My friend Msgr. Charles Pope has a piece at the National Catholic Register about celebrating Holy Mass ad orientem. Msgr. Pope is determined to teach his flock about ad orientem worship. He thinks that Card. Sarah should, in his role as Prefect, issue some guidelines which will help to avoid potential conflicts between priests amenable to the Sarah Appeal™ and bishops who are not.
Let’s see his peroration, with my emphases and comments:
Why We Should All “Face East” During the Eucharistic Prayer
But let me reiterate the concerns that Cardinal Sarah needs to address to the world’s bishops on this matter. Otherwise the wishes and attempts of priests may prove dead on arrival. While it is true that a priest can use this option on his own, Bishops who are displeased with such a notion can apply a good deal of pressure on priests who seek to fulfill the request. It is not merely that some bishops might be “nasty” about it. Rather, most priests do not seek to do things (and optional things at that) that are displeasing to their bishop or might create dissentions among the faithful. Consensus among priests and bishops to respect the option of eastward orientation and the wish of Cardinal Sarah is going to be important for success in bring forth a wider use of it. Even if a particular priest or bishop does not prefer such an option, an official communiqué from the Cardinal (not just a talk at a liturgical conference) can go a long way to defuse conflicts. A letter “on Vatican stationery” can assist mutual respect in this matter.
Priest too who support the option to face east might also assist the faithful by implementing the option at certain Masses, but not all. We who support the Eastward stance of the Eucharistic prayer have insisted all along that this is an option. And thus we might demonstrate a pastoral solicitude for those who prefer the Eucharistic prayer facing the people even after our teaching. If this thing becomes a liturgy war it will be a countersign and is doomed to failure and overreaction. [It will be a war, I’m afraid, but there are things that we can do to make it short and to avoid lots of damage. We must move carefully and prudently. We must avoid what was inflicted on people decades ago in the name of the Council: sudden changes with little or no explanation. Pope Benedict’s suggested arrangement of versus populum altars would be helpful as a transition.]
To reiterate, an official communiqué from Cardinal Sarah to the world’s bishops is important to preserve charity among bishops and priests. Pastoral prudence is also very important for those of us who would like to more widely use the Eastward option. This will be a hard change for some. And while I feel very strongly that the eastward orientation of the Eucharistic prayer is best, I do not seek to do to others what was done to us all in the late 1960s as changes railroaded through our churches at the hands of enthusiastic clergy but bewildered parishioners. [As I said.]
In a different post at Chant Cafe, Fr. Christopher Smith offers a few practical suggestions on how to introduce ad orientem worship in a parish.
How to Introduce Ad Orientem to Your Parish
Then, the months leading up to Advent can be a powerful time for catechesis. Father Jay Scott Newman of St Mary’s, Greenville, has an excellent set of bulletin columns by which he introduced the idea, along with a series of sermons, to his parish. Excerpting and integrating these into bulletin columns and pastoral letters to the faithful can introduce the idea to the faithful. [I wrote about Fr. Newman’s initiative, for example, HERE.]
In my own parish, we put into the pews a resource, which explains to visitors and parishioners why what they may see, hear and experience at our parish may be markedly different than their experience in other American parishes. That resource is given to all new families when they register and is excerpted in the bulletin on a regular basis. We also invite people at Christmas and Easter to take home the booklets to learn more.
It is a great time to do a book study on Michael Lang’s seminal work Turning Towards The Lord [UK HERE]. Send a personal invitation to your highest donors, heads of ministries, school faculty and staff, parish employees and members of the finance and pastoral councils.
These months of catechesis leading up to Advent may be geared towards the implementation of ad orientem worship, but can also be used to address some of the lack of catechesis and liturgical confusion all around. In my own parish we did a book study on Ronald Knox’s Mass in Slow Motion [UK HERE] as well as a sermonseries to which I go back from time to time.
It is clear that catechesis is the key.
It should be clear, sustained, calm and with a date in mind.
Fathers, bene ambula et redambula.