Monday, 6 February 2012

The Quaker Way

Recently the bishop of our diocese, the Rt Rev. Bishop Seamus Cunningham, was present in choir at a Traditional Latin Mass as part of his visitation of St Joseph's parish, Gateshead,  A layman who was present has shown me a letter which he sent to the Bishop afterwards and he has given me permission to reproduce it here.

My Lord Bishop,

I thought that your sermon at St Joseph’s and your illustration of Psalm 62 was very thought provoking. I hope you will not think it presumptuous of me to comment.  In my late twenties I became a Quaker.  I loved the spirituality of silent worship.   That aspect that you referred to in your sermon of waiting passively and silently, what you referred to as the Waiting Room was important to me; it allowed me space.  Eventually though I found Quakerism was lacking both in its lack of visible sacraments and authorised ministry and reverted to Anglicanism but still at times worship missed those aspects of silent waiting, listening and yearning.

A few days after I was received into the Catholic Church we were staying in London for a short holiday.  Being near the Oratory I decided to go to the 8am Mass.  It was a Mass in the Extraordinary Rite.   What for me was so remarkable about it was not the difference in the rite but that I found it evoked those very aspects of silent worship that I had so deeply missed.  I still feel now whether I am serving or not that there is a profound and very deep peacefulness present in the Extraordinary Rite that is somehow lacking in the Novus Ordo.  

I realise that many Catholics feel that the Extraordinary Rite, because it lacks lay participation, is no longer relevant to the times in which we live.   On the other hand I find that the expectation of an audible response in the Novus Ordo can be almost intrusive.  It doesn’t matter to me that I can not, even when serving, hear everything that the Priest says, something is happening but I can still feel fully involved by the very nature of that profound silence and space that it leaves me.   I think perhaps that sometimes Catholics who have not experienced worship in other forms do not always see the unique and profound power of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Asking Your Lordships Blessing, I am, Yours respectfully, (he asked me not to name him).

 I have not seen the silence of the traditional Mass explained in quite this way, and I find it intriguing; perhaps we should expect an influx of Quakers into the church!


  1. Well said that man!talking before and after Mass is almost common practice now, its the talking during Mass i worry about and sadly this is not always or ever the younger members of the community. Good to see Fr WEA blogging again

  2. Yes, a very interesting perspective; thanks for posting this, Father.

  3. Just back from (yes another) cruise! 5 weeks without Holy Mass in any Form.

    One trusts that His Lordship reads & appreciates the letter.