Friday, June 20, 2014


This is the Mass and altar set-up outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran for 2014's Corpus Christi Mass. The altar is clearly ad orientem with the central crucifix and faces in the traditional manner as at all of the Major Basilicas in Rome except for one and that is the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls which traditionally even prior to Vatican II celebrated Mass toward the west, toward St. Peter's Basilica.

Here Pope Francis is clearing celebrating Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the conclusion of the Corpus Christi Procession 2014. There is no doubt to where His Holiness prayers and adoration are directed in this position of the celebrant before our Lord!
One of the basic teachings of Pope Benedict XVI is that Mass must be vertical and less horizontal, as though an enclosed community celebrating itself. He was not opposed to the ad orientem position of the priest during Mass, but he seldom modeled this even at outdoor Masses set up specifically for a papal Mass. Instead he chose to re-institute the crucifix dead center on the altar facing the celebrant, so that he would know where his prayers are to be directed. It isn't toward the congregation.

Pope Francis has continued Pope Benedict's altar arrangement everywhere he goes albeit with more modest and proportional accoutrements. And yes since the Solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter, the four to six candles are angled more and the episcopal candle is now to the side (which is traditional also).

But make no mistake, Pope Francis has kept the celebration of Mass and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament ad orientem or toward the Lord!


Pater Ignotus said...

I'm waiting for the Premonstratensian Altar Arrangement before I pass judgment....

Anonymous said...

Can you translate what Pater Ignotus just said please. thanks

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

From Wikipedia:
The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also known as the Premonstratensians, the Norbertines, or in Britain and Ireland as the White Canons (from the colour of their habit), are a Roman Catholic religious order of canons regular founded at Prémontré near Laon in 1120 by Saint Norbert, who later became Archbishop of Magdeburg. Premonstratensians are designated by O.Praem (Ordo Praemonstratensis) following their name.

Norbert was a friend of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and so was largely influenced by the Cistercian ideals as to both the manner of life and the government of his order. As the Premonstratensians are not monks but canons regular, their work often involves preaching and the exercising of pastoral ministry; they frequently serve in parishes close to their abbeys or priories.

Another source:

Premonstratensian a member of an order of regular canons founded at Prémontré in France in 1120, or of the corresponding order of nuns. The Premonstratensians wear white habits and follow a strict form of the Augustinian rule, combining contemplative life with active ministry. The order had several abbeys in Britain before the Reformation and still exists in Europe.

The name comes from medieval Latin Praemonstratensis, from Praemonstratus (literally ‘foreshown’), the Latin name of the abbey of Prémontré, so named because the site was prophetically pointed out by the order's founder, St Norbert (c.1080–1134).

and yet another source:

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Premonstratensian (ˌpriːˌmɒnstrəˈtɛnsɪən)
1. (Roman Catholic Church)
a. a member of a religious order founded at Prémontré in N France in 1120 by St Norbert (about 1080-1134)
b. (as modifier): a Premonstratensian canon.
[C17: from Medieval Latin (locus) praemonstrātus the place foreshown, because it was said to have been prophetically pointed out by St Norbert]

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course the Premonstratensian Saint Norbert celebrated Mass in the historic Latin context and of course ad orientem choosing not to prophetically novel as this was not foreshown to him meaning no one pointed it out. He would have had the Benedictine altar arrangement as this is what Holy Mother Church pointed out to him despite being a Norbitine.

JBS said...

This is the problem with the term "Benedictine arrangement", or whatever. Since the missal says there should be a cross and two or six candles on or near the altar, since this is a centuries old practice, and since the novelty of placing the cross in the corner of the altar at Saint Peter's Basilica only lasted a few decades, it seems best not to give the traditional arrangement the name of a recent pope. We should just call it the "transitional arrangement", since the pope emeritus proposes it as a step towards ad orientem celebrations.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JBS, I agree that traditional altar arrangement is best. A modern name to distinguish it from the novelties of the past 50 years would be the "true altar" arrangement! :)

Pater Ignotus said...

"Of course the Premonstratensian Saint Norbert celebrated Mass in the historic Latin context and of course ad orientem choosing not to prophetically novel as this was not foreshown to him meaning no one pointed it out."

HOLY COW! Talk about needing translation! Or, at least, identify the language being used.

Good Father, I think you are being influenced by the Novel New Translation of the Roman Missal - and not in a positive way.

Gene said...

That is NOT ad oriented. Smoke and mirrors. Give me a break. Protestant churches have a crucifix or Cross in there middle of their altars, too.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Eh? Gene, Many Protestant Churches have attached altars and celebrate Holy Communion ad orientem, Lutherans and Episcopalians in particular.

Marc said...

Okay. Pater and I don't usually see eye to eye, but that last post of his was pretty funny (and accurate). Ha!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

English is my second language and the text in question should have read:

Of course the Premonstratensian Saint Norbert celebrated Mass in the historic Latin context. Of course he did so ad orientem choosing not to be prophetically novel with Mass facing the people as this was not foreshown to him-- meaning no one pointed it out."

Capice? :)

Anonymous said...

Baltimore Catechism:
Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

S.O. Wrong.

Marc said...

So one needn't go to Church at all according to you, Anonymous?

Joe Potillor said...

I agree, the transitional arrangement might be a better name...but i prefer the candles as arranged by Pope Benedict XVI compared to Pope Francis.

Anonymous said...

Marc...I did not say anything about whether one should or should not go to church. (I think one should.)

Do you believe that the Baltimore Catechism is correct or incorrect in saying that God is everywhere?

Do you think that God lives at church and we need to go there to be where he is?

Anonymous said...

Yikes....Fr. Mcd...quick...PLEASE MAKE THAT AN UPPER CASE H IN "he".

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

God is everywhere of course, but He is not everywhere sacramentally, unless someone has stolen the Consecrated Host and placed our Lord in hollow of a tree in the forest.

The Sacramental presence of our Lord is the highest form that God gives us of His presence. Certainly you must have learned this in the Baltimore Catechism too?

Your unnuanced approach to God's presence strikes me as a bit Woodstockish if I might complain.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. My reputation is bad enough already.

Anonymous said...

Your clairvoyance is working well. I am indeed a bit Woodstockish.

No offense, but your approach to God's presence strikes me as a bit legalistic. (But I'm not complaining.)

Must I leave now?

Cameron said...

Well Pater Ignotus, the Norbertines at St. Michael's Abbey are pretty traddy; they use the central crucifix and some candles on their altars.

Check it out. They're a great community, building a new abbey, and they have oodles and oodles of postulants.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The legalism accusation is very
Woodstockish too especially since most as Woodstock would have called police pigs and God only knows what for others in the legal profession church and otherwise.
But no, non legalists of the Woodstockish kind are more than welcome because by God's grace radical conversion to the truth might take place! :)

rcg said...

I think, Anonymous, that in a better stat e we might, indeed perceive God in everything. In our fallen state He must be revealed or we may misunderstand His nature. He appeared among us and we knew him not. He revealed and empowered his priests to reveal His presence.

Does that help?

Anonymous said...

"Most at Woodstock would have called police pigs and God only knows etc etc...". You are too young to have known those times and people and much too judgemental. You paint with much too broad a brush. I never spoke ill of the police...or lawyers...or the Church. (I was the Parish School PTA Pres, Grand Knight at the K of C.....member of Parish Council..etc...) I only mention these things because you seem to have written off most from those times as a bunch of crude thugs.

You say the legalism accusation is very Woodstockish....then I say the Woodstockish accusation is very legalistic, and round and round we go....

Can't we all just get along?

I hope you'll keep going with sending God's grace my way though. I welcome all the help I can get.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I was a teenager in 1968 working at the Dairy Queen Brazier!

John Nolan said...

What a load of balderdash. B XVI put up with the Piero Marini arrangement for over two years and wore some ghastly vestments into the bargain. I have a photograph of Paul VI stumping up to the papal altar in St Peter's wearing minimalist 1960s vestments and the altar adorned with six stubby candles and a six-inch-high crucifix.

The Pope celebrates his daily Mass at an altar with a couple of candles at one end and a vase of flowers at the other, an arrangement common in continental Europe which was designed by the Novus Ordo-ists to emphasize that this was a new kind of Mass for a new kind of Church.

Yes, it's appalling, but pales into insignificance compared with all the other damage inflicted in the last half-century. I have a recurring nightmare in which I walk into the London Oratory and find the altar turned round and a folk group accompanying the Mass. I wake up in a cold sweat, but quickly realize that all is well - 'God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world'.

George said...


Baltimore Catechism:
Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

God is indeed everywhere but as Father Mcdonald pointed out, not in that same way. God is everywhere in His creation in a certain sense. If He did not sustain it, creation would cease to exist. God is He Who holds all that exists up, and if His “arms” were to weary and tire, then all and everything would collapse and cease to exist. But God being God never tires. He is Love and Mercy and so He desires all things that are to be. How great is our God Who wills things and sustains all things in existence.He is present immanently in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God's greatest presence to us is in His Son's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.
Water vapor is indeed everywhere around us, but a person would die of thirst if no concentrated source of water were available to him or her.

George said...

How foolish are many today who should recognize by their own weaknesses and limitations that they are not God, but who do not acknowledge because of pride and lack of faith the one God Who governs all things, without anyone equal to Him to oppose Him or else He would not be God.
Who is there among all beings who can compare with God? God, Who put in place laws and principles and mechanisms that enable all things to exist. Otherwise, God would not be God. Past present and future are all known to God. If the future were hidden from him, what kind of God would He be, since He would have to say, “I know not that”. Since God is superior to even time,it can never be said of Him that He does not know about or is not present everywhere, even in the future.Man sees in created existence the “Footprints of God”. Yet these footprints he cannot follow. If man were to search around the earth for the highest mountain, he would find that one for which there is no higher and that one would be the highest above all others. We know that it is not necessary to do this because the highest mountain has already been found. If man could search the length and breadth of the Universe and beyond for a Being who is above all others, then when he found such a being, he would have found God. Yet even if a man
coul do this, God would never be found by searching this way. If any man could search for God this way he would do so in vain. Even though everywhere His creation is, His presence is and sustains it, and everywhere He is His creation is.We can only find God when He comes and reveals Himself to us. God can only be found because He comes to us. Unless God is revealed to him, a man searches for what he does not know. Yet man is always present to God, Who knows all things. And this God is always available to us.Now man cannot search for God as one searches for something that is lost, but one can be led to God by searching for the truth. If one discovers something that is true, then one has found something which points to God, Who is Truth itself. One finds Truth itself in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. There is order to existence which is given to it by God. There would not be order in existence without the presence of God, because He imparts order to all that exists. If God were to step outside
of created existence, order would also depart with Him, because it exists and comes from Him. If He were to do so then there would be a cessation of all that exists. It is God Who imparts the underlying order to all that exists and He sustains all in existence . Do you believe that order is something that came to be on its own? That it has no source? That it has existed unto itself and of itself always and forever? That it is something that man can create
and say, “here it is that which I have created”? It is not something created but it is one part of the nature of God and of His creation.