Fr. Dwight Longenecker posted this conversation he had with some high school young men about ad orientem celebration of the Mass; that is, with the priest facing “east” with the congregation. Or as some put it, “with the priest turning his back to the people.” Go read the whole thing–it’s brief and quite humorous!

But this little excerpt really stuck out to me, as I’m sure it has to others:

[Student] “I think it feels more, well, manly. Do you know what I mean. Is that dumb?”
[Father] “That’s interesting. No, I don’t think it’s dumb, but I have to think about why it might be true.”

I think I understand partly why it might be true: it places the priest, in a very real way, in a leadership position.  It places him firmly at the head of the congregation, as the one who is leading us forward, leading us toward God and ultimately to Heaven.  Leading confidently and reliably, truly like our Good Shepherd.

I am not saying that priests who face toward the congregation during Mass are less manly, or weaker leaders.  I’m just saying that the physical position of the priest has a real effect; it’s not just a matter of staging or ceremony.  And I can see where the ad orientem position could really reinforce the priest’s role as spiritual father and spiritual leader.  I also think it could actually strengthen the bond between him and his children, his flock.

When it comes to a person I depend upon greatly for my spiritual well-being and eternal life, I like to see a certain amount of strength and power and, yes, manliness.  For me, as a woman, it provides a special kind of security.  I’m sure that it has many benefits for boys and men as well–they need strong leaders, men they can identify with and admire.  Who knows how many more young men would be inspired to become priests themselves?  Maybe some of Fr. Longenecker’s students will be among them!  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised!  :)

Finally, it also has real effects on the priest (also from Fr. Longenecker).