Archbp. Gullickson: “ad Orientem” will be our saving grace

Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Nuncius to the Antilles, has a blog called Island Envoy.

We have heard from His Excellency before, when he had sharp words about bishops who resist Summorum Pontificum.

Here is something from Archbp. Gullickson’s latest entry:

What is Liturgy?

All of the positive signs notwithstanding, that for the English speaking world we stand (thanks be to God) on the threshold of a rupture-healing liturgical reform, I am anxious about doing more to insure that we restore the continuity in our prayer to the Lord and our solemn praise of the Living God. Again and again I am confronted first off with the well-meaning of the laity, but also of priests and bishops, who don’t see as a break with the past, which needs to be healed, the didactic form of liturgy with all its discursive elements as it has commonly been executed over the last four decades. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  This has been a huge problem since the Novus Ordo went into effect, not only with the vernacular but also with the additional readings and everything spoke aloud.  Didacticism!  Grrrrr.] But it must be said: For weekdays we are too far from our roots in the essential liturgy of the Latin Low Mass; for Sundays we are leagues from the once common consciousness that worship by God’s People took place before His Throne.  [Home run so far.]

Can I say to a popular and loving pastor that he should have said “no” to an Ash Wednesday flash crowd, carefully orchestrated for and enthusiastically executed by the children of his grade school? What about that YouTube video of a priest from down in these parts (he’s got a great singing voice for belting out those Gospel/charismatic hymns!), vested for Mass, with wireless microphone, who has the whole congregation singing and swaying? [QUAERITUR:] What is liturgy? At some point, we lost all measure making that weekly “hour of power” and those occasional conference gatherings and special events the communal supplement to somebody’s Bible reading and prayers punctuating their quilt making, needlepoint and rocking in that chair handed down from somebody purported to have made the crossing on the Mayflower.


Sunday-go-to-meeting” is not our tradition
and represents a clear rupture in need of healing.

The simple sung propers (entrance antiphon, responsorial psalm, communion antiphon) might be the agreeable “purge” which will enable us to look at a limited role for hymnody, [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] let us say as an enhancement of certain moments of silence (a processional, a Eucharistic hymn of thanksgiving as a post-communion, perhaps? For pilgrimages and devotions?). With the ordinary parts of the Mass sung (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Great Amen, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei) we might find ourselves relishing a lot less all the syncopated stuff in the hymnals presently in usage.

Respect for rubrics and adherence to published texts
is at no one’s discretion

We owe it to our children and to all who enter the Lord’s House to let them know, to assure them that what Joel Osteen does or Bennie Hinn does at a tent revival has nothing in common with what the Church in God’s Name has called the priest to do at the head of God’s People each Sunday. Father did not and cannot simply “make up” what we do in praise of God.

[And here we go!] A return to worship “ad Orientem” is or will be our saving grace. [OOH-RAH!]

I hope no one misreads me. I would only formulate the wish that EWTN would simply exercise a legitimate option and start celebrating the daily TV Mass “ad Dominum”, so as to give folks from the comfort of their home an idea of what can be. [I’m hearing the “Amen!”s brothers and sisters!] The wood furnishings of that daily Mass chapel in Alabama could be rearranged in lovely fashion in the course of a single day. I am not advocating in parishes and religious houses of the more permanent sort another “barbarian invasion” of the temple to right wrongs with sledge hammer or pick ax. In church buildings, where possible, continuity with the past should be recovered, but some churches (even Santa Sabina in Rome, where the Holy Father celebrated on Ash Wednesday) cannot be changed. The great liturgists of all time, St. John Chrysostom for the East and St. Gregory the Great for the West, agree: we must physically focus together on the Lord when we pray the Eucharistic Prayer.

Just now I absent-mindedly touched my bishop’s ring and was reminded that with my titular see of Bomarzo I have a “Bride” who doesn’t talk back and who cannot not understand. For this I bow my head to all bishops with real “brides” and parish priests more familiar than I will ever be with “domestic” life. Be assured of my prayers that you might find ways, like our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, to open this loving dialog as Christ Himself would do, washing her clean and healing every spot and blemish.


Super-sized WDTPRS KUDOS to Archbp. Gullickson!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Archbishop Gullickson wrote, “I would only formulate the wish that EWTN would simply exercise a legitimate option and start celebrating the daily TV Mass “ad Dominum”, so as to give folks from the comfort of their home an idea of what can be. ”

    Yes! However, do recall that it was the Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop David Foley (now retired), who required EWTN to broadcast its daily Mass ad populum after years of its being celebrated ad orientem. EWTN grudgingly obeyed the directives, and, as far as I know, there hasn’t been a change in this requirement from the present Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop Robert Baker. Unless and until that happens, I do not believe EWTN has the authority to ignore the previous bishop’s directive.

  2. Agnes of Prague says:

    Wow, great stuff! I don’t know what this Ash Wednesday flash mob incident is. The last paragraph is touching.

  3. Fr-Bill says:

    I am anAnglican Priest, ordained in 1996 and poised to enter an Ordinariate. I have celebrated Mass facing the people only once in my life. It was disconcerting.

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Anyone who views a few minutes of the modern era’s first globally live-televised EF Mass can see that Mother Angelica’s Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament plainly was designed as the intended source site for the daily Mass telecast on EWTN.

    The daily Mass at the Shrine, is celebrated at the same time each morning as the Mass as the EWTN Mass at the original little chapel where EWTN started. The (ordinarily OF) Shrine Mass looks much the same as the televised EF Mass linked above – ad orientem, Latin, beautiful vestments and Gregorian chant, communion kneeling at the altar rail, etc. (Visitors to the Shrine frequently think they’ve seen an EF rather than an OF Mass.)

    The reason that we don’t see this beautiful daily Mass from Mother Angelica’s Shrine – and the world is deprived of seeing daily how the OF Mass can be celebrated in full continuity with the traditions of the Roman rite – is that when the Poor Clares made the move to the Shrine, the local bishop insisted that the Mass there be celebrated versus populum if it was to be televised on EWTN. But the Shrine had been designed for Mass to be celebrated ad orientem, and Mother Angelica refused to yield on this.

    So ten years later, with another bishop—and a very fine one by all other accounts—this stalemate persists, and Pope Benedict is (in my opinion) thereby deprived of what would be the strongest and single most effective support for his program to restore continuity in the liturgy of the Church.

  5. MissOH says:

    Bravo Bishop! What never seems to be mentioned when I have heard people advocating for all manner of song and dance during mass, it that one of the reasons the hymns and rhythm developed in so many evangelical circles is the word is all that they have, there is no sacrament. The emotion is emphasized because there is nothing else. Compensation for the real absence.

    If ad orientem is an issue with the Bishop in Birmingham, ad Dominum may be away to elevate the solemnity and as Bishop Gullickson states, start people on the path to understanding. The rock combo/folk music sittin’ round the table o the Lord crowd is fading fast and what can turn everything around is what he has stated.

  6. Gail F says:

    He is SO right about the well-meaning people who think all this stuff up and do it. They really do mean well. They think they are doing good things — IMHO, mostly because they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. That is not an excuse for the people who first did it, they did know what they were supposed to be doing (or at least, they ought to have known).

    Thanks for all the info about the EWTN masses, I have never heard that before.

  7. muckemdanno says:

    To use the “syncopated stuff in the Hymnals presently in usage” is exactly the same as to adhere to the published texts. The present Hymnals ARE the published texts.

    The discontinuity in Catholic worship is not due to disobedience in not using the published texts. The discontinuity is inherent in the approved, published texts themselves…at least in some of them.

  8. muckemdanno says:

    So, the only way to “restore” continuity in worship is to refuse to use certain of the approved texts.

  9. Hieronymus says:

    Brick by bick.

    But at some point we are going to have to confront the elephant in the living room: the spirit that inspired the ditching of ad orientem worship is the same spirit that inspired the creation of an entire new missal — and its marks are on every page. We continue to address symptoms, but until we address the problem itself we are just attacking the heads of the Lernean hydra.

  10. shane says:

    muckenemdanno, I suspect most of the discontinuity implicit in the Novus Ordo has its origins in the cult of modernity that emerged in post-war Europe.

    How about this for a hermeneutic of rupture?

    “[…] Nor can we allow ourselves to indulge in a rarefied type of liturgical pietism compounded of incense, plainsong and the aesthetics of ritual. […] To make this possible, the conventions and traditions of centuries were to be cast aside; the shape of the liturgical action was to be stripped of all anomalies and obscurities, and its meaning and purpose were to be explained to the people beforehand. This “pastoral” tone was well maintained in the Ordo itself: historical research and ceremonial innovation were clearly directed to one end, that the people should see and hear and understand and so take an active part in the corporate worship of the Church. Indeed, one felt immediately grateful for the very courtesy of the new approach: pastoral liturgy had been with us for some time, but pastoral rubrics were certainly something new! […] I suppose even those of us who know next to nothing of the history of Christian worship were aware that this was something quite new. And it must be frankly admitted that, for many of us, it needed a rather painful re-adjustment of mind and heart to think with the Church on this matter. […] The changes that have now been made are regretted by many […] Even on the aesthetic level one could argue that greater emphasis on “functional” ritual and the simpler, cleaner “line” of their design are more satisfying to contemporary taste than the highly-wrought forms of the baroque tradition. […] Above all the great objective of participation presupposes a “nearness,” an intimacy, almost, in the performance of the sacred rites, far removed from the somewhat remote grandeurs which the solemnisation of the liturgy has heretofore seemed to imply […] This is very much in the spirit of the basic reforms of Pius the Tenth […]”

    You could be forgiven for thinking that refers to the Novus Ordo, but it was actually written in 1956. (A Layman’s Reactions, The Furrow, Vol. 7, No. 6, The Restored Easter Liturgy (June, 1956), pp. 333-337)”

  11. Traductora says:

    Excellent and very thought-provoking observations from Abp Gullickson.

  12. benedetta says:

    Excellent piece. And I agree with Gail F — in the very beginning, perhaps, with the first steps in the wrong direction, viewed in the light of some context, well, that’s one thing. But to continue on and on, well, it’s not just steps away but we become unmoored.

    Shared worship ad orientem has great potential for the cause of unity.

  13. Andy Milam says:

    Now all we need is to see the pastors of the churches start to implementing these ideas and take it out of the realm of the intellectual and hypothetical and make it a reality.

    “The time for FEAR has passed. The time for action is now.” Isn’t that what the reformers said in the 1960s?

  14. KC says:

    Perhaps someday someone will write a novel about a priest who takes it upon himself to reintroduce the ad Orientem mass in his rural U.S. parish. What an example that might be to others. It might even reach further than the Antilles!

  15. iudicame says:



  16. I am delighted that the good Archbishop, and Nuncio is a son of the Diocese of Sioux Falls South Dakota. Bravo! He does us proud!!!

    Very Rev. Shane D. Stevens, V.F. Madison-Brookings

  17. Hieronymus says:

    KC, was that a shameless plug of HIM?

  18. becket1 says:

    Good Luck!. Anyone catch the opening Youth Day Mass at the 2011 LA Religious Education Congress. Archbishop Gomez fully endorsed the event and hoped it would continue to my dismay. No lie!. Brick by Brick. It will take decades if not a century to rebuild that which was lost. 40,000 are attending that conference, but when we want an EF Mass in the Cathedral in Washington it was canceled. If it would have been an Charismatic Mass they would have been all for it. Does Archbishop Gullickson plan to convince the Pope to put his words into action or is this going to just be another pep talk. How can we gather a crowd of over 40,000 Catholics to rally for the reform of the reform and a hermeneutic of continuity. Or will we always be “third rate Catholics” as one article on Rorate Caeli called it. And contemporary Catholicism the norm.

  19. mpolo says:

    I really don’t understand the invective against reading the Scripture at Mass. “One epistle was good enough for hundreds of years, don’t even think about opening that Old Testament…” The selections in the current Lectionary very nicely complement the Gospel Readings. Personally, I wouldn’t want to lose that (in the Ordinary Form).

    The “attack” on EWTN seems out of place, in that they instituted “ad populum” worship due to a direct order of their bishop. And obedience to the supreme legislator on liturgy in the diocese trumps personal feelings about “ad orientem” worship. I would like to see more “ad orientem” worship, but there is no point picking out EWTN as though they were evilly trying to foist their liberal ideas on us.

  20. Glen M says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a bishop adhering to the rubics is to commended. This weekend is the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress and although there is a new bishop, their “liturgies” are business as usual for them: liturgical dancing and other abuses too numerous to mention here. Thousands of people attend this event and then go back to their parishes to poison the unsuspecting pewsitter. Until Rome exercises its authority the battle will continue.

  21. nanetteclaret says:

    Perhaps the Archbishop doesn’t realize that EWTN was absolutely forbidden by the previous bishop to offer a televised Mass ad orientem. (The whole infuriating story can be found in Raymond Arroyo’s biography of Mother Angelica.) Perhaps if the Archbishop were informed, he could contact Bishop Baker with the suggestion.

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    muckemdanno: To use the “syncopated stuff in the Hymnals presently in usage” is exactly the same as to adhere to the published texts. The present Hymnals ARE the published texts.

    Not so. Plainly, by the “published texts” of the liturgy Abp. Gullickson means the official liturgical books of the Church, including the Missale Romanum, the Graduale Romanum, etc. It is absurd (and quite revealing) to equated these sacred texts with commercial hymnals that are merely “approved” by some local ecclesiastic authority to be printed and distributed by a commercial publisher. The contemporary problem of shallow knowledge of Faith and Church is well illustrated by confusion over distinctions like this — an inability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  23. irishgirl says:

    Bravo to His Excellency!
    Sure were a lot of ‘Amens’ in that post, Father Z! He deserved it!

  24. skull kid says:

    Does Bishop Robert actually have the authority to forbid EWTN from using the presumed (according to the rubircs) ad orientem posture?

  25. Henry Edwards says:

    Under strong pressure from outside the Diocese of Birmingham, Bishop Foley first issued a prohibition of ad orientem celebration anywhere in the diocese. After consultation with the Vatican, this prohibition was withdrawn. I believe his subsequent prohibition of ad orientem celebration in Masses televised from within the diocese was an application of a USCCB policy regarding televised liturgy.

    It might be mentioned that Bishop Baker has warmly supported in his diocese the traditional Latin Mass, which has occasionally been celebrated in Birmingham since his retirement.

  26. robtbrown says:

    mpolo says:

    The “attack” on EWTN seems out of place, in that they instituted “ad populum” worship due to a direct order of their bishop. And obedience to the supreme legislator on liturgy in the diocese trumps personal feelings about “ad orientem” worship.

    The diocesan bishop is not the supreme legislator of liturgy or anything else. Only the authority of the pope is supreme,

  27. mpolo says:

    Robtbrown writes: The diocesan bishop is not the supreme legislator of liturgy or anything else. Only the authority of the pope is supreme,

    I did say “in the diocese”,

    Canon 756 § 2 writes: Quoad Ecclesiam particularem sibi concreditam illud munus exercent singuli Episcopi, qui quidem totius ministerii verbi in eadem sunt moderatores; quandoque vero aliqui Episcopi coniunctum illud explent quoad diversas simul Ecclesias, ad normam iuris.

    I’m sure that I’ve seen the exact phrase I cited somewhere, but I didn’t find it in 20 seconds of searching in Canon Law.

  28. robtbrown says:


    The text from CIC , which refers to preaching, does nothing to support your claim.

    The diocesan bishop has authority over the cult in his diocese, but such authority is in no way supreme (which means there is no authority above it). Papal authority is supreme, full, immediate and universal, the authority of the bishop of a particular church is neither full nor supreme.

    Whether you said “in the diocese” is not relevant. As noted here before, the legitimate episcopal authority (including liturgical) held by a diocesan bishop does not mitigate the authority of the pope in that diocese.

  29. robtbrown says:

    cf Sacrosanctum Concilium:

    22. § 1. Sacrae Liturgiae moderatio ab Ecclesiae auctoritate unice pendet: quae quidem est apud Apostolicam Sedem et, ad normam iuris, apud Episcopum.

    And who determines the norm of law? The Apostolic See.

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