Our columnists for this bulletin are Pastoral Council member, Ray Gorczyca, and Dcn. Al Krieger of our St. Joseph Oratory.  They had approached me with an idea of presiding at Mass in a way that has been done for centuries called ad orientem, but using the current Novus Ordo, not the Extraordinary Form. After discussion among the members of the St. Joseph Advisory Committee, St. Joseph Oratory will begin celebrating the Mass ad orientem on the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019.  What that means is that, at certain times during the Mass, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest and the people face in the same direction toward the East, the direction from which Jesus Christ “the dawn from on high shall come upon us” (Lk 1:78).

Until the 20th century, the Roman Catholic Church had been celebrating Holy Mass with both the people and the priest facing the same direction towards the East for over a thousand years.  The Church allows for the presider to celebrate both ways, ad orientem and versus populum (“towards the people”).  Please read Ray and Dcn. Al’s article below for more information.  

Finally, as you read this, I am leading a pilgrimage to Medjugorje as part of my duties as Legatus Chaplain.  I will be keeping all our parishioners in my prayers and will see you next weekend to share more about it!

 – Fr. Chas Canoy


Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Several weeks ago, my wife and I attended Todd Gale and Angel Koerkel’s series on the Mass. The most remarkable thing we took away was how deep in meaning every part of the Mass is. The more I learn about the Mass, the more I love attending and worshipping God. Even our posture, including the direction we face, has meaning. 

This brings us to celebrating the (Novus Ordo) Mass ad orientem. I first experienced ad orientem several years ago when I attended a Saturday morning Mass in Lansing at the Church of the Resurrection. It helped me focus more on God and less on the priest. Fr. Steve Mattson, pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Lansing, published a brochure titled “Praying Ad Orientem” outlining what this means. In the brochure he says “What that means (ad orientem) is that at times during the Mass, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest and the people face in the same direction, toward the ‘Liturgical East…’ We are not praying to each other but rather to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.” In this posture, less attention is on the priest and more is on God.  Fr. Steve also reminds us of the Latin phrase “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi” which translates to “how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live.”

Let us continue to explore some of the reasons Fr. Steve Mattson provides as to why ad orientiem “make(s) good liturgical sense”: 

“The Liturgical changes after Vatican II allowed Mass to be celebrated facing the people (versus populum), but the Council did not mandate that priests do so. In fact, the rubrics of the Mass tell the priest when to (turn and) face the people, assuming that the Mass could/would be celebrated ad orientem.” 

“The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) and the rubrics in the Roman Missal direct the priest when to face the people and when to turn towards the altar.” Here are some sample instructions from the GIRM: 

“Arriving at the altar ‘When the Entrance Chant is concluded, the Priest and the faithful, standing, sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, while the Priest, facing the people, says: ‘In the name of the Father…’”(GIRM 124) 

“After the washing of hands, the rubrics state: ‘Returning to the middle of the altar, and standing facing the people, the Priest extends and then joins his hands, and calls upon the people to pray, saying, ‘Pray, brethren…’” (GIRM 146).

“After the conclusion of ‘For the Kingdom…’: ‘Then the Priest, with hands extended, says aloud the prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles…’ and when it is concluded, extending and then joining his hands, he announces the greeting of peace, facing the people and saying, ‘The peace of the Lord be with you always…”’ (GIRM 154) 

Turning together to the Lord in prayer has always been part of the Mass. Ad orientem has been the norm for centuries; it has only been in the last 50 years or so that the priest faced the congregation (versus populum). As Fr. Steve also pointed out, quotes from Pope Benedict XVI’s The Spirit of the Liturgy, Chapter 3 help shed more light on praying ad orientem: 

“…just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together ‘toward the Lord…’ They did not close themselves into a circle; they did not gaze at one another; but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us.” (p. 80)  “It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer.” (p. 81) 

What does this mean for those of us in the pews? Our participation in the Mass does not change. We do not have to change anything that we are doing now. 

Fr. Steve Mattson reported that at the Church of the Resurrection “Celebrating (the Mass) this way has fostered a greater reverence, prayerfulness, and attentiveness in my own heart. Members of the parish have said that this change has helped them in their own prayer at Mass as well. Thanks be to God, this simple yet profound change in our prayer has already borne fruit. ‘Come, Holy Spirit! Continue to bear fruit in us, and draw us all more deeply into the Sacrifice of the Mass. Help us encounter Jesus more powerfully, receive Him more openly, and share Him more freely with the world.’” 

If celebrating Mass ad orientem helped his parishioners improve their worship of God, we know it will help us too! 

So, on the First Sunday of Advent this year, December 1, 2019, we will begin celebrating the (Novus Ordo) Mass ad orientem at St. Joseph Oratory at the 9:30 a.m. Mass. We hope you will join us; come and see! 

Yours in Christ, 

Ray Gorczyca and Deacon Al Krieger