Card. Sarah, Bps. Slattery, Conley, Morlino on “ad orientem” worship

I hold with Klaus Gamber and others that the turning around of Mass, to celebrate versus populum was the single most damaging thing to our Catholic identity.  I hold with Joseph Ratzinger and others that we need to return to ad orientem worship.  We need a return in an intelligent way with good catechesis.

From The Catholic Register with my emphases and comments:

‘Ad Orientem’: the Cardinal Virtues of Worship

Cardinal Robert Sarah and others encourage priests and people to look east.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Father Gerald Gawronski, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Ann Arbor, conducts Masses in the ordinary form — that of Pope Paul VI — in a way most Catholics are unfamiliar with. [How sad.  It is so sad that more Catholics do not experience Mass ad orientem.] While he does face the congregation during homilies and other times he addresses them, he does not do so at specific instances when the majority of priests today do — most notably at the offertory, consecration and elevation.
This traditional direction of liturgical prayer, referred to as ad orientem (facing east), had been nearly ubiquitous before the Second Vatican Council, yet almost vanished after it. [The destruction of so many altars, all in the name of an ideology, distortion of the Council and false scholarship.] This left most Catholics feeling the Council called for the priest to face the congregation, yet this was just that — a feeling — rather than a correct perception. [RIGHT!] None of the 16 conciliar documents contains an endorsement, let alone a mention, of the practice of the priest facing the congregation (versus populum) during the prayers of the Mass.
When Father Gawronski points this out to parishioners, he finds them to be generally receptive to it. “Old St. Patrick’s” worshippers have found his ad orientem Masses to be coherent and meaningful expressions of prayer. Rather than thinking of Father Gawronski as “having his back to the people,” parishioners see his positioning as the Church intends, expressive of the unity of the priest and congregation in their quest for God.
Father Gawronski believes the whole point of ad orientem worship is to demonstrate that the entire community is on the same page by facing the same God in prayer.
“The priest is meant to lead the people to God, not to be a distraction,” Father Gawronski said. “Liturgical positioning is not about making me or the community the focus; it’s about making God the focus. This God-centeredness is the hallmark of any authentic worship.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

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Cardinal Virtues of Worship
Authentic worship has been on the mind of Cardinal Robert Sarah, [HURRAY!] prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He published a noteworthy article on this theme on June 12 in L’Osservatore Romano. The topic drawing most attention in the article was the direction of liturgical prayer — specifically, how the priest and people should be facing the same way during many parts of the Mass.
While some see this as a return to a “pre-Vatican II” liturgy, Cardinal Sarah showed it is quite the opposite — that it is in fact consonant with conciliar teachings. In the opening sentence of the prefect’s letter, he sets the stage by asking, “Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI, will the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium] finally be read?” [A good question.  There’s stuff about Latin in there, too.]
The African cardinal explained that “it is in full conformity with the conciliar constitution — indeed, it is entirely fitting — for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the east during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer, in order to express the desire to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ.”
Cardinal Sarah emphasized that the priest must become the “instrument that allows Christ to shine through.” In the pursuit of this goal, he references Pope Francis remarking that the celebrant is not the host of a show, nor should he be seeking affirmation from the congregation, as if the primary concern of worship were a dialogue between the priest and assembly.
On the contrary, Cardinal Sarah believes that in order to enter into the true conciliar spirit, self-effacement is necessary for the priest who leads public worship. This self-effacement is implicit in the rubrics of the Roman Missal, which presume the priest will not be facing the congregation through the entirety of the Mass. [NB: not]

The Spirit of the Liturgy
Bishop Edward Slattery [HURRAY!] of Tulsa, Okla., has offered the ordinary form of the Mass ad orientem for nearly five years. “Ninety percent of the time in the cathedral, I offer Mass facing the same direction as the people,” he said. “The exceptions are when a great number of priests are concelebrating, because they would block the view of what is happening in the sanctuary.” [Hmmm… that sounds as if the priests would then be “oriented” in the same direction as the bishop/celebrant, thus leaving the congregation… out, as it were.  Frankly, I don’t think that being able to see everything is value so great that it must at all cost be preserved.  Eastern Catholics, with the iconastasis, don’t think so.  The denial of the senses is important for us to grasp something of the apophatic dimension of liturgical worship.  In the Novus Ordo very little is denied the senses.  As a matter of fact, most everything is directly shoveled at you in great heaps.]

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Bishop Slattery sees Cardinal Sarah’s recent liturgical remarks as a continuation of what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger taught, especially in The Spirit of the Liturgy, while serving as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI. This, in turn, is seen by Bishop Slattery as a continuation of what the Fathers of Vatican II taught: “It’s nothing new, really. It’s not only a decades-old tradition, but a centuries-old tradition of the Church that has solid theological and practical foundations.”
It is common sense to Bishop Slattery, [May his tribe thrive.] who recalls simple rules of communication: “When I’m speaking to someone, I usually face that person. So when I’m giving a sermon, I face the people, because they are the ones I’m addressing. When I’m in prayer — especially offering Jesus to the Father at the altar — I’m addressing the Father, so it is no wonder that I should be facing him, rather than the people.” [Of course.]
Bishop Slattery believes authentic participation is not facilitated [NB: not] by the priest facing the people at these times, because then the priest becomes the central focus: “The metaphor I use to describe this is of a door. The only time you notice a door is when it’s locked.  Otherwise, you don’t even think of the door, because the purpose of an unlocked door is to lead you from one place to another.” [Or to keep out a draft… but I digress.]
“The priest is supposed to lead the people in Christ to the Father,” the bishop added, “yet when the priest faces the people, he becomes a locked — rather than an open — door. Instead of thinking about Christ going to the Father, the faithful are thinking about the personality of the priest.”
While Bishop Slattery prefers ad orientem worship, he believes there is a deeper, more important element of prayer underlying the discussion. Regardless of the physical position or posture of the priest, what matters most, he said, is whether or not those present at Mass are entering into the sacred mysteries made present.  [And having an encounter with mystery]
This entrance has been commonly seen in recent decades as an “active participation” which calls the laity to proclaim the readings, distribute holy Communion, and do various other things which were once reserved for the priest or deacon. However, Bishop Slattery sees the matter of active participation differently.
“The phrase participatio actuosa, which appears in Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was frequently translated as ‘active participation’ but it’s more accurately stated as ‘actual participation.’” Bishop Slattery said. “The Fathers were not calling for more commotion; they were calling for an enhanced interiority. They wanted to have the hearts and minds of worshippers actually attuned to what was taking place, rather than merely being physical present.”

O Come, Emmanuel
Actual participation is seen in similar terms by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb. He offered Christmas Midnight Mass ad orientem last year, and wrote an explanatory letter preparing the faithful for his actions. Bishop Conley recalled that the Second Coming was especially emphasized in the early Church, where it was commonly understood that the reappearance of the Savior would take place soon. Because his first appearance occurred “in the East,” it was taken for granted that the second one would be similar.
Bishop Conley wrote, “In the season of Advent, we recall Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas, and we are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s coming. In the Holy Mass we are made present to the sacrifice at Calvary, and to the joy of Christ’s glory in heaven. Yet we also recall that Christ will return, so we are called to be vigilant for this reality.”  [The Four Last Things were terribly neglected in the years after the Council.  We must recover a sense of them as a point of daily reflection.  Alas, the prayers of the Novus Ordo itself tend to shelve the Four Last Things and the horrid translation we suffered with for decades expunged the few clear references that remained.]
For those who may have been concerned about the celebrant turning away from them at Mass, Bishop Conley reminded his flock that “In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. He will be with them — among them, and leading them — facing Christ, and waiting for his return.”
Father Gawronski shares these sentiments, and is grateful that Bishops Conley and Slattery — as well as Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis. [HURRAY!  The Extraordinary Ordinary.] — are among those onboard with Cardinal Sarah’s recent comments. Father Gawronski also reinforced Cardinal Sarah’s call to an honest reading of the documents of Vatican II by saying that “The hour has come to take another look at what Vatican II really taught.
The St. Patrick’s pastor added, “In Sacrosanctum Concilium, ‘the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord’ is written of. This should be evident at Mass throughout the year, but especially during Advent, when we face the east in the joyful hope of the return of our Savior and King.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. L. says:

    Father, I encounter many mysteries in the Ordinary Form Mass in my parish: who thought it was a good idea to have piano music at Mass? Who thought singing the usual awful ditties every week was a good idea? Who thought that wrecking the church to rearrange the pews in a semicircle around an Olympiad platform was a good idea? I meditate on these and similar mysteries at every Mass. I would describe my thoughts on these as ineffable, except as an ignorant layman, I’m not supposed to know what that means.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    This just makes so much sense! One has a hard time understanding why this would not be embraced everywhere by our Cardinals, bishops and priests.
    We see the empty pews getting more and more empty. Yesterday, while reading the obituary column in our local paper following the passing of a family friend, I noticed that out of about eight obituaries, only one person was having a Mass at the funeral. One other person was receiving a Protestant church service. The remaining people were receiving no Mass, but only “Celebrations of Life”. What a terrible thing for these poor souls and their families. People are truly turning away from God entirely. They have lost their faith and God has no relevance, even now, in death.
    The weakening of our Catholic faith and practices has led to an emptying of our churches. If the church wants to try to turn things around, here is a good place to start.
    If people want to argue the point, they should ask themselves how things are going thus far. What we have, is not working. We are losing ground by the day.

  3. JohnS says:

    I like Bishop Slattery’s point about facing the one we’re addressing. To take it one step further, versus populum means that the priest must turn his back on God!

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I remember the first time I ever attended Mass in the Ordinary Form “ad orientem”. It made such a profound difference. Words fail me.

    I wonder what His Holiness the Pope thinks about it. He has celebrated Mass “ad orientem” on a few occasions.

  5. Ann Malley says:

    “…I like Bishop Slattery’s point about facing the one we’re addressing. To take it one step further, versus populum means that the priest must turn his back on God!”

    “…to take it one step further, versus populum means that the priest must turn his back on God!” And that is precisely why what is too often flowing out of progressive circles is the extension of this supposed ‘necessity’ of the priest needing to turn his back to God. As if tending the flock in charity required turning from God to address the supposed needs of the people. This is to imply that God is not charitable, that His ways are cruel and heartless. (The old argument of putting people off by showing them your back is really laughable as nobody would think twice about turning their back on someone to catch a glimpse of say, a visiting Queen Elizabeth or a popular movie star, even Pope Francis. But people understand that. But not turning toward God. Oh, no, that is an insult to the people.)

    Could this be why we had the suggestion at the last Synod that the Church should return in ‘mercy’ to the Mosaic law with regard to marriage as if God was not merciful? As if He doesn’t deserve our highest worship and love?

    The harvest of hardened hearts is a direct result of this disorientation – negating the True Presence of God in the Tabernacle by priests being forced to turn their backs to Him. And for those priests troubled, the solution was to remove the Tabernacle, that is God, from the place of honor in His own house. A side chapel is good enough for You.


  6. Christophe says:

    Of course the solution is — say the Old Mass.

  7. JCF says:

    We often go to mass in the chapel at the Catholic nursing home my mother-in-law resides in. The priest celebrates ad orientem. I love it.

    The older I get the more restless I find my-self attending mass at our parish and sister parish. I attended a baptism this past Sunday and behind the altar was an awful purple banner with stars that look like a quilt and the song at the end of mass sounded like some jazzed up southern gospel song, then people started clapping to it! I wanted to scream “stop” at the top of my lungs. It seemed insane. It was as if I was in another church and not a Catholic church.

    Should I write my bishop?

    Sorry for the rant.

  8. mburn16 says:

    Of course we could simply start building our Churches like the Shrine of the Little Flower near Detroit, and solve the question entirely. The Church is constructed in the round (it was built in the 20s, so by no means a VII creation), so people have their choice. [An odd church. There is also a round basilica in Rome. Nothing new here.]

  9. Amerikaner says:

    What I don’t understand – if it was not a change from Vatican II, then why isn’t this normative in all dioceses, especially in ‘good’ ones? There are all sorts of other liturgical things that are dispensed with in good dioceses as they aren’t proper but Ad Orientem seems to be a big bugaboo. If a prelate wants thing to be properly ordered, make this mandatory in all parishes in the diocese at all times for all Masses. Explain that this is the proper thing according to the Church and work on a year-long ‘training’ program to get the laity to understand the change.

  10. Father G says:

    I know a priest confrere who favors Mass celebrated ad orientem, but is waiting for an official declaration from the CDWS, the USCCB or the local bishop saying it is permitted before he will celebrate Mass ad orientem. How do I convince him that there is no such need and that it is already permitted?

    [Oh dear. In the face of such a crazy notion (that one needs permission or that a bishop can approve or forbid it) it’s hard to know where to begin. Bishops can’t forbid what the universal rubrics require. A bishop cannot forbid ad orientem worship any more than he can forbid the use of Latin. And there is the fact of the continuing tradition. The rubrics of the Mass (in Latin, of course, the only definitive version) presuppose that Mass is being said ad orientem. Next, we have the answer in Notitiae HERE. There is also the question of the mistranslation of GIRM 299 HERE.]

  11. pelerin says:

    ‘None of the 16 Conciliar documents etc’

    And yet in the parish bulletin of a church attended by one of my friends it said ‘1981 saw the repositioning of the Sanctuary to turn the altar to face the congregation AS REQUIRED by the Second Vatican council.’ [A lie.] It was probably the last parish in the diocese to do this and by then everyone it seems had accepted the turn around as ‘having been called for by the Council.’

    I think it was such a pity leadership did not step in and inform the Priests early on that facing the people was NOT required by the Council. So many years have passed that I fear it is too late to inform people of this fact as many would feel it was another unwelcome change. I do admire those Priests who have seen the light and now celebrate all Masses ad orientem but fear they are few and far between.

  12. oldconvert says:

    Celebrating versus populum made Mass look more like the Protestant churches and some of you may remember that at one time (and even now, in some quarters) that seemed to be the guiding principle for some bishops and clergy. As if the Protestant churches (exept for evangelists and fundamentalists) hadn’t been haemorrhaging members even more quickly than Catholics.

  13. Traductora says:

    Turning the priest around, to oversimplify the whole issue, would be the one thing that would make the greatest immediate difference.

    I’d like to go back to the Old Mass, personally, but I don’t think that’s feasible right off the bat, and I also think it should use the mixed vernacular and Latin formula that appeared around 1965 (based on the 1962 missal). So it wouldn’t be the really, really “Old Mass,” which most of its proponents have never seen celebrated at average parish level, and that would mean that the internecine war would begin…

    But that doesn’t matter for now. Just turn the priest around. I bet a lot of priests would like it, too.

  14. Clinton R. says:

    My hope and prayer is somewhere in the world is a young man or boy who has experienced the TLM and fallen in love with it. And that one day he will be a priest, then a bishop, then a cardinal, and then pope. As Pope, he will restore the Mass Immemorial as the Ordinary Rite. In the meanwhile, I am grateful for the prelates such as Cardinal Sarah who have expounded on the virtues of ad orientem worship. Holy Mass should always reflect the Majesty of Our Lord.

  15. Nathan says:

    I know I’ve said as much on this issue here before, but I hope it bears repeating. It’s encouraging to hear ordinaries and other prelates speak out in favor of Holy Mass offered ad orientem. It would be more encouraging to see them widely implement it in their dioceses. (kudos to Bishop Slattery for at least making it a regular practice at the cathedral))

    Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is that while there is no policy or juridical impediment for any priest, anywhere, anytime to offer Holy Mass ad orientem, in all but a handful of churches in the U.S. it just doesn’t happen.

    In Christ,

  16. Ann Malley says:

    “…Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is that while there is no policy or juridical impediment for any priest, anywhere, anytime to offer Holy Mass ad orientem, in all but a handful of churches in the U.S. it just doesn’t happen.”

    Hosea 4:6 “…My people have been silent, because they had no knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge.”

    Too often that which wasn’t binding has been put forth in such a manner as to imply command, establishing a precedent of assumption that spreads until Catholics, even our hierarchy, seems uncertain about what is or isn’t allowed. Hopefully, the increase of more traditional Catholic practice will make ‘Catholic’ okay again for Catholics.

  17. Michael_Thoma says:

    Maybe an entirely new approach should be attempted (entirely new for Tradition minded folks, it’s the norm for so-called ‘progressives’), use the swishy lingo that makes people feelgood. Instead of employing the going back to the ‘good ol days’ lingo (the swishy ‘feel’ that the ol days were overbearing, ‘paternalistic’, meaning antifeminine; and against humanism), how about “solidarity” with the Eastern Churches, “welcoming” refugees by ‘inculturation’; and reducing “clericalism” by allowing everyone to participate more fully – men, women, and children – by letting all face the same direction as the priest. Yay!

  18. Luvadoxi says:

    This makes me think of the old hymn:
    Let us break bread together on our knees
    Let us break bread together on our knees
    When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
    O Lord, have mercy on me.

    Not really relevant in modern masses, is it?

  19. Thomas Sweeney says:

    All of this crazy word play, could, or rather should have been avoided, by keeping our Traditional Mass. I am old enough to remember, that before VII the Mass was exactly the same all over the world, in fact, I remember while attending Mass in a foreign country, thinking, that I was still in my own parish, which was 5000 miles away. I know it is wishful thinking, like asking England and France not to accede to Hitler’s wishes at Munich.
    We should give God the dignity that He deserves. Greeting Him like a fellow member of the Elks Club is disrespectful.

  20. iPadre says:

    All Masses at Holy Ghost have been celebrated ad orientem since March 30, 2013. Our weekday Masses have been for much longer. There is a difference in the attitude, prayerfulness, and reverence of the priest and the congregation (once they have adjusted), and no one can convince me otherwise. Many visitors people will comment after a funeral: “What a beautiful Mass Father.” And I’ve only followed the rubrics!

  21. WmHesch says:

    CUSTOS OCULI is also key to liturgical posture. Most Tridentine Mass first-timers are curious why the priest cast his eyes downward because they’re refugees from parishes where Father made eye contact with them instead of the Host during the Consecration.

  22. Will Elliott says:

    Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa has a good-sized space between the free-standing altar and the reredos/high altar in the back of the sanctuary. I once saw Bishop Slattery serve as lead celebrant of a Mass at his cathedral with a cardinal attending in choir and a couple dozen bishops and several dozen priests concelebrating. During the appropriate parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Bishop Slattery, his assisting deacons, servers, and MCs served the Mass ad orientem while the remaining clergy served versus populum on the other side of the altar. The Mass the next day, led by the visiting cardinal, was completely versus populum.

  23. BayviewCath says:

    I’m fortunate enough to have Father Gawronski as my pastor. He’s really got a gift for catechesis and reaching people.

    When he did introduce ad orientem, he did so by thoroughly explaining it in his sermons in such a way that even my young kids understood. He didn’t just lecture about Church teachings, he explained them but also connected it to our prayer life and the Second Coming. He didn’t force it on anyone, he did it occasionally and then steadily started doing it more often until letting go of versus populum completely.

    He doesn’t just do ad orientem, he also has just as carefully explained why all Catholics are obligated to know the major Mass parts in Latin as well as English. So, throughout the year he changes between Latin and English for the Gloria, Creed, and Our Father.

    The parish has a range of parishioners like any other parish, and Father Gawronski has found a way to reach every single one, plus visitors. The Sunday 10:30AM Mass is packed to the gills, standing room only. He’s a humble man and doesn’t like attention, so it will be interesting to see what (if anything) he says to us about this article.

    Father is an amazing gift to the Church and we’re fortunate to have him as Pastor.

  24. rmichaelj says:

    Do what you think is best, but in my opion, for what little it is worth, it would be most proper to write the Bishop as long as it is done respectfully and humbly. You might be the 20th person to do so which finally convinces the Bishop to have a “conversation” with the priest. Or in the case of a Bishop who follows the “spirit of Vatican 2”, your letter , which he will not act on, may convince him to also not act on the letters from people complaining about the young priest saying the mass ad orientum in another parish (out of some misguided attempt at “fairness”.

  25. Augustine says:

    The iconoclasm foisted on the faithful since VII is perhaps infinitely worse than the great controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries. For then it was intent on destroying a form of devotion, but now it seems hellbent on destroying worship.

    Unfortunately, while in the East the faithful always had a sense of ownership of the Faith, especially the liturgy, getting to fistfights with the iconoclasts, in the West, with its legalistic fetishism, the faithful are too afraid to defend the Faith, especially the liturgy, that belongs to them as much as to the clergy. However, while the people found the same Church to return to in droves when the Soviet persecution ended, it’s becoming ever harder to recognize the Church of a decade with another’s.

    In the end, under the guise of going after the lost sheep, all that’s accomplished is the loss of the willing sheep. It’s as if the prodigal son never returned home and the other son was shunned. Yet, if instead of judging the wisdom of an approach by its results, it’s ratcheted up, it’s difficult to believe that it’s not the intended result.

    Veni Emanuel

  26. Mike says:

    I know it’s more complicated than what I am about to say by here goes: I have attended two Protestant services for family and every thing I dislike re post V 2 catholic worship simple seems Protestant! Sorry for typos posting via phone!

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