“…not pastoral care of the faithful, but the psychological distress of the priest.”

I am working my way piece meal through a borrowed copy of Lazlo Dobszay’s The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite.

Here is a blurb:

"The turning around of the altars, celebration versus populum, was not commanded by the Council.  In practice, however, the new rite and the new position of the altar are closely associated.  We may say that changing back to the the original direction will have a beneficial effect.  Indeed the very fact that the bulk of the clergy protests with intense emotions against this return shows its serious necessity; the principle motivation behind the protest is not pastoral care of the faithful, but the psychological distress of the priest.  (p. 93)


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. I am currently reading “The Organic Development Development of the Liturgy” by Fr. Alcuin Reid. How does this compare to that?

  2. Elly says:

    Why would a priest be distressed by this? If lay people don’t like it because they want to feel that they are part of the consecration, does that mean if a priest doesn’t like it, he doesn’t want to feel alone? Is he afraid to face only God and wants to face people?

  3. Tominellay says:

    What an interesting point of view!

  4. rakesvines says:

    Re: “bulk of the clergy protests with intense emotions against this return shows its serious necessity”
    The pastors protest against it and that becomes the justification to ram it down their throats. (cleaning
    glasses and re-reading the text. Checking post if it was about Obamacare.)

  5. AnnaTrad51 says:

    I am wondering if these priest are the older priest who are having the greatest psychological distress with the changing back of the original direction of the alters. I have heard that some older priest have become very angry towards the younger priests that now wear cassocks, have learned the EF Mass and are eagerly embracing the traditions of the church. The older priests fell angry because they were forced to comform with what was going on in the 70′ and 80′ and now this new generation of priest are free to embrace all that they had to give up. Just a thought..

  6. From my experience, “ad orientem” is the proper orientation, if you will, esp. during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Psychologically, for the priest who is offering sacrifice, to be “turned towards the Lord” gives the proper bodily posture; for the faithful, if it is explained, the priest does not “turn away from them” but rather, “turns towards the Lord” WITH them…as a leader goes before the “army”. But this does not set well with those who want Mass to be “about them”; eye contact, the ever-present ‘need’ for the priest to be “present to the assembly” (whatever the heck that means!), etc. etc. are what they are looking for. This whole thing of “versus populum” needs to change.

  7. Konichiwa says:

    I’d like to hear a review from you, Fr. Z. I’ll likely pick up a copy of this book for myself.

  8. TJerome says:

    nazareth priest, you hit the nail on the head. For many, the Mass is all about “me,me, me, me” and not God.

  9. Tominellay says:

    I agree with nazareth priest (@12:21), too.

  10. Father Michael says:

    I truly enjoy offering the Mass “Ad Orientem.” The emphasis is not on me; it is on Christ’s offering to the Father. An added plus, it prevents me from rampant anger at the indifference and apathy of people at the very
    moment of consecration by roaming around the narthex of the church!

  11. Father Michael: I know, I know…constant distractions when I’m facing the congregation; I try to keep my eyes on the Missal or the Sacred Host/Chalice…those rubrics in the EF help me to keep my focus…screaming children are nothing compared to the “goings on” in the back!

  12. frdgss says:

    AnnaTrad51 – you’re right.
    I remember talking to my first Parish Priest (now a very holy, grand old gent in his late 70’s) about all this some 15 years ago. He told me some of his experiences regarding the kak-handed way in which the VatII reforms were implimented. It was the blinded (bishops) leading the blind (parish clergy). At ground level, there was revolt. The people knew that they were being asked to embrace something that they viscerally loathed (altars turned around, altar rails smashed, wanton imposed iconoclasm…and the rest of it). They either voted with their feet and lapsed – or put up something of a fight. My old PP told me that one chap took him to task for using EMHCs merely to shorten the administration of Holy Communion by 3 minutes (a reasonable point, it seems to me).
    There are lots of stories like these. I think those priests who went through this highly destructive phase in the Church have themselves been damaged by the experience. That’s why I’m not surprised to see this reaction to the restoration of liturgical normality/continuity.
    In a way, it’s easier for us younger priests – we don’t have such ruptured baggage and, certainly at the moment with Benedict XVI, we have a champion of liturgical continuity. So spare a kind thought and a prayer for such fading old troopers of (erroneous) reform: it wasn’t all their fault and, like a wasp in autumn, they are wont to sting a bit when cornered.

    NazarethPriest: I am a UK military chaplain and yesterday I has 2 young soldiers for altar-server rehearsal. Good lads, one of them I baptised only last Summer, the other well-formed in the faith (from the Cameroon). I have been offering Mass (Ordinary Form) ad orientem for the last 9 months or so. The image you use of the officer leading his troops into battle (to the Cross) was immediately clear to them both. It sparked a discussion of ad orientem/versus populum position. Both lads told me that they preferred ad orientem – because it was more “reverent” and spoke to them of a better (ie.visual) understanding of the priest leading and pleading for his people as he mediates between God and Mankind.

    From a priest’s perspective, I am so much more recollected when I “turn to the Lord”. I don’t feel the need to entertain the people – we are all oriented towards our God and “actively participating” in the offering, each in our proper way. My experience has been that if all this is properly explained to the people – they love it and crave it.

  13. Tradster says:

    Ad orientem can drive the stake into the heart of the wimminpreest advocacy. If it wasn’t all about “seeing me” then they wouldn’t want any part of the job.

  14. Mitchell NY says:

    I just can’t imagine the money wasted and time involved fighting over every little word. Missals printed, then disregarded etc. Latin should have just been preserved and the more they discuss the translation issues the more I wish they had never allowed the vernacular to begin with….And even the New Missal, will be good for how long??? It is getting tired already…

  15. momravet says:

    This has nothing to do with “wimminpreest”. Men and women both like power and the “look at me, I’m so great” thing.

    Always thought it was insulting to Our Lord to turn your back on Him while celebrating the Mass. Probably the primary reason that the tabernacle was moved off into the side chapel ghetto.

    Bring back ad orientum. I think it would be enormously distracting to face the congregation and see people coming in late, kids having “The Exorcist” moment during the sermon or worse during the Consecration, the scrum of peace, etc.

  16. “This has nothing to do with ‘“wimminpreest’. Men and women both like power and the ‘look at me, I’m so great’ thing.”

    It has a lot to do with it. When women see that only men get to exercise their inner narcissist in this particular way (not that it always happens, but the danger is always there), the priesthood becomes something to be envied, something to be coveted.

    Which is to misunderstand the nature of the priesthood altogether.

  17. In context, the blurb may not be as fallacious as it sounds. As it is standing alone, the blurb sounds like a Bulverism. The versus populum is assumed wrong, and the author is acting from a presumption it is wrong, as opposed to proving it wrong.

    Now the author may indeed have a better case when this blurb is seen in context, but as it stands I am not impressed by what I read.

  18. frdgss: Somehow my previous comment did not get recorded: I want to thank you for your comment; it does my heart well; thank you, Father. It means so much to me, knowing you are with men in the military, defending the common good. And to know that my sentiment rings true with military men, as yourself, and your men. God bless and keep you, Father. My prayers and blessing. May our Lady protect and keep you always.

  19. And frdgss: My mother’s people are from England. I am proud to have the English blood in my veins. I pray England will return to Holy Mother Church (my ancestors go back in record to the 1500’s, buried in St. Alban’s)…our Lady’s Dowry. I love the English Martyrs…hope I am somehow related to at least one of them! Bless you, Father.

  20. Agnes says:

    We recently received some excellent catechesis on the new Roman Missal from our associate priest. He mentioned there are “dangers for the priest” in facing ad populum – we all like attention, but in this context the danger is becoming an (indirect maybe) object of worship. He prefers and is thankful for Mass celebrated ad orientum at our parish because he can better fulfill his role in persona Christi, leading the faithful into communion with Almighty God through the Holy Sacrifice.

    Interesting thread!

  21. Rob Cartusciello says:

    We were fortunate to have a talented & understanding priest celebrate our Nuptial Mass OF, in Latin and ad orientam.

    There was not a single complaint. If anything, we truly felt he was standing with us before God.

  22. Mother says:

    It’s the age old sin of PRIDE!

  23. Andrew says:

    The author’s name is Laszlo. And we speak of worship “ad orientem” not orientum, not orientam.

    It really takes the effect out of your comments when your spelling is all over the platz.

  24. S Petersen says:

    Getting the Priests to turn around would accomplish the “reform of the reform”, in large part overnight. It would get those poor, poorly formed guys who are good guys but under the thrall, for non-culpable reasons, of much more cupable Bishops, out the stream of the Protestant Evangelical “minister” who keeps his flock together by his personal leadership (and who is, otherwise, replaced or left behind when his flock goes to someone more appealing). It’s hard to imagine why the HF doesn’t just order it, like the Bishop of Peoria getting the Tabernacles back in place. It’s good to near good news (like Gomez in LA) but it doesn’t seem like the strengthening of the Church is keeping up with the weakening of western civilization.
    And, Andrew: it’s hopeless–no one cares about spelling or grammar anymore

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    To answer your question: “Why would a priest be distressed by this?”

    A great many priest are not very clear on what exactly they’re supposed to be doing with themselves on the altar. In fact, a great many are not altogether clear on what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives as priests because the vocation of priest has changed and been watered down so much.

    If you were to turn the priest around so he made the sacrifice and couldn’t think about performing for the people, a great many of them would be quite lost.

    Some priests tend to think of themselves as supersized social studies teachers or something like that.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s why sometimes when you get into the confessional, the priest tends to tell you that what you did wasn’t really an offense or “you didn’t mean it,” when you know darned well it was a sin, pure and properly speaking. Why else would you bring it up??? And then he doesn’t give you a penance, so much as he blathers on about pop psychology. It’s a real problem.

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