About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“In everything of any importance at all, Sarum (and all other mediæval rites) was simply Roman, the rite which we still use.”
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (1912)

Weakest Argument Ever Made Against "Ad Orientem"
published 24 November 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

VER SINCE my exposé of the PrayTell Blog—which caused quite a stir 1—I’ve been keeping an eye on their postings. A recent egregious statement by the blog’s editor demands correction.

It all started with some comments by actor Bill Murray, in favor of the traditional Mass:

“I think we lost something by losing the Latin… And I really miss the music—the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.”   (source)

These words rankled PrayTell’s editor, and in response he made a statement I’ve never seen anyone else make. He said that Latin—not the vernacular—is used because of the “anthropological” concerns of fallen-away Catholics like Bill Murray! But this was not innocent typo or mistake. He wrote the following (and I kept a screenshot as proof):

The ancient rituals of the great world religions have a certain aesthetic and psychological appeal to the human spirit. We might as well admit it and face up to it, for it is the challenge we face in implementing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The Council rightly sought to retrieve and reëmphasize what is uniquely Christian, making the liturgy less like the other world religions… […] That’s what drove the Second Vatican Council.

His erroneous statement could be taken apart various ways, but today I’ll only examine two.

It will also become clear why I placed a classic (and hilarious!) excerpt from School of Rock in the upper right.

FIRST OF ALL, the notion that Vatican II sought to eliminate Latin and Gregorian chant to make our liturgy “uniquely Christian” is bizarre. In fact, the opposite is true. Vatican II demanded that Latin be retained: it was not a suggestion. 2 When it comes to Gregorian chant, Vatican II said it must be given “first place” in liturgical services, calling the Church’s sacred music “a treasure of inestimable value,” and demanding that it “be preserved and fostered with great care” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December 1963).

Secondly, his assertion that postconciliar Catholic church music has become “less like the other world religions” is fallacious. The music in too many Catholic churches resembles the School of Rock video I placed at the beginning of this article, but it doesn’t always sound like that. I’ve attended Mariachi Masses, Jazz Masses, Broadway Masses, Rap Masses, Country Masses, and even a “Polka” Mass. Fr. Anthony Ruff could not be more wrong when he says that musical styles for these Masses “retrieve and reëmphasize what is uniquely Christian.” Besides, the music in most Catholic churches now resembles (much) Protestant music.

While we’re examining flawed statements by the PrayTell editor, I should include this one—written in response to Bishop Conley’s support for ad orientem mentioned by Fr. David Friel—wherein the PrayTell editor makes an incredibly weak argument against the posture used for so many centuries:

It was a bit more awkward than I had expected—having to turn around to greet them, and not facing them (i.e., doing as the rubrics direct) for the dialog at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. I came away thinking that ad orientem isn’t the silver bullet I had sort of hoped it might be after reading Power and re-reading Jungmann.

If he owned a copy of the Jogues Illuminated Missal he might have understood. The dialogue he mentions has always been considered as part of the Canon, and that’s why the priest does not face the people for it. A 2014 pew book—fully approved by the USCCB—explains all this. It even includes color pictures and ancient manuscripts.


1   After my article, we received tons of mail—people were greatly supportive and appreciative—but I still don’t get it. I spent only a few minutes writing the PrayTell article, whereas I spent weeks composing my article on Latin hyphenation. Yet, the piece on hyphenation received only 1% of the attention…

2   If you don’t believe me, look at what’s said here regarding “page 18.”