UPDATE: Celebrating ad orientem: “I am not the focus of attention”

A while back I posted that Fr. Dwight who has a blog Standing on my head, has begun celebrating Holy Mass ad orientem.  I was hoping for updates.

I have one.

This is on his blog:

After celebrating Mass facing the Lord I can report these favorable effects from the priest’s point of view:

  1. I don’t have to worry about where to look
  2. I don’t have to worry about what my face looks like
  3. I can weep at the beauty and wonder of it all without concern
  4. I can worship more freely and fully
  5. I feel more at one with the people of God
  6. I am on a journey to God with the people
  7. I am not the focus of attention
  8. The elevation of the host and the Ecce Agnus Dei have become more of a focus
  9. I feel more part of the great tradition
  10. I can’t see who’s not paying attention and feel I have to do something to get their attention back.
Okay, subjective feelings on my part, but I thought some readers might be interested.

Subjective, sure.  But these are precisely things that other priests are thinking, Reverend Father!  I can assure you that you are not alone.

And this is just the start of what it will provide for you and your flock.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mark says:

    Simply wonderful! How refreshing to see a priest, who one of us more traditionally minded types might be prone to label a ‘progressive’, go through an conversion process, if you will. :-)

    Deo Gratias!

  2. Cal says:

    Still, as an old editor once told me, “his I’s are too close together.”

  3. Paul says:

    Dear Father,

    This reminded me of the very first ad orientem mass I ever attended. While on holidays in the 1980s, the parish we visited in west Cork held a once-off mass in the scenic ruins of a small pre-famine church which, by force of necessity, was celebrated facing east on the remnants of an ancient altar. I well remember the comment made by the young curate who officiated (and who obviously had never faced that way before for mass). Quite off the cuff, he told the congregation that he had a great sense of LEADING HIS PEOPLE saying mass in this way.

    I wonder if other priests ever feel a greater sense of being a shepherd to their flock when celebrating mass ad orientem?

    Best wishes,


  4. Bernard says:

    How about:
    11. Don’t have to wonder if I have my back to God or they do.

  5. Patrick Henry Reardon says:

    What Father Z describes seems perfectly obvious to me. As an Orthodox priest, I could not bear the thought of actually celebrating the Sacred Mysteries ‘facing the people’ any longer than the brief liturgical greetings required by the rubrics. It would be immensely painful to do so.

  6. Guy Power says:

    This point of Father’s list impressed me greatly:

    3. I can weep at the beauty and wonder of it all without concern

  7. Kathleen says:

    Although our parish has a TLM every week, our unfortunate “church in the round” design means that, if the Mass is packed (which it rarely is), the celebrant is still facing half the people….

  8. That’s how I feel on the receiving end that he’s leading us to God. I love all of the reasons that he mentions, let us pray that our priests continue in this reform of the reform.

  9. Deo Gratias. I echo all those feelings as a lay member, I feel that the priest is leading us to God Ad Orientem as well we’re better able to see the priest act in persona Christi, instead of ad entertainem. Let us pray that this continues.

  10. St. Ignatius Loyola wept regulary at Mass, or so I have read.

    A question to Joe: Where was the Mass in West Cork and who was the priest? I am an American but resident in West Cork part of the year and quite active in the Latin Mass Society of Ireland. We’ve brought the TLM back there — first at a Mass rock in the hills near Bantry and later in Durrus church. We need priests who might be interested in celebrated the TLM. Sounds like your man is a potential candidate

  11. Tom says:

    Father’s points regarding Holy Mass ad orientem are wonderful.

    Unfortunately, unless Pope Benedict XVI and Latin Church Bishops (other than Bishop Rifan and SSPX Bishops) begin to offer Mass ad orientem, Mass versus populum will remain the norm within the Latin Church.

    When the Holy Father arrives in the United States, will His Holiness offer Mass ad orientem?

    Unless he does so, bishops and priests can point to the manner in which the Pope offers Mass as being perfectly legitimate.

    Communion in the hand, altar girls, Gospel music, multiple languages (Tower of Babel)…will be featured during the Papal liturgies.

    Therefore, it will be difficult for Traditional Catholics to claim that the Holy Father has a liturgical “Marshall Plan” in store for the Church.

    How can we argue against such tradition-shattering practices as Communion in the hand, altar girls, Tower of Babel liturgies, etc…when the Pope will employ such practices?

    Hey, if Novus Ordo Masses that feature Communion in the hand, altar girls, etc…are good enough for the Pope, aren’t they good enough for us?

    That is the argument that “liberal” employ…and frankly, liberals have a solid argument.

    If the Pope does it…so can we.

  12. Daniel says:

    I may be able to help Mr. Lothian re TLM in West Cork.
    Let us contact each other!

  13. Teófilo says:

    I am happy that these priests’ devotion and attention has been rightly refocused on Christ when they celebrate the Extraordinary Form of our Liturgy. I just hope that the frequent use of “I, I, I” doesn’t establish a contrary and equally sad trend, that along with the priest’s “I, I, I,” stand the “We, we, we” of the rest of us who attend the Paschal Banquet. We don’t want to revert to some past, tolerated attitudes that made the Mass something to be “heard” and “watched” and not shared in one single action.

    And before my more traditionally-minded brethren bring me a sharp retort, let me say that I attend the Extraordinary Form “extraordinarily,” no pun intended, that I have the utmost respect for this expression and am happy that the Holy Father extended its use.

    I am also saying that anything that shuts the Christifideles laici from participation in the Liturgy, whether in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, constitute a liturgical abuse. The graces deriving from the actions of the priest in the Liturgy are not for himself alone, but for all of thoese present and for all the Church militant and purgant, and a participation in the Liturgy of the Church triumphant. It’s not to be seen solely as an action to reinforce the priest’s ego and individual spiritual standing.

    Sorry to sprinkle on this parade.

    A thought to ponder.


  14. Father GD says:

    I have been celebrating the Ordinary Form ad orientem for almost two years habitually. Some parishioners have become attached to the holiness of it, others have been quite hostile since they think it excludes them. It is immensley important to re-educate our priests and people that saying and doing can, as my altar server has commented, allow one to by-pass interior prayer in that the ‘raising of the mind and heart to God can be alost forgotten in the saying and doing’. We celebrate the Extraordinary Form every Sunday at the request of a handful, but a few who aren’t really keen do attend as its our only Sunday Mass. Along with the ad orientem orientation the silence is, for many of us, something which almost demands a deepening of our prayer. As the saying goes, “Sioence speaks volumes”. perhaps we need to re-learn this also.

    As for Father’s comments on saying Mass ad orientem, I do find it rather pedeantic to worry about the “I” sattements, After all, the Mass needs to touch us indivudally as well as collectively. We are not a homogenous lot in the Lord.

  15. Matthew says:

    Your comment leaves me a little confused. Everything the priest does at the altar is for my good whether I see it or not. If ‘ad orientem’ worship causes my priest to grow in personal holiness that, too, is for my good. The congregation is a single ‘I’ in the “I-Thou” relationship that is our relationship to the Lord. this is, of course, why the new translation of the missal will return to translating “Credo” as “I believe” and NOT “We Believe”.
    Much, too, would depend on how you understand ‘participation’.

  16. Paul says:

    Dear James,

    The mass in west Cork I mentioned was celebrated one summer in the early to mid 1980s at a ruined church (not a mass rock) somewhere near Ballydehob. It was a novus ordo mass in English (although I do remember a fiddle-back chasuble!) and I think it was a once-off (although well attended that sunny afternoon). From memory, the celebrant was the local curate at the time (his name escapes me).

    Good luck with the re-introduction of the old mass down west!

    Best wishes,

    (Cork city)

  17. isabella says:

    One of the most beautiful sights I remember from a TLM I attended was that if you sit close to the front, you can see the reflection of the congregation when the chalice of Precious Blood is elevated after the consecration. I don’t have the theological knowledge or vocabulary to explain why I found it so moving, but I did.

    Also, like so many others have said, I feel more like the priest is leading us rather than having a conversation with us when we all face towards God. Right now, I have to travel long distances to attend the TLM, so don’t get to very often. Can you all pray that changes for those of us in my position?

  18. Barb says:

    Kathleen, It has long been my theory that all the modern architecture was designed solely to prohibit/impede the return to tradition . . .and this goes for the wreckovation of traditional churches. Literally, no stone could be left unturned in the mind of the most radical reformers. There was not only a reform, but a revolution (as has been much written about). The architecture was a master stroke. They try to say it’s for the “community” but in reality, it’s about the formation of the new sensus Catholicus — which means anti-Tradition. “heh heh — let’s built a church in the round, and then there is no way to celebrate except facing the people! heh heh”

  19. Augustine says:

    This is great news. Ad orientem celebration is something I really miss from my Anglican days. Pray that my parish can implement this soon! :-D

  20. Rob F. says:

    Barb said, `“heh heh—let’s built a church in the round, and then there is no way to celebrate except facing the people! heh heh”’.

    Ironically, I’d love a church in the round. Then I could finally sit behind the celebrant!

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