How are we different?

What does it mean that you’re “Anglican Use?” Why are you different?”

Sometimes, people are thrown by the old-fashioned phrase, “Anglican Use.”  What does it mean? It simply means, the liturgy celebrated in the way Anglicans are accustomed to — are USED to, as we would say. This is an old-fashioned English phrase.

Sometimes, people are surprised by the notion that a congregation could be Catholic, yet not be using the liturgy with which most other Catholics are familiar. But, there has NEVER been just one liturgy for the whole Catholic Church. From the very beginning, different cities became centers of Christian life in the ancient world, and the customs of distinct liturgies grew up differently in various places.

There are, for example, the Eastern Rites of the Church. In cities such as Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, fully developed liturgies emerged, every bit as venerable as the Roman liturgy. The Roman liturgy spread throughout the west, but the eastern rites held sway in the east; here in America one often runs across Eastern Orthodox churches which are not in communion with the Pope, yet use these eastern liturgies, and also Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, fully in communion with the Pope and yet using the eastern liturgies daily. Every morning millions of Catholics stand before the altar and offer the Eucharist in rites different from the Roman Liturgy used by the Pope and most Catholics in our country.

Even in the western church, where the Latin Rite or Roman Rite held sway, there were variations. In France there were the Gallican Rites, basically the Roman Rite but with many changes, a different calendar of feasts, etc. The Archdiocese of Lyons, for example, had its own missal or Mass book up to modern times. In England in the Middle Ages there were no fewer than five “Uses,” five variations on the basic Roman Rite: the Sarum Use, the York Use, the Hereford, Bangor, and Lincoln Uses.

So, there has never been complete uniformity of worship within the Catholic Church — nothing like it. Today, the Roman Rite with which most Catholics are familiar is one of almost twenty different rites of the Church, each of which is equal in dignity with the Roman Rite. In the variety of the worship of these rites the Church believes that God is glorified as the heritage of piety of different places is preserved.

Anglican Use exists as a privilege granted by the Holy See. At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers openly deplored the scandal of disunity among the Christians, and expressed longing for the unity which was our Lord’s prayer for His followers on the night he was betrayed. The Council Fathers also taught that there were genuine helps to salvation, authentically graced structures within the life of Christian communities not in communion with the Catholic Church, and that in the future reunion of Christendom it would be possible for “worthy elements of the patrimonies of piety” of these other Christian bodies to find a home in, and enrich, the Catholic Church.

The Anglican Use in the Catholic Church is a modest step towards realizing that ideal.

After the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England, when the life of the Anglican Church settled down to an uninterrupted routine, the church’s life was regulated by the Book of Common Prayer. Like the King James Bible, its richness of language permeated and enriched English wherever it was spoken. The Prayer Book provided for an uninterrupted round of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Eucharist as the pattern of the Church’s praise. While the ideal was often not realized, it was there, set forth in the Prayer Book. The devout used it faithfully in their devotions.

Since the St. Gregory the Great Community started worshipping with us in 2018, we now use Divine Worship: The Missal at every Mass. Quoting from the website of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, “Drawn from various Anglican sources and the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, the new missal is an authoritative adaptation of the Roman Rite. … The formal establishment of a missal that uses the great poetic language of the Anglican heritage is a nod to the gift the Ordinariate communities are being asked to pass on to their members and to the entire Catholic Church. Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution that gave a path for Anglican groups to become Catholic, asked the Ordinariates to maintain “elements of their liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions” as a “treasure to be shared” with the wider Church.”

The psalms and canticles of the Prayer Book inspired a wealth of great music, not the least being the wonderful treasury of English hymnody. Anglican hymns, like the traditional hymns of the Roman Liturgy found in the Divine Office, are deeply Scriptural and liturgical — in an Anglican Church you would not be surprised, on a Feast like Feb. 2nd, the Presentation, to find yourself singing two or three hymns written especially to commemorate the feast.

You would find, as well, an entirely different approach to the hymns. Each hymn is an act of worship in itself; it is sung in its entirety, and prayed as it is being sung — it is never used as a mere “filler” to cover something else going on. In fact, in Anglican worship there is a deliberate quality to everything. The hymns are chosen with care, to augment the feast or complement the readings; the rite is celebrated with care, unhurried, with reverence, so that we can be nourished by the liturgy as the Church would wish. The vestments and the sacred vessel are of the best possible quality. Sacred Scripture, as one would expect given the history of the Anglican tradition, had a central place in Anglican worship and piety, and the preaching of the Word of God is emphasized.

None of these characteristics of our worship in the Anglican Use is foreign to the Roman Rite at all. However, since historically the Anglican Tradition developed an unusually rich tradition of worship within the context of smaller parish communities than was usual in Roman Catholic parishes, what a visitor typically will notice is that the worship of an Anglican Use congregation is more deliberate, unhurried, marked by enthusiastic congregational participation. The fullest use of the rites, of incense, and other expressions of prayer help the worshipping community enter into the liturgy. The congregation’s sense of itself as a family finds expression in the full joining by everyone in the liturgy, and afterward — well, it wouldn’t be Anglican without the coffee hour!

How are we different?

Certainly not in Faith, from our fellow Roman Catholics! What we have is a heritage which celebrates the same inheritance all Catholics possess; but we celebrate a bit differently. It takes us a bit longer, it’s true; and there’s a good bit of smoke, and lots of bells. And there’s lots of joy, too — the joy of the Gospel! Come, and join us for Mass!! Find out what we’re really all about!

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • I’m a Roman Catholic. Can I receive Communion and fulfill my Mass obligation at St. Athanasius?  Yes.  Although its form is slightly different.
  • What liturgy does St. Athanasius use? St. Athanasius uses the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite as given in the Book of Divine Worship.
  • What’s unique? Eastward celebration, Genuflection, Signs of the Cross, Music.

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