Patrimony Preserved: Tenth Anniversary Conference on the Catholic "Anglican Use"

[The following is a guest article written for LAJ by Christopher Mahon which details some information about the liturgical patrimony of the Anglican Ordinariate, set within the context of of a conference they held in Toronto late last year.  (For those interested, there are a number of videos from the event made available by the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.] 

Thanksgiving for the Tenth Anniversary of the Anglican Ordinariate 

by Christopher Mahon 

Catholics of the Anglican tradition recently celebrated the 40th and 10th anniversaries, respectively, of the two great papal provisions that enabled the establishment of our community’s ecclesial autonomy and the authorization of our patrimonial liturgy. Much could be said about the ecclesial and juridical nature of the ordinariate, a special diocese for Catholics of the Anglican tradition. But it is our patrimonial liturgy that is the most striking feature of these provisions and the chief cause of our thanksgiving. This past November 15th and 16th ordinariate members gathered in Toronto for the 2019 Conference on the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church, the highlight of which were three services in our traditional liturgy. We began with Solemn High Mass and the singing of a Solemn Te Deum. The next morning we sang Choral Mattins; and we finished with Choral Evensong and Benediction. Because our community is geographically dispersed, this was a rare general gathering, and given the occasion it was appropriate that these Catholic liturgies be as beautiful, as solemn, and as patrimonially Anglican as possible. All three can be viewed in full on YouTube and Facebook.

Our liturgical rite, known by many as the Anglican Use, is frequently misunderstood. Some will identify its commonalities with the Extraordinary Form and more traditional customs, and label it “the Extraordinary Form in English” in an effort to affirm liturgical tradition. Others will propose equally erroneous ideas to the contrary so as to distance our liturgy from their pejorative view of traditionalism. One of these misguided ideas is that the ordinariate’s liturgy is a ‘subset’ of the Ordinary Form, its very existence fundamentally predicated on the particularities of the post-conciliar reform. The inclusion in the DWM of the GIRM is commonly cited as evidence of this latter idea, for example, although others have more reasonably called for the salient portions of the GIRM to be incorporated in the Rubrical Directory proper to the DWM. Yet another mistake is to see it as a “third form” of the Roman rite, a notion that infringes on the unique identity and character of the liturgy of Rome itself, and also undermines the integrity of our Anglican patrimony. No matter what you think of the liturgical reform, the Ordinary Form bears an obviously unique historical relationship (even in its discontinuities) with the Extraordinary Form. In a similar way, the Book of Common Prayer has a unique relationship to the Sarum liturgy out of which it developed in a similar time of liturgical rupture.

The principle characteristic of the ordinariate’s liturgy, on the other hand, is that it is meant to be the distillation of what is described in Anglicanorum Coetibus as “the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See.” Thus, continuity is meant to mark the development of the ordinariate’s liturgy, and the proper name of the patrimony manifested in the DWM is ‘Anglican’. Because it was primarily drawn from the BCP it bears a distinctive relationship with neither the Roman-EF nor the Roman-OF but its Sarum predecessor. In this way, the AU’s traditionality can and should be recognized in traditional Latin liturgical principles, but just not the EF itself per se. And while for expedience the DWM was developed with the aid of some OF elements, it should not be seen as being in a contingent relationship with the OF (i.e. changes to the OF should not automatically affect the AU). So it was important in planning the liturgies of the 2019 Anglican Tradition Conference that they be understood to be Catholic, seen to be traditional, and recognized as “Anglican in character”, as Bishop Lopes has described it, but not taken to be the “EF in English” nor the “OF as it should have been”. This is not to say that, with our distinctiveness properly contextualized, ordinariate liturgies done well can’t still be a model for Roman liturgies in either form. But the Roman rite has its own glory and beauty. You might say Roman and AU parishes can mutually inspire each other but should pursue their respective patrimonies to the best of their abilities.

Anglicanorum Coetibus begins by describing the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in moving Anglicans to approach the Catholic Church, and so we began our thanksgiving with a votive mass of the Holy Ghost as found in Divine Worship: The Missal (DWM). A fully professional choral ensemble sang some Anglican choral classics and led the congregation in the hymns and chant. Our three sacred ministers were all former Anglicans, and Bishop Steven Lopes assisted in choir. The venue was St Michael’s Cathedral, thanks to the kindness of Cardinal Collins, who was able to join us part-way through the mass and for the reception afterwards. This was a first-time experience for many in some key ways, and while mistakes were made and lessons learned, it was a moving and joyful experience.

Anglicans are known for our strong musical culture, and particularly for our hymnody. Our mass began with a popular processional hymn, Old 100th, to the words All People that on Earth Do Dwell. While the priest censed the altar we sang as our Offertory Hymn Holy Holy Holy to the tune Nicaea. Our Communion Hymn was Come Down O Love Divine to the beloved tune Down Ampney by the great Ralph Vaughan Williams. Our Recessional was Love Divine to Hyfrydol, with a fittingly glorious descant on the final verse. The typical pattern of Anglican choral singing for a hymn is to do the first and last verses in unison and the middle verses in harmony, sometimes culminating in a descant on the final verse. In the ordinariate we sometimes tend to do as extravagant a rendition as we can, which isn’t always ideal. Most Catholic parishes, however, tend to underutilize their musical potential.

There’s no reason good congregational hymn singing can’t take root in any Catholic parish. While our congregation numbered 150 conference attendees (mostly Catholics of Anglican background, but also some current Anglicans) we produced a stronger sound than I’ve often heard in fully packed cathedrals with ten times that number! Hymn selection can make as big an impact on congregational singing as anything else. There are many Catholics who will sing Old 100th boldly but will maintain a resolute silence if forced to sing a Marty Haugen or St Louis Jesuit tune. You can eliminate questionable lyrics all you want, but if the tune is weak and insipid you’re still out of luck. Likewise, if the hymn is taken too fast it can’t be sung and if too slow it’s boring. It is far more important to get the details of sacred music right than is usually understood. Sadly, ‘active participation’ is usually wielded to inhibit the pursuit of choral excellence than to actually bring about any congregational interest in singing.

The propers are more rarely done by Anglicans in general but are fairly common if not ubiquitous amongst Anglo-Catholics. In the ordinariate as a result they are optional but frequently done, supplementing hymns rather than replacing them. In this service we did all five minor propers. Most often in the ordinariate these are sung congregationally according to the very basic and easy to sing psalm tone chants found in the English Gradual, which are also reproduced in the Anglican Use Gradual (the 2nd edition of which is laid out in the order of the DWM) and the Saint Peter Gradual (which reproduces just the chants for Sundays and feast days). We used the psalm tone chants from these books for the gradual, the alleluia, and the communion.

For the introit, however, the choir sang something a little more special and turned to a more melismatic Gregorian setting, the English plainsong pointed by Healey Willan. Gregorian chant is very rarely done, and almost never done well. In too many Latin masses it is slow, anemic, and cringey; and everyone attached to the OF seems to think it can’t be done in English at all. As a result, in most cities not blessed with a Westminster Cathedral or an Oratory of St Philip Neri it is almost impossible to hear decent plainsong. And yet some Anglicans do carry on this tradition, and it is indeed a treasure worth sharing more widely. Finally, William Byrd wrote many polyphonic settings of the propers, and we used his setting of the offertory. By using these different settings of the propers it was hoped to expose more people to the breadth of possibility.

In OF parishes that don’t do the propers, one finds the notorious responsorial psalm sandwiched between the readings. Anglican parishes instead tend to make use of our famous Anglican chant for choral settings of the psalm at this point, and at the conference mass we did Stanford’s double chant in A flat major. In the ordinariate, if the gradual is sung it is usually done between the two readings unless it is in addition to the psalm, in which case the gradual occurs after the second reading immediately before the alleluia. This is the custom at our Houston cathedral, among other places.

There was a fair bit of polyphony as well, beginning with the prelude music: motets by Victoria (Laudate Dominum à 8), Wesley (Thou Wilt Keep Him), Willan (Rise Up My Love) & Tallis (Come Holy Ghost). Two motets were also sung during the mass: the offertory motet, following his polyphonic setting of the proper, was Byrd’s Sing Joyfully; and the communion motet was O Taste and See by Vaughan Williams, followed by his beautiful hymn.

The mass setting (Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus, & Agnus Dei) was a classic choral setting by Herbert Howells, the Communion Service (Collegium Regale), or “Col Reg”, initially composed for King’s College, Cambridge. The Gloria, on the other hand, was the popular congregational setting by John Merbecke. The Merbecke Gloria is well known by Anglicans, and is probably the second most commonly done setting in the ordinariate, after the de Angelis. It is hard to express how moving it is for a lifelong Anglican who grew up singing these traditional patrimonial hymns, chants and settings to become Catholic and be deprived of them for years, and then – thanks to Pope Benedict XVI – be reunited with them as a Catholic later in life. It is like the outward form of our religion has suddenly been made alive to us in a way it never had been.

As mentioned above, there are some people who dislike a strong emphasis on choral singing because of the mistaken assumption that it competes with congregational singing. In reality, a strong choral tradition underpins and encourages congregational singing. The ubiquitous model of a cantor singing into a lectern microphone and condescendingly gesturing to the congregation to get them to join in is quite counterproductive. Give the congregation the music, turn off the mics, choose some solid, classic hymns, and maybe put some strong singers at the back or in their midst and then you might find the congregation beginning to sing! I remember once being at a mass when there was a city-wide power failure mid-hymn. The amplified cantor was suddenly silenced throughout the cathedral and instead you could actually hear the congregation singing, faintly at first but more strongly as the hymn went on.

Our organist was Matthew Larkin, who helped make the occasion as glorious it was. Both he and most of our exceptional singers grew up in the Anglican choral tradition and have made music their profession. There is a lamentable prejudice against professional singers in too many Catholic churches, in spite of what we are told in Luke 10:7. Sacred music is not exempt from the general requirement of the sacred liturgy for the best of what we have to offer. We are to put our best to the worship of God, and if we pay even the priest a stipend for a mass we have no excuse not to support our professional church musicians as well.

There were many factors that went into making these services a reality. The Toronto Oratory made significant contributions as well, not the least of which were the deacon, Fr Derek Cross, who was one of our speakers the following day, and the subdeacon, Fr Philip Cleevely. The sacred vestments were on loan as well. On the altar, thanks to the help of the cathedral sacristan, we had some relics with patrimonial and Canadian connections, including relics of at least one of the English saints Thomas (I’m not sure if it was Becket or More) and of the Canadian martyrs. Our MC was a member of the Toronto ordinariate parish of St Thomas More, and our servers came from the ordinariate, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and an FSSP parish.

We ended the service with the congregational singing of a Solemn Te Deum, set to “The Authentic or Ambrosian Melody” in the Canadian Psalter (plainsong edition). In recent years a stunning recording had made the rounds a few times of the French organist Pierre Cochereau playing an alternatim rendition of this Te Deum on the organ of Notre Dame de Paris, and so we were inspired to do the plainsong version as found in this classic psalter of Canadian Anglicans. Throughout the singing our two thurifers swung their thuribles in regular 360s in front of the altar for a rather rare display of ceremonial. Finally, the Te Deum was concluded with chanted prayers of thanksgiving, blessing, and dismissal, before everyone launched into the stirring recessional, capped off by an organ postlude, the Te Deum by Jean Langlais.

There were a number of patrimonial practices worth noting as well, such as the distribution of Holy Communion in both kinds, which is pretty much universal in Anglican custom, and hence in the ordinariate. Our Anglo-catholic custom is also to receive kneeling and on the tongue, and in the absence of altar rails we thankfully were able to scrounge up some prie-dieus that did the job nicely. The Gospel procession to the centre of the nave is also quite patrimonial, the Gospel fittingly proclaimed in the midst of the people.

The seriousness and sobriety of the liturgy is extremely important, and you can see from the demeanour of the priests and servers that what they’re doing is something of great significance and gravity. The liturgy is not a casual occasion for jocularity or informality. Yet this in no way clashed with the joy in everyone’s hearts and how moving this evening was. Rather, it is precisely because the liturgy is of such importance and gravity that we are so thankful to have been given our own patrimonial way of doing it.

It’s also worth noting how many young people, and particularly young men, were present of diverse backgrounds. The young seek beauty and authenticity in worship and religion, and if denied it there is nothing left to attract them. Men are attracted to serious and beautiful liturgies, because the God we worship is Himself serious and beautiful. We are to approach him with awe and give Him our best in our worship, but few things can repulse and turn off men as easily as the lousy and cheesy music done so lamentably often in Catholic parishes. Sacred music need not be difficult or require expensive, professional music programmes to be beautiful and serious. The priest doesn’t need to entertain the congregation or come up with anything original. Just pray the liturgy in a serious and straightforward manner and let the Gospel speak for itself! The Anglican communities that entered the Catholic Church en masse have seen their average age plummet, and at the Toronto ordinariate parish in its first five years of existence the proportion of men in attendance at our Sunday mass was consistently 60-70% of the congregation. This is a stunning statistic, given the opposite seems to be the case at the vast majority of OF parishes. It is highly unlikely that the very impressive number of young priestly vocations coming out of the ordinariate is unrelated to all this.

Someone online commented that there didn’t seem to be any families with young children present at this High Mass. Well, that was only because it was a late evening mass kick-starting a conference. On normal Sundays our ordinariate parishes are full of young families and children, and thanks be to God for it! The ordinariates have quite a vibrant future ahead of us. Faithful Catholics long for parishes in which they can hear the Gospel preached without dilution. The ordinariate gives us that in spades, in addition to beautiful and reverent liturgy.

Like all true liturgical worship, the ordinariate’s ritual is a very physical form of worship, and the incense, the singing, the processions, the kneeling and standing, and so on all contribute to a holistic prayer that encompasses not just the spiritual but the bodily as well. It was a longer than usual liturgy, but not in the least bit boring. If anyone was feeling at all out of breath at the end, however, there was a customary reception afterwards in the cathedral atrium that was bound to revive them with numerous forms of liquid patrimony! We were delighted to have Cardinal Collins with us at the reception as well, and Fr John Hodgins gave a patrimonial toast of loyalty to both the Queen of Canada and the Queen of Heaven.

Everyone in attendance was given a leaflet or conference programme containing the entire liturgy for all three of our services (as well as letters of greeting from the Bishop, the Cardinal and the Nuncio). These contained all the music (except the polyphony), including harmonizations, so the congregation could sing along. Ordinariate congregations are known to sing in four-part harmony, but in those diocesan parishes that don’t distribute the music, or even the words, to the congregants it can be very difficult to sing along.

On the Saturday morning we celebrated Choral Mattins, a service that is not done as often as Choral Evensong, and it was particularly well received in part for that reason. We sang the Stanford Jubilate in B flat major as a prelude, and the canticles were Vaughan Williams’s Te Deum in G major and Stanford’s Benedictus in C. The preces & responses were in Anglican chant from the other edition of the Canadian Psalter, along with the Venite and the psalms.

The anthem was Healey Willan’s monumental epic O Praise the Lord, which he composed for the Anglican Congress of 1963, held at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. On that occasion, held while the Catholic Church was still engaged in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, about 17,000 representatives of the Anglican Communion from all around the world, including Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, came together to discuss the mission of Anglican Christianity. While the Anglican Communion has suffered severe decline since 1963, the ordinariate, a Catholic church in the Anglican tradition, bears a hope of future growth. Our trust is in the Lord, and we will build our future on the sure foundation of the Catholic faith.

Our service of mattins wrapped up with the collects of the day, for peace, and for grace; prayers for the Queen and all in authority, and the Pope; the General Thanksgiving; the Prayer of St John Chrysostom; and the Grace. We ended with another beloved hymn by Ralph Vaughan Williams, At the Name of Jesus, and then Matthew Larkin played the Toccata and Fugue by another Canadian organist, Andrew Ager. Both mattins and evensong were from the Canadian BCP, as celebrated by the Canadian ordinariate deanery per the Holy See’s Guidelines for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Personal Ordinariate (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Choral Evensong and Benediction was the final service of our gathering in thanksgiving for the tenth anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus. While evensong doesn’t always end in benediction, it is a particularly catholic rite and was thus fitting as a conclusion to our time together. We sang Palestrina’s Salve Regina as a prelude, before singing a much more choral service than we had in the morning. The responses were by Bernard Rose and the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were from Howells’s Gloucester Service. Of course the psalms were once again in Anglican chant and the anthem was by William Harris, Bring Us O Lord. Then came the collects of the day, for peace, and for aid against all perils; a prayer for the Anglican patrimony; and Cardinal Newman’s Prayer at Eventide.

Preparations for benediction began while we sang Willan’s hymn Lord Enthroned in Heavenly Splendour. We did the traditional benediction hymns O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo, and the Laudate Dominum and Adoremus in Aeternum, all in traditional prayerbook English. These hymns are glorious expressions of Eucharistic adoration and deserve to be better known, which prayerbook English plainsong settings may help to accomplish. The benediction motet was Willan’s Ave Verum Corpus, which some consider to have surpassed even William Byrd’s similar setting of the same. Of course, we ended Saturday as we had ended Friday with another patrimonial reception! Anglicans have frequently followed the sacred liturgy with celebration, a fitting way to recognize the nature of what has just been done, as well as to live more holistically as a community and a family of faith.

These were three beautiful, and very Anglican patrimonial, liturgies held in Toronto’s St Michael’s Cathedral, celebrated by Fr Lee Kenyon, our former Dean of Canada for the ordinariate. The music – representative of the very best of the Anglican musical tradition – was provided by a professional ensemble, including renowned Canadian organist Matthew Larkin and directed by Toronto’s own Peter Mahon. That our liturgies were hosted by the Cathedral of the Latin diocese was a powerful sign of how the Anglican tradition has been fully welcomed into the Catholic Church. The experience of a Solemn Mass and Te Deum, Choral Mattins, and Evensong and Benediction, all done in accordance with the best of our Anglican tradition and in such a preeminent Catholic setting was deeply moving for everyone. Pope Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus was a gift from God that has made for us a home in the Catholic Church, and for that we will ever give thanks!

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