in a universal, easily sung format that emphasizes the words with the music being a subordinate factor (Jubilate Deo). Hymns appropriate for the old rite are the same that should be used for the Novus Ordo. That once again should be the realm of the bishops and it should be their decision as to appropriate or not.
    But I digress. Both forms can be of service to the Catholic Church but one need not be downplayed over the other.

  23. wsxyz says:

    Kevin: You have misunderstood. This is not about the Old Mass. This is the New Mass that is being said, properly, facing in the same direction as the people instead of towards the people.

    I encourage you to read some of the archives of Fr. Z’s blog and listen to his podcazts on the subject of ad Deum worship. You will learn why it is very important to NOT face the people at Mass.

    It also seems to me that, even without a theological understanding of why Mass facing the people is inferior, it is incredibly arrogant to assume that the Church was somehow “wrong” for almost 2000 years and that we who live in the 20th/21st centuries are somehow so sophisticated and intelligent that we know better than the universal tradition of the Church over the last two millennia.

  24. Kevin: You might be laboring under a few misconceptions.

    I cannot imagine the Last Supper taking place with Christ with his back to the apostles.

    Good. Because that is not how it would have been. Nor would He have faced them.

    But that is also not the point. Holy Mass isn’t trying to duplicate mere historical details, as if it were a tableaux of a long past event. There are theological reasons for ad orientem worship that go far beyond the archeology.

    Seeing the face of a devoted priest during Mass (and especially during the consecration) can add to the importance of the moment.

    I entirely disagree. It draws attention to the priest, who is not to be the the focus attention.

    The mystery of the Mass is in no way lessened when the priest faces the people and his actions are in full view.

    Yes. It is.

    the music being a subordinate factor

    The problem with this is that sacred music is pars integrans in the liturgy. It is not “subordinate” in a sense of being less important. The music is prayer when it expressed the sacred texts in the proper idiom.

    Hymns appropriate for the old rite are the same that should be used for the Novus Ordo.

    The problem with this is that hymns at Mass are not liturgical. The texts for those moments are actually prescribed in the order for the day. The Church has setting for these texts. Hymns are common but they are not the norm. Introducing them, though commonplace and useful in many respects, remains a bit of an aberration.

    Both forms can be of service to the Catholic Church but one need not be downplayed over the other.

    Nor are they… on this blog, at least.

  25. pgk says:

    WhollyRoamin’Catholic:

    You are mistaken. Fr. Gowronski, when celebrating Mass ad orientem, is facing the tabernacle. It has a veil in front of it.

  26. Phillip says:

    Hi. I wrote this bulletin article. I am so happy it has provoked so much discussion. Fr. Gerald is an awesome priest.

    Pax

  27. ssoldie says:

    ‘ECCE’ AGNUS DEI ECCE— ‘BEHOLD’ the lamb of GOD the beautiful spoken words Behold, like, Fratres— Brethren, or Carissmi—–Beloved

  28. Joan Ellen says:

    It is nice to see a Tabernacle under a crucifix…in the center of the Church. As it is in the Synagogue. It is a nice example of continuity…for 5769 years… That also is a good example of stability.

    Sorry Father, for the turn here.

    comment by Joan Ellen

  29. Kenneth J Hughes says:

    I believe that it does not matter because silly bickering about how a mass, the celebration of Christ’s life and death, is said because there is not only one way to get to heaven. The English mass is closer to the original mass that was celebrated. I am only 16 and I have only witnessed the newer rite to the mass. I would not mind having the Priest face the altar. I do request that a priest keep the mass in where the Consecration is towards the people.
    Communion Rails are, in my opinion, absurd. If they were taken out in the past then why waste money on putting new ones in. I would not like to receive communion on my knees because I can feel in myself how unworthy I am to receive Christ.

    While more than one type of “mass” is okay, I could never imagine a different one

  30. Kenneth J Hughes says:

    I believe that it does not matter because silly bickering about how a mass, the celebration of Christ\’s life and death, is said because there is not only one way to get to heaven. The English mass is closer to the original mass that was celebrated. I am only 16 and I have only witnessed the newer rite to the mass. I would not mind having the Priest face the altar. I do request that a priest keep the mass in where the Consecration is towards the people.
    Communion Rails are, in my opinion, absurd. If they were taken out in the past then why waste money on putting new ones in. I would not like to receive communion on my knees because I can feel in myself how unworthy I am to receive Christ.

    While more than one type of \”mass\” is okay, I could never imagine a different one