Sunday, 29 March 2015

Making a difference...

I've been called many things over the years; nutcase, insane, fanatic, most recently "gratuitously nasty," not to mention all the abuse to which I have oft been subjected on account of my appearance, and to each of them there is a degree of truth (albeit I would contend with the word gratuitous). Even so, as Frodo counselled Gollum on the stairs of Cirith Ungol:

"'Don't take names to yourself, Sméagol,' said Frodo. 'It's unwise, whether they are true or false." (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter VIII).

Sympathetic readers have even called me a "fool for Christ," or holy fool. Well, this old sinner is flattered by that but I am conscious enough of my own sins of neglect, sloth, wrath and lust to ware of that too. I have, however, consciously endeavoured to make a difference to people's lives and to change their perception of liturgy. In two cases (in present recollection), I have been successful (see here and here). But in most, I have failed. And the reasons for that are obvious.

Liturgy was, until recently, an unfashionable subject. Its practitioners, men like Ronald Silk, Quentin Montgomery-Wright, Mgr Gilbey in his way, and in our own time Rubricarius and Anthony Chadwick, are seen as eccentric and unreasonable, and so long as you keep their kind of liturgical practices in the dark, in a ghetto, the neo-con traddies can happily go on with their votive masses of the Sacred Heart and rosaries recited before a monstrance and treat the "eccentrics" with contempt and suspicion. As Goliath denounced David with lofty disdain so the conventionally wise traditionalist crowd usually laughs in scorn at me and my ideals, and, for my sins, I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of the shoes of any of these great men aforesaid. And in this liturgical ghetto of far-sundered nobodies, because we none of us have the wherewithal and support of the "greats" of Traddieland (I won't name names, but you know who I mean), we stagger on amidst taunts, raspberries, cries of "heresy" and other abuse and enjoying the malefits of our adherence to Tradition and reverence for the Roman Rite. We are proscribed, persecuted and systematically excluded from the debates of our age because our views are irrelevant, our time is at an end.

In my case, my critics are disingenuous. They know in their hearts that my words are those of a true seer but they can't admit this openly because to do so would be to dismantle the Babel Tower around the bishop of Rome they have so carefully constructed and in which the cult of the infallible pope is enshrined. The fact that you can't have Tradition and an infallible magisterium simultaneously (at least under the present conditions) puts them out of reckoning, and the notion that liturgical orthopraxis can be practised in spite of Rome, without deference to Rome (let Rome look to us and learn, not the other way around) is an abomination. And so they make recourse to a kind of cynical self-censorship; they say among themselves, "what Patricius says is wrong and nobody should listen to him," but also, "and nobody does listen to him," and then add "because he is autistic and liturgical minutiae fills some psychological vacuum."

But it takes an aliturgical critic to say this. I say aliturgical because not only is liturgy secondary to modern traditionalists, most of whom have become doctrinal conservatives with a mere preference for the "extraordinary form," but they would even sacrifice what is good and venerable in liturgical tradition for a sense of concord with modern Rome; "offering up," in the spirit of that Ignatian axiom "sentire cum ecclesia," what they might privately find distasteful or irksome in the present in hope of better times to come, perhaps under a more sympathetic pope. This is essentially why the traditionalists find no fault with the liturgical books of 1962, even when they are aware of the reformed nature of those (incomplete) books, and why they all welcomed Summorum Pontificum which enshrined them forever. In their view, liturgical orthopraxis is suspect and abject humiliation before the See of Rome is noble; reverence for and adherence to Tradition for itself alone (as one might love spring groves for themselves and less as kindling) is suspicious and yet reverence for the person of the pope and his infallible authority is the very yardstick of orthodoxy. I humbly contend that this is the very state of mind that wrought all the present woe and that trust in modern Rome will, in the end, only confound you.

Tradition is consequently stifled in traddieland because of their attitude to Rome which has taken on the semblance of virtue. Where before traditionalists were in many ways dissident, they have replaced dissidence with a kind of axiomatic, snivelling sycophancy and a willingness to blindly accept any tenth rate rubbish allowed them by Rome. The anonymous Liturgical Pimpernel epitomised this arrogance; the very same who discredited my writings and those of Rubricarius in all ways that he could, presenting real traditionalism (Evelyn Waugh's kind), which I have ever advocated, in the worst possible light. And this stifling means that traddieland bears fruit only in rottenness and deceit! What passes for liturgy and tradition among these lords of the Roman Rite is, for the most part, dismally and meanly hideous. And worse, where there are some traditionalists with more sense (Mr Di Pippo of the New Liturgical Movement springs to mind), who make some effort at liturgical orthopraxis, their efforts are ostensibly hushed up for fear of some stickler for 1962; the propriety of introducing orthopraxis under the aegis of Summorum Pontificum notwithstanding! The similar case of that Midnight Mass from 2010 in my old parish where my services as "straw subdeacon" were curtly declined springs to mind also.

O me miserum! I say with total confidence and conviction that the Roman Rite is incredibly rich, fecund and has the potential to be truly great once more but there are wicked people deliberately holding it back, and they are NOT Fr Joe Blogs down the road with the altar girls and eucharistic prayer II; those idiots are truly irrelevant. I know we're not in the right season for it but the other day I was reading the antient Roman rite for the Blessing of the Waters on Epiphany Even; a service of incredible beauty and symbolism. With my mind's eye I could see the spectral forms of the bishop in cope with his ministers about him; the ninth lesson at Mattins, a procession in great majesty to the river, the litany, the lessons filled with the music of water and seasoned with salt, of thirst quenched and the glory of the LORD, of the mystic rood wherewith God made sweet the water; the procession of the "godfather" (patrinus) with the cross accompanied by twelve taperers to the bishop, the choir singing Baptizat miles regem, servus Dominum suum, as the bishop plunges the cross into the waters hallowed by Christ's sacred feet in antient days. It brings tears to mine eyes. And if this makes me a "liturgical fetishist," or a "nutcase," or gratuitously nasty then I take those names, given in scorn by the Philistines, with pride.

But the bishop in cope, his ministers, the deacon who chants the gospel in which Christ says that he that believeth on me out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, the taperers, the veiled cross, the thurifer, the acolytes, the choir; they remain spectral forms, all of them ghosts of a dead rite and a Tradition stone dead, and kept from reviving by the true enemies of Tradition: the traditionalists.

In the False Kalendar it is Palm Sunday to-day. I shall refer readers to the greater expertise of Rubricarius for an exposition of what Palm Sunday ought to look like.


  1. I think we can make a difference by quiet study and getting on with life and the things we do liturgically in chapel. Everything positive we do makes a difference, especially by "escaping the Matrix" and being ourselves. We can write, compose music, promote dinghy cruising (as I do), whatever floats your boat - everything we dedicate ourselves to.

    We won't feel that we have made any difference, and most of us will die in obscurity, and most of us will be forgotten within 50 years of our deaths. Something will remain if we meant it for the common good or some little contribution to our world. Vivaldi was forgotten and his music was only discovered in Venice in the 20th century. We don't matter. The little we can leave to posterity does, and it won't matter very much to us.

    I can only suggest that degree of detachment, and you will better be able to focus the positive you have in you. I think the old priests you mentioned would have said as much.

  2. A nice comment, Fr Anthony. Here’s a few, I hope, pertinent comments on making a difference, from the Mgr Gilbey recently lionized in this blog:
    “………. so much of our mod¬ern Christianity gives the impression that what we are here for is to put the world right. To make a true contribution to putting the world right, we must first establish the kingdom of God in our own hearts. This primary duty is ours all the time and any effect we have outside ourselves will be either an overflow, a consequence or an instrument of that. The primary province for each of us is not the Third World but our own hearts…… Each of us has a combination of gifts and handi¬caps and tasks to perform which is true of no one else at all. Each man’s vocation is unique and peculiar to himself and he achieves sanctity by trying to fulfill it. It is something solely between himself and Almighty God……. One analogy—not often seen nowadays—is that of peo¬ple making a tapestry sitting on a row of stools, working on the canvas from behind, each of them trying to carry out perfectly the bit of design that is in the space allotted to him. Only confusion ensues if any of them think that the man five stools down is not getting on very fast and goes to help him, to the neglect of his own work. If he has done his own patch, well and good. For that is what he is there to do. If each man does his piece perfectly, when they all go round to the other side the whole design comes to life. But if any of them thinks he can improve or change the pattern he has been given, or thinks he should neglect it to help someone else, he causes nothing but confusion”.
    Doing your part to ensure a worthy liturgy, according to the expertise you have, is all very laudable, but this is purely your “overflow” as Mgr Gilbey puts it. Well, that’s my view, anyway, for what it’s worth. I know you won’t take any offence.

  3. Absolutely, we can't change the world, but we can do what is within reach. As I recently said in private correspondence, one thing scholasticism taught me was to go from the universal to the particular. The biggest problem with liturgy is its ecclesial context.

    The natural setting for the Roman liturgy is Rome, but Rome has become hostile to it. We have a choice of two options, discard the old and accept what's going or find an alternative ecclesial context where the Roman liturgy can subsist with a minimum of compromise. There the choices are WR Orthodoxy (move to the USA), Old (Roman) Catholicism (very few bishops and priests of integrity) and Anglo-Catholicism (my own option but less "pure" than what one might hope for). I am lucky to have had two Bishops (+Hepworth and +Damien Mead) who have tolerated my unofficial use of Sarum.

    I went through conflicts myself. What liturgy goes with what Church? To what extent can one Church assimilate or at least tolerate the liturgy of another Church? Can Churches take "refugees"? This is the whole drama of WR Orthodoxy. This notion (together with a much older fascination and aspiration) brought me to lay the Roman rite aside and adopt Sarum. It is a question for me of coherence and identity. All the same, I have to admit it is all rather fragile. Very few Anglicans use Sarum, but it is our native pre-Reformation tradition.

    As we get older, we see that many of these conflicts cannot be resolved, and we have to take our distance. It isn't easy!

  4. There's another thing I wanted to say. Welcome to Romanticism! Welcome to this new continuation of the entire movement since William Blake. Remember this - genius is 1% talent and 99% grit and hard work. Concentrate your energy into this kind of writing and you will be able to help do something about the Orwellian machine world. Write books! As my old father would say: Just get on with it!