The Quickest Way to Restore the Sacred 

If an angel allowed me one suggestion as to what more than anything else would most quickly restore the sense of the sacred to the Mass, it would be this: to do away with Mass facing the people. I am convinced that the position of the priest at the altar is the single most important liturgical “external” symbol, the one that carries the most doctrinal baggage. To put the priest back on our side of the altar, facing with us towards God, would at one stroke restore the Mass from an exercise in interpersonal relationship to the universal prayer of the Church to God our Father. With the priest facing God once more as leader of the people, the importance of the microphone will diminish, and the priest can stop making faces at us. He and we can go back to thinking only about what is happening in the Mystery.”  

[Anne Roche Muggeridge, The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church, rev. ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990, pp. 176-77.]


Posted on November 17, 2016, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. “Quickest Way to Restore the Sacred”: All Catholics should only attend FSSP or other EF parishes.

  2. In our church the priest is not only facing the people, but looking straight out of the glass doors at the west end at the buses coming up past the railway station.

  3. She mentions the use of a microphone. Is ad orientem typically done with or without a mic?

    • Great question. I suppose it could be at times, but she is more specifically referencing the silent prayers of the priest, most particularly during the Canon of the Mass when he “enters into the cloud” (as Gueranger described it) and speaks to God the Father.

    • Electronic public address systems and microphones made their debut in Catholic Churches in the 1920s. Since the 1960s, with the introduction of versus populum, the priest is now a “Monty Hall” character in an endless re-run of “Let’s Make a Deal.”

      The alcove architecture of most pre-Vatican II church sanctuaries allowed for natural amplification. The sound of the priest’s voice hitting the back wall of the alcove amplified the sound. I learned this by accident while rehearsing some music in an old church sanctuary.

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