29 April 2017


I once read through the 1930s Parish Magazines of S Thomas the Martyr, by the Railway Station, in Oxford. The writer was my predecessor as Parish Priest there, Dr Trevor Jalland, a distinguished Patristics scholar whose published Bampton Lectures gave a vivid account of some of the events surrounding the First Vatican Council. The following 'Vicar's Notes' attracted my attention; not least for the sense of a vibrant Catholic parish life during that decade when the Catholic movement in the Church of England was riding so very high. Jalland is writing about the observance of the Patronal Festival, of the Translation of S Thomas of Canterbury, on Saturday July 7.

"On that day there will be Masses at 6.30, 7.30, and a High Mass at 9. It is likely that the first evensong of the feast will be sung at 7.30 p.m., on Friday evening, at which there will be a Sermon by the Reverend Canon A.G.G. Ross, Vicar of St Mark, Swindon. It is hoped that there will be many who will take advantage of this opportunity of adding corporate worship to their personal preparation for the Feast. Confessions will be heard on several days before the Festival ... On the Sunday in the Octave the Sermon at Mass will be preached by the Rev. C. Gill, of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, and after Evensong by the Rev.D Sargent, Vicar of St Cross, Holywell ..."

Mass, fasting, before breakfast; multiple morning Masses and a High Mass on a weekday morning; First Evensongs; high jinks continuing into the Sunday within the Octave; lots of confessions; and oodles of Visiting Preachers. This is the Anglo-Catholicism which Betjeman remembered and celebrated in his verses, when the Faith was taught and fanned to a holy blaze. I suspect that those inter-war years were the last sparkling times before the Luftwaffe destroyed so many of the old Anglo-Catholic slum churches and dispersed the remnants of their congregations into suburbs and high-rise flats.

A speculation of mine is that some of these Patronal celebrations may have owed a lot to what the Anglo-Catholic clergy saw on the Continent. I have in mind Canon Doble of the Diocese of Truro, who did so much research into the Cornish Saints by hunting down the cultus those same saints  enjoyed in Brittany (giving, as he did so, the French clergy the impression that the entire Church nof England was really totally Catholic!). Because it is my feeling that Patronal Festivals never were and never have been very prominent in the culture of Irish-English Roman Catholicism. And, in any case, we rather prided ourselves in not aping the English Catholic Church.

Is this a Catholicism which needed the 'liturgical reforms' which followed so soon after the War? Were the 'reforms' of Pius XII - abolition of Octaves and First Evensongs - abolition of Fasting Communion and non-communicating High Masses - really advances? Have they really bequeathed to us a more flourishing, cheerful, inculturated Catholicism?

Why did we lose our nerve? What contribution will the Ordinariate make to restoring that nerve?


bob said...

Surely the late high mass at 9am, was because it was a Saturday not a weekday, unless, as some mischievous clericks of Oxford do, use the 1662 book strictly and thus use the Julian Kalendar.

Arthur L. Gallagher said...

I should think that the Ordinariate has quite a bit to contribute. Sadly, the changes after Vatican II created a rupture between historical Catholic practices, and surviving traditions among the Protestants. Presumably, the most cherished customs, that the reformers could not kill. Hopefully, the Ordinariate will help the whole Church reclaim its pre-Reformation heritage, sadly diminished during the frenzy of change during the 1970's.

Kathleen1031 said...

It is truly sad to look back and see how it was. One would have to be an enemy of Christ to say "This is bad, let's change it". It can't be just by tinkering or incidentally that so much has been lost. It has to be a determined effort.
In the states, the 50's were mocked as the time when some people noticed things were going awry with the culture. Dads put their foot down and refused to allow their daughters to play rock music or dance the twist. These people were laughed at. But weren't they right? They knew it all starts with one tiny change, and then the floodgates open. If only someone in the church had done that and held their ground. What was had wasn't treasured, and now it's mostly gone.

Banshee said...

Patronal festivals (patterans) were very big in Ireland, and used to be big in Irish-American parishes. But they were traditionally a matter in Ireland, after the Penal Laws, of visiting sites in the church that used to exist, or various small local places of note associated with the local saint. And the old saint fairs turned into a lot of drinking and dancing and fighting, after people had done their pilgrimage stuff. So a lot of priests did not like patterans. (Still pretty common for people in the US to complain that there is too much drinking at parish festivals.)

Banshee said...

Anyway, I don't know about Irish-UK culture, but a lot of folks immigrated there during the heyday of alcohol doing damage like opioids today, and thus a lot of teetotal concern. So I imagine there might have been some pressure to keep things dour and unfun.

Louise said...

The real tragedy of the liturgical reforms was that it set a precedent: that a reform was necessary. Then you have interpreters of what's necessary. How quickly they forgot the condemnation of "innovators". And today here we are, deeply concerned for what's coming liturgically, especially as the current motif is that we are a Church of change.

Louise said...

The real damage following these liturgical changes was to suggest change was necessary. How quickly the Church laid aside its centuries-old condemnation of "innovators"! And today, here we await what's coming in liturgical changes with talk of adjustments to the Mass translation for NO! The motif of this papacy is that we are to be an evolving Church of change.