I thank again all of you for the gracious welcome that you have given me. I am getting settled in little by little. There are still some boxes to go through and I will be away this weekend attending the Steubenville Conference in St. Paul, MN at St. Thomas University.
Last week, a few days after my arrival here, Bishop Morlino sent all of the priests of the Diocese a very important letter. In it, he mapped out a program for us to complete the beautification of the Liturgy which will culminate in the re-establishment of piety, solemnity, and reverence. He set out two principle means to establish this goal. First he mentioned how we need to return to the “ad orientem” posture for the priest (facing east or at least liturgical east toward the tabernacle and crucifix) at Mass. That means that the priest and people should face the same direction and worship together, with the priest at the head of the Mystical Body of Christ (which is composed of each baptized Christian) leading the prayers. This re-opens the Liturgy to the infinite horizon of eternity and focuses on heaven, the eternal sacrifice of Christ, and his return at the fulfillment of the ages, instead of confining itself to a stilted and prefunctory “dialogue” focused only on the community present and a memorial around the table. I know that the majority of those reading this have grown accustomed to the “ad populum” posture (priest with his back to the east and the tabernacle and facing the congregation) where the leadership of the priest is less evident and so many euphemisisms have been artificially invented to describe the new role of the priest i.e. presider, facilitator, etc. I invite you to the great virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness, and to be progressive. “Ad Populum” is an idea whose time has come and gone; the Church is moving on to something new — “Ad Orientem”. There are very many extremely solid, valid, and true reasons for this, but I challenge anyone who disagrees to study the subject. Most of us have access to the internet in our homes, if not then the public library is a good option. Look it up, formulate your arguments and ask for an appointment and we can discuss it.
The second point of his letter deals with the proper reception of communion. I can see that Fr. William has already spoken to you about this and we have the kneelers at communion. Many of the truly progressive and open-minded parishioners are already doing the new thing and kneeling down to receive on the tongue. This is the best way to receive and both the Bishop and I strongly encourage it. Concerning both of these points, there are many compelling reasons for doing them, as we move forward I will be presenting these reasons with clarity, charity, and constancy, as Fr. William likes to say.
I know that back in the early 1970s and throughout the 1980s many radical changes were introduced into our liturgical practices with no explanation or exposition of doctrine from official documents but only, “Father wants it that way.” One of the key statements of Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Vatican II Document dealing with the reforms of the liturgy) says that, ”No priest upon his own authority may change anything in the Sacred Liturgy.” Yet, that has been the norm for the last 40 years, every priest doing whatever he wants, and now people always say, “Oh I like it the way the priest says Mass at that parish, etc.” We have lost our liturgical unity. Lex Orandi—Lex Credendi. I will explain that later. God Bless you all.