John-Henry Westen

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Dismissing Cardinal Sarah’s advice – imagine if the laity did it

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

July 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Robert Sarah’s encouragement of priests to face the tabernacle with the faithful during Mass and for the faithful to receive Holy Communion kneeling created quite the stir! The Vatican, which is famous for silence or ‘reacting in centuries’ in the face of some of the most severe scandals even concerning Cardinals, this time reacted with lightning speed.

The very next business day after Cardinal Sarah returned from his trip where he made his suggestion for traditional worship, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi put out a press release. The day after that the US Bishops Conference put out their own release referring to the Vatican telling priests, there is no “new mandate for the celebrant to face away from the assembly.”

Cardinal Sarah never said it was mandated mind you. He asked humbly for his brother priests and bishops to implement the practice, suggesting Nov. 27 – the first Sunday of Advent – as a possible start date. He didn’t insist on it, even though he is the Church’s chief liturgist. 

Imagine if Catholics only did what we were mandated to do in the Church. How much poorer a church would we be if Catholics only attended Mass on Sundays, which is the minimum mandate? What if we only went to confession once a year as we’re mandated? What if we only received Holy Communion once a year during the Easter season?

There would be no one to flip pancakes and cook the bacon and sausages at those Church breakfasts, because there’s no mandate for that. Hey, there would be no breakfasts or church suppers at all!  No fundraisers for the poor, no potlucks to benefit children’s charities and hospitals. There would be no Knights of Columbus or Catholic Women’s groups.  The good ladies who volunteer with bake sales and taking care of vestments would vanish. Forget the prayer groups, the soup kitchens, the Catechism classes, and even Catholic schools.

No one is mandated to become a priest – so of course that would become a thing of the past.

We are all called to do things beyond what is mandated.  We are called to be generous with Our Lord. So as we the faithful pledge to be generous with our gifts and talents in the service of the Church despite the stigma the world attaches to that, courageous priests and bishops have done the same and are willing to sacrifice the admiration of the world to honour Our Lord.

It’s up to the faithful to encourage their own priests and bishops to adopt Cardinal Sarah’s suggestions for liturgy.  Some of their own brother priests and bishops who prefer the 1970s-style liturgy will likely look down on them for taking the step.

But we can encourage them with the words of the head of the Church’s congregation in charge of liturgy. Cardinal Sarah said this practice should be implemented with “a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people.”

“Dear Fathers,” he said, “we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their back to me” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord!”

One Bishop in France has already accepted Cardinal Sarah’s challenge.

French Bishop Dominique Rey of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon announced that he would celebrate Mass “ad orientem” at the last Sunday of Advent “and on other occasions where appropriate.” “Before Advent,” he added, “I shall address a letter to my priests and people on this question to explain my action. I shall encourage them to follow my example.” 

May God bless you Bishop Rey! And may God bless all of you!



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John-Henry Westen

John-Henry is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com. He and his wife Dianne and their eight children live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout North America, Europe and Asia. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum an annual strategy meeting for pro-life leaders worldwide. He co-founded Voice of the Family and serves on the executive of the Canadian National March for Life Committee, and the annual National Pro-Life Youth Conference.  

He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization.  He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.  

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.

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