English Baroque

(S. Timothy's, Ft. Worth)

On the latest post about Bl. John's on the New Liturgical Movement, some of the commenters ask why some of us in the Anglican Use (particularly in the Ordinariates, as opposed to the couple diocesan parishes) use "Roman" vestments instead of something supposedly "Anglican."

The assumption is, of course, that anything Baroque cannot be English, as opposed to Gothic which is. This is more of an American assumption it should be noted. Very few Anglicans or Ordinariate Catholics in England share this assumption, in my experience.

But there is a very fine and long history of English Baroque, which was revived and updated following the Oxford Movement, known today as the Ritualist Movement. In the Church of England (and elsewhere too), the revival of the Baroque was indeed to demonstrate liturgically the ecclesiology: that Roman Catholicism was the true form of the faith. This produced the fine heritage of Anglo-Papalists who followed the Oxford Movement in those early days in seeking corporate reunion with the Church, today fulfilled in the Ordinariates.

Without the English Baroque, I would argue, we would not have the Ordinariates today. The Gothic - with many fine counter-examples, largely did not do this. Notice that the majority of the bishops and hierarchy who composed and led the "groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately" were in fact men who wore lace, fiddlebacks, and who were Anglo-Papalists.

A point that I feel must be repeated again and again is that liturgy is important because it is the greatest living expression of our theology. And this, of course, includes the associated ritual, architecture, vestments, and even culture surrounding it. Thus, for many of us, the English Baroque is more than just "aping Rome" for we are now Roman, though we continue our Anglican heritage in full communion.

The Baroque tradition is being continued, and furthered, by many of us in the Ordinariates not only to honor and continue our heritage from the Ritualist Movement, but also to demonstrate that the English Baroque has evolved from merely expressing confidence in the Roman Catholic faith by Anglicans to Roman Catholics expressing confidence in the Anglican patrimony. The English Baroque's first revival was about Catholic Anglicans seeking fulfillment to their religion; the English Baroque's second revival is about Anglican (Use) Catholics expressing that fulfillment in a unique Anglican ritual. That ritual goes forth into the future, lighting the way for generations of Anglican Use Catholics to come.

Similar to the English Gothic ritual, outlined best by Percy Dearmer's Parson's Handbook, the English Baroque ritual, outlined best by E.C.R. Lamburn's Ritual Notes, also draws from the Sarum Use in some respects - not "aping" Trent per se. But many of the stylistic and ritualistic differences from the Parson's Handbook found in Ritual Notes are indeed supplemented by and modeled on what we now call the Extraordinary Form. But there are many differences, which appear subtle to the casual observer, from this type of Anglican Use ritual and that of the Extraordinary Form which causes some irritated reactions and requests that we start being "more Anglican."

This is as authentically "advanced" Anglican Use as one can get. The English Baroque is, in my opinion, the highest and most excellent way in which to ritualistically celebrate this Use of the Roman Rite. The subtle differences and the toned-down simplicity of the English Baroque (as opposed to certain Continental Baroque varieties - much less full-on Rococo that many mistake it to be) are characteristics which make it the attractive and special form of ritualism it is today.

Those who mistake Dearmer - or whatever else - to be the truest form of "Anglican" ritual simply do not know their history and should be challenged to define just what "Anglican" really means. I always remember the wise words of Fr Hunwicke: "The sooner that 'Anglicanism' is shovelled into the trash-can of History, the better." Now arguing for the most beautiful, most excellent, and highest form of "Anglican" ritual - that makes sense.

The adjective, "Anglican" for liturgy (or "Anglicanism" for doctrine), is simply what Anglicans have done (for better or worse). This is something that the Holy Father providentially recognized as he wrote in Anglicanorum coetibus, making sure that only those elements from our heritage which are consistent with the Catholic faith are brought with us.

Ritualist parishes in the American Ordinariate, to my knowledge, are:

Bl. John Henry Newman Fellowship, Victoria

Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore

S. Timothy's, Ft. Worth

S. John the Evangelist, Calgary

Bl. John Henry Newman Catholic Church, Orange County


UK Ordinariate Updates

US and AUS Ordinariate Updates