More ad orientem joy!

One the most damaging “reforms” implemented after the Council, founded on the excuse of poor scholarship, false archeologizing, and the “spirit of the Council”, is the so-called turned around altar for Mass “facing the people”, versus populum.

This certainly was the opinion of the great liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber.  Prominent scholar/figures of the Liturgical Movement Louis Bouyer and Josef Jungmann turned their own ideas about on this issue, as a matter of fact.   That’s something that did get out in the press at the time.

Pope Benedict has been putting into action his plan to reinvigorate the identity of Holy Church, especially through a renewal of the liturgy under a hermeneutic of reform and continuity.  Part of this “Marshall Plan” as I term it, has included the momumental step of Summorum Pontificum, as well as the concrete gestures of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue only to people who are kneeling.

He has also placed the Cross at the center of the altar for celebrations of Holy Mass.  He is surely doing this in order to promote a deeper understanding of the true orientation of our focus during Mass and, consequently, an actual restoration of Mass ad orientem.

Many priests are implementing what the Holy Father has been working for, and they are collaborating.

Thus, am always pleased when I receive news that yet another parish is being restored to ad orientem worship, priest and people facing the Lord, the Cross, on the same side of the altar of Sacrifice, together in unity.

Fr. Rob Johansen has informed me that at his parish of St. Stanislaus he implemented a project of restoring the main altar of the church.

He is going to be introducing celebrations of Holy Mass ad orientem soon.

Here is what he wrote on his site Thrown Back.

The altars have been completed, and they will be officially “unveiled” this weekend.

As part of putting our newly restored altars in their rightfully prominent place, I will celebrate the Masses this weekend and the following weekend (The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) Ad Orientem. I have spent some time explaining and catechizing my parish about the use of ad orientem in the past few weeks. The re-introduction of this posture is something of a landmark here, as I’m pretty sure the high altar hasn’t been used for a public celebration of Mass in 30 years or more.

I’ll have photos up of the finished altars, as well as of our historic Ad Orientem liturgies, posted next week!

We look forward to them!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. And preceding a pretty radical change (let’s face it, ad orientem would be a shock to the congregation used to 40 years of facing the other way) with explanation! That’s the ticket.

    And priests should plan on ongoing explanation and catechesis – not everyone was there in the summer, etc. A handout will be useful – “So You’ve Never Prayed in the Same Direction as the Priest?” would be a good title!

  2. Michael: Indeed! Lots’s of catechesis is needed about this, and many other spheres of the Church’s life and doctrine.

  3. What a blessing from God, our Pope Benedict XVI, the former John Cardinal Ratzinger, who is leading the church to a revivial of the faith of our fathers in all its tradition. Beginning with turning the alter around, which is foreign to most of the faithful, and when saying the NO mass insists on having the crucified Lord on the alter.People will slowly come to realize what a precious gift the Lord has given to we, the believers in Jesus Christ of this human, our Holy Father.
    What a gift to us all to have the opportunity to experience the usus antiquor mass, the indult mass so declared by St. Pope Pius V. For those who are new to the mass of our tadition, give it a chance and you will be won over.
    No more ecumenical masses where concelebrandts share the Eucharist with heretics, in the spirt of the 60’s, glady giving communion to anyone who presents himself to the priest, (or layperson) with no question of worthiness.
    Those like myself who grew tired of such masses and began to look elsewhere were fortunate to find a SSPX service which required communicants to examine their conscience and, yes even go to confession before receiving the Lord in Holy Communion.
    People ask the question, why is the church in the trouble it is currently in, with people receiving the Lord without first examining their worthiness to receive communion? Ask your Bishop what became of those small private boxes in the back of the church called the confessional? Does the prayer during mass admitting ones shortcomings, substitute for confession, penance? I think not. In my humble opinion, the Holy Father is calling us to return to the days pre-vatican II, but it won’t happen unless the Magesterium cooperates and gives those hungry for a true, serious examination of conscience by rebuilding the confessionals, and while they are at it, return to the churches, the icons of our tradition. Thank you

  4. Jane Fulthorpe says:

    Dear Fr.,

    I am always grateful for your succinct comments. You have really ‘done the business’ as we say in London, with your opening piece above. If only it could be sent by every bishop to be read out in every parish in the world…….and then followed up with catechesis …….ah me!

    Still, there are signs that the tide is turning, even in UK, thanks to nearly 40 years of patient and disceet work by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

    More problematic in France, but an act is being got together even there. See They’ve used the Internet to set up quite an impressive network already on a departmental basis, so that people can find out where their neareat EF Mass is going to be celebrated, without being bullied by ….. For instance I key in motuproprio16 (Charente) and get the information, or you can go to Paixliturgique and register to receive their free newletter by email several times a week.
    There is also assistance for assembling groups of ‘demandeurs for the EF. Very heartening. Thought you might be interested in how things are developing with ‘the Dowry of Mary’ and ‘the Eldest daughter of the Church’.

    Let us all pray for each other and our bishops and priests.

    Thanks again

  5. Mitch says:

    How fortunate this parish is…I pray it flourishes and pray for along Pontificate for our Holy Father. He is doing such good things and it is taking root in a few places. It seems that without the Cathechis nobody knows what is even correct or the positions of the Church. eg. Ms. Pelosi……

  6. Supertradmom says:

    I do envy those of you who have sensitive bishops and priests, instead of liberals who are still pushing the idea that churches should look and feel protestant. We are living in a diocese where the liturgical reformers still make up prayers in the Mass, where the priests think they must act like game-show-hosts, and where the Eucharist is not respected. We can get to the TLM on Sunday, thankfully, but the rest of the week is painfully stuck in the ’70s regarding the liturgy. Teen Masses are the worst and cause scandal weekly. Pray for us in exile.

  7. Clare says:

    I somewhat disagree with the need for extensive preparation of the parishoners. A simple, one-paragraph explanation, setting forth the facts, would be adequate. To do more strikes me as patronizing.

    In addition, as with explaining things to one’s subordinates, it is sometimes the case that justification and explanation create an expectation that the decision is one to be voted upon and to which everyone must agree.

    It isn’t, is it, in this case?

  8. fatherrob says:


    I understand what you mean about “justification and explanation create an expectation that the decision is one to be voted upon and to which everyone must agree.” That’s not what I’m about at all, as some of my parishioners (and a few former ones), would be happy to tell you.

    However, I think it is important to bear several things in mind:

    a. Ad orientem has not been used at my parish for at least 30 years, and possibly longer. That means that it isn’t even part of the memory of a substantial number of parishioners. A “one paragraph” explanation is not going to be sufficient for people who would perceive ad orientem as alien and outside their experience. Furthermore, many of those who might recall it or in some other way be aware of it have had their understanding corrupted by a lot of harping about how in the “old Mass” the priest “had his back to the people”, etc. Those long-formed prejudices won’t be undone by a one-off explanation.

    b. Repetita iuvant. That is, “repetition helps”. For most people to process information and internalize it, they need to hear it more than once. Furthermore, we’ve just ended the summer. During the summer, many parishioners go on vacation, etc., and are away on any given weekend. Therefore, the message must be repeated several times in order for all to hear it.

    c. For thirty years and more, people in the pews have been subjected to priests doing all manner of things in the liturgy (many of them illicit) merely because of personal preference or fads. Consequently, many have now formed a mindset that presumes that almost anything a priest does in the liturgy is based on nothing more than personal whim. In order to prevent that happening in this case, people need to be taught the whys and wherefores of something like ad orientem. That can’t be done in the context of the usual 15 minute Sunday homily. Therefore, it needs to be spread out over time.

    Fr. Rob Johansen

  9. patrick f says:

    You know, often the ultra progressives who council thump , as it were, like to say that the council restored that which the early church was; The communal aspect of the meal (and it is SOO much more), and it being in the vernacular, etc. they like to think of it as “feast” so they quite frankly dont have to think. Its difficult to think about the Crucifixion, and not be moved to tears. Now focus in on that thought, when it is happening at every mass, and you can see why those who like to “feel good ” (the drum banging, hand shaking, laughing applauding types) are put off by it. It makes them think, they no longer “feel good” about themselves. They are no longer the center of attention.

    Lets look at the history shall we? Where did the early church worship? In the Catacombs!! You see a beautiful altar like this, and it not only puts your focus proper, but it reminds one where we came from as a people and a church. Why is there an altar stone? To remind us we celebrate with the martyrs and saints.. thus it is fitting that the altar I think remind us of the catacombs, and the true “early church”.

  10. RichR says:

    Can I ask any priests reading this blog a question? What are the biggest obstacles to you re-introducing ad orientem? I’m not trying to set anyone up. In fact, I won’t even post again on this thread. I just want to know for my own education.

  11. Terth says:

    Clare said: “I somewhat disagree with the need for extensive preparation of the parishoners. A simple, one-paragraph explanation, setting forth the facts, would be adequate. To do more strikes me as patronizing.”

    I’m certainly not one for thinking of Joe and Mary Catholic as too stupid to hear the word “ineffable” in a prayer and not have the ability to understand it. However, I do think much catechesis would be necessary to properly reorient an entire parish. Maybe you are blessed with a congregation that leans toward tradition, but even in very full, very doing-well parishes, the memory of the Sacrifice offered ad orietem is all but lost. I once had a daily communicant ask me whether offering Mass ad orientem was even allowed in the Novus Ordo. I told him it was, that the documents of Vatican II didn’t say anything indicating a change, etc. – but I don’t think he believed me.

    Certainly not all the time, but sometimes you can derive an “ought” from an “is.” “For thousands of years men and women have been marrying and begetting offspring – Perhaps the homosexualist movement is contrary to our nature.” For some, never ever ever seeing Mass offered ad orientem has led them to believe the Roman Missal requires Mass to be said versus populum. An unexplained change back to our Lord, or one explained with only a short paragraph, risks being ironically tanited as rebellous.

  12. It’s a great thing to see Ad Orientem…brick by brick.

  13. Paul says:

    We’re quite lucky in our diocese in that, whilst those of us who are attached to the TLM have to fulfill nearly all of our obligations by attending the NO, our priests celebrate it reverently and we sing the Kyrie, Gloria etc in Latin. Unfortunately, there seems to be no hint of implementing the Benedictine reforms yet. We are waiting to be appointed a new bishop though, and this is a source of hope for us.

  14. Rubricarius says:

    Celebrations versus populum predate the Council. The practice was not uncommon in parts of Europe and the USA from the late 1940s. The American Jesuit Gerald Ellard wrote a series of books about the liturgical movement: these contain numerous photographs of versus populum Masses.

  15. This priest is going about it the right way – educating the faithful in the tradition of ad orientum before he implements it. That way they will be much more receptive to it, and more likely to support him as he leads them in that direction.

  16. This weekend I inaugurate celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (in the English vernacular) AD ORIENTEM. I am explaining to my parishioners that we will be doing this once a month at both parishes (I am pastor of two) on both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. We will recite, sing or chant the common parts in Latin as well. I want them to see first hand that the Sacred Liturgy is about the worship of God and not the exaltation of humanity. I have included a full page insert in my bulletin explaining WHY this posture is a valid and licit option in the hopes that they will naturally see the invaluable blessing of facing the same direction when worshiping the one true God via the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Just a few months ago we introduced kneelers for Holy Communion. The option to stand or kneel is still present as is the option to receive in the hand or on the tongue (by diocesan statute), yet I notice more reverence than ever by EVERYONE at Communion time. I also placed six candles and a visible crucifix at both parishes. God bless Pope Benedict XVI. Viva il Papa

  17. Gustav Ahlman says:

    “Can I ask any priests reading this blog a question? What are the biggest obstacles to you re-introducing ad orientem?”

    Ratzinger himself said this in The Spirit of the Liturgy after advocating the ad orientem celebration:
    “A more important objection is of the practical order. Are we really going to re-order everything all over again? Nothing is more harmful to the Liturgy than constant changes, even if it seems to be for the sake of genuine renewal.” (

    And then he goes on to presents the “compromise” of the “Benedictine” altar arrangement. As pope, he has introduced the Benedictine arrangement at public celebrations whereas the ad orientem celebrations generally has been limited to his private Masses (except for once so far in the Sistine chapel). In my opinion, the papal celebrations should be the model for the rest of the Church. I know that the altars of the papal are built in a way which makes ad orientem practically impossible, but even when the pope visits other places he always celebrates versus populum. Until the pope sets the example and makes ad orientem the norm in all cases, I see no reason to completely abandon versus populum before he does.

    However, to follow his example at the Sistine chapel, I definitely think that ad orientem should be used in every place that has an existing (beautiful) ad orientem altar, rather than to put up an extra versus populum altar.

    I generally think that the “norm” should be used, and for the moment versus populum seems to be the norm. But I would have _nothing_ against it if this where to change at the pope’s initiative. I personally find it very distractive having to face the priest during the eucharistic celebration and would love the reintroduction of ad orientem. But for the time being, my advice would be to wait until the pope make the first move and officially recommends or mandates it (not just as a cardinal but as pope).

  18. Gustav Ahlman says:

    Forgot a word: …the altars of the papal _basilicas_ are built in a way which…

  19. NY Priest says:

    G.A. asks, “Can I ask any priests reading this blog a question? What are the biggest obstacles to you re-introducing ad orientem?”

    One obstacle to priests of my generation is psychological. I have celebrated ad orientem a number of times in the past year (the church I am at is blessed to have a high altar intact. Its also has a movable altar where most Masses are said.) Some Sundays and some weekdays, but practically all First Fridays, I have been using the high altar. Each time I add a sentence or two about how I am choosing a legitimate traditional option which the Holy Father has encouraged and the meaning of all of us praying the same way to better emphasize our focus on God etc.
    That said, the first few times I “felt” as if I were doing something wrong! Having grown up with the Novus Ordo facing the people and been trained for it in seminary, ad orientem feels right but also strange at first. The strange part comes from wondering what the people are thinking since the reality is still not many priests offer this way. Actually, I think my worry had to do with the fact that the people can’t see what’s going on. For better or worse the Novus Ordo ad populum has ingrained the notion that nothing can be hidden! [Ad orientem is a necessary corrective to this tendency to “entertainment” in liturgy.]
    But, the trepidation is now largely overcome. Actually, it helped VERY much when laypeople actually gave me positive comments about attending Mass ad orientem. [Good point!]

    My point is, if you want to see more ad orientem Masses in the Novus Ordo, don’t stop encouraging your priests, especially younger priests who’ve grown up knowing only ad populum.
    Even if he has offered ad orientem a few times and you think he’s comfortable, a helpful reminder such as “Ad orientem is so beautiful” is a good encouragement.

  20. Fr. Trigilio: This weekend I inaugurate celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (in the English vernacular) AD ORIENTEM. I am explaining to my parishioners… Just a few months ago we introduced kneelers for Holy Communion. …

    WDTPRS kudos to you!

  21. Gustav: he goes on to presents the “compromise” of the “Benedictine” altar arrangement

    Yes. And this compromise position surely aims at a fuller reintroduction of ad orientem worship everywhere.

  22. TJM says:

    Fr. Trigilio, best wishes on your return to sacred tradition. Unfortunately in my parish I will have to wait until my pastor hopelessly stuck in the 1960s moves on(he publishes Father McBrien’s little missives in the bulletin each Sunday, so you get my drift). Congratulations! Tom

  23. Robert says:

    Every priest with whom I have suggested celebrating Mass Ad Orientem reacted with shock at the suggestion. The idea seemed so foreign and distasteful to them that the mere mention of it was immediately put to rest. I’m choosing my words carefull here so as not to sound unkind, but the reactions I’ve seen to the idea of AO celebration have been intensely negative. I don’t think it will happen in most parishes in our lifetimes.

  24. Tonight was the maiden voyage, so to speak, and the comments after Mass were overwhelmingly POSITIVE. In fact, not one complaint and only compliments on the REVERENCE of the Mass, which is accentuated, I believe, by celebrating AD ORIENTEM. I also preached on PROPER FRATERNAL CORRECTION which means people MUST speak to me PRIVATELY IN PERSON if they have any complaints, problems, questions or issues we can discuss them confidentially and charitably. I told them if they choose to whisper behind people\’s backs and gossip, then they need to go to confession. Gossip is a sin and the Catechism spells out three bad fruits of gossip: rash judgment, calumny (slander) and detraction. Too many of my colleagues are afraid of celebrating AD ORIENTEM because of gossip and the infamous rumor mill. Best to be out in the open with the people and they with their pastor. I told my people I am more than happy to explain the liturgical and theological reasons for what we do as Roman Catholics, including all legitimate options. BTW, people loved the analogy of the airplane pilot and the bus driver. Are they turning their backs on the passengers OR are they facing the same direction as everyone else in the hope of arriving at the same destination?

  25. Josiah Ross says:

    Congrats Fr. Trigilio! I will pray for the success of this endeavor.

  26. Michael says:

    Fr. Z.
    “Gustav: he goes on to presents the “compromise” of the “Benedictine” altar arrangement
    Yes. And this compromise position surely aims at a fuller reintroduction of ad orientem worship everywhere.”

    I wish you were right. The first symptoms are not encouraging. The Holy Father has already expressed his intention to introduce new Prefaces; recently, Cardinal Hoyos announced new readings; the long expected document on clarification doesn’t seem in the pipeline; Mgr.Perl has approved of the move of some Holidays of Obligation to Sunday in the UK, with resulting problems related to the changeable parts of the TLM, and he had been in conflict with the late Michael Davies, while the latter was the President of the Una Voce, about the actual form of the Tridentine Mass, proposing the form it had a few years after 1962 Missal when it was already in the process of demolition. I presume you know of the recent incident in Wales when the Latin Mass Society had no choice but to cancel the High TLM, as the priest in charge of the church insisted that a woman be present in the sanctuary. While the TLM is on increase the priests have to face the standing, Communion-in-the hand communicants and make compromises. Many who are present are immodestly or casually dressed, and nothing is done about it. Instruction as to when to stand, kneel or sit are lacking etc.

    I see in all this as an all-over-again gradual process of NO-ization of the TLM as it was done before, in the process of which we will be “led thirsty over the spring of fresh water” under the name of the “mutual enrichment” of the two rites, in which process the numerically weaker TLM will be gradually absorbed into the slightly modified NO.

    Why new Prefaces? It can only lead a suppression of the Preface of the Holy Trinity which is a robust expression of the Trinitarian doctrine, and badly needed because the Creed is muted when it comes to the divinity of the Holy Ghost – He is neither explicitly God, nor consubstantial with the Father and the Son.

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