I have already mentioned St George’s in Sudbury in this blog. See Sarum in contemporary Roman Catholicism and Sarum in the Roman Catholic Church. The Rad Trad blog has just published Major Fetish in the Boutique: Sarum in the 20th Century with some interesting photos of this church and solemn masses celebrated therein. I visited this church in the 1990’s in the company of some friends, before its “wreckovation”.
There is also an article Memories of Don Franck Quoex (Guest Post). I too have my memories of him at Gricigliano and his combat for the Roman liturgy faced with sloppiness and legalism. This is a fine article that portrays this priest who died so tragically young.
Sometimes, one comes across visionary souls like these priests, others like Fr Montgomery Wright in France and Fr Jacques Pecha whom I befriended in 1991 after he asked me to find and install a pipe organ in his church. They are all dead now. I go on celebrating the Use of Sarum, mostly alone, in my little chapel – and even the liturgically-minded seem to be indifferent. It has ceased to be a cause of anxiety for me. I am trying to get back to my old project (which ran out of steam through discouragement and other concerns) of a Sarum Gathering. I need to refine the idea, together with Dr William Renwicke who has been supportive and enthusiastic. 2015 or 2016? Where? Following what agenda?
There have been waves of interest in reviving Sarum as a local use, something like the few local rites and uses that remained after the Tridentine “industrial revolution”. In particular there was the movement issuing from nineteenth-century Romanticism, and briefly in the early twentieth century parallel with the Arts and Crafts Movement extending into the 1920’s in spite of the end of our civilisation which began in 1914. I am only too aware of my isolation and lack of influence. I continue, knowing that anything I do will be forgotten at the very moment of my death. Such is life – vanity of vanities.
I am grateful to Rad Trad for keeping the memories alive, and the fact that there is another view of traditional Catholicism. He is in communion with Rome and I am not. I am spiritually and emotionally alienated from my fifteen years in that Church. I am grateful to Bishop Damien Mead and the English diocese of the ACC for having given me a spiritual home and tolerance to go on with my lonely pilgrimage. Our Diocese has continued the “Tridentine” tendency within Anglo-Catholicism, and that is the way it is. It strikes me when I go over there and participate in our Synod and Council of Advice meetings as well as Sunday Mass in Canterbury. English Anglo-Catholicism has a strange mix of Roman and English trappings in churches, compared with the garish taste in French churches and the sumptuous baroque of the European Continent.
As I found with Fr Montgomery, the French also had local liturgical traditions, having “resisted” Tridentine reforms until the mid nineteenth century in many places. Normandy had many aspects that showed the origins of Sarum as an essentially French and Norman usage. Many of those uses were heavily modified in the eighteenth century and the ordo missae brought into line with the Franciscan-Roman tradition. The “industrial revolution” globalised the Roman liturgy and the Pauline rites of the 1960’s and 70’s only went further in the same direction with its stereotypical altars facing the people and pseudo-modernity.
The bottom has most certainly dropped out of the “establishment” churches, and we clergy and faithful of small independent churches have no cause for triumphalism given our fragility. If “establishment” churches ever regenerate in the west, it will be on a secular political basis and support rather than anything else – as it has always been. I see the parallels in secular life, increasing polarisation between the mass of “controlled” humanity in an increasingly Orwellian world and marginal people who have made the break and achieved sufficient “critical mass” to create alternative societies. Such communities have no use for “mainstream” religion, but might be open to spiritual expressions based on experience of love and beauty. That would be the seed of a new Christianity based on something other than political power and human aggression.
I am aware of the fact that medieval liturgical uses depended on a cultural context that is gone from today’s world of electronics and instant communication, of people in a hurry and alienated from each other. That is why it is futile in human terms and the temptation is to try to build up some kind of repository or museum. Ultimately, all liturgical and ecclesiastical observances are alienated from human life and are meaningless to most of our contemporaries. Perhaps some kind of regeneration is possible among the marginalised, as is the case for me having kicked the world of power, money and competition in the teeth. The thriving nature of monasticism is evidence of my thesis of the human, cultural and social context, but most monasteries are run on the basis of authority, obedience and the surrender of personality. I am struck by the disdain of beauty in many communities like the Trappists and an almost “military” culture.
Men like Fr Quoëx and Fr Clement Russell, as many inspired souls stemming from Romanticism, had no place in the world in which they lived. I would never compare myself with such men, but have felt that I had something to give. I do so via the blog, which is such a limited way. Love and beauty alone seem to give meaning and bring us to contemplation of the transcendent. At least, that’s the way I see it. I may be wrong, and should be concerned with power and competition, but I can only be the way I am.