How did ‘ad orientem’ worship go in the Diocese of Lincoln?

Do you remember that in the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Conley decided to celebrated Holy Mass ad orientem versus during Advent?  HERE

The blog Corpus Christi Watershed has a follow up on how that went.  Sample:

A number of other parishes in the Diocese—probably on the order of 15 to 20—adopted the same practice of facing East during Advent. This was accompanied by explanation & catechesis, and the practice was met with considerable welcome. Multiple priests confirmed that the response was largely positive. Numerous parishioners apparently requested that the practice be continued beyond Advent.

One pastor enumerated some of the reasons his parishioners gave for their appreciation:

1. The posture seems “logical”
2. It makes sense to face the Person to Whom you are speaking
3. Facing East gives the high altar a purpose beyond simple wall decoration
4. It feels very sacred

These are interesting observations on the part of the actively participating faithful.

Another priest told me that his parish seriously considered adopting the initiative in their Advent Masses. Because Bishop Conley’s letter came out only two weeks before Advent, though, they felt there was not sufficient time to offer proper catechesis. Thus, they ultimately chose not to adopt the ad orientem posture. Nevertheless, there was a great openness among the priests.


There’s always next year.

Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Conley and to the priests who followed his lead.

We urgently need (have urgently needed for decades) a revitalization of our liturgical worship of God.  This revitalization includes ad orientem worship.

Fathers, take the step.  Begin the catechesis and DO IT.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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25 Responses to How did ‘ad orientem’ worship go in the Diocese of Lincoln?

  1. ray from mn says:

    Another good reason for ad orientem is that it lessens the likelihood that priest will consider himself to be a “performer”, entertaining the congregation.

  2. Sonshine135 says:

    Amen! I think the argument that facing the altar will drive away 25% of the congregation and alienate them has become tired . I actually heard this out of the mouth of one of my normally Warrior Priests. Although, I concede he would know best about what the temperament of the congregation would be, I think it is a high estimate. The evidence is overwhelming that this is the proper position for the Priest in the Mass. Our society has become too focused on being entertained.

  3. Iacobus M says:

    Ad Orientem worship makes clear that We, together, are directing ourselves toward something, someONE, greater than ourselves. That is rank heresy in the Church of Us, in which we all look approvingly at each other and sing “we are harvest, we are hunger, we are question”, and similar Ad Umbilicum nonsense.

  4. HighMass says:

    I agree with Ad Orientem worship! I was Organist past Saturday evening and we had a visiting Priest…..Oh is he still ever stuck in the 80’s 90’s, etc. Even to the point of Changing the words of the Mass i.e. Offertory, Consecration, from for many to the old for all…..needless to say I kept quiet after Mass, but truly a show……

    Some think they can do as they please, and of course nothing is ever said to them….but if It has anything to do with the Traditional Form of Mass, E.F. they are on us like crazy…..

    Just wanted to Share and Say the N.O. would be more Reverent instead of a side show

  5. Wiktor says:

    Ad orientem is a change in the right direction, if you pardon the pun.

    Versus populum makes expectations of entertainment, but the Novus Ordo missal isn’t really that entertaining. So many elements of traditional liturgy are removed or tuned down that something has to fill that void.

    I have attended an ad orientem OF Mass twice, in Latin, in the same church in which I usually attend EF – so the differences were as minimal as possible, yet it was still like day and night.
    (and it’s a pity that they don’t do this here on a regular basis – those two masses were scheduled as EF, but no EF-trained priest was available)

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  8. Rich Leonardi says:

    Catechesis, well in advance, is key here.

    In 2015, there are very few people left with baggage, fabricated or genuine, from the bad old days before the council. If something this is presented as a way to increase reverence, promote solidarity, and tap into our history, I suspect most people will go for it. (Again, if this were 1985 and pews and parish councils were still filled with freshly singed Vatican II teenagers and radicals, it might be a different story.)

    Yes, 10-20% will grouse about it, and 5% may even leave the parish. But they will grouse about any move toward authentic renewal. As a pastor, you have to decide whether you’re going to let those folks hold you and your judgment hostage.

  9. Rich Leonardi says:

    It should read above “If something like this is presented …”

  10. Blaise says:

    Why wait till Advent? Lent will be here in a matter of weeks but perhaps better to wait till Easter and at the vigil face towards the risen Lord, the light of the world in the light of the risen Christ.
    Or maybe just next Monday.

  11. cwillia1 says:

    Facing East to pray is an apostolic tradition. This applies also to private, personal prayer as well as to the mass.

  12. benedictgal says:

    My parochial vicar began celebrating Ad Orientem at our parish on the First Sunday of Advent. The feedback has been rather positive from the parish, especially since he worked his explanation into his homily. Needless to say, Ad Orientem continues. The only caveat is that we still have horrible music from Spirit and Song, but that is for another thread.

    I think there is an unsung hero that should get credit for even getting this conversation started. While Pope Emeritus Benedict certainly championed Ad Orientem in his book, “The Spirit of the Liturgy”, the one who took off and ran with it (even getting a mention directly from Benedict in his anthology of his theological works) is one Fr. Uwe Michael Lang. Benedict shone a light on the subject and Fr. Lang, through his book, “Turning Towards the Lord” certainly helped.

  13. Fatherof7 says:

    The cathedral parish of the Diocese of Tulsa celebrated ad orientum during Advent. I wasn’t there to experience it, but I was there for the Epiphany mass where the cantor chanted this year’s calendar. It was the first time I had been in a church that did it. Why are so many good bishops relegated to smaller diocese like Tulsa, Madison, Lincoln, or Geeen Bay?

  14. Fatherof7: “Why are so many good bishops relegated to smaller diocese like Tulsa, Madison, Lincoln, or Geeen Bay?”

    You mean, Why not Chicago? (Just to mention a recent papal opportunity to advance the revitalization of the liturgy and thus the new evangelization.)

  15. Athelstan says:


    As a pastor, you have to decide whether you’re going to let those folks hold you and your judgment hostage.

    Of course, it must be remembered that that hypothetical pastor’s predecessors in the late 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s certainly had no difficulty resisting any attempts by *conservatives* to hold *them* hostage on liturgical questions. They were more than happy to let them drift away.

  16. Athelstan says:

    Fatherof7: “Why are so many good bishops relegated to smaller diocese like Tulsa, Madison, Lincoln, or Geeen Bay?”

    For just the reasons you’d think: the stakes are lower. During the Benedict years, they’d keep their powder dry for fights over the big sees. (We speak here only of the U.S.; the situation is much worse in much of Europe, small or big dioceses.) There was actual a conscious effort by Benedict and his allies to focus on appointments to Midwestern sees in particular – they saw it as a riper ground for reform.

  17. frbkelly says:

    We are continuing the practice in our parish in Bee, at least for the time being.
    It took a bit to get started as I had to build platform extensions on the altar steps in order to approach the altar from the front. (I covered them with a nice oriental rug.) In a recent renovation, which had made vast improvements in the sanctuary, the altar was infelicitously placed too close to the front step.
    We were able to start daily Mass at the beginning of Advent, but We did not start Sunday Mass until Gaudete Sunday, so as to train the acolytes and servers properly and swap around the sides of the sanctuary. (Credence table had to be moved, etc.)
    In any case, we decided that such a short time would be too short to determine what its effect would be, so we have continued the practice for the time being.
    People’s impressions have been generally very positive, sometimes surprisingly so. Several people have told me that they can hear me better when I am facing the apse than when I am turned around facing them. The voice seem to reflect off the back wall and the sanctuary forms a kind of resonating chamber for the voice.
    The occasions when the priest turns toward the people help to underscore when he is talking to God and when he is talking to the people.
    I have had more comments about the appearance of the Host at the elevation during this time than I have ever had in my whole priesthood. Before, with my face showing, I suppose I was somewhat of a distraction to the eye of those looking on.
    One consistent downside was the makeshift steps in front of the altar. Over and over, people told me they were worried that I or one of the acolytes would trip and fall on the altar steps.
    In the meantime, we have managed to move the altar back far enough so that I no longer need the platform extensions, and much of this distraction was removed with it.

  18. friarpark says:

    frbkelly : concerning the sound reflecting off the back of the sanctuary, I think that is how these older churches were designed. At least that is what I have been told.

  19. CharlesG says:

    I very much agree that ad orientem will help stop making the Mass more the “Father ___ show”. Last time I was in Beijing I went to the above-ground South Church (Nantang) for the Chinese mass, and it was almost a parody of the game show mass so prevalent in the US. The announcer said over the loud speaker that “Today our celebrant is Father [so and so],” and he entered to great applause of the congregation. Our liturgies have got to stop revolving around the personality of the priest and get the focus back to Christ. So what if people will say “he has his back to the people”? That’s a feature, not a bug, in my opinion. Let him be facing forward for the readings, but not for the Eucharistic prayer.

  20. Macgawd says:

    Our parish adopted this posture for Advent, in anticipation of making it the permanent posture down the road (our new Rector of the Basilica is young and very traditional). There were only a handful of complaints, from the usual suspects. In an effort to explain what was surely a surprise to most of the parishioners, our priest had given a homily on the importance of this tradition within the Church. Later, some 30-something was heard complaining, “How can it be tradition? I’ve never seen a priest do that before!”


  21. majuscule says:

    I wonder if ad orientem celebration would encourage priests to elevate the host so people in the pews can see it, and at least keep it elevated for the ringing of the bells…

    I tell myself, at least we have the bells.

  22. frbkelly says:

    friarpark says: frbkelly : concerning the sound reflecting off the back of the sanctuary, I think that is how these older churches were designed. At least that is what I have been told.

    I understand that in churches designed before electronic speaker based sound systems, but that is not my church.
    St. Wenceslaus in Bee ( was built in 1962 and was _avant garde_ for its day. I am very grateful for the work of the priest before me who renovated the sanctuary to make it look like one. My only issue with the renovation was how near the altar was placed to the front step. But now that we have remedied that, it is all good.
    I find that regularly celebrating _ad oientem_ at the parish altar has put me in touch with my priesthood in ways that I had not fully expected. _Deo gratias!_

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Our local campus chapel was built facing west, but since Father says Mass “versus populum,” he also says it toward the East.

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Another Bishop Conley ‘item’ well worth reading: