The connection of morals and “ad orientem” worship

Satan has been dealt a serious setback by Card. Sarah, and the Enemies minions are on the move.  Spiritual attacks will now multiply on the priests and bishops who undertake what Card. Sarah has suggested.

I saw this, from Msgr. C. Eugene Morris is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, at the National Catholic Register.  He argues that worship ad orientem could have a knock-on effect on  – I think – moralseven societal mores – not just on general conduct of individuals.

Think about that.

Our liturgical choices make a difference in our Catholic identity.  Therefore, our liturgical choices have an impact on our state of grace now, our future hope and salvation, and on how we interact with our neighbor and the world around us in this vale of tears.

We are our Rites!

The Eucharist (Itself and Its celebration which is Mass) is famously called the “source and summit” of our lives as Catholics.

Change our worship, and you change our identity.  It takes a while, but it is inevitable.  Let’s jump into the middle.  Read the whole thing there.  He is writing, of course, about Card. Sarah’s appeal to priests to say Mass ad orientem.  Why? Because of a personal preference or taste?  No.  He made that appeal for what he sees is the good of the Church.  Take it away, Msgr. Morris….

‘Ad Orientem’: Right Worship Leads to Right Conduct


Every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should reflect its paramount importance in the life of the Church. The prefect’s exhortation is meant to assist priests and bishops in keeping God at the center of every liturgical celebration and, as a consequence, keeping God at the center of our lives.
Cardinal Sarah’s comments continue the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI, who understood rightly that right worship leads to right conduct. It is only when we celebrate all the sacraments, especially holy Mass, according to the mind of God that we are then able to do the things of God.
It might be rightly concluded that the current cultural climate and its many excesses can only be corrected when everyone returns to a faithful, proper adoration of God. It follows how significant it is that the priest and the faithful face the Lord when addressing the Lord, as the most concrete expression of our desire to configure ourselves to the God that we worship.
It is this complete configuration to Christ that makes it possible for us to live the life of Christ, who draws us into deep, abiding union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Without a vibrant and properly oriented liturgical life, the Church will continuously struggle to convince the faithful to lead a correct moral life.  [As I write again and again, for years, no undertaking of renewal in the Church or anything else can succeed without a revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship.  Ad orientem worship will be a power element of such a revitalization.]
There is an inexplicable connection between proper adoration given to God and the ability of men to lead sanctified lives. Cardinal Sarah is offering the Church an opportunity to recapture an ancient and still legitimate practice that will greatly assist the whole Church in combating the moral decline of this current age.
Some will argue that this exhortation lacking the approval of the Pope does not have the force of law and therefore will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement. Furthermore, this lack of papal approbation will create problems for those priests who attempt to do this in their parishes, possibly bringing them into conflict with their bishops.
While this is true and possible, it obscures the true significance of Cardinal Sarah’s exhortation. He has made public what has long been discussed in private and provided a legitimate and powerful voice to a necessary conversation in the Church. Cardinal Sarah has correctly pointed out that there is no conflict in the current missal with celebrating Mass ad orientem, this despite the debates that exist regarding the missal. Immediately after Cardinal Sarah’s address, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, openly discouraged his priests from celebrating ad orientem, citing the possibility of creating disunity and a misinterpretation of the current missal (299). The confusion created by Cardinal Nichols’ unfortunate response should not deter my brother priests from courageously responding to Cardinal Sarah’s exhortation.
Those of us who would choose to celebrate Mass ad orientem and joyfully welcome this opportunity in the life of the Church have waited a long time — not for legislation, but for clear, vocal support; and with Cardinal Sarah’s clarion call, we have received such support.
It is hoped by this author that priests and bishops alike will pay attention to the thought and words of the prefect and offer to the faithful the most fitting means to praise and worship the God who saves us.

Fr. Z kudos to Msgr. Morris.  Let us now pray for him, that the world doesn’t come down on his head.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I will strive to be very careful here. I wholeheartedly support Cardinal Sarah’s (and Pope Benedict’s) clear, concise, and profound reflections and teachings on proper worship and the celebration of the Mass “ad orientem” in particular. There is absolutely an essential connection between worship and belief and belief to action. However, I caution against a perhaps simplistic or naive belief or hope that the proper celebration of the Mass in itself is the answer to growing immorality and the apparent collapse of not only of Christian culture and life but also even a sense of the dignity of the human person in the broader society.
    I am a 54 year old priest ordained for 27 years and I know that we can only live rightly and become the saints God call us to be by being oriented towards the Lord in all ways and striving for true intimacy with Him in both personal and liturgical prayer. When we reflect on the horrific actions of clergy against children and more frequently the actions committed against teenagers it is important I believe to acknowledge that such crimes existed before the liturgical “reforms” following the Second Vatican Council. Every priest, every bishop, every lay man unfaithful to the truth, their vows and commitments, in staggeringly inhuman and unthinkable ways for centuries, all attended and celebrated Mass “ad orientem”
    I know the author does not intend to suggest that simply following particular rubrics leads to sanctity. I believe celebrating Mass “ad orientem” expresses the reality of the Mass more perfectly. But more is required…as it always has.

  2. benedetta says:

    Interesting, Father — was just thinking, if a priest in good, formed, conscience opted for this, considering all that Cardinal Sarah has to say, and based on these goods such as this priest illustrates, how could anyone condemn that or reduce or equate that to one of assorted “personal preferences”? When a good and humble and holy pastor, with compassion for those whom he shepherds, opts for beautiful, reverent worship, instead of being disparaged as “personal preference”, we do well to see this in light of Holy Mother Church’s traditions, and be thankful and kind to the many young people who desire beautiful, reverent, sacred, transcendent worship which is worthy of our communion, worthy of worshipping our God. When young people and a caring Cardinal such as Cardinal Sarah are thinking along those same lines, I think others in the Church and hierarchy ought to be thankful for them, and commend what they are doing. I just don’t think it fashionable any longer to hate on people just for their choice of worship — SP exhorted pastors to provide for this as good and worthy, for the two forms of the Mass to inform and edify one another. There can only be good and renewed vigor and health for the Church where the EF and OF are better united in beauty. Happy Feast of Kateri Tekakwitha to all…

  3. St. Irenaeus says:

    Martin Mosebach on the relation of liturgy and morality, and the results of their severing:

  4. alanphipps says:

    Lately I have been reflecting on the interesting synchronicity between increased discussion concerning the restoration of ad orientem worship (and reverent reception of Holy Communion) with the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. This is especially poignant given the evident connection between personal morality and proper worship of God. Lex orandi, Lex credendi, Lex vivendi. Long live Cardinal Sarah.

  5. TimG says:

    Great and courageous letter by Msgr Morris. I am guessing that he also has a supportive bishop and felt at least somewhat secure in writing it. Sadly others may not be in that same situation with their bishops (or their diocesan newspaper might be run by liberals and supportive letters that are written may not get by the editor.) I wonder what we will see in Chicago or DC?

  6. benedetta says:

    I think a lot of us have had it, up to here, with the clerical bullying in all shapes and sizes and pronouncements and micro and macro aggressions that seek to calumniate our preferences for worshp and attempt to scapegoat us and drive us into some political pigeonhole of their own megalomaniacal invention. SP said that we all, regardless of which Rite we worship in, deserve to be not only respected and treated with dignity and pastoral care but with generosity and kindness. You know, if people did half the horrible stuff that some are doing, have done, to just bully us out of worshipping in the way that worshippers in all times and places as Christians have always worshipped, when everyone was cowed into theatre in the round edutainment political organizing self promoting by priest and manipulator “Mass”, then, well, we might not even have need for all of this.

    And the horrible thing is they did all that for stuff that was not only not legitimate but frankly not Christian in the, compassion, peace, justice and pastoral care, senses. They did it for all the wrong reasons: selfishness, greed, corruption, self serving, financial ease, propaganda, partisan attack. People simply want ad orientem because they wish to pray in solidarity in our communion, and want some peace and quite when they lift their hearts and minds up united with their priests, to God. Not for any of the sinful reasons and justifications that people were harassed, bullied, and driven away from their own churches by true personal preferences on the part of some.

    Ad orientem worship hurts, precisely, no one. And it only leads to the good. I have endured a lot of evils these last several years because others could not exert basic self control, decency, kindness, for God only knows what reason. And if what I suffered, as a Catholic is to have any meaning at all, for me and mine, then, a lot of people are going to have to show some respect and accord dignity to people whose politics they may not share, and refrain from the bully moves. Prolife, reverent worship, solid teaching, living the Gospel, and sharing the good news and what we have with the poor, we are entitled to basic respect, to our dignity, from our ancestors who worshipped and supporteed our Church, and, nothing less!

  7. Matt Robare says:

    This is one of the annoying things I see all the time. People are always like “With the priest ad orientem we can’t see what he’s doing” or similar. But the point about the Mass, about morality, about all of it is that it’s not about us. It’s about God.

    I remember hearing a story about a Medieval stone mason carving a statue for the roof of a cathedral and someone came along and asked him why he was being so careful and detailed and precise even though no one would ever see it. He responded “God sees.”

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Tangential to this post, but certainly relevant is a recent post by Renzo Puccetti, visiting professor of Bioethics at the Pontificial Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and Pontificial Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome:

  9. benedetta says:

    No one, not priests, not Catholics, no one, should be shamed, for preferring ad orientem worship. What has happened that good Catholics get the public scorn and judgment of others, for something that is perfectly good, and only redounds to the good of the whole Church?

  10. pberginjr says:

    I’ve known Msgr. Morris for a long time. He’s tough and will be able to handle the world (but would appreciate the prayers I’m sure)

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    @Matt Robare,

    People who want to see just what the priest is doing when he is facing the Lord in the Extraordinary Form can purchase this long-out-of-print book I was required to purchase and read at the Catholic high school I attended in an attempt to escape from the public school system in which students emerged from the bathroom $5 (1965 dollars) wealthier than they had entered, courtesy of a faculty member:

    This Is The Mass: as described by Henri Daniel-Rops, as celebrated by Fulton J. Sheen
    , with photographs by the extraordinarily-talented Jewish photographer, Yousuf Karsh.

  12. ChesterFrank says:

    I think I would have liked it if the older churches that had the high altars would have kept them and said Mass ‘Ad Orientem’ even in English. At the same time if the newer modern churches had the Vatican 2 styled altars, and the Mass was reverently said versus populum, I would have thought that not such a bad thing. The Cathedral at the same time with the TLM? Fantastic ! I just was not a great fan of the hip folk Mass as the one and only alternative. Others probably have different opinions

  13. Jackie L says:

    Any thoughts on how a switch to the ad orientem posture might be brought with a pastor?

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Jackie L,
    If there is a parish, or even area, book-club/reading circle or discussion group, or people interested in starting one, you could suggest choosing one of the books recently recommended by Fr. Z, and invite the pastor to join, if he’s not already involved. (I’m not sure how unusual such a possibility is, but I have seen similar things, where I can imagine trying it.)

  15. Michael_Thoma says:

    Cardinal Sarah and those who recognize the inherent properness of ‘ad orientem’ stand in solidarity with 1950+ years of Latin Rite Church, and 2000+ years of the authentic worship of all the Eastern Rite Churches. All 24 Churches for 2000 years.

    Those who say otherwise have no leg to stand on, and clearly know it. Otherwise, why behave so defensively and twist facts to suit a unintelligible position? Even those these people look to for ‘progressive’ actions – Anglicans, Lutherans, etc – tolerate and practice ‘ad orientem’ in some of their parishes without any sort of resentment or abuse; even the one’s headed by gay female clergy supportive of abcdlbgqic ‘rights’. Heck, their entire premise and argumentation against ‘ad orientem’ amounts to ‘because we said so and we like it so shut up’.

  16. Augustine says:

    “We are our Rites!”

    I think that this describes my decision to join the Maronite Church after attending the Divine Liturgy for some years.

    Though not baptized a Maronite, the liturgy of St James made me one.

    Lord, have mercy on us and save us!

  17. JonPatrick says:

    Fr. W makes a good point. However I think perhaps things were not as they seemed in the 1940’s and 50’s when these priests were formed. Modernism in the Church goes back a long ways (after all St. Pius X would not have needed to write Pascendi Dominici Gregis otherwise) and I get the feeling that although on the surface everything was traditional, things were seething underneath. There was a certain degree of going through the motions which I even picked up as a child during that era – the 20 minute low masses, the ugly functional churches hastily built in the suburbs as Catholics moved out of the cities. Once the society really started coming apart at the seams in the 1960’s the Church was not only unprepared but many in the Church were cheering on the revolution.

    Things are different now, the revolution has come and gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. You have a new (smaller) generation of younger Catholics searching for a closer relationship with God and young priests who want to help them achieve this. Many of the old guard still fighting in that revolution will fight this also, but they are the dying part of the Church, those parts that adopt the “reform of the reform” will grow.

  18. frbkelly says:

    Yahoo of all things, has an excellent short opinion piece by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry featured on its home page this morning. It is entitled “The vast Majority of Catholic Priests are Facing the Wrong Way” I have never heard of the author before, but he gives an excellent testimony to the importance of understanding worship as being about god and not about us. He ties ad orientem celebration to the centrality of Christ’s presence on the altar at Mass, and does it in a way that the unchurched cannot miss, if they read the article through to the end. Here is the link:

  19. Mike says:

    I may be wrong, but the frequency of abuse in the ranks of the clergy sky-rocketed from around 1970 onwards. Of course, no one is saying the liturgical reform is the only driver here, formation in seminaries, the bishops, the sexual revolution all sadly contributed. But surely when liturgy becomes man-centered, all hell will break loose.

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