Via Media

Via Media

Southern Hospitality

posted by awelborn

Mass this past Sunday was a rather interesting experience. And in a good way.

The church is old and un-renovated  – even the altar rail remains. The long-time pastor of the church before his death several years ago was a man not to be trifled with and indeed ran his parish his way. I imagine if he wanted the rail to stay…it would.

What fascinated me was that the youngish priest who offered Mass struck an important balance. No improvisation, focused demeanor, clearly spoken. Not my show.

But during the homily..he was terrifically personable. He proclaimed the gospel (Jesus calming the storm, as you recall) with just the right amount of storytelling panache (too much and it’s fake, right? Too bland and it seems as if you don’t care.) and then preached a good homily about the apostles’ response to Jesus and then somehow worked it into joining our suffering with those of Jesus. I am not quite sure how that transition worked, but it was fine. No funny stories to start us off – he just jumped right into a discussion of storms and the Jewish understanding of God’s power over storms, which then highlights what the apostle’s instinctive request that Jesus do something reveals about what they experienced in his presence.

The delivery was pretty much ideal – relaxed, but not idiotically chummy, authoritative but not stiff, with an application to life that made sense, was helpful, but on a different level than vague advice no different from your bedside self-help book. I was impressed, and glad to have been there to hear it.

The most striking thing about the liturgy was this: During the prayers from the chair, the priest faced in the same direction as the people, at a slight angle, facing the crucifix. During the greeting and such, he faced us, and the Eucharistic prayer was ad populum. But I’m telling you – even his slight, 45 degree turn so that he was facing in the same direction we were set a tone, and rather effortlessly, too.

And all done in a pretty awesome Southern accent.

Related, from Fr. Jim:

Cardinal Ruini and Bishop Fisichella came over from Rome to consecrate the new Archbishop of Oristano, Italy. The interesting thing is that the Mass of Episcopal Consecration was celebrated ad orientem. The decision has been taken there to remove the free-standing table that had been in place for a couple of decades and to return the Mass to the cathedral’s high altar.

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posted June 26, 2006 at 10:53 pm

ad populum, surely?

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posted June 27, 2006 at 12:13 am

Amy, I just attended a “New Mass” said in such a fashion a few weeks ago myself– there was only one altar, so that was the direction the priest faced for large parts of the Mass, and he turned around to address us as needed. It struck me as odd for all of about three seconds. (And I was born post-VII and never attended an old Mass growing up.) It was actually pretty cool– the posture really delineated when the priest was addressing God on everyone’s behalf, and when he was addressing us.

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posted June 27, 2006 at 5:50 am

“All of 3 seconds” is a good estimate for me when I first discovered the solmen Novus Ordo at Assumption Grotto.
I note several things which occurred in me interiorly as I adapted very rapidly to the ad orientem posture, the priest facing sideways rather than towards us, and the communion rail. I could say much about each, but will comment this way:
All of these things remove the person of the priest as he puts on Christ! This enables me to put God at the center of my Mass, not the priest, and not the people around me. It enables a vertical Mass. At the Communion rail, I cannot see the priest’s face, but only his hand, presenting Our Lord.
In an article I wrote just published in the May 2006 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review entitled, “Unconditional Worship in the God-centered Mass”. Here is an excerpt:
“I was mysteriously haunted and fixated by the depth of focus the pastor displayed during his early morning Mass. His eyes were closed through much of it as he sat off to the side. And, he was stoic apart from purposeful motions such as turning to face the tabernacle. I was just thinking that if a bolt of lightening had struck, he would not have flinched – he was that focused. Warmth replaced cold with the sudden realization that he had seemingly given himself entirely to God for the hour. God then used him as an instrument to pull me right out of my irreverent inattentiveness and deeply into the Mass for a few brief moments. The lack of external dynamics revealed a wonderful internal dynamic. Once I experienced the detachment from all that was around me, I grasped that vast, beautiful, hidden union – the many coming together into One….”
And, another:
“As the rising sun set the stained glass windows before us aglow, the priest led us into the Eucharistic Prayer. He hunched over, paused, and then slowly repeated the words of Jesus in Latin. I knew exactly what was being said after a lifetime of hearing these words in English. Each word was spoken with tenderness, yet clarity that cut sharply through the silence of the stilled church…”
There is a photo to go with this last one, captured this Memorial Day:
Rising Sun
Unfortunately, I don’t have my article online yet. It is only listed at HPR Online at this time. Once I get “” up and running it will be found there.

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posted June 27, 2006 at 8:09 am

Were you at Holy Ghost Church at a Mass celebrated by Father Brent Shelton?

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Mike Walsh, MM

posted June 27, 2006 at 8:47 am

I’ve said it before; I say it again: orientation ad populum has had the (unintended) effects not only of placing the priest at the center of the congregation’s attention, but of placing the priest –who sees all eyes on himself– at the center of his own attention. This has re-inforced the innate temptation to clericalism, with its myriad side-effects, such as liturgy ad libitim.

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Matthew M

posted June 27, 2006 at 8:54 am

I was wondering the same thing. When visiting folks in Morristown, it’s hard to find a traditionalish mass in the area. I did hear Holy Ghost was good. It would be nice to know for sure.
Holy Ghost is probably the only parish Amy could have found that still has an altar rail, too…

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posted June 27, 2006 at 9:08 am

ad libitum?

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Stephen Joseph

posted June 27, 2006 at 9:15 am

Amy – was this church in Knoxville? My parents live there and are trying to find a decent parish. Can you let me know the name of this church?
Stephen Joseph

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posted June 27, 2006 at 9:18 am

Matthew M,
Knowing Amy was in Knoxville, I quickly scanned our congregation at the Sunday evening Mass, wondering if I would catch a glimpse of her. I’m glad I didn’t. While the homily was incredible, the music was worse than anything anyone has ever griped about on this blog!
Yeah, my boys love Holy Ghost and the elderly pastor there. They think he’s cool.

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posted June 27, 2006 at 9:18 am

Matthew M,
Knowing Amy was in Knoxville, I quickly scanned our congregation at the Sunday evening Mass, wondering if I would catch a glimpse of her. I’m glad I didn’t. While the homily was incredible, the music was worse than anything anyone has ever griped about on this blog!
Yeah, my boys love Holy Ghost and the elderly pastor there. They think he’s cool.

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posted June 27, 2006 at 9:54 am

Amy – your description perfectly fits my parish, Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island, SC.

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Big Tom

posted June 27, 2006 at 10:53 am

Growing up in the Diocese of Knoxville, Holy Ghost was the only church that still had an communion rail where I worshipped. Not only did they have the communion rail, but they were still using it for distributing communion to the faithful kneeling. Is that still the case?

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posted June 27, 2006 at 12:12 pm

We receive while standing (at Holy Ghost). But the rail is still there; we’ve done a lot of sprucing up (new pews, refinished floors) and the rail remains, as I suspect it will for decades to come.

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posted June 27, 2006 at 12:15 pm

……expect it will for decades to come. I don’t think the rail is guilty of anything.

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Fr. B.A.S.

posted December 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I find myself grateful for simple things, enjoying quiet tea, eating a sandwich without touching it or letting it touch my lips, and admiring the beauty of a well-placed doily. I hear the ducks at the river behind my dwelling and I am reminded that the truest gifts await me in a reality of pure simplicity. I wish earnestly to go there. What I have tried to create here, I will find there. It’s the kind of simplicity I have look for in life, but not truly found. I now know I will never find it in life. For it’s easy to miss because my human, suffering, monkey-mind, is not simple. I am in exile because my mind is not simple.

As this dread gloom of winter, harkened by turbulent whims of nature, settles upon the land, licking at our doors like a primordial wolf with its eternal tongue, will we not find ourselves becoming weak? Will we not find ourselves only biding the hours before we lie down to be taken by the indifferent embrace of an empty darkness? Perhaps this is why we fear the dark so. But consider this. What if in that eternal night, we find the peace of the eons, knowing nothing, wanting nothing, fearing nothing? Should we not then be grateful for it now?

Fr. B. A. S.

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