5 July 2009

Newman and the Prayer Book

In his 1848 novel Loss and Gain, the soon-to-be-beatified John Henry Newman mercilessly satirises all non-conformity, Evangelicalism, and vacuous ritualism. He does not criticise solid old-style Anglicanism (although one can easily discern a hermeneutic of its inadequacy).

In Chapter 8, the Misses Bolton, "very Catholic girls", have just been discussing the religious vocation with two rather handsome young ritualists; the discussion has manifestly been little other than a cover for flirtation. When they get home, their mother bursts out "Catholic, Catholic? give me good old George the Third and the Protestant religion. Those were the times! ... I value the Prayer Book as you cannot do, for I have known what it is to one in deep affliction. May it be long, dearest girls, before you know it in a similar way; but if affliction comes on you, depend on it, all these new fancies and fashions will vanish from you like the wind, and the good old Prayer Book alone will stand you in any stead. Come my dears; I have spoken too seriously. Go and take your things off, and come and let us have some quiet work before luncheon time".

One old Anglican custom was to learn the week's collect each week. Since nearly all of these are, of course, translated from the ancient Roman sacramentaries, this was a way of tapping into and being fed by an ancient and deeply orthodox euchological tradition.

No sane Roman Catholic would have learned the ICEL translations of these collects off by heart. But, with the new translation imminent (assuming the ineffable Trautmann does not succeed in spinning the authorisation process out into the next pontificate but one), Catholics will have a set of texts which could indeed be so treated. Indeed, Liturgiam authenticam sees the provision of sound translations, and a period of stability, as being an important cultural opportunity for liturgical formulae to become a nutrient part of the spirituality of the Catholic worshipper.

(I think the obvious place for the beatification is the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. The proceedings more or less write themselves: the Holy Father could be given by diploma an honorary degree; the Proctors could take the suffrages of the Regent Masters; and then the new beatus could be proclaimed. Chancellor and Pontiff could then be led by the bedells either to Newman's church of our Lady, or to the Chapel of Cardinal College, where another great Servant of God, Newman's friend Pusey, is buried, for the Mass. S Stephen's House could provide the servers. S Thomas's could provide the vestments.)

1 comment:

Sue Sims said...

Father! The good Bishop of Erie is always known as 'Trautperson'.