There are a small number of litmus tests regarding a parish which is making a journey into the sacramental life (which is a better way of saying ‘going up the candle’). Some of these are profound, some are entirely trivial. I will leave it up to you to decide which is which.
Especially to annoy my colleague in the next parish, I have specifically excluded the wearing of maniples at the Mass because a) it is entirely trivial, the most trivial of the triviality which is vestments and b) it only applies to the Latin chasuble, which I never wear, being (ahem) the wrong shape entirely for that.
These are in no particular order:
Without the eternal presence of Jesus in the form of the reserved sacrament, how can we profess a sacramental presence in our lives. Not just for the administration to the sick, but as an object of devotion, Jesus in our midst is a statement of where we believe Jesus to be now: present, active, dynamic. Look for the white sanctuary light and know that all is right in this space.
A corollary of this is the sanctuary light itself. If it is an electric bulb, then this is a parish which actually doesn’t care about having Jesus present. It must be a 7 day votive, maintained 24/7
2. Our Lady of Walsingham
Other devotions to the BVM are of course right and true, but let’s face it, in England, it belongs to England’s Nazareth and an image of Our Lady of Walsingham shows a connection both to the catholic tradition of the anglican church and a living connection with the devotion which inspires so many. If the parish is part of a pilgrimage to the Shrine in Norfolk then better. If it sends young people to the Children’s and Youth pilgrimages then it truly understands about the feeding of the body of Christ and the importance of mission. Say the Hail Mary, offer the Rosary and get the the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
3. Stations of the Cross
Having them is nice. Using them is essential. Using them outside Lent is even better. STE fails on this one, sorry. Working on it.
Having served my title in a parish where benediction was offered twice a week on Fridays and Sundays, this devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is a key test. It needn’t be showy or slick but it needs to be heartfelt. Our Benedictions are a bit ramshackle but devoted, and I’d far sooner have that than a super-production which didn’t actually worship Jesus present in our midst.
5. Prayer for the Departed
The company of heaven gather to pray for us, and we pray for them. Daily. It is not just for All Souls, but part of the daily cycle of prayer.
6. Daily Prayer
It doesn’t have to be the Divine Office, but it needs to be offered in Church twice a day, days off notwithstanding. This is my personal achilles heel, and I struggle with maintaining this discipline, but with God’s help, I try. I fail, and I try again. If the parish joins you for the Office, then you truly are creating a parish which takes the word of God seriously and which hence leads to a deeper sacramental devotion. Never either/or but always both/and.
7. Rose Vestments
Worn twice a year. What a waste. What a statement of devotion, and proof of your commitment to the worship of the Church. Rose is a wonderful teaching opportunity (as are all the liturgical colours) and although it might be a little superficial it says a lot.
We have just received in the post our Rose Vestments from a very good value company in Poland: http://www.liturgical-robes.com/ They can provide a very presentable chasuble for less than £45, which makes it suddenly within our scope. When someone offers to make an extra donation, most of it in this parish goes on youth work, but once in a while we are offered funding for vestments, and this doesn’t exactly break the bank.
If you take your deacon seriously, then you will have dalmatics. If you value the deaconal ministry, then you will have dalmatics in Rose. I know of only 3 places where this is true. I know you will tell me of more. We havn’t. Pity.
9. Bells and Smells
Apologies for putting these two together, but they both say “Look! Jesus!”. Incense burned (and burned well) symbolises the rising of prayers, and the presence of holiness. The bells contribute to the multisensory nature of sacramental worship. It isn’t just about the words on the page…
10. Youth Work
You take the body of Christ seriously? You believe in the Catholic Tradition? You want others to grow into Sacramental Worship? You need to work with unchurch youth. It’s hard. It’s taxing. It doesn’t get them into Mass immediately, but it is so incarnational. Just do it, right – start a group and see what happens. Youth Ministry should be the most defining attribute of a Catholic parish, for where you take young people seriously, there Christ is found in their midst. How much more Catholic do you want to be?
Do you see? The Catholic tradition in the Church of England is about incarnation, it is about mission. It comes from out of the Anglocatholic slum parishes and it reaches out to the unchurched; not like a social club or an esoteric mutual society, the Anglocatholic tradition is based upon Christ present, live, active and dynamic in our parishes. It doesn’t matter whether we use Roman Rite or Series 2 or Common Worship, whether incense clouds (and chokes when burned badly) the sanctuary, but it is about values, prayers, devotions.