Secret Observation of Most Precious Blood Church on Epiphany Sunday

On the Forum of the Society of St. Gregory, contributor “JW” wrote:

The 2015 Diocesan Directories are published. Statistics contained therein are for 2013.

In the Archdiocese of Southwark, Mass attendance declined from 91,260 to 90,430, despite a strong influx of immigrants. This masks huge differences in individual parishes.

In percentage terms, the most successful parish in the diocese appears to be the Ordinariate parish of the Most Precious Blood, Borough, which has increased Mass attendance by a whopping 80%, from 115 to 207. One parish in the diocese seems to have lost 267 Mass attenders, dropping 40% from 660 to 393.


On Epiphany Sunday “JW” then made a secret visit to MPB and wrote the following report: 

I was there last Sunday and they do things well and really not so different from a traditionally inclined Catholic Parish.

Positives were:

  • The church bells were ringing before Mass.
  • Fairly quiet atmosphere before Mass, not completely silent, but enough to enable prayer
  • Service sheet / newsletter with the readings, hymns and Proper all included.
  • Celebration facing the people and in English, apart from the Missa de Angelis
  • Friendly and thought-provoking sermon on how both faith and science can help us in our search after truth (the question: “is there really a difference between astronomy and astrology?” was posed as a summary: the final sentence of the sermon).
  • Communion under both kinds (with a woman Eucharistic Minister)
  • Hymns all traditional Epiphany hymns: As with gladness, We three kings, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
  • Gospel and Preface Dialogues sung (missal chants)
  • Invitations to people: 1) “there’s coffee afterwards in the rectory, I do hope you can come through” 2) “if you haven’t had your house blessed yet, do let me know and I’ll come and do it”
  • Very good mix of ages, genders and ethnicities present

Food for thought:

  • Altar servers were all male, mostly teenagers; there were no children. This meant that there was no distracting fidgeting or looking around by the servers, who were extremely well trained and disciplined,
  • Personally I think there are better plainsong Masses than ‘de Angelis’. I was glad the Creed was said. However, their choir is not particularly strong and they’re probably right to stick to the familiar.
  • Blessing of chalk at the end of Mass, but everyone went up for a piece
  • Sung Angelus after Mass (it was about Midday) – first time I’ve hear the Hail Mary sung

They are obviously still growing:

  • In the local coffee shop, a lady was checking they’d be open after Mass.
  • Three ladies asked me if there was a Mass now when I was going in (must have looked as if I belonged!!)

Bearing in mind that previously it was a dying inner city parish, it’s great to see growth there. They seemed to have no great secret, except for a prayerful liturgy and clergy & people who are friendly and open: we should all be aiming for that.

(Hattip to one of our regular contributors)

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5 Responses to Secret Observation of Most Precious Blood Church on Epiphany Sunday

  1. John Ambs says:

    I don’t find “Mass facing the People” particularly positive. Then again, I’m an “Extraordinary Form” Catholic, and see hoards of young people and families attending our Masses looking to escape the “people-centered” liturgies. I was hoping Most Precious Blood would remove the
    facing altar and use the original altar. I was hoping all the Ordinariates would be more-or-less the vernacular version of the TLM with some of the wonderful prayers from the old BCP. Maybe someday…

    -John A.

    • Matt C says:


      I’d have to agree with you. The other thing I was really surprised about was the mention of a woman distributing Holy Communion! I’m in the USA and have both the Traditional Latin Mass and an Ordinariate community nearby. Here, the Ordinariate Mass is a bit like a vernacular TLM with more hymn singing and less chanting and BCP prayers. They don’t have any women distributing Communion and Mass is said ad orientem.


      • I think I should explain that the Mass observed was not an Ordinariate Use Mass but was the Sung Parish Eucharist in the Ordinary Form. Most Precious Blood is a diocesan parish of which the Ordinariate has the care. Until recently one Mass per week was offered in the Ordinariate Use. If I understand it rightly this has currently been discontinued.

        I must also point out that, although the practice in the United States is oriented towards the practice of the Anglican Missal, i.e. the Traditional Mass in vernacular sacred English, with the prayers of Cranmer, the Order of Mass actually provides for many different variants.

        One is very reminiscent of the Communion Service of the Book of Common Prayer (and this is the form used at the Ordinariate pilgrimage to Walsingham last year), one is what is often known as a Dialogue Mass, with the Introduction and Liturgy of the Word from the sedilia, the Offertory rite of the Ordinary Form, etc.

        It is possible to use the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Asperges, the Last Gospel, or none of these. Instead the priest or deacon can proclaim the Ten Commandments, he may say the Comfortable Words or not, may introduce the collection with a Bible sentence or not. There are SEVEN different ways of presenting the intercessions of the people, either with the priest praying alone, or in dialogue form.

        Thus to say that the Ordinariate Use is the TLM in the vernacular is not only an over-simplification but is intrinsically incorrect. Instead it is a Mass form which combines many elements from the Traditional Mass (most of them optional) with the language and prayers of the Cranmer Eucharist, it offers many of the dialogue possibilities of the Ordinary Form, it uses a language code which is totally exclusive to itself (neither the Latin of the TLM nor the contemporary English of the OF). It has many obligatory and several optional elements from the Anglican tradition, making it totally unique in The Catholic Church. And the elements can be combined in a wide variety of ways.

  2. Matt C says:

    Thank you for the added explanation. That makes more sense. I was aware that there are different options in the Ordinariate’s Liturgy, but this post threw me off a bit when I read it the first time.

    In terms of the Liturgy, one thing it seems the Ordinariates have brought into the Catholic Church is to be a Via Media. This is not the former supposed Via Media between Catholicism and Protestantism, but between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI. It can lean towards one or the other while still remaining its own unique thing.

    Anyway, thank you again for the clarification and for the fine blog.

    God Bless,

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