Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Mass ad orientem: a non-issue in my parish

Here's something I put in my recent church bulletin:

On August 15, when we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the 7 pm evening Mass was offered at the high altar. This was something I advertised ahead of time I would do. I knew there would be a large and diverse attendance at this Mass, and so this would give many more people an opportunity to experience this, and also to give me feedback if they chose.

Afterward, I asked a few people how they thought it went. The only negative comment I got was from one of the altar servers, who wasn’t used to it; other servers, who were more experienced, liked it. Several parishioners told me they liked it. Everything seemed to flow just fine.

Since then, I haven’t heard any comments. I realize not everyone prefers to have the priest facing the same way as the people at the altar; and of course it will be unfamiliar to many, and this can be a drawback too. Nevertheless, the overall non-reaction tells me that most people at Mass are simply focused on the readings, the homily, and joining with the prayers. As a result, whatever their preferences, they don’t let which way the priest is facing at a particular point affect them. It’s not a “deal breaker” for them.

Meanwhile, it is important to point out that there are many people who do prefer Mass offered this way; this is attractive to them. And that includes me. While I will offer Mass both ways for the benefit of all concerned, I do find that when the people and I are facing the same way at the Eucharistic Prayer, that my focus is better, because it’s much more on the Lord. And that is the whole point. Others who prefer it say the same: the focus is less on the priest, and more on the Sacrifice itself.

So, we’ll try this again on Nov. 1, All Saints, and again on Dec. 8, the Immaculate Conception. And I hope no one will hesitate to offer a question or an alternative point of view. I don’t mind in the least; I welcome hearing from everyone!


TJM said...

Congratulations, Father! By preparing your congregation in advance, it likely mitigated the risk of receiving complaints. For those who are opposed to ad orientem celebration (strange) they had the option of going elsewhere.

rcg said...

I agree with TJM. While the laity should not be consulted for liturgical changes, they should be educated on the Liturgy and the valid options available to us. I think that was missing when changes done in the name of Vatican II were made. You are a good, and *effective* pastor.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks. There's something else at work in my parish, I think. It has to do with the approach of my predecessor to the celebration of the liturgy, which I have attempted to maintain. Both he and I try to keep the priest's personality from being the main thing. We follow the rubrics, we celebrate the liturgy in a steady, sober fashion, minimizing variations, even when they are allowed. For example, we always use the Confiteor, and we very nearly always use the Roman Canon. I can't recall the last time I had a baptism during Mass; never here, except for the Easter Vigil of course. The effect is to lower the profile of the priest.

In addition, the priest's chair (actually a bench) does not face the people. Rather, he is at a 90 degree angle to the nave, and faces the altar. And, when I offer the collects from the chair, and when I lead the Creed, I turn toward the high altar.

In my judgment, all these things collectively have had a good effect: it's not about Father Fox or whoever is offering the Mass.

TJM said...

Father Fox,

Precisely (and I totally agree with the placement of your bench). The beauty of the EF is that the priest's individual persona is not front and center as it can be with the OF. I think the only legitimate place for the priest's personality is the homily.

Your congregation is luck to have you and your predecessor.