Far and wide we should transition back to “ad orientem” worship

A reader sent two photos and a note.  First, the note:

This morning EWTN televised Mass celebrated by the ordinary, Bishop Robert Baker, at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. The occasion was the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the community of Poor Clares (Mother Angelica’s order) in Birmingham. Of particular note is that Bishop Baker celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem. This is standard practice at the Shrine, but the fact that it was televised globally makes it newsworthy, especially given the whole EWTN ad orientem debacle some ten years ago. The Mass re-airs on EWTN at noon and midnight ET, if you’re curious to see.

The photos:


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  1. Tina in Ashburn says:

    It makes more sense to face the Person the priest is addressing: God the Father.

  2. TNCath says:

    Way back in 1999, Bishop David Foley, the Birmingham at the time, published his decree to ban all ad orientem Masses in his diocese and consulted Cardinal Medina, then the Prefect for the Congregation for Worship, about what he had decreed. Cardinal Medina responded by saying that no, Bishop Foley could NOT restrict priests from celebrating ad orientem but he COULD restrict priests who sat Mass on television to do so facing the people.

    Today Mass was celebrated ad orientem on EWTN. One of the principal concelebrants of today’s Mass was His Excellency, The Most Reverend David Foley, Bishop Emeritus of Birmingham. Oh, the irony! Oh, how times have changed!

  3. Maltese says:

    No altar girls? How can this be so??

  4. disco says:

    I think that if ewtn had been allowed to televise ad orientem masses for all those years the idea would have caught steam much earlier and by now might have become the norm.

  5. acardnal says:

    I also watched another glorious EF Mass today live on the Internet: the ordination of FIVE deacons to the holy priesthood in the FSSP by His Excellency Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska. I am sure one can view the replay video soon via http://www.livemass.net. My acquaintance was one of the MC’s and should be ordained to the deaconate next year, God willing.

  6. Father S. says:

    Father, this is unrelated to your post. That being said, I have a question that perhaps you can answer. In the OF, can one still serve as an archpriest at a First Holy Mass? Can this priest wear a cope, following the old style? This has come up recently at priestly gatherings. Thoughts?

    [Thoughts. Well… the Archpriest for a First Mass isn’t prescribed in the Ordinary Form. It is an optional custom. I had one for my first Mass when I returned from Rome to my home parish in St. Paul. As a matter of fact, my Archpriest is now His Excellency Most Rev. Paul Sirba, Bishop of Duluth. There were two other bishops there also, now Archbishop Carlson and the late Bishop Schladweiler, and, now that I think of it, the future Bishop Alex Sample of Marquette was there too. Anyway, now-Bp. Sirba honored me by accepting the role, and acted much as the Archpriest should in the Extraordinary Form. The Archpriest acts as a kind of fancy MC. He keeps an eye on the new guy so that he doesn’t screw up too badly. Of course the Novus Ordo is so simple that a Spotted Lemur could be taught to say it in about 10 minutes or so. It’s hard to screw it up too badly. The older form actually takes some work to learn. But I digress. So, I believe it safe to say that, yes, you can have an Archpriest or Assistant Priest at a First Mass by force of custom. He will dress in cassock, then amice, then surplice, then cope over all. Biretta, of course. He won’t take a deacon’s place, but rather stand by the priest near the book so that he can keep an expert eye on the rookie.]

  7. Rellis says:

    So why doesn’t EWTN do their daily Mass ad orientem now? I’ve never gotten a good answer to this. That bishop is gone, the new bishop is supportive, and the liturgy movement is much more mature in this matter.

    So what is the holdup?

  8. kallman says:

    Very interesting to see the previous forbidding of televised ad orientem Masses from here overturned, hopefully this will become the norm and Sr Angelica will be able to keep broadcasting it.

  9. NickD says:

    I was flipping through the channels and came upon this. The main reason I stayed to watch was seeing the Mass being celebrated ad orientem. What a fortuitous surprise it was!

  10. david s says:

    My pastor introduced ad orientem celebration for the Sunday Masses at the same the new Missal translation was introduced. Not sure about the Saturday anticipated Mass. The weekday Masses are versus populum.

  11. JLCG says:

    To watch in television the back of a person for half an hour is boring. Actually it is always boring.

  12. Father S. says:


  13. ContraMundum says:


    You reveal the fundamental misconception behind versus populum: the Mass is not about entertainment.

  14. acardnal says:

    Sometimes the Bishop does not make a change until the Bishop Emeritus has gone on to his eternal reward. I know this from my own experience here in the Diocese of Madison where the TLM and altar arrangements in the Chancery chapel were not installed/celebrated until the passing of the previous Ordinary . . . presumably out of respect. No need to throw it up into their face.

  15. Not only did Bishop Baker celebrate this televised OF Mass ad orientem and with gorgeous brocade vestiture and great solemnity, beautiful sacred music, lots of incense, Greek Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin Gregorian chant, Roman canon, no handshakes of peace, communion on the tongue by all kneeling at the altar rail with hands under the houseling cloth, etc.

    This is how the Mass is celebrated seven days a week at the Shrine, except with a good deal more Latin. I cannot think of a more effective support of Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform than offering this Mass on world-wide EWTN daily.

    Of course, the Shrine was designed precisely as a home for not only the nuns but also the televised EWTN daily Mass. But too long ago, someone at EWTN said that the famous television ban is still in effect. I suspect there still is considerable pressure from without, as was brought to bear on Bishop Foley (Bishop Baker’s predecessor) a dozen years ago. (It might be mentioned that in retirement Bishop Foley is the go to celebrant of the TLM in Birmingham.) Let us hope that this first televising of Holy Mass as it is celebrated at Mother Angelica’s Shrine is a harbinger of change to come.

  16. Papabile says:

    The Bishops could well have made an exception to the decree for this special instance. A decree stays in effect until revoked or falls into desuetude.

  17. Stu says:

    Mr. Edwards,

    I have been to Mass at the Shrine and it is as you say. What I find interesting is how the Missalettes were labeled “Mass of Vatican II” (or something to that affect). I’m sure folks traveling to see the shrine are awed by the beauty of the Mass as it is celebrated there and then scratch their heads wondering why their Masses back home are in accord with the “Mass of Vatican II.”

    As an aside, the nuns singing during adoration there had me literally in tears. It is that beautiful to hear.

  18. Fides_et_Ratio says:

    I too support ad orientem worship. I really do not understadt why doesn’t the Holy Father do it himself. He should do it himself and make it obligatory for every priest in Rome, to set an example for the world.

  19. JLCG says:

    I believe that boredom is the root of much sin. How much pornography is watched on the Net because of boredom? How many marriages are destroyed by boredom? Is heaven supposed to be boring? Can we actually learn well anything that is not attractive?
    Do you notice how all those ad parietem masses that are portrayed in the blogs are pictures of stagings with many young men kneeling or standing like opera personnel? The priests dress their chasubles with elaborate ornaments so that we can entertain our gaze trying to decipher what is embroidered there. Is music supposed to be entertaining? Is a homily supposed to be boring?

  20. ContraMundum says:

    The response to boredom is not to concentrate more on superficialities. If that’s the response, there’s always something more exciting and entertaining on TV than the back or the front of a priest.

  21. I can’t believe this. Look at all the altar servers!!! And they’re all male!!! And …. Oh, my ….. 10 TORCHBEARERS!!!!! AIEEEEE!!!! AND THEY ARE AT A NOVUS ORDO MASS AND NOT THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM!!!!! EEEEEE!!!!!! I am just in ecstatic glee right about now!

  22. Peggy R says:

    Watching the re-airing now…not sure how late I can stay awake.

  23. pinoytraddie says:

    AAAAAAAAHHH!! I Miseed It! RATS!!

    Hope this Mass will bring change soon!

  24. southern orders says:

    While everyone here, except one maybe, seems ecstatic about the ad orientem which I do believe is the “signs of the times” for the future, in what manner did the congregation receive Holy Communion? While I believe ad orientem will indeed help to recover much of the lost sense of the sacred we’ve experienced now for over 45 years, I think that even greater loss of the sense of the sacred occurred with being forced to stand for Holy Communion, receiving in the hand and from a extraordinary ministers who are far from extraordinary today. Did they kneel or not? I haven’t heard or seen that and you’d think that would garner even more ecstasy amongst those who post here for if they did, then Bishop Baker allowed something that is not the norm for the US’s adaptation of the GIRM–and that’s a great sign too.

  25. Father K says:

    Concelebration looks a lot better ad orientem

  26. YES, southern orders, everyone at this Mass — with NO exceptions — received on the tongue, kneeling at the altar rail, most knowing to put their hands beneath the houseling cloth, just in case the held paten didn’t suffice.

    This is how how Holy Communion is always received at the Shrine, 7/24/365. Has never been any other way there. (Incidentally, Bishop Baker is–from my infrequent observation there–not infrequently seen at the Shrine.)

    Incidentally, I just read the article COMMUNION IN THE HAND IS A FAILURE by Fr. Kevin Cusick in the May 17 edition of The Wanderer:

    “The answer to this disaster appears to be what many priests are now doing. They introduce all first communicants to the noble custom [communion on the tongue while kneeling], use the practice for the celebration of First Holy Communion, and offer to all the people of God at every celebration of Holy Mass those things necessary for kneeling and receiving on the tongue in the kneeler and a server with a paten.

    Until we have more bishops committed to liturgical leadership, I wonder whether the reform of the reform can proceed any other way than one priest at a time, without relying on mandates from on high. (Incidentally, a reading of the discussion of at the USCCB meeting that approved the standing norm makes clear that it was intended to be “descriptive rather than prescriptive”–though the latter position was quickly adopted by the liturgists who had lobbied through the norm.)

  27. I might add that, as is the practice at the Shrine, the celebrant–Bishop Baker in this case–gave Holy Communion to the cloistered nuns on the tongue one at at time, each approaching the opening in the grill to kneel individually on the kneeler placed there. (There is no communion under both species there.)

  28. heway says:

    Well, I can understand why some people complain….this is the anniversary of a community of women? where are they?

  29. Geoffrey says:

    Last year I was fortunate to attend the OF Mass celebrated “ad orientem”. Apparently the parish in question does this every Lent (and Advent?). I was completely blown away. What a difference it makes!

    I hope this practice grows someday. What with the new English translation, add a little “ad orientem” and a sprinkling of Latin and a dash Gregorian Chant, and we can have an OF Mass to be proud of!

  30. HighMass says:

    Bringing back the Ad Orientem is WAY OVERDUE. Facing the Faithful should have NEVER happened……Bugnini??????????

  31. asperges says:

    I do hope EWTN will now celebrate their daily Masses at the original chapel ad orientem, now the precedent has been set by the very man who said ‘ad orientem’ would confuse the people.

  32. Mike says:

    When I was on my way to Saturday morning Mass (EF) yesterday I tuned in on the radio and listen to the homily as I made my drive. There was however no Mass at the 7:00AM hour (Central Time Zone). I thought to myself… OK, so tune in later on TV and see what the special occasion is. So I tune in last night during the repeat of the Mass on television and I see the shrine’s altar with the arrangement of candles and crucifix in what appeared to be an Ad-Orientem setup and think… EF Mass today! Excellent!!! Then I saw the readings and Gospel being read from the pulpit, not the altar and no sung Latin at the part in which I tuned in – and additionally the lack of the celebrant wearing Roman vestments… and no… could it be?… the Novus Ordo Mass being celebrated, dare I think it… Ad-Orientem? YES!

    I don’t know of what EWTN experienced in the past with regard to saying the Mass this way, but Saturday’s Mass was done beautifully! If only it was said just this way in my parish. I keep asking and it keeps never happening. I hear things like the people won’t like it… it’ll turn people off… I want to see it… I’ll miss “the show”… and things of that sort. I hope and pray that they do this more on EWTN and and what ever ban there is on televising the Mass this way will be lifted and now! With proper catechisis people would hopefully come to understand the beauty of the Mass this way and why it is important that we return to it. Kneeling for communion and on the tongue only under only one species is next. Does this sound like the EF Mass? Maybe, but what Vatican II intended was not what we ended up with. The Holy Father has said Mass in the Sistine Chapel on occasion Ad-Orientem and it is really beautiful as well. Let’s take a lesson from that and get to changing things. My parish is installing a communion rail and I hope that we can somehow use it. The church building is only about a dozen years old and was built without one. We seem to be headed in the right direction, but just not quite fast enough.

    Thankfully there is the Latin Mass Community in my diocese were I often go in addition to an FSSP parish in the neighboring diocese – in a large metropolitan area that is split into two dioceses.

  33. Father G says:

    At the parish where I am currently stationed, there is a monthly Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form.
    Since January of this year, I began to celebrate it ad orientem. I took the time beforehand to prepare the people for the change. So far, I have not received any complaints.

    I can’t even explain what I experience as I pray the Eucharist Prayer facing East, especially as I lift up the Body and Blood of the Lord at the Doxology. It just makes sense!!!

    After making the announcements at today’s Latin Mass, I mentioned about yesterday’s Mass at the shrine as well as how Pope Benedict celebrated Mass “facing East” on his birthday. Simply put, if the people hear that “the Pope does it too”, then they will be receptive to it.

  34. St. Rafael says:

    Tht’s great news Fr. G.
    I urge you to seriously consider celebrating all your Masses ad orientem. Why not every single Mass? Whether it be a weekly Mass or a Sunday Mass, they should all be ad orientem. Every single priest has the option of celebrating it this way. All that is needed on the part of the priest is the will and desire to proclaim that I offer my Masses ad oreintem and to just do it.

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  36. Geoffrey says:

    I am curious how Mass “facing the people” crept into the liturgy of the Roman Rite to become the norm. As we all know, the rubrics of The Roman Missal presuppose that Mass is celebrated “ad orientem”, and instructs the celebrant to face the people at certain times, etc. Vatican II said nothing about orientation, and I do not even know for sure if Archbishop Bugnini ever did. What happened?!

  37. Kathleen10 says:

    I am sorry I missed it too. EWTN. We all owe them such a debt. I am so grateful for Mother Angelica and the network. I know they have made such a difference in my life. They truly helped form me spiritually, as an adult. God surely has used this network for His purpose.

    I will write an email to the good Bishop thanking him for implementing the ad orientum during the Mass on EWTN. This is a good example of how being active advocates can really help our church. When something wonderful gets implemented, like a Mass that is ad orientum, Bishops and priests need to hear it was appreciated! Bishops get the complaints, but communications that support something like ad orientum are concrete feedback on something that the people want. Every time a change like this is implemented, it’s a bit of a “test case”. Will it be accepted? Will everyone like it? You can bet not everybody does, and it would be terrible if the only feedback were the complaints. Tell them, and tell them periodically. When the complaints come, at least the priest or Bishop can rightfully say, some people want it.

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