History of the Classical Liturgical Movement
1. Research on the Continent
2. Pope Saint Pius X
3. Research in England and Wales
4. The Pastoral Current.
It has been said that the Church in England and Wales has never been touched by the Classical Liturgical Movement, as have Belgium, Germany, Austria for example: we have merely enjoyed and undergone occasional liturgical ferments.
This interpretation of history does not do justice to the foundational and pioneering work of the many in the last one hundred and fifty years who have been involved in this project. The lives and work of Edmund Bishop (1846-1917), Dom Hugh Connolly (1873-1948) at Downside Abbey and others in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, together with the later work of the Society of St Gregory as well as fathers James Crichton, Geoffrey Howell, Harold Winstone, and many others too, from 1929 onwards, and more especially from 1940 when james Crichton took over the editorship of the SSG journal, Liturgy – give the lie to the assertion that there has been no Liturgical Movement in England and Wales. The character of the Liturgical Movement in England and Wales has, since 1929 and especially the Vatican Council, become largely a pastoral movement.
Research on the Continent. The liturgical movements in Belgium, Germany, Austria and France indeed had strong academic foundations. Scholars recovered ancient documents and analysed them. Their scholarship paved the way for genuine local liturgical movements supported by bishops, priests and faithful. This academic foundation for such movement was present in England too until the mid twentieth century, and it was appreciated by liturgists on the Continent, as well as the Church of England’s own liturgical revisers. For example, Edmund Bishop’s article on “The Liturgical Altar” in Liturgica Historica inspired Gabriel Hebert SSM to promoting the Parish Communion Movement in the Church of England. Gregory Dix’s work at Nashdom Abbey on initiation and Eucharist was founded on solid research previously carried out on the Continent.
Well known for the Motu proprio on Liturgical Music this pastoral Pope Saint Pius X also allowed Holy Communion to be given before the Sacrament of Confirmation
Research in England & Wales. The research foundations of liturgy provided one current of engagement for the liturgical movement in England and Wales. F.C. Probst (1816-1899) and later Dom L.C. Mohlberg OSB (1878-1963) and others in Germany corresponded with Bishop in the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, and they too used his writings. Dom Lambert Beauduin OSB, (1873-1960) (photo left) came to England in 1915 to preach a retreat at Farnborough Abbey (photo left). Beauduin’s retreat notes of 1915 show his appreciation of Edmund Bishop.
The French monks at Farnborough made a lasting contribution to Liturgical studies. We can mention
Abbot Fernand Cabrol (1855-1937), Dictionnaire d’Archéologie Chétienne et de la
Liturgie. See St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough.
Abbot Fernand Cabrol corresponded with Edmund Bishop, writing to him as “mon cher Edmond”. In the Second World War Fr Pierre-Marie Gy, OP lived in England and, with other French liturgists, Jounel, Boulet, Dom Capelle and A-G. Martimort, came into contact with and appreciated Bishop’s work. We can see evidence of this in the bibliography of the first edition of Aimé-Georges Martimort’s Église en Prière, 1961 (p. 880). All these great continental figures had links with Bishop and in turn they influenced the formation of the text of Vatican II’s document Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy.
The Pastoral current. This affected practice in the parishes and the popular acceptance of the Classical Liturgical Movement in England, paralleling what liturgists on continental Europe and what Michael Marx OSB and Virgil Michel OSB inspired in the USA at Collegeville, and in the years between 1920 and 1950.
Dom Bernard McElligott founded the Society of St Gregory in 1929.
Church architecture, music, catechetical formation all created important dimensions of the English and Welsh liturgical movement. Clifford Howell SJ’s (1902-1981) commitment to social justice is a valuable element in the English Church’s liturgy and life even today.
Mgr James Crichton’s (1907-2001) pastoral writing spread the message of the movement.
Such an academic foundation laid down by researchers, and then its implementation by the pastorally committed, resulted in a genuine renewal and return to the sources, and both poles of the movement need to be valued today.
The visit of HH Pope John Paul II in 1982 familiarised the whole population with the renewed Catholic liturgy.
Fr Edward Yarnold SJ of Campion Hall, Oxford was well known both for his teaching of Liturgy in the Faculty of Theology and his publications.
Nor should the support from the hierarchy, and the value of diocesan liturgical commissions be forgotten. Liturgical renewal has to be built on history and research, and supported by the whole church, rather than be seen merely a reform of what is seen as good taste or aesthetically pleasing.
It should be said too that the effect of the Bishops mandating the use of RCIA in 1988 had a profound effect upon the liturgy. Through this rite, ordinary mass-goers saw what liturgy could be, through participating in the rite of admission of catechumens, the rites of exorcism in Lent and the public celebration of the Easter Vigil.
The state visit by HH Pope Benedict XVI 16-19 September 2010 encouraged those who are implementing and continuing the classical liturgical renewal.
On 13 November 2010, Fr James and Fr Daniel gave the ninth Crichton Memorial lecture, “The Maturing of the Liturgical Renewal in England & Wales” at the AGM of SSG at Ealing Abbey. The text will be published in Liturgy and Music. If you would like a copy of the text please contact us.