16 February 2011

Review Story on First Friday Devotions and a Call for Ad Orientem Worship in the Ordinary Form

The St. Louis Review, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, ran a great story about First Friday Mass and devotions to the Sacred Heart at the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine. The photograph above was taken by the Review and appears in the story. It shows a beautiful young girl at prayer with head properly covered.

The story, too, is very nice, and details the efforts of a North County homeschool group to foster the First Friday devotions and notes that Archdiocesan priests are regularly saying this Mass, which, by the way, is in the Ordinary Form.

There is one statement in the article that I wanted to discuss, as I believe it reflects a common misconception of the Ordinary Form:

She also likes how the Mass, while celebrated in English in the Ordinary Form, is at a shrine that is set up for the Extraordinary Form, or traditional Latin Mass. "This is different than our Sunday Mass. It shows more reverence, and it's a different way for our family to worship once a month."

What is referred to here is that the traditional placement and orientation of the altar causes the priest to, of necessity, celebrate Mass ad orientem. That is to say, he faces towards liturgical East, along with the congregation. Those who deride this ancient and immemorial practice would describe it as "the priest turning his back on the people".

And while it is true that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite requires this orientation of the priest, what is not generally known is that the rubrics of the Ordinary Form assume this orientation as well. For example, among other places, at the various points in Mass when the "Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you") is said, the rubrics (those directions in red ink indicating the actions of the priest celebrant) indicate that the priest should turn to face the people.

Of course, if a priest must turn to face the people, it assumes he is not (or at least may not) be facing them already. The rubrics certainly do not require the Mass to be said versus populum, nor did the Council Fathers do so. However well established the innovation of Mass facing the people may be today, it is no less a deviation from the practice of the Church for at least 1500 years, and likely more. In other words, it is an innovation, and the immemorial custom of facing towards liturgical East cannot be abrogated by neglect or general disuse.

So, I applaud the ad orientem Mass on First Fridays at St. Ferdinand, and call on priests who may read this to emulate the practice. It follows the ancient custom of the Church in that the priest faces the altar, along with everyone else. It is more reverent, almost by default, because the personality of the priest is muted, leaving only his reality as acting in the person of Christ the Head, with the faithful as the Body. All are oriented towards the Sacrifice of Calvary. But this is not because the church is set up for the Extraordinary Form. It is because both Forms should be celebrated this way. And though the Extraordinary Form must be so celebrated, the Ordinary Form certainly can be so celebrated.

Finally, the photo below should help you picture it better-- it is of the Holy Father celebrating the novus ordo--the Ordinary Form-- ad orientem in the Sistine Chapel. Wouldn't it be great of our priests of the Archdiocese followed his example more often?


Kansas Catholic said...

A great post. Taking something mentioned in passing and showing it as evidence of a larger truth for the faithful. Well done.

But let us not forget the most happenstance ad orientem Ordinary Form mass in the history of Saint Louis--at the Cathedral on June 14, 2007, just before then-Archbishop Burke ordained two ICRSS priests.

Did I mention it's in my novel? Silly me.

From that part of the book:

"Already before noon, the basilica, which could seat over two thousand, was over half full. Still, a regular weekday mass started at noon, with a few dozen people in the front pews having come for that liturgy. Regulars to daily mass at the basilica, most of whom had no idea of the ordinations that day, arrived in some perplexity, having never seen such a crowd for a weekday mass. Their confusion at the numbers was only the first of their surprises. Also out of the ordinary was the orientation of the priest at the noon mass. Already, the altar was situated for the ordination mass that would be celebrated in the older rite, where the celebrant faces the altar with the congregation.

So the priest that celebrated the noon mass did a rare thing by necessity. He celebrated a mass in English, but faced the altar rather than the congregation, a direction that most of the Council fathers assumed would remain after their documents had reached all corners of the earth.

Henry was in his cassock. It was an occasion to wear it proudly without being out of place. There were many Institute seminarians, most of them coming from as far as Italy. All of them were in cassocks. There were pockets of other priests and seminarians of unknown traditional affiliation, some of them, like Henry, waiting to witness an event—the ordination of priests in a traditional Latin mass celebrated by an archbishop—that had not taken place in a major American cathedral for over forty years.

The noon mass ended. Those that assisted left with puzzled faces, like an outnumbered army in retreat through the territory they thought had been conquered long ago . . ."

Timman: some say "brick by brick," it's not a bad saying, but it ain't the bricks that do the work--it's going to be priest by priest to restore the liturgy. Congrats to this priest that celebrates the mass as you said.

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn't it be great of our priests of the Archdiocese followed his example more often?"

One would expect first that the priests of this Archdiocese be open to such a noble consideration. But for a scant handful, I wouldn't hold my breath.


thetimman said...

KC, see the next post.

doughboy said...

question: can an associate pastor at a local parish celebrate the Mass ad orientem of his own volition, or does he have to have permission from his pastor to do so?

StGuyFawkes said...

Great post. The shrine of Old St. Ferdinand has many other wonderful features. To name just one, there is a Jesuit missionary buried under the altar. There is also a small closet to the North of the altar where St. Phillipine used to sleep in order to be near the sacrament.

I grew up in Florissant and worshipped at this same church when the Extraordinary Form was said there. I know the place like the back of my hand, and this brings me to a question about the liturgical meaning of "Ad Orientam."

Anyone who knows the shrine knows that a priest facing the altar faces Lindbergh which is West, not East. The end of St. Francois street is to the priest's back and to the geographical East.

Does "Ad Orientam" refer only to Masses where the priest literally faces East or does it mainly refer to the priest's facing the altar?

Dinsky7 said...

Traditionally, churches were built so that during the celebration of the Eucharist priest and congregants would be facing the East (since this direction was associated with the return of Christ). Obviously, b/c of structural issues, building codes, etc., this is not always a possibility. Sometimes, therefore, theologians will talk about ad orientam as a matter of facing the "liturgical East." The key is that the community is turning towards God, rather than being turned in upon itself.

thetimman said...

stguy, dinsky7 nailed the explanation. I referred to "liturgical" East in the post for that reason. Just as in the Mass the gospel is always proclaimed facing liturgical North, towards the heathen. Cool symbolism.

Doughboy, no priest needs permission to say the Ordinary Form ad orientem. As I said, it is assumed he will in the rubrics themselves. For that matter, no priest needs permission from anyone to say the Extraordinary Form, at least in private. No Pastor needs permission to say public Mass that way either, though an Assistant pastor may(Summorum Pontificum is somewhat vague) need the Pastor's go-ahead to say the Extraordinary Form as a public Mass.

However all that may be, if a priest did any of these things without laying the groundwork of catechising the faithful attending, he can count on a call from the Chancery due to the many complaints they'll get.

And if he does it after catechesis, he still may get that call. If you ever, ever see a parish priest taking any such steps, please write often to the chancery to state your delight, and give the priest a ton of support.

Anonymous said...

I thought the "body" under the altar was/were the accumulated relics of St. Valentine [according to the web site of the Shrine].

Who is the "Jesuit missionary"?

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Anon 2.17.11 10:40,

The relics of St. Valentine are definitely there. The jesuit was a more recent discovery. I think it was after the fire of 1969 or '70 when a certain amount of reconstruction and digging around was necessary the grave site was discovered. The Florissant ladies who run the shrine know this. The name of the jesuit is unknown to me. I do believe the pioneer church was well known to Fr. DeSmet and other Jesuits.

Anonymous said...

St. Guy Fawkes: Thanks for the clarification. I must have missed the update on the web site if there is one. It would be good to know, I think, just for its historic nature.

Thanks again...