Fr Newman has a new website and blog. Under the link Divine worship you can go through a cool slide show of High Mass at St Mary’s. How blessed we are to have been brought to such a vibrant parish! For Ash Wednesday the place was packed, the liturgy was splendid and the spirit truly penitential. Last evening the church was crowded for Stations of the Cross, Benediction and Confessions. I was in the confessional for an hour and a half solid. Praise God!
Fr. Newman comments here on Catholic liturgy in England as contrasted with Anglican liturgy. While visiting England a while back he went to a dreary modern Catholic mass with the ‘game show’ style of liturgy, then went to Canterbury Cathedral where everything was splendid.
I agree with Fr Newman’s sentiments, but there are a few problems with his analysis. He was comparing cathedral liturgy to parish church liturgy. To be fair, he should have compared the liturgy at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral. The comparisons wouldn’t have been so extreme. Likewise, he should have compared the ‘walk in’ experience of his local Catholic parish to the ‘walk in’ experience of the local Anglican parish. I can assure you the horrors he would have found in the typical Anglican parish church would have been just as alarming, and more so.
As a general rule though, Anglicans are better at liturgy than most Catholics. When you walk in from Catholicism it can make you yearn for something better. The problem comes when you have a steady diet of beautiful Anglicanism. I was chaplain at Kings College, Cambridge for two years. There are few places in the world where the architecture, music and history combine in such sublime fusion. I loved it. The only problem is that it was all form and no content. The actual religion that was presented was a watered down form of secular humanism with no backbone. In the end it was like being married to an extremely beautiful, but witless woman.
I’m reminded of those words by the other Newman (I paraphrase) that he was under no doubt that should Augustine or Athanasius or Irenaeus walk the streets of England looking for Mass on a Sunday Morning he would find himself in a back street, kneeling in a tin hut with Italian and Irish peasants, and not in the fine churches of Anglicanism.
This is not to excuse game show liturgy, only to make the point, with which Fr Newman would agree, that “the habit does not make the monk.” Or, when a snooty Anglican says to me, “Ohhh, we are so Caaatholic here at St Hilda’s…We’re far more Catholic than Fr. McGee down at St Patrick’s…” My reply is to put on my best American drawl and say, “Shucks ma’am, wearing a ten gallon hat don’t make you a Texan.”