By Steve Koob
It is my opinion that for priests to courageously preach and teach Catholic Church doctrine on contraception, they will need great Grace that can only come from the Source and Summit of the Christian Life—the Liturgy.
Furthermore, I think that this infinite source of Grace can only be tapped to a degree commensurate with the holiness of the Mass being offered, and that depends on many factors. Here we address only the orientation of the priest during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Father, why do you face the people when offering the Sacrifice to the Lord?”
“That is the way we were trained to say Mass in the seminary. I think it was initiated following Vatican Council II when many other changes were made, like removing the communion rail, and receiving Holy Communion in the hand while standing.” (Common responses)
Why were these changes made to the long tradition of the Church?
“I really don’t know; they were made really quickly.” “The Novus Ordo has completely disoriented Catholics. There needs to be a complete top to bottom re-catechizing on just what the Mass is about—worshipping God.” (Two priests)
Why are all the Advent Masses (2014 & 2015) at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln NE being said Ad Orientem? (Asked of Bishop James Conley)
“I was really introduced to the Novus Ordo, celebrated Ad Orientem (AO), in a monastery in France. That (AO) means towards the altar, towards the east. In this case it was actually toward the geographical east; many places it’s not. But the idea, more importantly, is not the direction of east, but that the priest is standing facing the altar, facing God with the people so that he is standing there at the altar, representing the people and offering the holy sacrifice to God, as was the orientation of the priest for centuries. It was really only after the Second Vatican Council that permission to celebrate the Mass towards the people was allowed. And it’s interesting if you read the document [General Instruction of the Roman Missal], you can tell it wasn’t intended to be the norm. And the council fathers didn’t intend it to be changed that way, it was just allowed. Well, it became the norm, as we know. Very rarely do you find a place that celebrates the holy sacrifice of the Mass Ad Orientem, or towards the altar.” (Bishop James Conley, Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska, Radiomaria.us/ questforlife/ December 09, 2014 – Bishop James Conley on Liturgy, Synods and the Diocese of Lincoln)
Does Ad Orientem refocus the Mass on God and less on the people, and less on the celebrant?
“Well that’s it; I think that’s one of the reasons the orientation is so important not only for the people, but also for the priest himself. It’s less distracting for the priest, because he’s concentrating on the sacrifice and he does not have to keep eye contact with the people. Also for the people it’s sort of a signal to them that now we’re at the altar and in solidarity with the priest celebrant and we’re offering this sacrifice to God. It just seems to be more appropriate for that part of the Mass. And at that point in the Mass it just seems appropriate that we would all be standing together facing the Lord, and the priest representing the people, sacrificing at the altar, they would all be facing the same direction. I can really sense the power of the prayer of the people behind me as I’m offering the consecration for example. And I didn’t really sense that until I celebrated it.” (Bishop James Conley)
What did Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger say about Ad Orientem?
“On the other hand, a common turning to the east during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds to the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle but the common movement forward, expressed in a common direction for prayer.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p81, emphasis added)
There is anecdotal evidence that priests who say Mass Ad Orientem (and may have instituted other traditional practices) do proclaim Church teaching on contraceptive use and thus have vibrant parishes with many families and lots of kids.
“We’ll never have a Culture of Life if we don’t get the Liturgy right.”
(Dr Lorna Cvetkovich, MD, 1999) Msgr Ignatio Barreiro put theological flesh and bones on Dr Lorna’s statement with “Sacred Liturgy and the Defense of Human Life”, presented at Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome, proceedings published as Sacra Liturgia, 2013, Ignatius Press 2014.
Msgr Barreiro’s paper is reprinted by One More Soul, with permission, and available at http://onemoresoul.com/catalog /sacred-liturgy-and-the-defense-of-human-life-p1233.html .