Friday, March 31, 2023

Thanks, Father Sam. RIP.

Online Roman Catholic apologists still remind me of rude college kids I knew 35 years ago who, after coming to my Catholic Anglican parish to join me for Evening Prayer and Benediction, made a show of ignoring me, leaning one to another and asking if that was really the sacrament.

In contrast...

I recently looked up someone formative for me in my teens, at the town's most beautiful church, a try at English Gothic. He was from the WASP old school, going back to before World War II. His father was an Episcopal priest too and if I recall rightly he was a boy chorister at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in the glory days of Canon West. Interestingly he left no Internet presence; there is next to nothing about him online, just an obituary saying little. Not a single picture. In a way fitting, as he was self-effacing in his secondhand English (anglophile American, from Massachusetts) way. A bit like C.S. Lewis, not a Catholic Anglican himself but pointing the way; my first high-ish rector. A "gentle man," manifestly holy, quietly so in his blue cassock and his traditional Eucharistic vestments. Sacramental; I dare say a bit mystical. He knew everybody in his little congregation, very Anglican, and many in the wider town. Not right all the time; holy. The opposite of self-righteous apologists. Truth matters, but. People like him, obviously acting in good faith, show how Anglicanism, in its little conservative parish holdouts that formed me, could work, despite its problems. (Full parishes, financially independent, are very autonomous.) I didn't appreciate him enough at the time; the older I get, the more I do.

"Thanks, Father Sam. You mattered." RIP.

Although he sometimes criticized old-school Roman Catholicism, remembering it well, his sacristy included part of my introduction to the traditional Latin Mass; namely, the old manual for the Order of St. Vincent for Episcopal altar boys, the American Missal order of Mass, the first time I read parts of the TLM in translation. I have a copy.

He was the first priest I heard Gregorian-chant the preface at the Eucharist.

I read my psalms and canticles from the old Book of Common Prayer. Before Father Sam, I came from a church that kept it.

I first saw full-fledged "pre-Vatican II" Catholic Anglicanism, birettas and all, when I was 17, at a now-gone New Jersey church; life-changing. Catholic Anglicanism made me.

The Rev. Samuel Edwin Purdy

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