Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Churchgoing circa 1900


The usual Anglo-Catholic parochial thing of Sung Mass on ordinary Sundays, and Solemn High on special occasions.
All these years I never knew that. Because Good Shepherd, Rosemont and St. Clement's, Philadelphia had and have High Mass (Solemn High) every Sunday, which is supposed to be the Roman Rite norm.

So my Catholic parish having Sung Mass (with modified ceremonies of High Mass, allowed by indult) on Sundays is historically normal.

As I understand it, some Sunday habits of Catholics around 100 years ago, which Anglo-Catholics imitated:

The very devout going to Communion or those who wanted to get their obligation over with quickly, Communion or not, would go to the early Low Mass. Or the pious would go to Communion given by a priest in cotta and stole from the tabernacle between Masses. Mary Mags, Oxford (Anglican) used to list "Mass and Holy Communion," reflecting an old distinction related to this practice, because for continental Catholics, Communion apart from Mass was normal. Also normal: infrequent Communion. The devout would go home and have breakfast, then go BACK to church for Sung or High Mass, which had the (longish?) sermon and was non-communicating for the laity. Then the fervent would go back home for lunch and some rest and wholesome recreation, and then return to church AGAIN that evening for Sunday Vespers (attendance at which was once taken as seriously as for Sunday Mass) with Benediction. Wow! Now that's a liturgical life, comparable to devout Russian Orthodox going to Vigil (Vespers + Lauds + Prime) for 2+ hours Saturday night so they could confess and commune at the 2-hour Divine Liturgy Sunday morning. Radio, movies, and finally TV killed Sunday-night church for Catholics, Anglicans, and others, but the Archdiocese of Philadelphia still had its rule on the books until about 10 years ago requiring parishes to have Sunday Vespers, long not enforced. (One convent in the city, the Convent of Divine Love, or "the Pink Sisters," has public "reformed" offices including Vespers with Benediction.)

I can imagine ordinary Anglicans back then doing something similar: the pious going to 8 o'clock Communion, then to Choral Morning Prayer (Matins) with the big sermon (the main service half the time when I was a kid), then back to church for Evening Prayer (choral: Evensong).
Around my way the old regime was 8am Holy Communion once a month; then back for Matins or non-communicating High Mass — depending on churchmanship — at 11am; then back again for Evening Prayer at 6.30pm if one was really devout. Some folks though would go to early celebration and Evensong every Sunday. Generally, Tractarian-influenced parishes had 8am and 11.45am Low Masses (they would not have used that term) bracketing 10.30am Matins. Anglo-Catholic parishes would have been more like 7.30am MP; 8am and 9am Low Mass 10.30am or 11am Sung/High Mass, or 8am and 9am Low Mass; Sung Matins at 10am and 11.15am Sung/High Mass. Pretty much everyone had EP at 6pm or 6.30pm. The big problem for the Anglican Liturgical Movement was how to make HC the main service without alienating the MP folks.
"The big problem for the Anglican Liturgical Movement was how to make HC the main service without alienating the MP folks." You have the Episcopal Church's fashionable high-churchification starting in the '30s, thanks in part to Anglo-Catholicism's power then but the mainstream parish version WASN'T really Anglo-Catholic. I guess the Parish Communion movement was like that or part of it, a watered-down Catholic practice minus the Catholic beliefs. Then I think in the Sixties, because Vatican II made Catholics cool for a while and because ecumenism was otherwise fashionable, you had a continuation of that high-churchification plus imitating the Novus Ordo: guitar services and the trial liturgies in England and America leading up to the 1979 Episcopal Prayer Book and Alternative Services Book, now Common Worship. As a kid I took it all at face value, thinking we were about to come back to Catholicism, so women's ordination felt like a sucker punch.

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