The Tridentine Mass is one of the most beautiful things the Church has at her disposal. For centuries it has been, and remains, the most effective weapon in her arsenal. Ever since I converted in 2017, I’ve admired it from afar, often by watching YouTube videos and reading articles, unable to attend a Tridentine Mass in person since the closest one was over 90 miles south of me. This was what brought me to Rome in the first place, not the mid-20th-century church buildings, felt banners, and Marty Haugen praise music.
When I relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2021, I suddenly had a few options in my backyard. So, I started going to a Low Mass every other Friday after the end of my workday. I have to say, it was everything I expected it to be: peaceful, noble, beautiful, bold, deliberate, and, most importantly, befitting of the One we call the King of Kings.
Here we are now at the start of 2022, bleeding from a couple of heavy hits dealt by the Vatican, starting with Traditionis Custodes in July and continuing in December with the Congregation for Divine Worship’s answers to the 11 dubia questions. It seems the fears of traditional Catholics were confirmed rather than assuaged.
As these events have unfolded, I’ve begun looking with renewed curiosity at the Anglican Use—the Mass celebrated by “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans, more commonly called the Anglican Ordinariates. They are canonical structures set up in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI when he issued Anglicanorum coetibus for Anglicans who wanted to be in full communion with Rome without losing their Anglican patrimony.
This established three Ordinariates in three geographical dioceses that span multiple ordinary dioceses: one in the U.K. (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham), one in North America (the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter), and one that covers Australia and Japan (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross). They celebrate a Mass that borrows heavily from multiple versions of The Book of Common Prayer, including the 1662, 1928, and 1970 versions; all of this was vetted and given Rome’s imprimatur to eventually produce what they now call Divine Worship: The Missal.
Really, this liturgy is stunningly beautiful, and if you haven’t seen it before you should find a way to attend one. If there’s one thing that we might agree the Anglicans have done well, it’s preservation of the liturgy (at least, the “high church” or “Anglo-Catholics” have). I recall the first time I discovered the Anglican Use through a video on YouTube that an Ordinariate parish used for promotional purposes on their website. The priest described their liturgy as “where the sacred meets Elizabethan English.”
Much of what is sacred about the Tridentine Mass is packed into it, but it’s celebrated in English. Not just any English, mind you, but a much more formal English that nowadays is perhaps most commonly heard in recitations of Shakespeare. I think this is consistent with what many traditionalists believe: that God deserves the best we have to offer; and if not Latin, then at least a more beautiful English.
Doesn’t the Roman Canon sounds much more beautiful in the manner below, which is the first paragraph extracted from the Anglican Use rubric:
THEREFORE, most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, and we ask, that thou accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices. WE offer them unto thee, first, for thy holy Catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep her in peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world; together with thy servant N. our Pope, [N., our Bishop] [or N., our Ordinary], and all the faithful guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith.
This is subtle, but the language’s departure from our more vulgar everyday usage is another reminder that we’ve left the profane for the sacred. We’ve crossed that threshold from the secular world into the mystery of Holy Mass.
For a long time, I’ve felt convinced that this is the sort of Mass that was intended to come out of Vatican II, but instead we got something else. It’s been noted that in the immediate aftermath of the council, priests attempted to conform to the new decrees by celebrating the Tridentine Mass in English, before the Mass of Paul VI was established.
So perhaps this is a solution of sorts. Not a surrender, or a compromise, but maybe more of a loophole. Traditionally-minded Catholics can maintain access to a sacred and noble Mass similar to the Tridentine Mass, but because it’s technically not that Rite, it does not violate any guidelines or rules established by Rome. Given what may sadly turn out to be a decreasing number of liturgical options as Church officials potentially choke the life out of the Latin Mass, the Anglican Use Mass may be one way forward.
Bishop Steven Lopes presides over the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Ordinariate here in the United States. He was also recently appointed to chair the Committee for Divine Worship in the USCCB. This might be a unique opportunity for him to at least start the wheels turning in promulgating this wonderful Mass.
Even if it’s not possible to directly transfer the Anglican Use from the Ordinariate to diocesan rubrics, perhaps an option can be created wherein this Mass is laid out as an alternate English-language Novus Ordo. The same way the Tridentine Mass has a Low Mass and a Solemn Mass, perhaps the compromise is to have a “low” and “high” Novus Ordo where the Mass of Paul VI and the Anglican Use exist side by side as two expressions of the same form. After all, they are similar: they’re both Masses of the Roman Rite and they’re said in the vernacular. The rubrics might be a bit different in terms of propers, order, and the orientation of the priest, but that can be attributed to differences between low and high.
Obviously, this would likely still be impossible in places like the Archdiocese of Chicago, where Cardinal Cupich recently wielded the full weight of Traditionis Custodes to crush the Tridentine Mass, and even traditionally-leaning Novus Ordos, into oblivion. But we should still take it where we can get it. I imagine others, like Bishop Strickland in Tyler, Texas, Archbishop Cordileone in San Francisco, and Archbishop Sample in Portland, to name a few, would at least be open to examining it as an option to integrate into their respective dioceses and archdioceses.
It’s not a perfect solution, and I have already seen detractors on both sides, generally from the extreme fringes. Obviously, some modernists dislike it because it’s not the New Mass, and some traditionalists dislike it because it’s not specifically the Tridentine Mass. But my gut tells me that most Catholics would appreciate this sort of Mass for its “third way” approach: it achieves all of the nobility of the Tridentine Mass and the accessibility of the Novus Ordo.
If there just so happens to be any bishops out there—American or not—reading this, I would humbly request that Your Excellencies perhaps consider how the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite might be more broadly executed in diocesan life as a way to spiritually nourish your flock in this post-Traditionis Custodes Church we now find ourselves in.
[Editor’s Note: The term “Anglican Use” is still sometimes used in reference to the liturgy celebrated by the Personal Ordinariates, but the official term for this liturgy is “the Ordinariate Use of the Roman Rite.”]