Alarm Bells

We must be thankful to God for Cardinal Robert Sarah, among other leading prelates who care for the Church in this time of great crisis and upheaval. His Eminence's timely call to priests to re-order Catholic worship towards the Tabernacle, to the East, from whence Christ shall come again in glory, has given many a bewildered clergy fresh heart.

Those parishes - a small minority - in which the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated ad orientem have received from the Congregation of Divine Worship more public support for their endeavour to restore the sacred to Catholic liturgy and it is to be hoped that those priests who do not yet offer the Most Holy Sacrifice 'towards the Lord' will consider doing so.

National Catholic Register has a comprehensive article on the call from the good Cardinal which resurrects the clear liturgical direction pointed out by Pope Francis's predecessor (in his 'active' munus), Pope Benedict XVI, who elucidated most convincingly his views on the liturgy in his book, 'The Spirit of the Liturgy' as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

What will be interesting will be how this call is received by the clergy. To my disappointment, I witnessed recently on a social media thread one priest in the south of England make his case for - if not dismissing Cardinal Sarah's call - doing his best to find excuses not to follow his sage advice.

Pope Francis offers Mass ad orientem before the Sistine Chapel was desecrated by guitarist The Edge

The Sussex-based priest, clearly quite taken aback by the good Cardinal's call for ad orientem worship maintained that even if he had some sympathy with the idea, his implementation of it would set off 'alarm bells' among the congregation.

I really expect that this is the line that will be taken by many priests. How intellectually honest it is for priests to disobey the CDW 'for the sake of the people' I do not know. I recently paid a visit to the parish which the priest serves and he had allowed a Tablet article on an end to clerical celibacy to be photocopied and displayed in pride of place in the respository. Personally, if there is anything that sets 'alarm bells' in this lay man, it is an over-exuberant, almost evangelical zeal for spreading articles of a liberal bent from the most spiritually toxic magazine in what was once known as Christendom. So, articles calling for an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy? 'Fine!' Ad orientem worship? 'No! Think of the people! 'We don't want alarm bells!'

The idea that the people of God need to be 'shielded' from ad orientem worship and the signals that might send out to their delicate souls is one that I expect a lot of priests would agree with, but it tells us something about how a certain generation of priests see their priesthood nowadays. This is presumably a view that is operating from the same intellectual origin as the priests who consider it best to tone down the Gospel message of repentance in order to 'protect his people' from hard truths, such as the truth that those in mortal sin should not approach Holy Communion and that the road to Hell is broad and wide.

More than this, however, such psychological projections as that uttered by the Sussex-based priest also give an insight into the dangers of the real clericalism problems faced by the Church today. Catholics need gentle, yet firm leadership, but we also need faithful leaders who will lead us in Faith towards the Lord.

His candid admission that he himself said he had sympathy with the good Cardinal's advice was belied by his desire to control or in some way limit or curtail the visual power of the liturgy by remaining in his current position, facing the people. Of course, any priest would be foolish to simply turn up to Mass one day and re-order Catholic worship according to the Cardinal's clear direction without explaining in anyway why, or to give the impression that he had woken up one day and decided to do something different on a whim.

Real leadership requires that a priest who had decided that facing East was the right thing to do - in obedience to the CDW - explain and teach his people. I have seen myself priests do exactly this, taking a great deal of time to slowly, gently, firmly lead their people towards the worship of God ad orientem.

With such a 'Father knows what is best for you' mindset inevitably comes an infantilisation of the laity who simply 'could not bear' such a change or an upset to the liturgical norm operating 'in our parish'. We simply can't do it, the people will freak out! Think of the children!

Unfortunately, this standpoint neglects the perennial understanding of the priesthood - the logical one - that indeed a priest's congregation are both the children of God and his spiritual children. Priests literally are feeding their congregation the Body and Blood of Christ. Priests are feeding their children - God's children - by their preaching and teaching. The entire Mass, from beginning to end, is a teaching in the Christian faith, as well as the worship of the God Who comes down to us. Priests are not simply 'presiders' or 'celebrants' at a liturgical event - a community gathering. Real spiritual fatherhood means that the priest, rather than telling us what we want to hear, or doing what we feel comfortable with, leads us in the worship of Almighty God and shows us how to do it. The one time I went to Mass recently at this Sussex-based priest's parish, the altar server cleansed and drained the chalice while standing in the centre of the sanctuary at the Altar, facing the people. Quite what message that was meant to send out, I have no idea, but the message was received loud and clear.

In all of this, it is not just the spiritual health of the people of God that suffers for lack of fatherly guidance, but the priest's spiritual health as well, about which so few seem to care. We look to priests because they are placed in authority over us to lead us to God, to nourish us with the Sacraments, to feed us, to guide us to Heaven. We easily forget that priests need Our Lord Jesus Christ as much - perhaps more than we do, because of the weight of the duty and the task God has entrusted to the priest.

If a priest is not turning to the Lord, how can we turn to the Lord? If a priest does not fall down and adore, how can we adore? It is not just for the people's spiritual benefit if a priest celebrates Mass ad orientem. It is also for the priest's spiritual benefit. When the Face of Christ, rather than the face of the 'presider' is revealed and adored in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, both people and priest adore together the God Who reveals Himself. Priest and people together will grow in holiness and love of God when all are turned together to He Who comes. When the Lord Jesus returns, I presume we shall all be facing the same direction, looking upon the Lord who comes as Judge, Who we Catholics hope we shall look upon as Lord, Saviour and our most trusted and faithful friend.

Pray very much for the clergy. It must be very tempting to wish to disregard the advice and clear direction given by Cardinal Robert Sarah and to pass it off as unhelpful or disruptive to parish life, but truth cannot be sacrificed in order to keep people in a sleepy state, for...

The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. (Romans, 13:12)

The pressing issue - at this time of grave crisis in the Church is that the faithful need alarm bells. Without them, most of us wouldn't wake up. Clergy haven't been called by the Lord to be priests looking for a 'quiet life'. If priests are called to do battle against demons, they can expect, if they follow the Lord, to have the odd confrontation with a parishioner or two who want liturgy tailored to what makes them feel 'comfortable'. Jesus Christ didn't come to make us feel comfortable. He came to turn disobedient, wandering children into faithful sons and daughters, worshippers of the Triune God. I have seen with my own eyes parishes be re-orientated towards the liturgical East over a period of about 10 years. I have seen this transition take place with comparatively little 'trouble' or complaint. It can be done sensitively, gradually, thoughtfully and carefully. Priests will never please everyone but they can please God.


Celia said…
A couple of subjective comments. A few years ago a priest in my diocese who occasionally celebrated the EF Mass tried the experiment of celebrating the OF 'ad orientem' during Lent. He prepared the congregation and explained it to them and found to his surprise that there were no objections. But when asked by a traditionalist parishioner why in that case he didn't keep up the practice he said he thought people would object if it was permanent. Given the liberal, anti-tradition tendencies of most of the priests in the diocese that I've come across I suspect he was nervous of being labelled odd.
On the lay side- someone recently said to me that the most important thing about the Mass was that the priest should face him- to turn his back on 'the people of God' was insulting. When asked if he thought the Mass was about him or God he had no answer.
Jacobi said…
You are right about Cardinal Sarah.

The extraordinary thing at present is just how many bishops and priests are in denial about the mess the Church is in. The one thing we must not do is set alarm bells ringing it seems. That would never do. Just plod on quietly being nice to everyone and above all not , repeat not, even hint at problems or worse still, that not to be mentioned thing, Catholic doctrine.

And yes lets have lots of procedures in place to ensure our safety and that we do not get harmed. But no mention ever please of the Four Last Things, I mean two will do. Heaven, we must have, and Death, well a bit hard to avoid that. But Judgement and Hell well really!
B flat said…
John 10:3-4 within a longer teaching by Christ of the Good Shepherd, has to be a model for any Christian Pastor. If a bishop or priest believes in Christ, and believes that his own service to Christ includes care for the people entrusted to him, he should pay attention to Our Lord's words here.
This is not a lesson in palestinian country life of the first century, to be discarded in our modern age. This is about the nature of man, and the nature of the care the true shepherd, not the hireling, has for his own sheep.
And my point is, that what is ignored by infernal modernists is that Our Lord says quite clearly that the shepherd LEADS the sheep. They know him, recognise him as their shepherd, and they follow. His care is never about following them where they want to go.
Pelerin said…
Very well put Laurence. My only disappointment was that 'ad orientem' was not made compulsory! With explanations of course to inform those who have got so used to the Priest facing the people. I do think that cartoon says it all so simply and wish it were put in all parish newsletters.

Did you know that Cardinal Sarah will be the celebrant at Brompton Oratory on Wednesday 6th July?
Savonarola said…
Which makes sense - versus populum or ad orientem? The answer surely is that both do, since God is no more exclusively located at the east wall of the church than he is in the midst of the people. He is both - immanent and transcendent. But since Western Christianity for much of its history (dominated by the model of secular Roman imperialism) has emphasised the remote power, distance and indifference of God, we still urgently need to relearn the presentness of God with us, without which our is badly distorted. This is why going back to ad orientem celebration at this juncture is a disaster for true Catholicism.
I am not surprised that it is the megalomaniac Cardinal Sarah who is advocating this, seeing that he seems to see himself more and more as a rival to Holy Father Francis. He is also trying to dictate to the bishops that that they must keep the literal sense of pro multis in translations of the Mass - Christ giving his blood for many, i.e. some, people rather than all, demoting Christ from being the saviour of all mankind and ignoring the fact that the Greek words of the Gospel {peri pollon) have a general inclusive sense as in the English use of hoi polloi, which makes 'all' the accurate rendition. There seem to be no limits to the man's insolence. (This is also a good example of how the famed 'precision' of the Latin language can be seriously misleading).
The Bones said…
I think it only right and fitting that the priest faces the people.
But only when he says 'Pray my brothers and sisters that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable...'
That's the time when it makes sense.
Also when the priest says, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world...'
That too, is a time when it makes sense.
The Bones said…
'We still urgently need to relearn the presentness of God with us, without which our is badly distorted.'

Sorry, but how does Ad Populum worship do this?
Savonarola said…
It should have read 'our faith is badly distorted' (faith was missed out).
As we know 'ad orientem' is not the priest turning his back on the people, but everyone, led by the priest, facing towards God imagined as over there or up there. 'Ad populum' is not so much the priest turned towards the people, but everyone, priest and people together, gathered around the altar where God in Christ is present in our midst. We need both understandings and maybe one day will devise a form of worship in which both are adequately conveyed. Until then the balance needs to be redressed to God in our midst because for so long we have had the imperial God - remote, distant, all powerful, needing to be constantly buttered up to avert his displeasure, a God made in the image of one aspect of humanity and treated as an object of fearful adoration rather than what he is, the God of universal love and compassion. Unless the Church shows that true God to mankind it is unlikely to have a worthwhile future, but will go the the way of every other defunct all too human religious system.
Unknown said…
Well we have a very good looking priest at the local trad chapel so for that fact alone I am extremely thankful I mainly just view finely embroidered vestments.

Seattle Kim
Ezekiel 37 said…
Alarm bells? You're cute,bones. Seems more like the peal of a four alarm fire--not that I expect any more response than there's been over the last 50 years...

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me forth in the spirit of the Lord: and set me down in the midst of a plain that was full of bones. [2] And he led me about through them on every side: now they were very many upon the face of the plain, and they were exceeding dry. [3] And he said to me: Son of man, dost thou think these bones shall live? And I answered: O Lord God, thou knowest. [4] And he said to me: Prophesy concerning these bones; and say to them: Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. [5] Thus saith the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live.

[5] Spirit: That is, soul, life, and breath.

[6] And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow over you, and will cover you with skin: and I will give you spirit and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord. [7] And I prophesied as he had commanded me: and as I prophesied there was a noise, and behold a commotion: and the bones came together, each one to its joint. [8] And I saw, and behold the sinews, and the flesh came up upon them: and the skin was stretched out over them, but there was no spirit in them. [9] And he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, O son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus saith the Lord God: Come, spirit, from the four winds, and blow upon these slain, and let them live again. [10] And I prophesied as he had commanded me: and the spirit came into them, and they lived: and they stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
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