Catholic in the Ozarks on English Catholicism

Shane Shaetzel has another great post over at Catholic in the Ozarks on the The Rise of English Catholicism

As is pointed out here, what we have embodied in the Ordinariates and Divine Worship is the authentic Anglican Patrimony as restored English Catholicism, as it has developed from the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury until now. It is, in a very real sense, the heritage of every English-speaking Catholic in the world. This may sound strange to some, but its not so foreign when we consider how much the Anglican Patrimony already plays into Catholicism in the English-speaking world, even outside the Ordinariates. For example; when we pray the Lord’s Prayer during the vernacular English Novus Ordo mass, this is how it’s commonly said or chanted…

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Take note of the Sacred English words “art” and “thy.” It’s exactly the same in Divine Worship. How very interesting that Rome saw fit to translate the Lord’s Prayer into Sacred English, even in the 1970s vernacular translation that uses Common English (or “modern” English). I mean, think about it. The words “art” and “thy” appear nowhere else in the English vernacular Novus Ordo mass. They only appear in this prayer, and that’s because it’s an appeal to our linguistic history and heritage — our Anglican Patrimony. English-speaking Catholics have been using Sacred English for this prayer, straight out of the Anglican prayerbooks, officially in the mass, ever since the vernacular English translation was commissioned in the 1970s.

However, it’s been going on a lot longer than that — unofficially. Pick up just about any copy of the Daily Roman Missal 1962 and what you’ll find is the old Tridentine mass officially in Latin on one side of the page, translated unofficially into Sacred English (not Common English) on the other side of the page. For decades prior to the Novus Ordo mass, English-speaking (Anglophone) Catholics learnt the “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and “Glory Be,” and scores of other prayers in Sacred English. The same is true of the first English translations of the Catholic Bible. I’m speaking specifically of the Douay-Rheims Bible, which is entirely in Sacred English, just like the Anglican King James Version. In fact all English Bibles, produced in previous centuries, used some variation of Sacred English, commonly found in Anglican prayer books, because that was THE standard for all English religious text. Every English-speaker knows this deep down inside. Sacred English is the language of poetry, music and theatre. It always has been. It is our most treasured vernacular, because it represents the highest and most precise diction the language has to offer. We offer God only our best, and that is why it’s called Sacred English, or as the Anglicans sometimes say “Prayerbook English.”

Go on over and read the whole thing!

6 thoughts on “Catholic in the Ozarks on English Catholicism

  1. This is a superficial take on the subject. The second person singular “thee” and its verb forms were not “sacred” at the time the BCP was written, as any reader of Shakespeare knows. If this form became fossilized in religious texts, it does not confer some special sacredness on it. To say it “always has been” the language of poetry, music, and theatre is just inaccurate. I will cite T.S Eliot, Benjamin Britten, and Christopher Fry just for starters. Despite the historical importance of the Douay Rheims Bible I think most contemporary readers would be unimpressed. “And God said: Be light made…And it was so done” We’re so done with that.


  2. I have just the opportunity to read not only this contribution but others here. The quality and substance are excellent. Its a pleasure to read constructive and thoughtful commentary about these issues. so often blogs descend into complaints and negative if not useless exchanges. I am grateful to those who contribute here. Well done.
    I lack the theological knowledge to be a useful contributor here. With respect to this section, its so very true. Years back when Rome first wanted to introduce vernacular liturgy, some suggested they should just make small changes to the BPC to correct the errors in the canon for the Eucharist, That did not happen. But we now have the Ordinariate liturgy which really does that.
    Some of us have longed to see the prayer of humble access and other prayers in the BPC become part of Catholic liturgy. We have that now.
    Again thanks to Shane, Deborah and the others who spend their time so thoughtfully here.
    By way of identification, I was one of the founders of the Anglican Use Society and its president for a number of years.


  3. First, Shane is right about Sacred English being an important element of English Catholicism. But it is far from the only one. Yes, the liturgy (if it is not to be said in Latin) should be said in a sacral, hieratic form of language – either a separate liturgical language, or a distinct, higher liturgical dialect of the usual vernacular. For reasons why, see this document from the Benedict XVI-era Vatican. Indeed, almost all liturgical traditions, within Christianity and beyond, accept this principle. Orthodox worship does not use (or did not until very recently) modern Greek or Russian, but Koine / Attic Greek and Old Slavonic. Orthodox Jewish worship doesn’t use modern Israeli Hebrew (and kept using classical Hebrew even when the vernacular language of the Jewish community was Aramaic or Yiddish or Ladino). Hindu worship uses Sanskrit, not Hindi. In English, the language of the BCP and the KJV is our sacred vernacular, and this is recognized well beyond the bounds of the Anglican communion (as evidenced by the common translation of the Our Father Shane discusses), even if it was better preserved in the Anglican Prayer Book tradition than in most other corners of the English-speaking Church. Therefore, one of the gifts the Ordinariate brings to the Catholic Church in the English speaking world is the opportunity to experience worship in the sacred vernacular, just as Summorum Pontificum and the Ecclesia Dei communities give Catholics the opportunity to experience worship in the Catholic Church’s universal sacred language of Latin.

    But English Catholicism is about much, much more than the use of Sacred English. It is about the prayer book form of the daily office, both for private devotion and public celebration of Mattins and Evensong. It is about sacred music, including both the English choral and chant traditions of Byrd, Tallis, and Merbecke, and the later flourishing of English hymnody under the likes of J.M. Neale, Dearmer, and Vaughan Williams. It is about a patristic approach to theology and scholarship flowing out of Oxford and Cambridge. It is about the English medieval mystical tradition of Julian of Norwich, the Cloud of Unknowing, etc., later appropriated by Anglicans and Catholics alike.

    It is also wrong to say, as Shane does, that English Catholicism “hasn’t existed since the 16th century.” If English Catholicism was simply about reviving something that had died out 500 years ago, there would be little point to it. It would be like trying to revive the North African Catholicism of St. Augustine’s day. The point is English Catholicism continued to exist, but in a broken, fragmented, often hidden state, within both High Church Anglicanism and recusant English Roman Catholicism, and that Anglicans and Catholics have continued to find much good in the English Catholic tradition that has nurtured their faith. The Ordinariate should be an effort to revive English Catholicism in its fullness, bringing together all of its strands and applying them to the mission of the Church today. That may begin with the Divine Worship form of liturgy and the use of Sacred English, but it would be a real shame if it stops there.


  4. Pingback: Mark C. responds to Shane on English Catholicism | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  5. With respect to the translation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Roman Missal for the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, the situation actually is again much more complex than meets the eye. Yes, there is a history here!

    >> After the Second Vatican Council, there was a gradual introduction of English into the mass — initially for prayers that were familiar to the people because they also appear in devotions such as the rosary and in the dialogs. The initial translations were simply the texts in widespread use or direct translations of the Latin text.

    >> When the revised missal came into effect in 1969, there was a revised translation to incorporate modifications to some of the prayers. Also, in a spirit of ecumenism, the magisterium decided to use English translations of “Prayers We Have in Common” (published in a booklet with that title) that had been prepared by an ecumenical organization called the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), even when such texts were not exact translations of the Latin text in the typical edition. However, fearing too much change, the magisterium decided to retain the previous translation of the Lord’s Prayer and to defer adoption of the ICET translation to a later date (which never happened).

    >> When Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the third typical edition of the revised missal, the “conservative” faction that was in control decided to abandon the ICET translations in favor of translations that were more faithful to the Latin text. In many cases, these are the same translations that were used in the interim period. And, once again, the translation of the Lord’s Prayer was not revised. This decision does seem to be a major step backward for ecumenism — but, in the Catholic Church, the magisterium is in charge!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s