The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A More Thorough Review of The Customary

I received my copy of The Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, purchased via the UK branch of, on All Souls' Day last week. I had intended to write a full review, but have discovered that a very full review has already been written.

On the blog Psallite Sapienter out of Australia, Joshua has written a series of posts that examine the new Customary.

In the post "The Number and Hardness of Rules Called Pie", Joshua goes through all the steps to set up his book for Evening Prayer on Sunday. Before beginning he reviews his set up:
Now, almost time to begin, but first to double-check: holy card for the Sentence, then red ribbon (moving it along as I go), then Psalms (as marked), then First Lesson (from Bible, as marked), then red ribbon for Mag., then Second Lesson (from Bible, as marked), then red ribbon for Nunc and so forth, then Collect of the Day (as marked), then back to the Second and Third Collects (red ribbon), then blue ribbon for post-Biblical reading (in place of sermon), then red ribbon again for Further Prayers down to "The grace"; and finally another holy card marks the Salve Regina.

Two items I noticed immediately when reviewing my copy of The Customary was that there are too few ribbons (only three when at least 6 are needed) and that the layout requires considerable back and forth, likely too many for most laypeople to warm to the use of this book (which I say having used many different office books over the years, including a 7-volume translation of the Liturgy of the Hours in Spanish).

In two posts "Customary Questions I" and "Customary Questions - II" Joshua asks several good questions. In his first post he asks:

1. Why on Sundays the Psalms are proper, rather than taken from the appropriate day of the month (the period over which their recitation is spread), since such an arrangement seems to unduly restrict the number and variety of Psalms heard by a Sunday congregation, in contradistinction to Anglican practice?
2. Why one of the two Scriptural Readings provided for both Mattins and Evensong is so short, when surely having two fairly long Lessons is a very hallmark of the Daily Office in the Anglican Patrimony?
3. Why the Prayer for All Conditions of Men, and other optional Prayers and Thanksgivings, is not included, when the reading at choice of various intercessions "After the Third Collect" is another venerable Anglican tradition?
4. Why the prefatory use of a Penitential Rite is allowed before Evensong only, rather than also before Mattins, and, similarly, why the opening versicles at both are not exactly the same, as has been traditional Anglican practice?

In the second "Questions" post, he notes:

Rather annoyingly, the new Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham restricts the use of the Te Deum to festal days only, so that on most weekdays one must plod through either the Benedicite or its little brother the Benedictus es (both from Daniel chapter 3.)...

I myself wonder if straining so to conform the Anglican Use to the Roman Rite is necessary or desirable; while the length of lessons of Scripture has declined over the past century and more (until 1871, a full chapter was almost invariably the norm, but first in the new lectionary of that year, and then in successive revisions, the length was generally lessened more and more), it was always the Anglican boast that they did read over a great deal of the Bible each year; it would be unhappy if that laudable aim were not still maintained. In particular, it seems that the Anglican pattern is to have two fairly substantial readings, one from each Testament, at both Mattins and Evensong, and to read through the Scriptures in course, maintaining the ancient principle of lectio continua – I wonder if this is adhered to so strictly in the new Customary.

Finally (although not the last post in chronological order), Joshua has compiled a helpful Index of the non-Biblical writings in his post "Customary Readings".

In addition to Joshua's questions on Psallite Sapienter, I also had two questions about the Proper of Saints in the book. There is a partial Proper of Saints for saints in the General Roman Calendar, and a second Proper of Saints for the Calendar of the Ordinariate. Why not merge these two sections? With the two sections, one must check both in setting up the book for the day's prayers. Second, why include some, but not all of the saints from the General Roman Calendar? For the month of January, for example, The Customary's General Sanctorale includes collects and other propers for 8 saints, with an additional 4 in the Proper Sanctorale for the Ordinariate. Among the feasts left out are those of Holy Name of Jesus (January 3), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 5), and St. John Bosco (January 31). The first two absences are particularly surprising, as devotion to the Holy Name has a strong English history, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is certainly a significant figure for the Ordinariates as the first Anglican convert since the age of the British Martyrs under the Tudors and Stuarts to be canonized.

Following up on what Joshua writes about the Invitatory for Morning Prayer, I noticed that those psalms are not formatted in strophes, and it is unclear whether they should be read as responsorial psalms (as in the BDW and LotH) or with antiphons before and after only (as in the 1928 Proposed BCP in England). If the former, formatting in strophes would make this much easier for readers to use. It is also too bad that while adopting elements found in the BDW such as the Phos hilaron (admittedly also found in the CofE's Common Worship and Celebrating Common Prayer) at Evening Prayer that the alternative Venite that substitutes verses 9 & 13 of Psalm 96 for verses 8-11 of Psalm 95 (the final verses of which are optional in The Customary).

This absence is an example of what I see as a missed opportunity with the current version of The Customary. There are glances toward the US Ordinariate, noting differences in the rank of certain feasts in the calendar, for example, and drawing on some of the material in the Daily Offices of the BDW such as noting acceptable changes in the Preces in areas with "a Republican Administration"; but other elements that would have made this book more suitable for use in the US as well as England (such as drawing on Canon Douglas' chant work in the Saint Dunstan Plainsong Psalter for the music and the prayers for mission at the end of the office in the BDW) are missing, regrettably.

There are additional instances that made me think that The Customary was rushed out the door a bit too soon. On page 47 and 112 there is a prayer for the Pope, and while I certainly wish the Holy Father many more years, the prayer shouldn't have had the reigning Pope's name printed in the same typeface as the rest of the prayer. Normally a reader would expect to see the placeholder "N." as in the Common collects, such as the one for a Pope on page 662, or at least that the name would be in italics as is the Queen's on page 113 in the prayer for the Monarch. At the end of the Ordinary for Evening Prayer on page 115 we find the usual prayer for the dead, but it reads, "May all the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace." Should this not read "May all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God..."?

There are certainly things to love in The Customary, but given that it requires so many supplemental books to be used (at the least, a Bible, an Ordo, a copy of the Liturgy of the Hours) as a regular daily prayer book, I fear it may be only a resource to supplement the Daily Offices of The Book of Divine Worship or the Liturgy of the Hours. But it is an expensive supplement; hopefully, there will be a second edition, produced in consultation with the US, Canadian and Australian ordinariate communities, that will help complete it as a fully usable resource for the Daily Office for both clergy and laity.


  1. Sounds like a mess. It makes the LOTH seem like a rational document by comparison.

    I'll stick with my Anglican Breviary, thank you very much.

  2. I would wish to repeat that these quibbles are just that: overall, the Customary is a great composition. Various teething problems are only to be expected; after a few years, an improved version can be issued, but in the meanwhile this is quite serviceable.

    As to your comments:

    1. It appears that the Customary, while nodding toward US (and Australian) needs, is primarily for use in the UK; this explains why St Elizabeth Ann Seton is left out, and also why the US form of the Venite (a combination of Pss 95 and 96) is not given, as it was only ever used in the US.

    2. The preface to the Calendar (I think) mentions that only saints specially related to the British Isles are afforded propers - hence the supply of propers for St Gregory the Great (Apostle of the English, as well as Pope), but not for St Leo the Great, for example. Also recall that the modern Roman Liturgy of the Hours is meant to be used side-by-side with the Customary, and it contains not a few very decent readings and so forth.

    3. I, too, wondered why "Benedict" was not italicized; but let us not lose ourselves in pedantry. There are various typos here and there, but nothing too dreadful. More curiously, the prayer for the Queen and Royal Family is preceded - oddly - by "Let us pray": why for it, but not for the other collects? It must surely be a misprint.

    4. I assume that the Invitatory Psalms are meant to be said verse by verse, in the usual Anglican manner of reading all the psalms, rather than strophe by strophe as if they were responsorial psalms; but of course the exact manner of their recitation, particularly in celebration in common, is a matter for the "rulers of the choir".

    5. The original Latin of "May all the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace." is "Fidelium animæ, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace." - and therefore the word "departed", usually inserted in the English version, is not in fact found in the Latin, but is an addition meant to make clear that the petition is said on behalf of the dead; here the Customary is in fact more correct.

  3. Joshua,

    True, most of these observations are quibbles, but after many years working in publishing, quibbles are my business ;-)

    But particularly in needing to use the Customary side-by-side with the Liturgy of the Hours, that is precisely what I would have hoped would not be needed; and it would not have taken many more pages in the Sanctorale and a serviceable table (like this) to help navigate the relationship between Sundays per annum and Sundays after Epiphany or after Trinity, thus dispensing with an ordo, to make the Customary a volume that could be used on its own from day to day. That's why I thought it looked rushed (although we've all been impatient for it to arrive).

    I do realize that the Customary is primarily intended for England. But as there is no serviceable Anglican Use Office book for use anywhere else, making it something for all the Ordinariates would have been desirable. No doubt the UK Ordinariate will cooperate with the others if they wish to borrow material to put together their own Office Books, but one book could have been achieved, I think, with only a little more time and material.

    1. Hopefully all that you suggest will in due course come to pass!

      While glad to examine the Customary, I don't want to fall into the trap of coming across as yet another grumpy disgruntled blogger, only happy when criticising all else...

      It has struck me that a second edition of the Customary would be well-advised to group together all the hymns, for example, in one section - with more ribbons provided, of course.

      Similarly, the Opening Sentences now scattered throughout the Customary would be much easier to find and use if (as in the BDW) they were all printed together before Evensong.

      Another annoying feature is the way that the post-biblical readings for Advent, and each successive season of the Christian year, are placed first, and then all the Collects for that season - surely it would be easier to use the Customary if each reading for each Sunday or feast or whatever were paired with the appropriate collect.

  4. Received mine Tuesday but haven't really looked at it yet. Sounds like it was thrown together like The Book of Divine Worship was!

  5. I just realized that you must have missed the reading and prayer for the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3) - it is listed amongst the rest of the Christmastide propers, with a reading on page 207 of the Customary, and two Collects on page 213. The Patrimony is finely represented by a devout passage from Richard Rolle on the Holy Name.

    1. Thank you for pointing out my oversight. I am glad to learn that the feast is there.

  6. I am very grateful to be able to read this discussion and shall publish something shortly to respond to some of the points.

    Mgr Andrew Burnham

  7. The comments on the Customary have been very gracious and will greatly assist a revised edition if there should be one. It was a laborious project, taking many hours, and yet I have to admit that one or two of the editorial decisions could have been better. With hindsight, I think the Ordinariate Propers could have been integrated with the Propers of the General Calendar (as in the Roman Missal 2010) and this is easier than the practice of the Office Books, which the Customary maintains, of having them separate. I am glad I was able to persuade the publishers to include some ribbons, to cut down on the number of holy cards needed to mark pages. I wish there could have been more ribbons. I wish we had had clear headers all the way through, to make it obvious which section was which, and an index too might have helped (though, frankly, I find that I rarely consult the indices of liturgical books when praying). The misprints are to be regretted and we thought we had got most of them only to find some remaining. But it wasn't 'thrown together' and, with respect, it isn't 'a mess'.

    On more substantial points, the Customary is a book for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. We were able, late in the day, to include Calendar information for North America and Australia (because CDWDS had promulged the Ordinariate Calendars) but it was too late to expand the orations and hagiographical readings. Certain things have an English explanation. The alteration of the Venite from adverse judgment 'they should not enter into my rest' (Ps 95) to hopeful judgment 'for he cometh to judge the earth...and the people with his truth' happened in the ASB 1980 (cf ECUSA BCP 1979) and were then subsequently rejected (in CW). The use of Te Deum on festal occasions, again, is how things have evolved in CW Daily Prayer. The ferial use - Benedicite and its complementary canticle - is there really only for public celebration. The priest in his oratory will move from the psalmody to the lessons in the Breviary on most mornings, and the responsory to the first reading will be sufficient. Similarly, one of my markers sits amidst the Sundays after Trinity and doesn't need to be changed very often. Nor do I usually bother with the variety of opening sentences which can all be found, if required, for a public celebration of the Office.

    One feature which deserves further explanation is the incompleteness of the Customary. It can be used, as a single volume, by travellers, and there are enough tables and readings to sruvive without any ancillary volume. But iut is integral to the Anglican tradition that a well-thumbed Bible is normally to hand and it is also important to realise that the Customary is not supplanting the Roman office. Thus, even for those occasions when there is a post-biblical reading in the Customary, it is important to realise that there is usually a reading in the Roman office which claims our attention. By requiring use of the Breviary for certain orations and readings, the essentially complementary nature of the Customary is emphasised.

    Finally a word about the lectionary. There are various lectionaries which invite our attention. The Customary relies primarily on the One-Year and Two-Year Lectionary of the Divine Office, together with many of the capitula. In my experience, this is a very rich diet and allows almost every day the reading of two or three good, long biblical readings at the Office. The Cranmerian four chapters a day was not designed to go alongside the two or three readings of the daily Mass. Thus, what we now have is at least as good as Cranmer in terms of length and at least as rich.

    Prayers for those who read this and who use the Customary

    Andrew Burnham

  8. Many thanks, Your Grace, for stopping by and contributing to this discussion. I certainly agree that the Customary is not a mess. That was an unfortunate comment from someone who hasn't read or looked through the book. Having put a book or two together myself, I know how long a slog it can be, and how, despite checking and rechecking for errors, something always seems to slip through.

    I do look forward to making use of the some of the material in the book and am sure others will too.