by William Michael
I am a committed member of the “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” confessed in the Creed, but I must admit that the Roman Catholic Church provides English-speaking lay-Catholics with very poor resources for family and private use. I am an Anglican convert that came into Catholicism with a rich devotional life and know, from experience, what alternatives exist and how effective they are for cultivating devotion in the home and school.
Thankfully, in its effort to promote Christian unity, the Church has approved of the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, publishing “The Book of Divine Worship” for Catholic use. While I know that some may take offense at my enthusiastic recommendation of Anglo-Catholic resources, arguing that I’m not “Catholic” enough, these same people will be those who have secular movies playing in their homes and secular books on their shelves, but then complain that Christian books are dangerous for Catholics. I’m not interested in the opinions of such people, but recommend these resources for those of you raising children and desire to see fruits of edifying Christian devotion grow in them.
- English language
- Beautiful, traditional Christian culture
- Abundant multi-media resources
- Daily Scripture reading
- Devout, practical prayers
- Unchanging family religion you can invest in
The Book of Common Prayer
At the core of Anglo-Catholic devotion is the Book of Common Prayer. As mentioned above, the Catholic Church has approved the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, publishing “The Book of Divine Worship”. As this includes almost all of the content of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), it’s more affordable and convenient to buy/use the BCP. I’d recommend the 1928 version, which retains the traditional language.
The Book of Common Prayer focuses on two daily offices: Morning and Evening prayer. These are a bit longer than the offices of the Liturgy of the Hours, but allow us laymen to enjoy a complete daily devotional at two convenient times–before the day’s work begins and after the day’s work ends. The daily offices include a full run through the key elements of the divine office with the addition of two scheduled Scripture readings at each office. Prayers include the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, a General Confession and beautifully written prayers and thanksgivings for everyday issues. Music (if learned) includes English versions of the Psalter, the Gloria, the Te Deum, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis and more. Since the BCP has been in use for so many centuries, the great English composers have all taken their turn preparing beautiful arrangements for its texts.
Music: Tallis Dorian Service
While the Catholic Church has published English Bibles, they are quite poor in quality in comparison to the King James Bible that was published in 1611, by England’s best Christian scholars, with all of the Catholic books included. To say, “The KJV is not approved by the Church” (as if all of the secular books and shows Catholics are using are approved) would suggest that there is something objectively wrong with the text, and I’d be happy to know what, specifically, those problems are; and whether any similar problems are present in approved Catholic Bibles. I would fear the warning that “God will not bless a man reading a Bible published without the Church’s approval.”, but I don’t hear any such warning coming from the Holy Father. In fact, Pope Benedict attended, himself, Evening Prayer at Westminster Cathedral, where the King James Version was read, so I don’t believe that the lack of formal approval is to be interpreted as dis-approval of the KJV.
If there was a single, established Catholic English Bible, it might be preferable, but the Church admires modern scholarship, which will never allow the publishing of new versions to end. The Douay-Rheims, though published in 1610, has never been liked by Catholics, which is why it was revised by Bishop Challoner to be more like the KJV. It is, however, not like the KJV, but greatly inferior and contrary to the principles of Scripture translation which the Church has agreed are what the 17th century Protestants argued they should be.
While the KJV is not, unfortunately, approved for reading at Mass, there is no prohibition against its use in private reading. As with the Book of Common Prayer, the supplementary resources that are available for the KJV make it very profitable, including Scourby’s recorded reading of the 66 books shared by Catholics and Protestants. The King James version is, in its own right, a most important part of English literary history and is the most quoted Bible in English.
I recommend this affordable copy of the original KJV with the Catholic books included.
One of the most irritating features of the Liturgy of the Hours is the scattered arrangement of Psalms over the hours that few laymen ever pray, with Scripture canticles mixed in. It’s not possible, in daily Morning and Evening prayer to (a) recite the entire Psalter, or (b) gain a working familiarity with the book of Psalms. The Book of Common Prayer is arranged in a simple, 30-day schedule with the psalms recited in their biblical order on fixed days of the month. At morning prayer on the 1st day of the month, we recite Psalms 1 through 5–every month. At evening prayer, on the 20th day of the month, we recite Psalm 104–every month. That predictable order of the Psalms helps greatly, as you’ll see.
The “Coverdale Psalter”, which is the traditional Anglican psalter, has been approved for use by the Church and that brings us a treasury of musical resources to enjoy. In 2002, the British organist and choirmaster led the recording of the entire chanted Psalter in a series of 12 CDs titled, “The Psalms of David“. He has since published the psalter marked for chanting (with music) in “The Anglican Psalter“.
A look at any modern “Catholic” hymnal or missal will find that the hymns sung were not produced by English Catholics, but by Anglicans and other English Protestants. It’s worth noting that the great English polyphonic composers–Tallis, Byrd, etc.–were at work during the time of the Reformation and composed in both Latin and English. Through the 1700s-1800s, English education was thriving, which supplied the Church with poets and composers to adorn the entire Church year and every part of the liturgy–including the holiday seasons, private devotions, etc.. In 1870, Anglican choirmaster William Henry Monk published “Hymns Ancient and Modern“, which is the best hymnal ever published. Since then, the “English Hymnal” was published in 1906 by Vaughan Williams and revised as “The New English Hymnal” more recently. The benefit of this latest edition is that the great choirs of England have produced and recorded a full collection of the hymns on a 25 CD set–another cultural treasure. Here’s a sample below–you can find them all on YouTube.