In looking over my traffic from the last couple of days, I noticed that I received some hits off a search for an online version of the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. Sadly, there isn’t an online version of it.
For those unfamiliar with it, the St Augustine’s Prayer Book is a devotional manual historically associated with the (Episcopal) Order of the Holy Cross. St Augustine is one of their patrons. First coming out in 1947, the SAPB was revised in 1967 and has been reprinted multiple times. It’s a catholic supplement to the 1928 BCP that contains things like Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, Stations of the Cross, a wide variety of prayers, suffrages to the BVM, litanies, basic instruction in the catholic practice of the faith, the six precepts of the Church, how to hear mass profitably, etc.
If any of the items on this list sound familiar, they should… We find several of them in the additions to the Books of Hours and particularly the bilingual/vernacular primers mentioned a bit ago. In fact, the SAPB—as I see it—stands in a line of development beginning with the Books of Hours and primers. To give a really brief bird’s-eye view, the primer situation exploded during the reign of Henry the 8th as various factions attempted to sway the religious sentiment of the people by inculcating their beliefs into the devotional material of the primers. A whole line of protestant-leaning primers appeared in competition with the classical models. (Butterworth’s The English Primers (1529-1545) covers this material in close detail.) Finally—in 1545—King Henry decided to put a stop to the competing publications and promulgated a single authorized prymer that appeared in Latin, English, and bilingual editions. (Remember, Henry was liturgically conservative and the authorized liturgy of the Church of England under his reign was still the Latin-language Sarum Rite.) Authorized prymers remained in force throughout the tumultuous years of Edward, Mary and the young Elizabeth, operating (in the Protestant years) alongside the Book of Common Prayer. Prymer-like devotional books continued throughout Elizabeth’s reign in both English and Latin. Jumping ahead to the time of King Charles I before the Puritan unpleasantness, John Cosin, Dean of Peterborough then Bishop of Durham—and even later architect of the 1662 BCP—created an Anglican prymer at the request of the king. (There’s a great letter dated 1651 from John Evelyn that lays out the circumstances of its editing—the English ladies-in-waiting were much distressed that they didn’t have devotional books like the French ladies did who waited upon the king’s French-born bride.) After Cosin, a number of other works unofficial works continued the line until the Sarum Revival and the rise of the Ritualists who created the various Anglo-Catholic Manuals of Devotion. The SAPB derives in large measure from these.
As most users of such materials know, catholic liturgical supplements fell off a cliff in the late 60’s and early 70’s due to a combination of factors, the three most significant being worship book revision on both sides of the Pond, grappling with the fall-out from Vatican II, and the furor and subsequent departures around the ordination of women. Thus, as with Ritual Notes and a host of other materials, the SAPB remained a very good supplement to the 1928 prayer book—which the Episcopal Church no longer uses.
Now to the announcement part of things…
A bit ago, folks from the Order of the Holy Cross asked Fr. David Cobb, a friend and mentor of mine, to do another revision of the SAPB that would bring it up to date—to make it a catholic supplement to the ’79 Book of Common Prayer. This he proceeded to do, and Forward Movement will be bringing it out as soon as the final work is done. I’ve been asked to serve as liturgical editor (gilding Fr. Cobb’s lily, as it were…) to get another set of eyes on the work. We’re hoping for a fairly swift turn-around so that the presses can start rolling in the first part of 2013.
Personally, I’m quite excited to have this opportunity. I see the SAPB as one of the great tools for prayer book catholics—modelling the skills for integrating the riches of our catholic devotional treasury alongside our authorized book which partakes in the integral stream of our tradition but in no way exhausts it. Needless to say, I also feel a bit of trepidation—assisting in the updating of a classic is challenging: how to best steer the course between the soul of the original and the needs of the present generation?
So—things will get even busier around here which will probably result in fewer posts for a while and even worse delays in email responses. In the meantime, I covet your prayers for this work as we seek to be obedient scribes for the kingdom and select from our treasures what is new and what is old.