Romantic Sarum

My attention was drawn today to Fr Hunwicke’s posting Pugin and Sarum. Dr Timothy Graham sent in a comment to my blog:

On Fr Hunwicke’s blog today (Pugin and Sarum), “more recently than that, a complete rendering of the Sarum Ordo Missae in Cranmerian pastiche was put together for use in the Ordinariates … but the plan failed since the Americans and the Australians were unkeen.” I wonder where this text could be obtained. What a shame!

to which I replied:

I remember from about 2011 or thereabouts that Monsignor Andrew Burnham wrote favourably about Sarum, at least as an “extraordinary use”. Bishop Peter Eliott also warmed to the idea. I was invited to write The Future Liturgy of an Anglican Ordinariate: Why not Sarum? for The New Liturgical Movement. Fr Hunwicke also wrote for NLM and expressed his position for the English Missal as being close to the post-Tridentine Roman Missal.

The can was kicked here, there and everywhere. Everyone is talking about Sarum but no one wants to do anything about it. I get lots of “hits” for my static website as well as this blog, because of the Sarum element. I think the text is simply the Warren translation for which you will find a link on As the Sun in its Orb – The Use of Sarum under “Major Resources”. Warren did the whole thing in Cranmerian / early modern English.

Every single attempt to revive Sarum has met with opposition or indifference in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a lost cause. I think I have understood something from my recent visit to the old Allen Hall at St Edmund’s College, Ware in Hertfordshire. I was shown around by Alan Robinson, a schoolmaster there, and I was able to “feel” that pettiness that reigned between “English” and “Roman” in the early 1940’s when the young convert Fr Quintin Montgomery-Wright was a seminarian there before asking for a transfer to France. Few of us can have any idea of English Roman Catholicism of the period before Vatican II, the sheer stuffiness and small-mindedness of it all. Compared with that, Gricigliano was no more than the froth on the glass of champagne! The chapel at Ware is a fine Pugin building, but there is no evidence that Sarum masses were ever celebrated there.

Fr Sean Finnigan was the priest who celebrated the Sarum Use in Merton College Chapel in the 1990’s until some little twerp ratted on him to Rome and it was all stopped. The Legal Status of the Sarum Mass is revealing as are the comments. The Ordinariate project might have been an opportunity, another “might-have-been” passed by.

Should we give up and leave it as a lost cause? Why do people still discuss Sarum and show an interest? After all, less interest is shown in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan and the Altspanische rites. Only Sarum is associated with something other than simple academic studies of defunct liturgical uses. It seems to be symbolic of a kind of “English Gallicanism” to offset the prevailing Ultramontanism of the nineteenth century onwards.

I just go on with it day after day, knowing that everyone but no one is interested. I am dead to the world and to that church of the world, the flesh and the Devil. Switching to the English Missal or the Missale Romanum of 1570 and all the decrees of the Congregation  of Rites would make no difference in that regard. In the end, it is not liturgy that will make the Church relevant to the world or even sincere and searching souls, but philosophy and a new paradigm that I believe Romanticism can bring. The original Gospel message is lost in the obscurity of added ecclesial meanings given to some very radical ideas. No liturgy will be of any relevance without some philosophical and cultural foundation. St Paul only made progress through Greek philosophy!

The ideal environment for the Use of Sarum is continuing Anglicanism – in which my eccentric quirks are tolerated. I doubt that anything will continue after my death, but I will leave all I can in terms of writings and various pleas. I can do nothing more.

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17 Responses to Romantic Sarum

  1. Linus says:

    I was just now going to open the first volume of Daniel Rock’s The Church of Our Fathers, etc. when I saw the alert for your post. Through the intercessions of Saint Osmund…More later

  2. “until some little twerp ratted on him to Rome.” Sean Finnegan is very much part of that culture, though. He was one of the signatories of the letter that put a stop to the Arthur Crumly experiment in Maiden Lane; he and several other pillars of the present traditionalist establishment. As such, I’ve never understood Finnegan’s interest in Sarum. I certainly wouldn’t have gone to the Masses in Oxford, even were I old enough to appreciate them.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Wish I’d still been ‘up’ then – i would have gone! (I suppose Sarum would have been used in college chapels in both Oxford and Cambridge for centuries?)

      • Ray Winch went, and found it all rather “artificial” and above all “fussy”. Particularly amusing was a processional cross getting caught up with an electric light!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I wonder if that would have changed with frequent use – had that been possible? (And I wonder if the lighting problem had to do with filming? I’m glad they filmed the Candlemas celebration I’ve seen on YouTube, to give us at least an impression, but we were at Mass at St. Willibrord’s in Utrecht filmed for Dutch television, once, and the lighting was intrusive – I suppose necessarily for the sort of cameras, but something to celebrate Mass well in spite of!

      • Nowadays, digital cameras can film in ambient light much more easily than what was avalable in 1997. I would hate to celebrate Mass with bright lights and conspicuous cameras. I can’t see how a cross bearer would have an argument with a normal church light, since they are usually well out of the way.

    • There seem to be two priests by that name, or very similar, one being the parish priest you used to serve in your area – and another in Sussex teaching in a seminary. The priest saying Sarum masses in Oxford was the latter and who wrote the article about the canonical aspect to which I linked.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    You note “less interest is shown in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan” – curiously, there seems some sort of Dutch exception to this, but I don’t know its contours. We encountered a fine – and inexpensive – CD of the Missa Ambrosiana in Eriphania Domini released in 1993 sung by the Utrecht Gregorian Choir – and later, more than once attended a celebration on Epiphany in the St. Willibrord Church in Utrecht, sung by them! But my wife had memories of Ambrosian services years earlier at the other ‘end’ of the country (in Limburg)…? Is this some sort of characteristic permission granted, here? – for the Epiphany, or more broadly?

  4. Rev22:17 says:

    Fr. Anthony,

    As a student of Christian liturgy, I would like to see the Vatican undertake a project to recover all of the western rites/uses that are now defunct or suppressed, including the Sarum liturgy, and to authorize their celebration among groups of willing participants by clergy who receive appropriate training. While it’s certainly desirable for each group to have geographical or ethnic ties to the use that it follows, that would not be an absolute requirement. It certainly would be very instructive for seminarians to experience as many of these rites/uses as possible during the course of their formation.

    That said, I’m not persuaded that the ordinariates that now exist within the Catholic Church are the right group to undertake this. None of the congregations of the ordinariates celebrated the liturgy by the Sarum Use in their prior denominations, so it is not part of their liturgical culture or the living patrimony that they bring into the Catholic Church. Thus, compelling those congregations to adopt a liturgical tradition that would be foreign to them would not be an effective pastoral response to the actual situation — and would also send the wrong message to our Protestant brothers and sisters who treasure their own patrimony and desire to retain it through any ecumenical reconciliation.

    Incidentally, there is one circumstance in which the celebration of the Sarum liturgy would be licit within the Catholic Church today. Catholic ecclesial law authorizes any priest who is blind to celebrate the liturgy according to any valid rite — at least theoretically including the Sarum liturgy.


    • Of course I’m not offering any “advice” to the institutional Roman Catholic Church of which I am not a member. Sarum will never find any kind of “normal” life in the RC Church. Its “extraordinary use” (Roman rite of 1570 to 1965) finds it hard enough. The problem is the “culture” in the “mainstream” churches like Rome or the Church of England – though Anglicanism is a more “natural” medium for Sarum among other rites than the well-oiled “machine” that Rome became.

      It seems a lost cause, as is liturgy, all the way to humanity itself. I am not a Roman Catholic, and have no intention ever to become one again, so the entire question is moot for me. That said, I respect the Ordinariates and encourage them to do what they do, unlike John Bruce whose agenda is increasingly nihilistic.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        This, or something like it, seems an excellent suggestion to me – not only liturgical studies, or aesthetic reconstructions,* but developing living practice. And (if it seems not too monstrous a suggestion) in various Churches.

        Would it be fair to say, Fr. Anthony, this is in fact what you, in the ACC, with the endorsement of Bishop Damien Mead, are doing, in one instance: as it were, expanding back to the pre-dominate Use in Ecclesia Anglicana before the English Reformation?

        *I am eager to try any such performed musicological ‘reconstructions’ I encounter, without knowing enough to evaluate them properly (e.g., Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas with the Taverner Choir, directed by Andrew Parrott, and various things by Marcel Pérès and Ensemble Organum), but could see Ray Winch’s point about ‘artificiality’ where such things are concerned.

      • One thing I am aware of doing is celebrating Mass in the same spirit as a Milanese priest in his church or a Dominican friar uses their old rite as some do. I am also aware that I was trained in the post-Tridentine rubricist style in the Roman rite, so deliberately relaxed whilst making sure I had learned everything properly in the first place. Comparison with the Dominican rite helped me understand some of the more obscure Sarum rubrics. I don’t have the impression that my daily Mass is a “reconstruction” but just a priest doing his job. Some Anglican parishes (eg. St Thomas in Toronto) have celebrated a Sarum Mass and it wasn’t in the spîrit of a reconstruction. It can be done, and attitudes are intuitively felt.

        When considering my use of the Sarum liturgy, my Bishop said “After all, it is an Anglican rite”. I would love it to become officially mentioned in the list of authorised rites in the Canons of our Church. That may come one day. This can be an example of custom prevailing over legislation (or lack thereof)…

      • Rev22:17 says:

        I pray for the day when our Lord’s last words of prayer with the apostles will come to fulfillment: ut unam sint (John 17:21-24). This obviously cannot happen without the Catholic Church, which clearly will be the proverbial elephant in the room of a reunited Christendom. This hope is a major element of the inspiration of my handle.

        The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. — Rev. 22:17

        That said, I’m also a realist. There are many issues that require resolution before such a reconciliation can take place — and I’m not so naïve as to think that it won’t require some changes of policy within the Vatican. I realize that there are significant theological issues that remain unresolved, and that the Vatican’s policies also have created perceptions of insurmountable obstacles to reconciliation, whether real or not, for you and for many other Anglican, “continuing Anglican,” and Protestant clergy as well as for many laity who are in “irregular” marriage situations — and that may be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

        By the way, I read your recent article on the anniversary of your ordination with considerable interest. The lineage indicated in that article strongly suggests that the Vatican would recognize your ordination to the order of presbyter as valid, so there would be no need to ordain you to that order if reconciliation becomes possible in your lifetime. And I pray that it does!


      • Maybe in the absolute, but your first paragraph after the quote answers the whole question. If such changes occur during our lifetime (they won’t), then some might consider dialogue with a future Pope and Roman Curia. We or our great-grandchildren might look into it then. In the meantime, we live and we continue to worship God and lead a Christian life as best as possible – in our own Churches which are already in communion with the Catholic Church through the Episcopate and the Eucharist.

        Regarding your final paragraph, I invite you to read this Notification of the CDF from 12th March 1983. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate!

        I have no illusions about the matter. I don’t believe the quote from the Book of Revelation / Apocalypse refers to the institutional Church but rather to the sacrament of the Bridal Chamber in Gnosticism or by analogy to a very profound theme in Romantic philosophy, something I have been reading about in M.H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism, pp 37-46. Compared with which, conversion to Roman Catholicism or the Reformed Baptist Church is one of the most boring prospects I could imagine!

        As we both know, perhaps a new Middle Age and a new Renaissance might clear out the old cobwebs…

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