The Case for Ad Orientem Worship

I came across an interesting article that neatly sums up my thoughts about ad orientem worship in the Catholic Mass.  What does ad orientem mean?  It’s the opposite of versus populum.

There are three variations of the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church.  From oldest to newest, they are:

  1. The Tridentine.  This form is also known as the “Old Latin Mass,” the “Tridentine Mass,” or the “Extraordinary Form.”  This is the way Mass was said before the reformed liturgy that was created after Vatican II.  In this form of the Mass, the priest is required to face the altar.  It’s not that he has his back to the people.  It’s that he is facing God in the tabernacle.  The whole architecture of the church building is based on the architecture specified in the Bible for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.  As required in the Jewish temple sacrifice, the priest faces the “Holy of Holies” as he sacrifices the bread and wine.  The symbolism is very, very deep and powerful.
  2. The Novus Ordo.  This is the form most Catholics today experience every Sunday. It is more commonly known as the “new Mass.”  The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), which is church’s law for how the Novus Ordo is to be celebrated, actually assumes the priest is facing the altar (i.e., ad orientem) most of the time, including specific instructions for him to turn to face the people at specific times, such as at the Sign of Peace.  It does, however, allow him to say Mass facing the people (i.e., versus populum).
  3. The Divine Worship Missal.  This is a form of Mass based on the way Mass has been said for centuries in the Anglican church.  It was approved for use in parishes designated as “Anglican Use” parishes by local Roman Catholic bishops.  These parishes are intended generally for Roman Catholics who used to be Anglicans or Episcopalians.  It is also the official liturgy of the three “personal ordinariates” for former Anglicans.  The Anglican Use Mass is celebrated ad orientem.

So in all three of three forms of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church, Mass is celebrated facing the altar (ad orientem).  In only one form is the option of facing the people available.  But it is an option that has become the norm.

It’s amazing that there has been such a kerfluffel in the Catholic world about Cardinal Sarah’s encouragement of a practice that is actually supposed to be the way it’s done–even if it’s generally ignored by almost all priests.

All Cardinal Sarah encouraged is that priests “face east” more frequently, and that Advent would be a particularly meaningful time to re-introduce Catholics to this practice, with the symbolism of commonly “looking to the east” for the advent of the Lord.

But the narcissim so prevalent in society seems to make such thoughts seem to most people to be almost ecclesiastical hate speech.

But here’s an article that makes the case more effectively:  I suggest you read it to understand why it’s so important.

The vast majority of Catholic priests are facing the wrong way

Some good news… about pornography

I have an email list I sometimes send interesting articles to.  It’s composed of a group of Catholic men I know.  The only qualifications to be on the list are that I know them, they’re Catholic, and they haven’t asked me to take them off.  I hadn’t sent anything to the list in several months, nor posted on this blog during that time.  I’ve just had other things on my mind.

But today I came across this article (linked below) and thought this would be a good one to send on.

Pornography is a crucial battle of our times.  The scientific evidence is overwhelming that the availability and prevalence of both soft and hard pornography, unique to our time in history, is having a devastating effect on marriage, family life, the happiness of single people, and society as a whole.

It can be an awkward conversation to have with our friends and sons, but it just may be one that puts them on the road to breaking the addiction so many have.  Of course we all have to be on our guard at all times.  Just because some of us are getting older doesn’t mean we don’t face temptation and don’t occasionally fall.  We have a grave responsibility as fathers and friends to encourage our sons and friends to live a life of purity.  It’s so crucial for their own happiness and salvation, and the happiness and salvation of their families and friends!  This is one of the things for which we will have to answer to God.

So how do we live out this responsibility?  First, by fighting the fight ourselves!  We live it by our example.  By having very high personal standards for what we watch on television and the internet.  By developing a habit of averting our eyes when we see scantily clad women.  By watching our speech for signs of coarseness and sexually-laced humor.

But one of the most effective means will be having occasional frank conversations with our friends and sons, in which we openly acknowledge that we’re all tempted to impurity and have failed in this regard.  We don’t have to give all the details, especially with our sons.  But a conversation like this opens the channels of communication and camaraderie, helping them see that they’re not alone in this struggle, that they’re not bad men because they’ve succumbed.  It gives us an opportunity to encourage them to immediately get back up, dust themselves off, get to confession as soon as possible, and to begin again.

It has been my experience that most men who have any substance to them want to be better men than they are, and are actually relieved to have such a conversation with a friend.  They know what they’re doing is wrong, they feel bad about it, they feel isolated, and they think their friends can’t actually be struggling with the same thing, especially if their friend is known to be a practicing Catholic who takes their faith seriously.  They think the priest will be shocked if they confess it.

But the devil is the father of lies, isolation, and darkness.  The guilt, isolation, and embarrassment are the tools he uses to keep us chained in this sin.  We have to help our friends and sons see that the liberation we experience by confessing these sins to a priest and receiving absolution is worth any embarrassment we might feel.  We have to help them learn how to use the other means to overcome this sin, too:  devotion to the Blessed Mother (especially through the practice of saying the Rosary each day and three Hail Marys every night for purity), daily examination of conscience, and frequent reception of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, provided they’ve first confessed their serious sins, including pornography.  We have to help them understand that it will be hard to break the habit, and that victory won’t be immediate.  But they can achieve freedom from this sin, and the effort is worth it!  But we can do this only if we have open and frank discussions about this rather embarrassing topic.

I hope the article below gives you some encouragement to know that society is beginning to acknowledge the harm pornography causes.  Nevertheless, it’ll certainly be a while before our culture provides the support men need to live lives of purity, but the tide seems to be turning, with acknowledgment at the highest levels of government that pornography is a serious societal problem.

I also hope that if you are personally struggling with this sin, or any other serious sin, that you go to confession, telling the priest all your sins, being completely open with him, regardless of the embarrassment you feel.  If you are too embarrassed to go to your parish priest, then go to a priest who does not know you.  I guarantee you he will not be shocked.  On the contrary, he will rejoice that you have returned to the Lord.  Remember that the Prodigal Son didn’t even have time to finish that little speech he had prepared to give to his father before his father ran to him, embraced and kissed him, put a ring on his finger, and ordered the fatted calf to be prepared for a feast, celebrating that his son had returned.  This is the welcome we can always expect when we return to the Lord after wallowing in the mud of sin, no matter how long it’s been, and no matter how badly we’ve sinned.

You don’t have to fight this fight alone.  If you try, you’ll probably fail.  Ask your friends for their prayers.  And pray for them.  Go to confession.  Ask the Lord to wash you in His Blood.  Have confidence that He loves you more than you can imagine, no matter what you’ve done, and that He wants to make you clean, welcome you home, and restore you to your former dignity.

The article is on LifeSite News.  It is entitled Be encouraged: There is some surprisingly good news about porn.  I hope you all take the time to read it.

One of the guys on the list responded with a link to a short video about The Science of Pornography Addiction.  I haven’t been able to get it to load, but there’s the link, just in case it works for you.

Regarding that list of Catholic Men I occasionally send emails to… I’m willing to remove requirements 1 & 2.  If you’d like to be on the list, just send me an email at:



Take Your Pick of Orange-Flavored Drink or Fresh Squeezed

Looks like some bishops have had enough and are beginning to show some spine. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve read enough excerpts to know I’m gonna read the whole thing! It’s a pastoral letter by Cardinal Wuerl, of Washington, DC. Not exactly on my list of the most, well… right wing bishops, to use a political term. But he certainly seems to have hit some nails right on the head in this one. It’s called Being Catholic Today. He even uses the “M” word–Martyr. Uh-oh. Sounds a little scary!

How Two Words Can Show You Whose Side Obama Is Really On


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Do you remember back in the 2008 election when Barack Obama derisively said:

… and you go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, like a lot of small towns in the midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they’ve gone through the Clinton admininistration and the Bush administration and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment in order to explain their frustrations.

So let’s change just two words and see what happens:

… and you go into some of these small towns in Iraq, like a lot of small towns in the mideast, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they’ve gone through the Clinton admininistration and the Bush administration and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment in order to explain their frustrations.

I changed two words. But can you ever imagine that Obama would utter those same sentences with those two words changed?

I’m just sayin’.

Matt’s Opus Dei FAQ Has Moved to WordPress!



Back in 2011, just as I was starting the last semester of my Master’s Degree in Medical Informatics, Matt’s Opus Dei FAQ was hacked by some Internet terrorist. I didn’t have time to fix it, and when I finished my degree I soon started a new job that was very demanding on my time. During the holidays last year I finally got around to fixing, reformatting, and re-posting it on my old site, I also did some minor editing of content, but didn’t make any substantive changes. I relaunched the FAQ on January 9, 2015. I guess you could consider it my birthday gift to St. Josemaría Escrivá.

But having recently discovered the wonders of WordPress, I decided to move my whole blog, including the FAQ, over here. You can get to it by clicking the Opus Dei link at the top of this page, or by clicking here.