Facing the Lord

Last week I began saying Mass in our daily Mass chapel at St Joseph’s Catholic School facing East. I do so on two days of the week, while facing the people on the other three days. I’m also taking time to explain the change and what it means and why we are doing it.
We will also begin the changeover at St Mary’s quite soon. I hope to post some photographs here on the blog of both celebrations, as well as the responses and reactions of our people.
This photograph is courtesy of Shawn Tribe at New Liturgical Movement blog.

"Catholicism has always defined the ideal but there are no limits on God's mercy and ..."

Tony Palmer: Is There Salvation Outside ..."
"With all due respect, Shaun, are you relegating the actual Faith to whatever the local ..."

Notes on Tony Palmer’s Funeral
"There are good parking valets and bad parking valets. There are good housesitters and bad ..."

The Case for Conversion to Catholicism
"did you vote for Bush Fr Longenecker? would you have?"

Understanding Iraq

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Father Dwight — what have the students’ reactions been so far? How long have you been preparing them for this change? What do the parents/teachers say? (And do you have any idea of the percentage of families/staff who are St. Mary’s parishoners?)I think the huge bulk of responses will be emotional ones based on the Mass experiences of our youths. I must admit I’m a little uneasy. I haven’t been back to the Church very long and now this. Will I still feel part of the miracle of Mass or will this change make more distinct the line between clergy and laity?

  • You may rest easy. The Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon masses are voluntary. The congregation is very small. For the main school Mass I will continue to face the people as usual.The idea behind this has been explained in Fr Newman’s parish letters during Lent, but it is not meant to separate the priest from the people. In fact, it does just the reverse–by praying in the same direction as the people the priest is praying with them as they face the Lord together.So far the response has ranged from “It doesn’t matter to me.” to “Can you explain what is going on?” to “I love it. This is wonderful.”I am interested and open to hearing everyone’s frank responses. Thanks for yours!

  • Please don’t think I’m unwilling to embrace this change or that I have any quibble with Father Newman’s timetable on implementing this. Just curious to know what the kids thought. Even young ‘uns can be remarkably set in their ways! Glad to hear it’s been generally positive.I’m entirely making room for the possibility that I’ll see the beauty and wisdom in this change after one Mass.

  • I suppose we should be thankfull that you did not meet up with the ACC prior to the RCC. I’ve been to reverse facing masses several times with the ACC using he 1928 prayerbook. i believe that it is more natural for the celebrant to worship god *with* the people and only accidentally become ‘in persona christi’. When the celebrant is forced to face the people and strive to become ‘in persona christi I think it doesn’t work as well.Obviously this is just my humble opinion amnogst billions of other opinions. But to make a long story short, I don’t think that lovers of the Norvus Ordo or liberals should have a knee-jerk reaction against the priest facing the other way. it is not done in arrogance, but in humility.

  • In my new parish (we’ve just moved) they never got around to remodeling the church after Vatican II. So all the Novus Ordo Masses have the priest and the people facing the same direction. None of the parishioners there seem to feel distanced from the Mass. In fact, I’ve seldom seen such enthusiasm for the Mass.

  • That’s wonderful Father! I am one of those who feels the priest is more separated when he is standing on the other side of the altar. It is much better if the priest should simply lead the community in prayer.

  • Fr., it seems you are re-introducing this classical form of worship in a very sensitive manner: gradually and with good catechesis. May your tribe increase.As I read your comment above, a thought struck me. When the priest faces east with the congregation, it may be more natural for him to assume his role “in prersona Christi.” When he faces the people, it may be more tempting to interject his own “persona”.

  • I agree with Rich that you are wise to introduce the change slowly and to explain what you are doing and the reasons.How different from the sixties and seventies when bishops forced re-ordering of sanctuaries on unwilling priests; and priests imposed versus populi on sometimes unwilling congregants. I don’t remember much consultation in those days.

  • I once heard that the change in the priest’s orientation originated out of imitating the Mass at St. Peter’s, a first for many of those present at VII. Is this true?I know about the tradition of saying the Mass in the same orientation as the faithful all the way to the catacombs, it’s just that I love the honor of witnessing the miracle of transubstantiation through and through, which seems to be possible only when the priest is facing the faithful.Granted, the Precious Body and Blood are raised, but elder priests cannot raise them above their head, and the faithful could then miss the perspective of those sit before the Lord in the Last Supper… or at least I would.Why the push to change it in your parish, father?

  • It is great to see Conversi Ad Dominum being put into practice at the NO.

  • God bless you for this Father, and for your pastoral way of re-introducing worthy tradition.Mass is about God; ad orientem worship helps communicate this.

  • BTW Fr. Newman’s bulletin articles on ad orientam have been condensed in the latest issue of First Things.

  • There’s plenty of times at Mass when you can’t see what the priest is doing. At least, there are if you’re short, like me.Honestly, it’s kind of an odd objection. Are you saying that, if a big beefy guy sits in front of me, I don’t participate fully? Is he violating my liturgical rights by being big and beefy? Are pillars in church some kind of violation of transparency?:) Not that I want to deprive tall people of their sightlines, much less little kids.

  • Augustine, you bring up a common misunderstanding with regards to ad orientem worship in St. Peter’s Basilica. Even Cardinal Ratzinger (now gloriously reigning as BXVI) debunked this idea tin his book, Spirit of the Liturgy. St. Peter’s axis faces West because of geographical constraints. The High Altar is directly over the Tomb of St. Peter, and therefore it is out in the middle. For those between the front door and the altar, it appears as though Mass is proceeding “facing the people” because the priest, in order to face east, must face those people. However, two points to keep in mind, the priest is not facing the people in the other wings, and, historically, when it came time for the consecration, the laity would turn and face east as well (IOW, they had their backs to the priest because they were all facing the same direction). The reason for this was that it has been believed that when Christ comes again, it will be during hte Mass, and it will be from the East. So, in St. Peter’s, they would turn in honor of the Second Coming….they would turn toward the Lord.

  • I wish this could happen in our parish, Father. Too often the priest is imposing his own personality, and seems to feel he has to ‘perform.’ I like what ‘nickname’ says about the orientation helping to remind the priest that he acts ‘in personal Christi.’ I’ve been to a few Masses where the priest and people are in the same direction. It seems more ‘natural’ to me.