Rorate Caeli

Fr. Mark Kirby on Ad Orientem and the TLM

Fr. Mark Kirby is Prior of the Diocesan Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa established the monastery in 2009 with the distinctive mission of Eucharistic Adoration for the sanctification of priests. Fr. Kirby maintains a great blog -- Vultus Christi -- on which he posted the following article on December 16, 2010:

Taking the Step

December 17, 2010 will mark the fifth anniversary of my standing before the altar ad orientem for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I began offering Holy Mass exclusively ad orientem at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, where I served for a number of years as chaplain. I prepared the change in Advent 2005 with an appropriate pastoral and mystagogical catechesis.

Then Came Summorum Pontificum

After September 14, 2007, Summorum Pontificum made it much easier to celebrate the traditional rite of Holy Mass and, since undertaking my mission in Tulsa, I have offered the Extraordinary Form daily, having no desire and seeing no need, in the context of contemplative monastic life, of celebrating in the Ordinary Form.

No Going Back

That being said, after five years of offering Holy Mass ad orientem, I can say that I never want to have to return to the versus populum position. While traveling, I am, however, sometimes obliged to celebrate versus populum, notably in Ireland, in France and Italy; it leaves me with a feeling of extreme inappropriateness. I suffer from what I can only describe as a lack of sacred pudeur, or modesty in the face of the Holy Mysteries. When obliged to celebrate versus populum, I feel viscerally, as it were, that there is something very wrong -- theologically, spiritually, and anthropologically -- with offering the Holy Sacrifice turned toward the congregation.

Ten Advantages

What are the advantages of standing at the altar ad orientem, as I have experienced them over the past two years? I can think of ten straight off:

1. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is experienced as having a theocentric direction and focus.

2. The faithful are spared the tiresome clerocentrism that has so overtaken the celebration of Holy Mass in the past forty years.

3. It has once again become evident that the Canon of the Mass (Prex Eucharistica) is addressed to the Father, by the priest, in the name of all.

4. The sacrificial character of the Mass is wonderfully expressed and affirmed.

5. Almost imperceptibly one discovers the rightness of praying silently at certain moments, of reciting certain parts of the Mass softly, and of cantillating others.

6. It affords the priest celebrant the boon of a holy modesty.

7. I find myself more and more identified with Christ, Eternal High Priest and Hostia perpetua, in the liturgy of the heavenly sanctuary, beyond the veil, before the Face of the Father.

8. During the Canon of the Mass I am graced with a profound recollection.

9. The people have become more reverent in their demeanour.

10. The entire celebration of Holy Mass has gained in reverence, attention and devotion

In the light of the foregoing, I'm surprised that Fr. Kirby's monastery is still not included in online lists of Traditional congregations, religious institutes and monasteries. More on his monastery can be found here (with the fact that the daily Mass is according to the "Forma Extraordinaria" clearly indicated); he also has a page on vocations. CAP.


  1. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Bravo to Dom Mark! Perhaps it is not listed however, because it is just in the very beginning stages? Also there is a specific charism or mission of this house which isn't for everybody. Yes it is a traditional Benedictine foundation, but not in the same sense as Clear Creek for example.

  2. Thank you for taking note of my post.

  3. Thank you for taking note of my post.

  4. Anonymous6:45 PM

    Fr. Kirby's "list of ten" indicates precisely of what the rescue and reformation of Catholic liturgy consists. No mixing of forms, no concessions to the modern liturgical mentality, no clerical vanity. Notice he begins with comments on the estimable virtues of ad orientem celebration, which lead naturally and directly to the traditional liturgy. Numbers six and nine seem especially poignant to me. What a gift from the Lord to His Church is this priest. May God bless him and his monastery!


  5. Dom Mark,

    Please do all you can to persuade fellow Benedictines who are disorientated in the NO to switch to the Latin Rite Mass that all of their forefathers celebrated. This is what made the order flourish. As a Benedictine Oblate myself I can only mourn the terrible loss of identity suffered by those who have survived the NO onslaught over the last 50 years, especially the community at Prinknash Abbey, UK, among others I have known well.

  6. Anonymous2:04 AM

    I am fascinated to know what circumstances in Ireland and France require versus populum celebrations. My advice would be not to go there!

  7. Anonymous5:12 AM

    I am a convert of ten years who just began to regularly attend TLM. I never want to go back to NO for many of the reasons you list. Thank you for expressing it so well.

  8. Anonymous12:27 AM

    I remember speaking years ago with my old Irish pastor about this subject, and he told me that, when he had to make the change to offer Mass facing the people, he thought it was "just awful," but now (1981) he was accustomed to it.

    I replied and told him, "Father, the fact that we now have Mass this way and that we're accustomed to it doesn't make it any less awful."

  9. Anonymous12:12 AM

    I would like to add an #11 to Fr. Marks list. The Latin Mass conveys to me a sense of "other-worldliness" that even the most reverent Novo Ordo Mass does not.

    I have long contended that the GIRM intended an ad orientem offering of the Mass of Vatican II. I am moving to a city where the authentic reforms of Vatican II have been implemented - organ having pride of place as the musical intrument of choice, Latin responses to facilitate memorization by the faithful, and the Novo Ordo mass offered ad orientum.

    It would be interesting to hear others' opinion on this.

    Have a fruitful Advent and Blessed Christmas!

  10. Last Anonymous where is there such a place?


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