SUNDAY, MARCH 26th, 2006


We come now to the second major phase of the Movement, one of equal importance with the first. Having absorbed this renewed vision of the Church, Ministry and the Sacraments in Oxford, through sermons such as those of Newman at St Mary’s, the University Church, through the Tracts, and not least through spiritual direction from holy priests such as Keble and Pusey, the newly ordained former students took it with them into the parishes.


They were ordained not only for country parishes, where life was still very settled, but also for town parishes in cities growing rapidly as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and especially the poorer parts and the slums of these towns. The enhancement of the worship through ceremonial, colour and music said much to uneducated people. The sacramental sign could speak more strongly than the written word.


Just as important was the personal devotion, holiness of life and pastoral concern of the priests who lead this worship. Worship changed from Morning Prayer to emphasis on Mass and Confession. Belief in the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament lead to ceremonies which gave expression to this belief.


In the 1840’s Dr Pusey offered to pay for a church to be built in a poor part of leeds in Yorkshire, in northern England; the Vicar of Leeds Parish Church, Dr Hook supported the plan.  The church was to be dedicated to the Holy Cross, but the Bishop of Ripon was appalled at such a popish dedication, so the name was changed to St Saviour’s. Even in such a neglected and deprived neighbourhood, changes in the customary worship of the time were suspect. There were the inevitable protests. Yet a wealthy man, Mr Cudworth, was converted by the teaching and worship at St Saviour’s, and as a result he became a generous benefactor of Pusey House in Oxford, which might be called today a sort of Anglo-catholic think-tank.


In Plymouth, Fr G.R.Prynne began a remarkable and sacrificial ministry in 1848. The year before a small community of ‘Sisters of Charity’ had established an orphanage in Devonport in that city, under Dr Pusey’s guidance. Fr Prynne also taught the value of the Sacrament of Penance. Opposition was particularly violent, even from the local clergy. However, Bishop Philpotts, his bishop, supported Fr Prynne through all the troubles. He spent 55 years in the slums of Plymouth.


In Brighton,on the English coast,south of London,Fr Wagner was a great stalwart for the Catholic Revival. The son of a rich family, when he was ordained, his father built for him the Parish Church of St Paul in Brighton. When he inherited his fortune, he spent it on the Church in Brighton – some have suggested he spent several fortunes. He built St Bartholomew’s Church, which is enormous, supposedly designed on the dimensions of the ark in the Book of Genesis, and the Church of the Annunciation. This seated about 300,and was intended as a temporary church until Fr Wagner could build the people a ‘proper’ church. He faced opposition also, including being physically assaulted by two roughs. Characteristically, Fr Wagner supported their wives while the two were in prison. He also paid for better housing in parts of the city. And he founded the Community of the Blessed Virgin.


The fear of the Sacrament of Penance was quite irrational, to some degree due to the worries of Victorian England husbands and parents that improper questions were being asked in the confessional, possibly also out of guilt. One Irish priest stated that he would make it a capital offence to preach confession in the Church of England! The furore came to a head over a two-part private publication, ’The Priest in Absolution’, a translation of a French book. These books were sold only to priests who were considered to be reliable and conscientious, but a copy found its way into the hands of Lord Redesdale, a virulent protestant. He read excerpts from the second volume in the House of Lords. As copies of the books could only be obtained from the Society of the Holy Cross, the Society faced much opposition from the Bishops.


In London, naturally, opposition to the Catholic Revival in the parishes was at its most intense. St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in a well-to-do area had a daughter church, St Barnabas’ in Pimlico, built for Catholic worship. From 1850,St Barnabas’ was the scene of disgraceful rioting, with hassocks and other missiles thrown at the priests and the altar. Matters were not helped by the fact that at that time the Roman Church had set up a formal hierarchy and system of Dioceses in England.


In the poorest part of London, site of appalling slums, the Parish of St George’s in the East, under Fr Bryan King, became another focus for rioting. A census at the time showed that there were 730 houses in the parish, of which 154 were brothels. Families lived in this environment, children were born and raised.


Fr King established a St George’s Mission in the worst part of the parish, lead by two priests who were to become great leaders of the Revival, Frs Lowder and Mackonochie.

As a result of their sacrificial ministries, the churches of St Peter’s, London Docks, and St Alban’s, Holborn were built. But the rioting went on, the Bishop was unsympathetic,

hostile in fact, and the health of both priests broke down under the strain.


In support of the ceremonial and teaching in these parishes, Catholic clergy quoted the Ornaments Rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, to the effect that the ornaments for worship used in the first year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth were to continue. This has been considered to authorize Mass vestments and other things associated with Catholic worship; few today would question this argument.


But in the second half of the nineteenth century in England, and the USA for that matter, this was denied. Sadly, the Church turned to the courts to try to stamp out this insidious menace to true, decently English ,worship. Individual court cases failed to stop the Catholic priests and parishes. Gradually, the opposition came to centre on six points – the eastward position at the altar,(as at All Saints’),altar lights (candles),Mass vestments,

the mixing of a small amount of water in the chalice at the offertory, wafer bread, and incense.


To add to the controversy, when Mr Gorham, a priest in the Diocese of Exeter, in south-

west England denied belief in baptismal regeneration, Bp Philpotts refused to induct him to a parish in the Diocese. The case went eventually to the Privy Council, the highest court in the land, and the Bishop lost. A civil court decided the doctrine of the Church of

England! This lead to further conversions to Rome, especially Adn Manning of Chichester, later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.


Lord Shaftesbury, a leading Evangelical lead the campaign against the Catholic Revival as it spread. Fr Purchas of St James’ Brighton had been imprisoned in 1870,to no avail. With the support of  Queen Victoria, in 1874 the Public Worship Regulation Act was passed. This lead to the setting up of a new court, presided over by Lord Penzance, whose previous expertise had been gained as a judge in the Divorce Court.


In order to support clergy facing opposition, danger, and court action, the English Church Union was set up in 1859.The Society of the Holy Cross, a society for deepening the priestly life of the clergy, under rule, was established by Fr Lowder and others, in 1855;

SSC celebrated its 150th anniversary in grand style in London last year,2005.


There were more prison sentences - Fr Tooth in 1877,and Fr Dale in 1880,both from London, Fr Enraght from Birmingham in 1880,Fr Green from Manchester in 1881,and Fr Cox from Liverpool in 1887. But the campaigners were still not satisfied, because they were not yet successful. So they decided to for a bishop, the saintly Bishop Edward King,

of Lincoln. Bp King was indeed found guilt of violating the PWR Act, and agreed to accept the terms of the judgement. But the general public was outraged, and the PWR Act became a dead letter.


We should be mindful of  things which we take for granted today in the Church, and not only in Anglo-catholic circles. Retreats were introduced to the English Church by SSC, as were Parish Missions. Hymn books, especially Hymns Ancient and Modern, are a fruit of the Catholic Revival. Fr Baring-Gould, writer of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, was told by

his bishop that he could not use a processional cross for the bishop’s visit, so rewrote the hymn to say,’ with the cross of Jesus, behind the vestry door.’.


A major gift to the Church by the Oxford Movement was the revival of Religious Communities in the Anglican Church. There had been earlier attempts, short-lived, in the

17th century – Nicholas Ferrar’s group at Little Gidding in 1625;Abp Sancroft’s group of sisters in the 1660’s. But in 1841,Miss M.R.Hughes made her profession before Dr Pusey, but as an individual. It was not until 1845 that a group of women formed a community at Park Village in London, and as we have heard, the Sisters of Charity were founded in Devonport near Plymouth in 1847. In 1849,Dr Pusey was associated with yet another community in Oxford. In 1866,the first community for men was established at Cowley near Oxford, by Fr R.M.Benson, the Community of St John the Evangelist. Two of the first members of SSJE were from the USA, and the community has played a very important role in the Catholic Revival in the Church in the USA, mainly on the East coast, but also in San Francisco at one stage.


One of the most remarkable personalities of the Catholic Revival in the nineteenth century was Dr John Mason Neale (1818 -1866).He was a learned student of the Orthodox Churches –Greek, Russian etc, he translated many hymns from the Greek and the Latin, which are in the Episcopal Hymnal to this day. He also founded a religious community, the Sisters of St Margaret, who have houses in Boston and Haiti today.


He was a church historian, a respected preacher, and had a great interest in church architecture, a founder of the Cambridge Camden Society, which sought to guide clergy and parishes in matters of church design and furnishing.


On a lighter note, another blessing of the Oxford Movement was the introduction of the weekly collection at worship.


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