Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Facing each other and all smiles! What a joy! But what happens to this oh,so joyful community when one punches the other one out, and pours hot charcoal with incense smoking all over the other?
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What happens to Catholics when the emphasis at Mass is on the "community" and the "priest?" Well, if you have a great community, people who love the Lord, who appear to be perfect, a good looking priest, who smiles, is charismatic, outgoing, well spoken, well liked and seemingly perfect, then you have heaven on earth! It is great and what a joy to worship in such a perfect community, all circled around one another and experiencing such love, sympathy, empathy and compassion. Yes! "Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am in their midst!"
Will this help you keep the faith when your parishioners and priests run a muck?
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But what happens to a community like this, when it is discovered that the pastoral council president is a womanizer, the communion ministers belong to exclusive, prejudicial country clubs, the lectors don't always attend Sunday Mass, that families have serious drinking and drug problems, that there are thieves and killers in their midst not to mention child molesters and mobsters. And the priest who faces them Sunday after Sunday has been in treatment for sex addiction, and unproven allegations have been hurled at him from decades ago and on top of that he's ugly, can't speak well, alienates people with his looks and isn't charismatic.
What if this priest is known to be a scandal to the community?
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I suspect people would leave that Church. Well, folks, I've heard that people are leaving the Faith in large numbers in those places where the community and their priests are not perfect. Places like Boston, LA, Ireland, Germany, Austria. They simply can't stand looking at them, priests or community. So they leave the Church altogether. Some people even leave if the language of the Mass is not to their liking.

But I wonder how things would be if we had just left our "vertical" form of worship and architecture in place? I wonder if the priest joined the congregation and all facing the "liturgical East" awaiting the Lord's return to the Altar of Sacrifice as well as His return at the end of time, if things wouldn't be better today in terms of people sticking with the Church when Catholic laity and priests have gone wild?
Does it really matter who the priest is at the altar in this photo? No it just matters that there is a priest there!
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Perhaps Catholics would focus more on their faith, their sinfulness, their need for forgiveness, that they're all in the same miserable sinner's boat in desperate need of the wonderful sacrifice of love Jesus offers them through His Incarnation, life, passion, death and resurrection. I wonder if it would matter that much to them who the priest is with his back to them most of the time, joining them in the same stance of need, prayer and worship? If he's validly ordained, then the worship is valid and the only Perfect One would come down from Heaven to save, nourish and redeem them all.
This could be any priest, good, bad or indifferent, but the Sacrifice celebrated and received would be what counts to aid the sin sick soul!

I think the emphasis on community and on priests that our current orientation at the Ordinary Form Mass must be re-examined and seen for the novelty it is and not beneficial to the Catholic Faith and the people for whom the Mass is meant to strengthen and nourish their faith in times like these we are encountering. Facing each other and facing the priest and the priest facing us doesn't cut the mustard. We need a new orientation which is really ancient. We need to focus on God and how God saves us. We humans while nice, aren't the best signs of perfection! If we think we've found God in community and the priests that serve that community, we are sadly mistaken. But if we as sinners know we need God and all of us face Him together, then our focus is on our need for forgiveness and our miserable state which brought about so great a Savior! O Happy Fault, O necessary sin of Adam which brought about so great a Savior! I thank Adam for his sin not because Adam is so great, but because God is Greater! I'll face God with Adam knowing that we both brought about the need for our Savior because of our wretchedness in choosing sin and death over grace and life.

I think this is healthier when things run a muck in the community!

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Templar said...

You are so very very right Father.

So, please Father, heed your own counsel and follow your conscience: Say the Mass Ad orientem. It is permitted. No authority beyond your own is required.

Lead us Father.

Marc said...

So, can we expect you to be celebrating the Holy Mass ad orientem this Sunday, Father? :-)

Perhaps you should start with the daily mass and build support at a grassroots level... you'll definitely have my support!

Laura said...

It was similar items listed above, coupled with a lack of reverence and structure/order, in a Protestant church that brought me to the Catholic faith. I am so grateful that was the case and for you, Father, who took the time to show me that and help me find my way!

But on a positive note, that occurring in other churches provides the opportunity for people to come home to the Catholic Church!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually, a priest would be skating on thin ice if his bishop thought doing this would be divisive to the diocesan family. There are some things worth being crucified over, but making your bishop perpetually angry at you isn't one of them especially since facing the people is the norm right now for the OF Mass. We do need specific legislation from Rome to allow priests this freedom without jeopardizing their relationship with their bishop to whom they have promised/vowed obedience. There are many bishops today who still do not allow the EF Mass in their Diocese. Can they do it? They are!

Jenny said...

Yes, indeed, I surely can speak to this post at a personal level! In our parish (to which our family came in 1977) is a priest who, for over five years, has exhibited behaviors that are extremely questionable both during and outside of the Liturgy. When he celebrates (at Mass and otherwise), I didn't! It at times, led me into very dark times spiritually. I became fed up with my sinfulness and the near occasions of sin...

Then I finally discovered "facing East" with another very holy priest, and realized that the only problem with former priest was my view (and his)! Had we both been facing East all that time, we could have truly celebrated together the redemptive power of Holy Mass. Thank you, God of all good.

Marc said...

We definitely don't want to go against our Bishop! I wasn't considering that aspect of the situation.

Isn't there some speculation that Pope Benedict XVI may celebrate the OF ad orientem at the Easter Vigil or something to that effect? You posted about that speculation a couple weeks ago, but I haven't seen anything about that since then...

Henry Edwards said...

... since facing the people is the norm right now for the OF Mass.

I assume you mean "norm" in the descriptive rather than the legislative or prescriptive sense. I know of nothing in the 2002 Missale Romanum nor even the GIRM that directs versus populum celebration.

Gene said...

I wait, with bated breath, for the counter argument from Pater Ignotus, whose superior intelligence and magnanimous piety have so blessed us with the golden drippings from his oracular tongue (not in Latin, of course).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To both Henry and Marc, by norm I do mean custom that is worldwide and even embraced by every Pope since Paul VI and now Benedict XVI. He's ventured out a bit, but of course by way of example, but first to bishops who have authority over the liturgy in their dioceses. So I think priests should respect the wishes of their bishop in this regard, some who will allow it and others who won't until a more direct permission to every priest is given like the EF Mass in Summorum Pontificum. But I cannot even imagine having this conversation now and putting it on my blog if not for Pope Benedict and the realization that facing the people has corrupted the nature of the celebration of the Mass and focused attention too much on the priest and the congregation. It has made the Mass and Church look like the set and show of the Tonight Show or David Letterman--not good, not good at all.

Gene said...

Of interest...more of what the "horizontal leads to:

Michela said...

How true! The correct focus really was diminished/lost when the celebrant started facing the congregation. And it is even worse with a church in the round with the congregation facing each other or with a choir up in the front.