Christopher Howse–A Roman Catholic Mass, with words by Thomas Cranmer

Something extraordinary is happening in English churches. Imagine you arrived at an unfamiliar church just as the service was starting and you heard: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid”¦” Right, you’d think, CofE, Book of Common Prayer.

But this is the beginning of a Catholic Mass, a Roman Catholic Mass. It is a liturgy approved by the Pope, and it takes lumps of the Holy Communion service from the 1662 Prayer Book. I find the general effect pleasing but distinctly unsettling.

Two questions arise, depending on the direction from which one is coming. A member of the Church of England might wonder why Catholics should want to use the Book of Common Prayer compiled by Archbishop Cranmer (pictured here in 1546). A Catholic might ask: but is it the Mass?

Read it all.


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2 comments on “Christopher Howse–A Roman Catholic Mass, with words by Thomas Cranmer

  1. Dan Crawford says:

    The best of Cranmer’s prayers were translations of the Catholic Sarum Rite Latin Prayers. What goes round comes round.

  2. MichaelA says:

    Really? I don’t think that can be fairly said even of the 1549 service:

    “The office of 1549 occupies twenty-three closely-printed pages at the end of Mr. Maskellʼs Ê»Ancient Liturgies of the Church of England,ʼ and of these not above two pages are to be found in the Sarum Missal.” [M. F. Sadler, “the Church and the Age” p 305]

    “The canon [of Sarum] is so mutilated that only here and there do the words in the two books agree.” [E. E. Estcourt, ”Dogmatic Teaching of the Book of Common Prayer on the Eucharist” p 40)

    “Thus the time was ripe [in 1549]. The English Bible was in people’s hands; many were dissatisfied with the old services both because they had become complicated and burdensome and because they contained things which are now admitted to have been superstitious and untrue.” [“Everyman’s history of the Book of Common Prayer”, P Dearmer, p 50]

    Further, many even of those commonalities that were present in the 1549 book disappeared or were reduced in the following versions.

    The Reformers drew a great deal on many liturgies that preceded them – Cranmer in particular had a masterful knowledge of liturgy and sought to both preserve that which was good from the past, yet also to bring it into line with apostolic teaching on worship. It is therefore not surprising that elements of many prior services can be found in the BCP.