The fruits of Ad Orientem worship

The good bishop

Yep, this.  From Father Rick 
This is a letter I just sent to a priest friend. I wrote it because I don’t believe we priests should be frightened anymore. I agree with a recent post that said, while we take our time, souls are being lost. We all know, in our bones, that God wants this … let’s simply obey and allow God to bless our obedience!!!

Dear Father,

I wanted to write to update you on the amazing things God is doing here …

A year is up and the results are in.

It’s been a little over one year since we removed the freestanding altar and committed to ad orientem worship for all of our Masses. Without a doubt, it was a leap of faith, as I simply trusted God would provide.

The initial response from some of the old guard was a bit nerve-racking. In fact, a handful of them decided to no longer attend here, as they dispersed to local parishes.

Beyond that, I don’t even know if I can begin to share all of the fruits of this move.

First, the spiritual benefits are palpable. Our parish has a sense that we are truly worshiping, and it simply feels so right. This is visibly seen in such things as the altar boys who are more reverent and precise. People are coming early to pray the rosary, and many are staying afterwards to offer prayers of thanksgiving. Everyone is offering the “proper” gestures (bowing, etc.) at the appropriate times. Virtually everyone began, mostly in just the past year, really dressing up for Mass. It seems every Sunday another woman has decided to veil – AT A NOVUS ORDO! And, we just had over 300 people go through the 33 Days of Preparation for Consecration to Jesus Through Mary!!!

Our choir has doubled in size over the past year, and they are chanting and singing polyphony so beautifully that I am thinking they should make a CD. Even our men’s schola went from 7 members to nearly 20 in just this past year. And, these men have become quite a “band of brothers” as they also gather once a month in my man cave for what we call, “Pipes and Pints” … Virtually all of them enjoy a nice pipe and brew as we discuss church related issues and try to solve all of the problems of the world. Virtually all of these men are young professionals.

I haven’t looked at any statistics, but it seems that, over just this one year, the average age of our parishioners went from 65 to 35, as so many young families are discovering us and joining the parish. It is so wonderful to hear the squeaks and squawks of little ones throughout the Mass!!! My secretary commented that it seems a new young family appears here every week.

Last year, our finance council was recommending that we begin a special giving campaign, as we were feeling the effects of the economic downturn of the past five years. I asked them to give it one more year, as we see the effects of ad orientem worship. They reluctantly agreed. A year later, we just had a finance council meeting and – get this! – Contributions are up 45% IN ONE YEAR!!!

I can’t say this is what will happen in every parish that decides to take the risk and move in this direction, but I wanted to be, at least, one more story of a parish that put their trust in God, and witnessed how God blessed this move to offer greater reverence in the Mass, especially by celebrating ad orientem.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam!!
BTW: Free Exorcised Holy Water and Blessed Salt!

I've pretty seriously considered moving to the area.  I keep holding out hope that a parish in this diocese would take up the Benedictine banner.  And I still haven't gotten to that post with the numbers of parishes...

The top two epidemics in Catholicism today.
1. Contraception.
2. Versus populum worship (which is in a certain sense contracepted worship). 


  1. Ha!

    You're going to put Contraception on the same level as Versus Populum worship?

    If that's the case, then apparently they've been promoting contraception at St. Peters Basilica the past few centuries. It would also seem that the early church was promoting heresy along with our current Pontiff!

    I like Ad Orientem worship; I think it has certain merits. Ad Populum worship, however, IS compatible with reverence, holiness, and fine liturgy.

    1. I was waiting for you to reply TAq. First point, there was a reason why the early Church changed the orientation of the Mass, perhaps after time it was promoting disbelief in the Real Presence. Second, I said in a certain sense - that is in the sense that the People of God think their worship is offered to each other. This is certainly more prominent in say a circular church where the architecture specifically minimized the transcendent aspect of the liturgy. Why do so many Protestant liturgies continue to use ad orientem posture? I would say because it is inherant to . Third, St. Peters Basilica; I suppose you are also fans of the papal tiara and sedia gestatoria? I'm not opposed to Rome choosing a few suitable churches as exceptions to ad orientem worship, particularly if the goal of the architecture is to face a historic altar to the literal East.

    2. Ad Orientem extends not only within the tradition of the Church but back through the Levitical priesthood and beyond.

      Mass has always been said Ad Orientam (to the East) at the main altar of St. Peter, and continues today. What has changed is the orientation of the *people* during the Canon. Those who have researched this issue have found that in architectural anomalies, the *people* turned.

      While versus populum *can* be compatible, the real question is whether it *promotes* it. Again, from the writings of the protestant revolutionaries themselves such as Cranmer, versus populum was intentionally introduced to destroy the people's belief in the Real Presence as well as the essential difference of the ordained priest. Cranmer first started with the "ping pong" position of saying mass along the North/South side of the fixed altar, until the altar was moved away from the wall. Comparing Cranmer's full agenda of destruction of the Sarum Rite of England with the liturgical innovations attached to the Novus Ordo, should give one pause to be defending the current fashion.

      Searching for exceptions in early Church practice, rather than what was abandoned with the development of doctrine and liturgy, is bad theology. Pius XII specifically condemned this "archaeologism":
      [T]he temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof. Mediator Dei

  2. Here's an interesting read about this topic:

    I think a reverent Versus Populum mass can help facilitate belief in the real presence as much as any Ad Orientem liturgy. I'm just not convinced of your assertion that the denial of the real presence or the use of contraception is anyway linked to the orientation of the celebrant. Correlation is not causation.

    Do I like the Papal Tiara and the Sedia Gestatoria? On some level, sure. :) Am I glad they're not used anymore on principle, absolutely.

    St. Paul's outside the wall is also a church where mass has been historically celebrated Versus Populum despite the fact that the priest is then facing West.

    If versus Populum Masses are good enough for the Popes, they should be good enough for us. And we should try to preserve and foster the two traditions/variations. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

    1. I think that people who remove God from worship and instead worship the "community" is the same as a husband going through the marital act but not giving of himself completely including his fertility. In both cases, God and woman does not receive what is proper to them. I will agree to disagree that Ad Orientem isn't more ordered to allow the people of God to offer their worship directly to him instead of a worship that focuses more on the people present.

      Ahh, I see. You are correct, I am not saying the one causes the other, I'm drawing a correlation.

      Well I would say that you may be picking and choosing your papal liturgical customs then, since of course those same traditions were present at St. Peters Basilica. You can argue for a tradition of St. Peters being Versus Populum the same way I can argue for the Sedia Gestatoria. The same we could go with one of the other traditionally Versus Populum churches in Rome. If we say that there's a tradition for Versus Populum over the years, I can say that there's a tradition for a silent Canon of the Mass. I would assert both traditions should be respected, but it seems they have arbitrarily been picked over and only certain ones respected.

      I think I would agree on your last statement conditionally a) the Ad Orientem posture is de facto repressed today so yes, let's see more of it, b) if the church architecture lends itself to a positive interpretation of Versus Populum, and c) not all papal liturgical customs need be present in day to day liturgies in parishes(I would rather not see my parish priest riding in on the Sedia :) )

    2. Deacon Ditewig's attempts on pray tell to justify versus populum are anemic to say the least. They are convincing only to those who desire to be convinced.

      As per St. Paul's Outside the Walls, an anomaly in a particular church does not justify overthrowing the historical custom throughout the universal church. You are, for instance, overlooking the architectural uniqueness of St. Paul's which as a stairway descending on the nave side of the altar descending below the altar to the tomb of St. Paul.

      Let's look further into this overturning of the historical orientation at the vast majority of churches throughout the world: The priest not only turned to the people, but in most churches turned his back on the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle. This ultimately forced the moving of the tabernacle in a great many churches, removing the tabernacle from the most prominent position of honor in the church. Can you really defend this as *better*? Has not Benedict (at least as Ratzinger) written about how versus populum closes in the mass on the community and makes the priest himself the center of attention?

      As Aquinas stated, changing laws and customs, even bad ones, requires that greater good come of the change, than the disruption of the people's security in tradition and custom. Can you with any legitimacy say greater good has come of the liturgical upheaval since the introduction of the Novus Ordo and the fashions that came with it, that strike at the very source and summit of the Christian life? Can you say with any *certainty* that mass attendance would have fallen *further* than it has if *no* reform was done to the TLM? That mass attendance would be far worse than the 25% in the US and 10% or 5% throughout Europe? Really? Can you with honesty say it would have been worse?

      In regard to what is "good enough for the popes", don't confuse the toleration of the very last couple of popes for liturgical revolution (literally as the priests have revolved around the altar) for what is good for the Church. Note that Benedict quietly undid JP II's introduction of communion in the hand and standing at papal masses. Francis right now is tolerating open, public contradiction between cardinals concerning communion to those living in adulterous 2nd marriages, despite having a recent opportunity to support his besieged CDF prefect and to clearly teach on the matter in a homily on Jesus' words about marriage. While "good enough for Francis", is this good for the Church?

  3. By the way TAq, you are one of my favorite commenters.

    1. I'm crushed! Now I'm going to have to celebrate mass at Viterbo where I can be affirmed and validated in my common priesthood by being able to stand in the circle around the altar during the consecration. That is the natural development of versus populum after all. We are all celebrants now.

    2. LOL, Cassandra you are also one of my favorites. You both challenge me which is good. The problem like you said is that where gutted churches encourage circle worship of themselves, this makes an authentically Catholic versus populum impossible. I would not rule out that there is some way that it could be done, but it would require an architecture that lends itself to Catholic theology. Still not explained is how the exception of versus populum became the rule.

  4. I'm glad to hear it; This is one of my favorite blogs! :) If only we could debate in Latin (goals, it's good to have goals!)


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