Pisser dans un Violon

The French expression conjures up a repugnant image of someone urinating into a violin. An earlier form of the expression conveyed the idea of blowing air into this stringed instrument, something that would not make the violin play music either. The real meaning is doing something useless or ineffective.

I received this link this morning: A (proposed) Open Letter regarding the Restoration of the Sarum Rite by Bernard Brandt. The effort is valiant, and I admire Bernard Brandt for trying it even though Fr Sean Finnegan and his correspondent in Rome gave up.

I am reminded of the scene in the film 1492 where Christopher Columbus is rehearsing an explanation of his seafaring project for the theologians and the dreaded Spanish Inquisition:

Columbus: I believe the Indies are no more than 750 leagues west of the Canary Islands.

Antonio de Marchena: How can you be so certain?

Columbus: The calculations of Toscanelli, Marin de Tyr, Esdras…

Antonio de Marchena: Esdras is a Jew…

Columbus: So was Christ.

Antonio de Marchena: Two minutes and you’re already a dead man.

Columbus: For telling the truth?

Antonio de Marchena: Yes. They are burning people for less. The men you are about the confront have no emotions. You must learn to control your passion.

Columbus: Passion is something one cannot control.

Bernard Brandt’s letter is measured. Certainly he should try it, because he doesn’t risk being tortured or burned at the stake. At least that. The big problem is that there is no popular movement for the Use of Sarum, nor is there an idea that availability might arouse interest.

I believe it is a lost cause in the Roman Catholic Church. My doing it as a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church is tolerated, but no one else seems to be interested. There have been conferences and talks in Church of England and Episcopal Church circles. I celebrate it myself, but I hold little hope for the future. Sarum has been utterly crushed by the juggernaut of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation. Until the 1960’s, Rome regulated the liturgy like Brussels EU-dom regulates the size and shape of vegetables. Now it’s the Novus Ordo.

I wish him luck, but I won’t be holding my breath.

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16 Responses to Pisser dans un Violon

  1. J.D. says:

    I had to chuckle when I read this. You’ve definitely got a way with words Father. I get your point though. Many well meaning folks within the Roman Catholic juggarnaut try very charitably and patiently to learn a bit of canon law and than go through the appropriate channels but ultimately it’s— as you said— like ” pissing into a violin.” The Roman Catholic Church is a bureaucracy, and as we all know often enough these sorts of institutions are designed to keep the status quo.

    The red tape in Rome is a thick and tangled and jumbled mess. The way I see it Rome is never, ever going to roll back the clock with Vatican II or Trent. Like you said there’s just no real interest in Sarum or any of the pre Vatican II/ Trent way of doing things amongst the people or the powers that be.

    All of this sort of thing is why, in my my opinion trads of all stripes are just tilting at windmills, trying desperately to bring back a way of life and a Church that quite frankly does not exist anymore outside the imaginations and the hearts of a few scattered individuals here and there. It’s a tragic enterprise.

    I think what you’re doing is the right thing Father. Rome will never bring back Sarum nor even support it. If you want to offer that venerable liturgy better to do it on the margins, and far far away from the bloated corporate juggernaut of the Roman Catholic Church where trying to resurrect is noble yet ultimately Quixotic.

    • It occurs to me that the Vatican could join the EU and get a few cardinals into the European Parliament. Maybe, they might get regulations about health and safety in church and the length of services and corresponding EU standards. A taste of their own medicine!

  2. Stephen K says:

    What I’d like to know is why this is even a question for consideration, even as ‘lost cause’. Why is it important that the Sarum use receive official approval? How many people/priests saying a Sarum Mass would satisfy its devotees for its recognition? 1 more? 10? 100? The whole Church?

    This seems to me to be a fool’s errand. Not just because it is not likely that official churches will “approve” its use, but because it feeds into the whole idea that one’s spirituality must be “approved” in the first place. If you find Sarum prayers congenial to say, if they express what you wish to pray, then simply do so. What would official “approval” do for you? If it rings authentically for you, what need have you of approval?

    Unless, of course, at heart, like all other liturgical imperialists of every shape or form, one really desires a Sarum empire, of some dimension.

    Given the widespread disillusionment with the Churches, and the scepticism and rejection of their old dogmatic and juridical regimes, and given the situation where nations at war are reckless with civilian deaths, I think the crisis of Christianity lies light years away from questions of liturgy of this kind: the very persuasiveness of a spiritual reading of the Gospel is the issue and authenticity and humility are more than ever required.

    If one really believes Sarum usage (or any other rite or usage) is critical to one’s religious life, then seeking approval seems something of a sell-out. If approval is important then you don’t really think it’s critical. Using a Sarum missal or breviary may be a perfect expression of one’s faith and search for experience of God and laudable for that reason; longing for its restoration as a wider usage seems dreamy romanticism at best and liturgical politicism at worst.

    • Why is it important that the Sarum use receive official approval?

      No one could ask a better question. It brings me to the old idea of Winston Churchill (as things were in the 1940’s): In England, everything is allowed unless it’s forbidden. In Germany, everything is forbidden unless it’s allowed. In Russia, everything is forbidden even when it’s allowed. In France, everything is forbidden but everyone does it.

      As for Christopher Columbus’ prospects with the Spanish Inquisition, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Personally, I would bother writing such a letter, even if I were a Roman Catholic!

  3. Rubricarius says:

    Why ask a curial cardinal in Rome who probably has never even heard of the Sarum rite yet alone have any in-depth knowledge or appreciation of it?

    • Yes, that’s what I would have thought too. But of course, I’m not a Roman Catholic priest and don’t have to fear the grenouilles de bénitier who would grass on me to Rome! If you want to do something in life, just get on with it. That’s my complex Yorkshire philosophy of life! 🙂

  4. Dear Fr. Chadwick,

    I fear that you ascribe an expression of far more substantiality to my poor efforts than they deserve. Were I asked, I would probably describe my poor attempts with my Irish great-grandmother’s words: ‘farting above the waist.’

    That said, I would agree entirely with the consensus of those making comment here. What I am attempting is most probably a fool’s errand. I hope that you all will forgive me for attempting it anyway. But some of us still tilt at windmills, in the hopes They Might Be Giants. Cheers, all!

    • In French, they also say Péter plus haut que son cul – Fart higher than your arsehole, but that usually means being too ambitious for one’s abilities. It is quite insulting as well as vulgar. Not your case!

      I firstly believe wholeheartedly in your sincerity and the intention behind your approach. If you get a reply, it would force the writer to express an opinion or a position rather than pass it all over in silence and indifference. You know as well as I that it would not bring about an explicit authorisation for the use of the Sarum liturgy.

      As a layman, you can dare such an approach without being followed and spied upon then-after as in the case of a priest like Fr Finnigan. If they say “no”, it is no skin off your nose. You go to whatever Mass you want and you are not accountable to anyone.

      They won’t respond because they know it would go straight up onto the Internet, but again they might. We’ll see what fools they make of themselves. Rome is Rome, amateur fumbling unless “Where there’s muck, there’s brass“.

      Chassez le naturel et il revient au galop.

      • Dear Fr. Chadwick,

        Thank you for your kind words. Through the kindness of a friend, I have been reading the Memoirs of Louis Bouyer, and have been given much food for thought. A part of that thought is that I am unlikely to find a place, either in the Roman Catholic Church, or the Eastern Catholic Churches, where I might find a place to rest my head. It would appear, from both my experience and Fr. Bouyer’s counsel, that the current clergy have little thought other than being good little sons of Eli.

        In consequence, I must remain as the dirty little autodidactic eremite that I am. Ah, well.

      • One way to be a clean hermit. Stay near water. 🙂

        Seriously, my experience of myself is learning on rely on ourselves and forge our own future. Fear those who kill the soul.

  5. This blog’s name is a giveaway that it is pro-Sarum but Stephen K has come up with a very persuasive “minority –report” comment and I feel I must echo him, however inadequately.

    Given the crisis of Christianity, of civilisation, Stephen says, a movement to reintroduce Sarum is in danger of appearing a little irrelevant. Myself, having briefly sojourned in the TLM (and experienced its often appalling adherents) and also having seen the Ordinarite Use in action, I have come to some conclusions. In a globalised yet individually-pluralistic world I think it’s a good thing for Rome to foster “Novus ordo” uniformity (allowing for inculturation – discuss!). Comparing Rome to the EU is a tempting yet overdone comparison: uniformity in Christ is not the same as uniformity in political world-view; I’m a European secessionist but a Catholic universalist.

    It was by the Novus that I came into the Church and I have now learned to love it again, in fact more so than at my conversion when, frankly, I had little concept of “liturgy” and the missal was no more to me than a bunch of words we used in church. And as Stephen suggests, the “new” Mass has helped us to rediscover the Bible and (I quote the venerable American Jesuit Fr John Hardon) “use it in the liturgy in a way comparable to pre-Reformation times”. As Stephen concludes, there are many more important issues than tilting at liturgical windmills. Sarum appears to be a distinctively English rite and surely we must beware of the claim that God is, after all, an Englishman.

    • The inculturation “thing” is double-edged. Usually it is a euphemism for the anti-imperial reaction manifest in contemporary western political correctness. We need to accept being punished and occupied by the peoples we once colonised and oppressed. If God is not an Englishman, he is above all anti-English.

      I agree that Sarum is a local rite and compared with the Ambrosian rite (Milan area and Italian-speaking Switzerland), Lyons, etc. I am English and use Sarum in its area of origin – the Rouen area. I don’t think it is appropriate in America.

      We westerners and Europeans need inculturation too, but we are not all addicted to TV variety shows and Heavy Rock. Some of us are still influenced by cultural values of the past (medievalism, Renaissance humanism, Hellenism, etc.). Those cultural values have to be respected too.

      But we live in an increasingly Orwellian world where Newspeak is all expressed in words without meaning or as euphemisms.

      Love the Church? We heard that all the time at Gricigliano, but what does it mean? Loving Big Brother? The universal idea of Christ and Church? The community to which we can relate by human relationship? That too is a euphemism which often paralyses and stifles critical thought or dialogue.

      Odd liturgical rites will just have to be a quirk for eccentric long-haired priests in marginal churches like me, and a sign of “being different”. In terms of numbers, the American Evangelical mega church is the future to get used to – but I’m not part of it. I believe I can find Christ in my wounded and introverted way elsewhere.

      I am not for trying to impose Sarum elsewhere, not even in the ACC. Our official rite is the Anglican Missal. We are irrelevant and will die, in the same way as I see post-humanism, trans-humanism and Islam as replacing Christianity and the west as built up by the Renaissance over the past 500 years. We face not only our death but also not being able to leave anything to posterity. Our treasure is everyone else’s garbage. So be it. I see full churches with other liturgical forms or no liturgy. They are relevant in terms of numbers, but I don’t relate to them any more than the local mosque. Perhaps we have to “be where the people are” – then I would prefer not to be a part of it all. I’ll just go to sea like Bernard Moitessier.

      I have thought a lot about these issues. It sounds selfish not being everybody else or crushing ourselves, but it all boils down to being ourselves. Jump on the conservative Catholic bandwagon? I have found this fascinating post – http://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/01/a-crisis-of-conservative-catholicism.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, Ross Douthat’s address was clearly expressed, but essentially it remained a point of view that conservative Catholics simply have to do more work and try harder and smarter. He still failed to contemplate the real possibility that some or many of the teachings so insisted on by his “centre-right” constituency (which he recognises may be not so ‘centre’ after all) may be in fact the problem, and not simply their marketing of them. He has not yet, then, jettisoned the narrative he is examining, at all.

        No matter how many condiments and sauces one pours over a rotting piece of cod, it will still stink. My word of caution is simply, we all have to beware of ending up like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

      • That was just about my impression too, something that sounds like politicians blabbing away or washing powder manufacturers claiming that their product washed whiter than their competitors. Something like deck chairs and the Titanic

        Each of us will have to decide for ourselves whether Christianity can continue in any way in this world. Perhaps when people have had enough of the brutality and cruelty of Salafist Islam or the bleakness of atheism, perhaps when we decide to turn to God in prayer and leave others to find their way in both spiritual and moral terms. I never tell anyone that they must go to church, and even encourage them to stay away if the experience is frustrating or whatever. As a priest, I don’t go to a monastery for my retreat – but rather to sea and remote bits of land in my boat. Only ten days left to finish my preparations!

        The problem with conservative Catholicism (and the same with conservative Protestantism) is that they still hanker after a social and political order under their influence. That is finished. There will be abortions, gay marriages, you name it. All we can do is what Christians did before the Peace of Constantine.

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