Catholic Impressions of Anglican Use Liturgies

There have been some recent blog posts about first impressions by Catholic visitors to an Anglican Use Catholic Mass.  Here's an excerpt of the most recent from The Christian State of Life:

This past Sunday, I had the distinct privilege to attend the approved Anglican Use Mass at St Jean Baptiste here in Victoria.  Ever since Sunday, I have been telling every single Catholic I see to go to it and experience it for themselves.  I walked away thinking to myself “This is what the Council had always intended; this is what the Mass is supposed to be like”.

It is, indeed, quite a different Mass than the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal that is normative in Catholic parishes throughout the world.  It is also different in certain ways from the Extraordinary Form that I have experienced on various occasions.   It was very simple – only 20 – 30 people were in attendance as the community is currently quite small – but extraordinarily beautiful.  The prayers are exquisite, aesthetically pleasing, moving, etc.  I walked away with a real sense of the sacred, a deeper sense of the sacred.  It did not need pomp and circumstance in order to be beautiful for it was structured so as to not need that.  However, I would very much love to experience their liturgy in the form of a High Mass one day.  The choir – 3 people – sang the Introit, Hymns, etc the way music is meant to be sung: with life!  Finally, the community itself is so very welcoming and delightful.

I have only been once, but already I am itching to attend again.  I pray I have one or two more opportunities to come out to experience their form of the liturgy.  The position ad orientem, the posture of the congregants, etc.  All of this stamped upon me a deep and profound sense that we were in the holy of holies: Christ was coming down to us to lift us up to sit with Him on His heavenly throne.

And thanks to Fr. Stephen Smuts' blog, a link to Renegade Trads who visited the Toronto Anglican Use Mass and produced several photos of the Mass booklet, with commentaries. He concludes:

My only complaint would be that there was a lay reader. Not that I mind that he (at least it was a male!) was lay; obviously, the server was too. But I do wish that readers would vest in cassock and surplice and sit in the sanctuary like the servers; why this need to have a secular-dressed person come up out of the congregation for the readings? It's a strange sort of populism, as I've discussed before, I think.

Other than that, though there weren't many in attendance, I was pleased. Communion was received kneeling and on the tongue. Some people then also received kneeling from the chalice, something I had never seen in a Catholic service before. In general there was a lot more kneeling at the Anglican Use liturgy than the Roman Mass (at the collects, for example, and during the intercessions). The Angelus was prayed after Mass at the Lady Altar.Then I was invited to the coffee and, for all my spieling here sometimes about Catholics needing more parish community and commending the Anglicans and the Orthodox for it…when faced with the actual prospect personally in a Catholic context, I could only think to myself, "What? Are you kidding me? We'reCatholic!" and then told a white lie to high-tail it out of there without having to attend… 😛

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

22 thoughts on “Catholic Impressions of Anglican Use Liturgies”

  1. I went to Fr. Andrew Bartus' first Mass at St. Joseph's in Santa Ana, CA.

    People unfamiliar with the Anglican Use, and used to the Mass of Paul VI would complain about the amount of kneeling and the more complicated English.

    But I tell you, I would rather kneel before God for as much as it is necessary in the Holy Mass, and I would rather read and recite Tudor-era English until my tongue is tied, because all of that is worth it. Really, if the Anglican Use mass is available near where I live, I would certainly be a regular and contribute as much as I can to their parish.

  2. My impression at the few Anglican Use Masses I have been to are mostly positive. However, I notice that there tends to be a strong tendency to replace Mass propers with hymns. That got me thinking: are Mass propers part of the rite, or is it expected that the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion will be filled with hymns normally?

    1. Hi Ryan,

      I'm not sure how the other parishes do things, but in Boston we always chant the minor propers; although we also have hymns. Typically we begin with a processional hymn, then sing the Introit during the censing of the altar. We sing the gradual and alleluia after the second lesson, the offertory after the pax (followed by a hymn), and chant the communion chant during the reception of communion. After all have received, we sing a post-communion. We use David Burt's Anglican Use Gradual for the first four, and an inhouse book for the communion chant, which has the psalm verses to accompany the communion antiphon found in the AUG.

  3. I was not around in the 50s and before, but in then-contemporary PECUSA, I suspect that lay readers (when there were lay readers) often wore street attire even back then, and not cassock and surplice. In many places, I believe the clergy said the lesson and the gospel back in those days. I grew up in a parish (more broad church than high church) where there were a fair number of licensed lay readers who read the daily offices publicly on a daily basis. And, they always wore street attire. So, I guess I don't have the same allergy to lay readers in street attire as some people. I suspect the vast majority of people in the Anglican Use might agree.

    1. It is interesting to note that in the Greek Orthodox Church the reading of the Epistle is generally done by a lay reader without in lay dress. He's usually the only one in the sanctuary without religious attire.

      I'm not surprised to find people following their first Anglican Use liturgy coming away singing its praises for the dignity, beauty, and the overpowering sense of holiness enshrouding the rites. The Anglican Ordinariate liturgy may in time be the means whereby the Roman liturgy is saved. Perhaps, Pope Benedict feels the same way.

      I've always thought and I still think the Ordinariate is going to be a gigantic magnet for English-speaking Catholics who have tired of the sloppiness and easy familiarity of these pseudo folk celebrations still mired in the 70s, and they will find a sanctuary from them in the Anglican tradition preserved in the Ordinariate.

      The Ordinariate eucharistic rite and the offices are going to catch on like wildfire as an alternative to both the 69 rite of Paul VI and the 62 Latin rite. Both the EF and OF have serious liturgical deficiencies. The Ordinariate liturgy will successfully bridge both of these forms permitting Latin used with an elevated form of English. Filling a deep void which Catholics have not seen filled in 40 years.

  4. At St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto (the pastor of which is Cardinal Thomas Collins), there has been a recent change in the procedures for those who read the first and second readings. Formerly they robed, walked in procession, and were seated in the sanctuary. They now wear no special robes, sit in the front row, and come up to the lectern at the appropriate time. I believe that the intention was that we avoid clericalizing these lay people.

    1. Of course, if people think the essence of "clericalizing" them is what they wear or where they sit, rather than what they DO…then the priorities are already clearly backwards.

      They're already "clericalized" by the fact of doing the readings. At that point, everything else should "match."

  5. This cradle Catholic certainly agrees with the positive impressions quoted above. I am convinced that many, many others will as well, and that the Anglican Use liturgy will have a profound and lasting effect on the Roman Mass in English. It's like the Anglophone world has been set out with beautiful but ill-fitting clothes for decades, and then suddenly here comes a liturgy that fits all of our subtle sensibilities like a perfectly tailored suit.

    There's a Book of Divine Worship and a DVD currently on my shelf—perhaps it would be good to donate them to the local diocesan Seminary to get them into the hands of young priests.

    1. Agreed, Claudio. Last night, a small group of us formed a schola to sing a Mass for the feast of Our Lady of the Atonement at the local Society of the Atonement chapel (we were a day behind because the chapel is closed on Mondays). We sang two hymns composed for the feast as processional and recessional, and the minor propers for the feast that were recently published on the web site of the Anglican Use Society. There were many favorable comments: "It was like being at a monastery!", "Can we have them sing here more often?", and "It was the best Novus Ordo Mass I've ever been to!". A little patrimony goes a long way! (Not to mention the dynamite homily on the meaning of Atonement by Fr. Jerry DiGiralmo, SA.)

      1. Novus Ordo? Seriously? It was so different from the Mass of Paul VI. Had they known how old the Anglican Use Mass was, I wonder if it would be like vegans/vegetarians finding out that they're eating some fine, delicious, uncooked meat in their salad.

  6. An Anglican Lay Reader should not be confused with someone holding the now abolished minor order of Lector in the Catholic church. A Lay Reader is a lay person licensed by an Anglican bishop to read the Offices, preach, conduct funerals, etc. and can carry out these functions with or without a priest present. One could argue that special vesture is appropriate to someone leading a service. The Catholic church however should be careful to distinguish between those in orders and those carrying out lay ministry.

    1. But the essence of "clergy" is, at root, being deputized to minister (especially: liturgically) publicly. This is all "ordination" ultimately is. A "lay minister" is basically a paradox (except that the "clergy" have been essentialized as a canonical class rather than a liturgical role). If you are a public act-or in liturgy, you are doing something "clerical" and should dress and act accordingly.

  7. The Anglican Lay Reader is a position that evolved from that of the Parish Clerk, which was a person in minor orders or the subdiaconate who assisted the parish priest or curate with carrying out the liturgy, by reading the epistle and the bidding prayers, for example. The Parish Clerk is an ancient office in the Western Church, which fell out of use in the Catholic Church with the demise of the minor orders outside of seminaries. There are parish clerks in England to the present day.

    The lay ministries of Lector and Acolyte can be conferred on a person by the diocesan bishop or by the person's ordinary (for example the major superior of a religious house). While the wider Latin Church has yet to confer these ministries on people unless they are destined for holy orders, that was not the purpose of them; perhaps the Ordinaries could begin instituting men into these ministries in the parishes of the Ordinariate, and thus recapture something of the utility that the Parish Clerk/Lay Reader provided in Anglican history. Especially if deputed to lead the daily office and to preach (or read homilies), this would provide even more hands for the harvest, helping with evangelization and preparation for establishing parishes, etc.

  8. I think that the purpose of the Ordinariates is to preserve Anglican customs that are deemed worthy of preservation, not to introduce new customs through a back door into the Catholic church.

    1. You think? You are CORRECT, sir!

      It's a little bit sneaky of the Pope to re-introduce something so ancient and good and forgotten that it -seems- new. But it has always been a part of our Catholic heritage.

      1. Some lectors in Catholic Europe have similar duties to the parish clerks of the CofE, including preaching and leading the offices. Some wear cassock and surplice and some don't.

        In more recent years (in Austria and Switzerland) there has been some concern that these lay preachers are introducing "unorthodox" teachings of one kind or another, or are blurring the distinction between the laity and the ordained clergy. However, these licensed preachers are still being used.

        In the vast "underground" Church here in America and elsewhere lay preachers and "ministers of the Word" are still very common.

  9. Here at the Fellowship of Bl. J.H. Newman, in Victoria, BC we never replace the minor propers with hymns. They are always chanted and are never omitted.

  10. Sorry for my poor english. I'm brazilian and two weeks ago my wife, my daugther and I went at Sodality of Annunciation, in Ottawa, to attend the Holly Mass. I loved the Anglican Use and it was surprising for me the richness of hymns.

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