I woke up this morning to a great clarity of thinking about my project of a Sarum Gathering. Once I get a core group established and we begin work on the academic side, thought will have to be given to the event itself. Nearer the time, I will ask for registrations, and based on numbers, I would need to find the most suitable venue in Normandy or southern England. Yes, the place is important even if Canadians and Americans have to do the travelling.
As has been suggested, it would be possible to put on a kind of summer university to study the Use of Sarum like the Ecclesiological Society. Somehow, there is a nagging thought: Sarum is not simply a monument of history that has no relevance to us other than as historians. Sarum to me represents a way of living the Catholic ideal that disappeared with the Reformation in England and with the Revolution in France. Traditional (as opposed to traditional-ist) Catholicism was destroyed by the absolute power of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, just as traditional farming, arts and crafts were annihilated by nineteenth century industry and capitalism. This theme brings me right back to the appeal of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Arts and Crafts and William Morris. It hit me like a hammer over the head! The Counter-Reformation Church with its rubricism and legalism, and its hermeneutic of continuity in the post Vatican II mess, is to Catholicism what the Industrial Revolution was to traditional rural life. Truly, modern parishes have, at least to me, the appeal of the dark satanic mills of William Blake. This gave me the key to the spirit I am trying to impart. It isn’t about a rite, but about a Catholic life that has been swept away by mechanisation and legalism.
I believe we can approach religion in the same way those nineteenth-century movements approached human work and art. Western churches like Rome and the Church of England have sought to become relevant to man as he has been formed by capitalism and mechanisation. A healthy society is one in which man has his dignity as an artist and creator. Society is at a human level and persons mean something. The Church has not only alienated farmers and craftsmen, but even the factory workers for whom it claimed to seek relevance. As crafts people take pleasure in their work, there is a certain pleasure to be found in the Church’s liturgy and the life of the parish. Even in the penitential season of Lent, the beauty of the liturgy, like a fine claret, warms the heart of man.
I believe this is a way by which religion can once again become relevant to us all. As persons, we take our place in the liturgical action, and the Church as an impersonal machine loses its meaning with its notion of authority and law. Man finds security in small and intimate communities, and in this, something like the Anglican Catholic Church has more relevance than a modern Roman Catholic diocese and its bureaucracy.
I would certainly like to do further study on this essential keystone, which is eminently pastoral. Seen through this tint of glass, I believe that the rest of our studies of traditional Catholicism and its liturgy will take on a whole new value and relevance. I am also profoundly democratic in my ideas, like the movements that sought to bring great music out of the elitist concert halls to the streets, for example Les Six in Paris between the wars. The spirit of the Goliards seemed to have subsisted a little longer in France. It is still to be found here and there in Paris and the countryside. This aspect also needs to be developed.
I am in contact with some men who I believe share this spirit. They seem not to be addicted to “ecclesiastical authority” and being “in the true church” as some others might feel inclined to be. The Church is a mystery far above human institutions great and small. At one time, one could navigate “between the cracks” and live as human beings do with laws and “getting on” in society. It is a particularly European notion of law and society unlike England and Germany where people form perfectly straight queues and obey the law to the letter merely because it comes from authority.
I am under no illusion about the medieval Church. They had feudalism and the Inquisition, but they don’t seem to have be an all-invasive as modern bureaucracy and the management spirit.
We certainly need a high standard of scholarship to give us credibility and take the emphasis off clericalism and institutionalism. We also need to be Christians and live the liturgy, not as a museum or pageant, but our life-blood like monks in their communities – Nihil operi Dei praeponatur. If this kind of strength is found at the centre of this initiative, it would influence others who attend sessions and gatherings, such as the one we would like to get going in 2015. This is the spirit I am trying to promote, and which will give cohesion to our practical strategy for organising and financing something for August 2015.
This time, here on the blog, let’s forget about practical organisation and “sign me up”. We need to be working on ideas and philosophies, the fundamental inspiration, then the event might actually make a difference.