Thursday, July 14, 2016


 In the recent past and for the past four years, I have celebrated the Ordinary Form of the Mass at one of four Sunday Masses ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At that Mass, the full length of the altar railing is used for kneeling communicants, although a communicant can still receive standing in this line up. 

I have felt that the reverence of this Mass has increased especially the reception of Holy Communion. 

I don't feel that facing the congregation and receiving Holy Communion standing necessarily results in less reverence but a number of factors to include this have contributed to it.

I can't imagine that good Catholics think sloppy, casual and irreverent Masses are the wave of the future and good for the new evangelization. Some might think that irreverence is a new form of reverence but this mentality is delusional. 

Thus I 100% agree with Fr. Dwight Longnecker's commentary on the recent unpleasantness that Robert Cardinal Sarah has experienced and through His Eminence all Catholics who have a desire to reorient the Church in the ways of reverence, wonder and awe in her liturgies.

On Mass facing East or the people, both camps are right


When Cardinal Robert Sarah spoke at a conference on liturgy in London last week, he encouraged the priests to offer Mass praying in the same direction as the people-otherwise termed ad orientem, or “towards the East.”

The internet was soon abuzz, and his advice to a group of traditionalist-minded clergy quickly became a rumor that a new directive was coming from the Vatican that within a few months’ time all priests everywhere would have to “turn their backs to the people.”

After all, Sarah is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It must be true!

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the UK soon issued a correction of the rumors, as did Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Ordinary Catholics might well ask what all the fuss is about, and perhaps, “In a world on fire, don’t we have better things to be concerned about?”

“Spirit of Vatican 2” Catholics shook their heads in dismay at the idea that some people want to “turn back the clock” and dismantle all the progress that the priest facing the people represents, while “Reform of the Reform” Catholics indignantly insisted that saying Mass facing the people was never mandated by Vatican II and that ad orientem celebration is still the right and proper posture.

Those who think the priest should face the people emphasize the communal, people-centered aspect of Catholic worship, and see the Mass as “the Last Supper where the people of God gather for the family Thanksgiving meal and look forward to the banquet of heaven.”

Those who think the priest should pray facing the same direction as the people, meanwhile, stress the idea that the priest is re-presenting the once-for-all sacrifice of the Mass with, and on behalf of, the people of God.

So who’s right? Both are.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is, “The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

But it also says that the Mass is, “The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, ‘sacrifice of praise,’ spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.”

At the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Holy Spirit led the Catholic Church to open up to new ways of worship while remaining rooted in the timeless traditions and revealed truths of the Catholic faith. The Council Fathers were insistent that humanity was facing new and previously unimagined challenges, and that the Catholic Church had to be flexible enough to adapt to the modern world while not changing the heart of the historic Catholic faith.

When it comes to liturgy, it is increasingly obvious that in a modern, mobile, multi-cultural world, one-size liturgy does not fit all, and neither the radically trendy Catholics nor the radically traditional Catholics can expect to have it all their way.

Instead, the modern Catholic Church quite rightly, and brilliantly, allows diversity in worship styles while only allowing an authorized and approved liturgy. We underestimate how unique and empowering this blend of authority and individual freedom really is.

Somehow, the global Catholic Church has been able to maintain unity while not enforcing uniformity.

The city where I minister is a very interesting example of the diversity of Catholic worship today. That it’s Bible belt South Carolina, where Catholics are in a minority, makes it even more interesting.

We have about twelve Catholic communities. The historic downtown church is an impressive Neo-gothic structure where the “high church” liturgy is celebrated ad orientem accompanied by a top notch choir, well-drilled, all-male altar servers, and dynamic preaching.

Across the river in the historically needy part of town, a popular Franciscan ministers to an ethnically diverse community in a crowded, low-budget building with a gospel choir, dynamic social outreach and a challenging, down-to-earth preaching style.

The two largest suburban parishes couldn’t be more different. At one, the young pastor (who is a former Southern Baptist) offers Mass in a traditionally-styled modern building using the Extraordinary Form, meaning in Latin according to the pre-Vatican II style.

He does so not only every Sunday, but every day. He ministers tirelessly with enthusiasm and energy to a good-sized, highly committed traditionalist community, while also being pastor to the “mainstream” members of his congregation.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, the largest parish in our diocese is centered around a typical, modern fan-shaped building. With thousands of families, the priests in this parish offer the new Mass with contemporary music, lead a super busy parish life with a dynamic congregation, a large Hispanic ministry, and a high level of involvement and initiative.

In addition to these four, there are three other English-speaking parishes, a self-started Hispanic mission, a newly established Vietnamese church, a Maronite parish, and a community of the (Anglican) Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

If you were to attend Mass at any of these churches, you would experience the fullness of the Catholic Mass, but none of the worship styles would be even remotely similar.

This is just one American city.

Now throw in the Eastern Rite churches, and the fact that the Catholic Church is global. Then consider that we celebrate one Mass, but in a multitude of different languages, cultural styles and traditions. When you think about it, the result is astounding, abundant and alive.

Shall we replace this lively and refreshing diversity with legislated liturgical uniformity? I don’t think so.

Instead of fighting the liturgical wars and self-righteously insisting that we are right and others are wrong, we should be thankful that the Catholic Church has enough abundant life within her that such diversity is not only possible, but thriving.

Admittedly, innovation and liturgical diversity is a risk. Are there abuses of the liturgy? Of course. Does personal taste and style sometimes intrude? Yes. Does over-attention to superficial matters sometimes distract? Without a doubt.

Abuses should be corrected by the rightful authority, but we must also admit that people should be met where they are culturally and spiritually and be led where they ought to be.

The diversity in Catholic worship is a risk, but the diversity shows the enthusiasm and love of God which worship empowers. If everything is not always “right and proper,” and if we sometimes make a mess, we should remember that a person who never made a mess never made anything.


TJM said...

No, both camps are not right, there is no liturgical "equivalence." Ad Orientem is the inveterate practice, with almost 2,000 years of tradition, theological underpinnings and liturgical praxis behind it. Versus Populum has 50 years of left-wing loonism with no justification to support it other than the "feelings" of liturgists hell-bent on destroying the Roman Rite. Not buying what Father Longenecker is selling.

Mark Thomas said...

Father Longenecker..."On Mass facing East or the people, both camps are right."

No. Sorry. Only one camp is correct. The camp who upholds the Church's ancient, magnificent, supported-by-Sacred-Scripture ad orientem posture is correct. The camp who upholds the anti-Holy Tradition versus populum posture are folks who, even if unwittingly and/or with the best of intentions, promote man-centered liturgical impoverishment/destruction.


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Fr. Longenecker sets up a straw man argument having little to do with Cardinal Sarah's recommendations. The question is not one of the desirability of diversity in worship styles in different parishes--in forms of sacred music, various externals, etc--but of restoring right worship of God in all parishes.

The diversity of Catholic parishes he describes in Greenville (SC) is fine, but it would be good for Mass to be celebrated in all of them as it was everywhere and at all times prior to the liturgical chaos that followed in the aftermath of Vatican II. That is, ad orientem and thus emphasizing the fact that the Mass is preeminently the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated through the ages (as numerous magisterial documents describe it).

In no parish should it be seen merely as “the Last Supper where the people of God gather for the family Thanksgiving meal and look forward to the banquet of heaven.” For it is much more than that--the sacred banquet is meaningless except as a common union is sharing the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice.

Tevye said...

We loyal sons and daughters of Dixie like to say our prayers facing Montgomery...or sometimes Stone Mountain...

BTW...In Christ there is no east or west...

Rood Screen said...

I don't understand why progressives are so afraid of this humble little Black African. He is not going to harm them. Had he attempted to mandate every priest to change, then I could understand their fear. But all he did was make a recommendation at some obscure conference that probably nobody they know even attended.

Rood Screen said...


Christ is not a sinner, but we are. Christ does not need salvation, but we do. Christ is in Heaven with the Father, but we aren't. Christ does not need liturgical orientation, but we do.

Anonymous said...

When the Lord celebrated the Last Supper, did he do so with his back to the apostles? Was there a big altar present with a number of candlesticks? Was he wearing a clerical collar, alb, stole and chasuble? Was he speaking in Latin when he uttered the words of consecration?

My point is, worship has varied over the centuries, and we need to get past the perception that it has always been the same, century after century. Latin may be ideal for many the blog readers, but I am content having it in English or whatever the native tongue, just as Eastern Orthodox are. The Orthodox Church has a number of different liturgies; certainly we can live with that, or are we as inflexible as some highly centralized national government?

rcg said...

There is a joke about a man who Is commited to an asylem and after the meal people would stand up and simply say a number, then everyone laughed. He asked one of the other inmates what was going on and was told that they are telling jokes and that everyone has been there so long they wrote all of the jokes in a book, numbered them and memorised it. So now and all they had to do to tell the joke was shout out the number and people would remember it and laugh. Desiring to be accepted he found the book, looked up a joke and after the next meal stood up and shouted out the number. To his great discomfort no one laughed. He asked his friend what was wrong? "Some people just don't know how to tell a joke."

Anonymous at 6:11 pm; that post is #2.

Anonymous said...

Tevye you must know Gene.
Good try changing your name.

Tevye said...

rcg....what's an asylem?

rcg said...

Tev, it's plural for asylum. The diagnosis was for schizophrenia.

Marc said...

Sorry, Anonymous, but Gene is on vacation. This Tevye is a new addition to our little comment box forum.

Anonymous said...

Sure Gene is on Vacation.
Sure he is.....

Anonymous said...

What happens to the orientation if Liturgical East is replaced with True East or Magnetic East? Then would the people always be looking at the priests back for Mass said ad orientem?

John Nolan said...

It is a mistake to regard Holy Mass as a re-enactment of the Last Supper, depictions of which (Leonardo's being the most famous) reflect the dining customs of second millennium Europe. Our Lord was fulfilling the requirements of the Old Law. St Thomas Aquinas makes this clear in the Pange Lingua which is so familiar that we often overlook the meaning of the words.

'On his last night at supper, reclining at table in the midst of his brethren, he fully observed the Ancient Law and partook of the Passover meal; then, with his own hands, he gave himself up as food for the group of the Twelve ... let precepts of the Ancient Law give way to the new Rite ...'

So remarks that Jesus did not wear a chasuble or use Latin are irrelevant, ignorant and silly.

Agnes said...

A simple solution might be to have Mass celebrated ad orientem. After Mass we could all head outside and form a line in front of the priest, who could then give each of us a hug and a personalized blessing before we leave for Dunkins*.

*The less needy in the parish can bypass the hug and head right to the doughnuts.

Agnes said...

Anonymous (July 14, 2016 at 10:40 PM):

At least the priest's back is farther away than the back of the person sitting directly in front of me. :-)

In any event, the focus of our mind and heart should always be on God. By having the priest face the same direction as the people, it lessens the distractions that may unintentionally occur when the priest and people face each other.

rcg: Very funny.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,
I will go to confession over this. I played a Game to prove to a family member the
character of TJM, Marc, Gene and Jan. I discovered a few others that also proved my point.
Father K you are a Holy Man and we love you very much.
Good Bye,
Baptist Sarah
African American Catholic
Episcopal Convert
Obama Drooler
Faithful Catholic

Rood Screen said...


Who says the Mass has always been the same? Who is opposed to change? On the contrary, many of us very much respect the inspired growth of the Roman rite over the centuries, and we very much want to see changes in the celebration of the Mass today.

As for your other points:
No. Christ likely sat next to his apostles, so that they faced the same direction.
No. Christ, the Lamb of God, was slaughtered the next day, on the altar of the Cross.
No. The clerical collar today is not supposed to be visible during Mass.
No. He was stripped naked on the Cross. The Temple priest wore attire specified by God Himself, and it is this the Christian priest imitates, rather than Christ's nakedness.
No. The Roman cross, the Roman language and the Roman capital, all of which Satan used to kill the Messiah, Christians now use against the Devil. It would have made no sense to have these elements at the Last Supper.

Gerbert d' Aurillac said...

The article is correct, both positions are valid, they are the valid forms of the Mass promulgated by the Bishops and Pope. If we are so orthodox in insisting that only the ancient form is valid the you are rejecting the very orthodoxy you claim to uphold (the authority of the Bishops and Pope to bind and loose). While I do prefer ad orientem, and that the Extraordinary form shows a greater reverence and has a greater focus on the Eucharist than the Novus Ordo. If versus populum is an abberation our Orthodox brothers and sisters would have let us know. This is not one of the issues concerning the unification of the east and western church. Granted they were pleased about Pope Benedict motu proprio. Considering our Othordox brothers and sisters are stuck in the 8th century their silence on the issue speaks volumes.

TJM said...

Gerbert, except the rubrics of the OF clearly contemplate ad orientem celebration. There is scant liturgical or theological support for versus populum other than the high flown opinions of liturgical "progressives" who have done a stellar job emptying the pews with their innovations.

Tevye said...

Gene is not Tevye.

Unknown said...

Tevye was here before.

Gerbert, being 'stuck in the 8th century' is a bizarre criticism coming from someone claiming to uphold the religion of men who died two thousand years ago.

John Nolan said...

I happen to dislike 'over the counter' celebration, neither need nor want the vernacular, and think the classic Roman Rite is in nearly every respect superior to the Novus Ordo.

However, on the thankfully rare occasions when I attend a vernacular versus populum Mass I don't feel the light has gone out of my liturgical life, and any irritations I experience are usually due to unnecessary and gratuitous add-ons on the part of those (both clerical and lay) who front the performance. The only thing for which I have zero tolerance is bad music, and I don't mean badly performed music. Wacky 'liturgies' sometimes crop up in parts of Europe but they are easily avoided.

Yet there are so-called Catholics who weep bitter tears of frustration if the celebrant faces the altar for the L.O.T.E. or wears traditional vestments, or if they hear anything in Latin. What is wrong with these people? After all, it is I, not they, who fit the stereotype of the reactionary, over-educated, condescending, intolerant, obsessed-with-minutiae-and-aesthetics, narrow minded traditionalist, lacking in charity and regarding the present occupant of Peter's chair as a buffoon.

TJM said...

John Nolan, I guess you could call those so-called Catholics either ignoramsuses, phillistines, or self-loathers. And when it involves a priest or bishop, I call it apostasy.

rcg said...

It seems reasonable that we start where we are with what we have. But the object of the Mass is change and if we insist on distracting oursleves in this process with what we already are then we may be missing the point entirely.

Gerbert d' Aurillac said...

TJM I wish the cause of the pews being empty was just the Novus ordo, but it goes much deeper than that. If our individual faith is that weak then we have a huge problem! Since we have been discussing Adam and Eve, my thoughts are that each one of us play out our role as Adam and Eve, we know that paradise is there and awaits us all we have to do is be obedient to God, but we keep taking bites out of that apple everyday. It is the rejection of God by our free will that has emptied the pews. Our faith is not based on the piety of priest, bishops or Popes, or how the Liturgy is done, but in my love of God and His Son Jesus Christ, and our human family. Yes, our worship should be reverent and give proper honor to God to draw us nearer to Him. We want and need good and Godly men to serve to be our spiritual fathers to help guide us down our path and strengthen us with the Sacraments, but in the end it is up to us.

Flavious: My comment was not meant to disparage the Orthodox, I have a great respect for our Orthodox brothers and sisters, but because of the social and economic progress in the east, the orthodox church has not dealt with the issues of the modern society and culture. Until this month the last council for the Orthodox Church was 1200 years ago. This current council while important was not attended by all the Churches and did not really address the issues society is dealing with today. I do welcome the day that unity is achieved, when the Church can breath with both lungs as St. Pope John Paul II put it. I up hold the religion of a Divine person, both fully human and fully divine, the Son of the Most High God, not the the religion of dead men. If you do not believe and accept that, fine that is your decision, I would ask that you not come here and put down those who do. This is a Catholic blog we discuss issues that concern us and the Church, in an effort to learn and grow in faith. Respect that is all I can ask.

Michael said...

I would humbly suggest that the current Catechism, while not unorthodox, was compiled with an agenda where liturgy is concerned. It puts the "Lord's Supper" aspect of the Mass first, the Holy Sacrifice aspect second, while this should really be inverted based on the more traditional way of thinking. And Fr. Longenecker is writing his "both camps are right" piece using the questionable order of the new Catechism. I'm not surprised he comes to the conclusion he does in that case - but I don't think he's right.

Marc said...

Gerbert, the last Orthodox council was in 1872. So roughly the same amount of time has passed since their last doctrinal council as since our last doctrinal council.

As we have seen since Vatican II, not having councils seems to be a feature and not a bug.

Anonymous said...

What would be the top three books (Beside the Bible) that a faithful Catholic Should read?
Nothing complicated because we are not priests. Something simple for everyday folk.

Unknown said...


Maybe a patch will be released. Or overpriced DLC.

Православный физик said...

Well, as an Eastern Catholic, I can really only speak for myself, but for some of us, the old saying "not my monkeys, not my circus" applies, and for others one might say that the liturgical situation is a major obstacle towards unity and the liturgical situation is a disaster.

I do not think that there is an equivalence between the two positions of Ad Orientem and Versus Populum. The turning of the altars in my opinion was the biggest damage of the un-authorized changes post Vatican II. I do actually prefer free standing altars to the ones against the wall.

It's important to follow the rubrics, literalist that I tend to be, Ad Orientem in the situations where it doesn't say to face the people makes sense to me.

Ad Orientem facilittates mystery, versus populum facilitates entertainment or a conversation.

John Nolan said...

Either orientation is licit, but the common orientation of clergy and congregation towards the apse has far more authority than the alternative. Once again, Fr Hunwicke hits the nail on the head in his recent comments concerning 'auctoritas' as distinct from liceity in matters concerning the liturgy.

Paul VI might have had a personal preference for celebrating versus populum, Inter Oecumenici might have recommended that altars be freestanding so as to make this possible, the 2002 IRGM might have implied that this is the preferred orientation in the Novus Ordo (although the CDW has ruled otherwise), 99 per cent of priests in the Latin Church might celebrate facing the congregation - yet what is this when set against the 'auctoritas' of attested practice going back to Patristic times?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be fun for Chris Matthews a devoted outspoken Catholic to read the blog?
I wonder if he would think that a Catholic who voted for Obama should go to confession.
He of coarse is not a priest but it would be interesting to see this discussed.
Maybe this could get on the National News. I think this would be very interesting.
There are many good comments here and great discussion.

Anonymous said...

Sen. Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy and most of this prominent Catholic family voted for Obama.
Did they all go to confession after they voted?

Marc said...

Anonymous, read The Baltimore Catechism. It's very simple to understand. With that and the Bible, you'll have the basics of the Catholic faith in terms of doctrine.

For spirituality, get Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

And so you can learn about our Blessed Mother, get True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.

Tevye said...

Nin....Story of O....Tropic of Cancer....not complicated...

Anonymous said...

Our Pope tells us to build bridges and not walls.
Are you going to vote for a person who will build walls?
The pope stated that building walls is not a Christian thing to do.
Honestly how do you choose between these two candidates?
To not vote is not the answer. The Catholic Voice must be heard.

Anonymous said...

Marc How is the Baltimore Catechism different from the one that I have?
Thank you for all of these suggestions. We are currently discussing "The Imitation Of Christ"
A very wonderful book. Thank You
Tevye: Would your book suggestions be good reading for a book club?

Gene said...

Chris Matthews is a sissy.

Anonymous said...

Gene you are like a naughty child. "Chris Matthews is a sissy" sounds like something a first grader would say.
You need to write 100 times "I will not insult people"

Marc said...

Anonymous, the Baltimore Catechism is written much more simply. Its simple questions and answers.

Imitation of Christ is a good one. After that one, read The Story of a Soul by St. Therese. I think the only book she carried around was the Imitation, so she elaborates on it regularly.

Unknown said...


I've been commenting here for like four years. I think I know what it's about.

I haven't put anyone down, but I did suggest that there's a discrepancy in belonging to a two thousand year old religion and commenting on someone else being stuck in the past.

Carol H. said...


Have you ever read the Didache? It was written around 90 AD and was used like a Catechism at that time to teach those who were in the process of becoming a Christian. It is not very long and is free on-line.

I was going to mention The Imitation of Christ but you are already reading it!

TJM said...

The Kennedy family,including Senator Oldsmobile,should have been excommunicated decades ago. They're apostates.

Gene said...

Anonymous @ 8:18...out of the mouths of babes...

rcg said...

Anon About Books: reading the Bible without proper guidance can be problematic. The same can be said for many books authored by saints whereas weel written books about saints can be very helpful. Ypu will need to join a group led by someone knowledgeble in the texts to get the full benefit and avoid possible error. Since you are obviously prepared to invest in books I recommend that you acquire two daily missals to accompany your catechism volumes. One missal for the EF (1962) and one for the NO (third translation). I highly recommend the Baronious Press and the Midwest Theological Forum (I am assuming you are in the USA). These have excellent discussions on the Mass as well as primers in Christian and Catholic thought and methods. The Daily prayers are helpful, of course, as are the various disuccions of the seasons, etc. They will set you back about $120 together but, if you are still conscious, are worth twice that.

Anonymous said...

July 15, 2016, Baptist Sarah, you did well with your game, you actually proved that there are a few orthodox Catholics who post on this site, as you say: Marc, Gene, TJM, myself and a few others. I don't think you need go to confession over a harmless game and I am sure that you have done some good in that there will be other orthodox Catholics who read this site, who may not comment, but who will be shored up in the sure and certain knowledge that they are not alone in upholding the truth of what the Church teaches.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8.18 pm, said "sounds like something a first grader would say", sorry, but I don't see that is a very mature comment ...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:38 PM, our Pope tells us that we cannot support abortion. Are you going to vote for someone who supports abortion and upholds Planned Parenthood who sells the body parts of babies that are alive when their organs are harvested?