The League was established not to support a separate Anglican version of Catholicism, but to evangelise society and the Christians of that society in the Catholic faith and so to bring about the corporate reunion of the Church of England with "the rock whence it was hewn" - the Catholic Church in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. The challenge was large in 1913, 17 years after the blow of Apostolicae Curae, but a setback did not deflect the founders from the truth about the nature and divine constitution of the Church. Christ founded but one Church for all, not several for many diverse people. Thus in 1908 the Church Unity Octave had been started by Anglicans (Paul Wattson and Spencer Jones) to pray for the Catholic unity of Christianity. It was the League and no other that promoted this devotion, which would later become the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, when no others would. Paul Wattson, superior of the Friars of the Atonement, prophetically led his community into full communion in the Catholic Church where they have worked generously ever since for Christian Unity into the age of the modern ecumenical movement. in the 1920s Anglican-Papalists and Anglo-Catholics undertook discussions with the Belgian Primate, Cardinal Mercier, that struck upon the idea of an "Anglican Church united not absorbed". This phrase has inspired Anglo-Catholicism ever since, until it became a mainstream aspiration of the Anglican Communion as a whole. In the 1930s it was the League that fostered contacts with European Catholics when few others would or could, notably Fr Paul Couturier, the visionary who took the Church Unity Octave and transformed it into the means to spiritual ecumenism, a phrase enshrined in the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, as the path to the conversion of all Christians to Christ and thus towards each other in the deepening unity of the Church.
When from the 1980s onwards it became clear that the Anglican communion was resolving upon a different course from one that would lead to unity, members of the League led discussions with Catholic bishops in England to find a way to realise long held hopes for an Anglican church united not absorbed. In 2009, these thoroughly explored plans themselves led to the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham the following year for Anglicans seeking to be Catholics while retaining elements of their canonical, liturgical and spiritual patrimony - as well as their corporate mutual belonging.
The League was the first "third party" to support this new development unequivocally, both as an important outworking of Ad Gentes, Lumen Gentium and indeed Catholic ecumenism in a very fast changing world of overlapping faiths, cultures and associations by which we belong to one another - the diversity that is the measure of the Church's universality. Ever since we have been its advocate as a prophetic signal to ecumenism and the contribution it can make to the work of all Christians alongside each other, with integrity for the legitimate tradition of each, towards the unity expected and demanded by Christ. We have indeed devoted a considerable proportion of our modest assets to help the nascent Ordinariate in England to get on its feet, because it realises the objective of the League's founders and historic membership - not the whole story of Anglican-Catholic reconciliation, nor the last word, which is yet to come - but the mission and culture of Anglican Christianity embedded not merely in an ecumenical process for future hope of what might be but here and now in the wholeness of the Catholic Church, as part of all that is and needs to be to realise the Universal Church of Christ that perfectly subsists in it.
So it was that His Excellency Mgr Keith Newton readily agreed to be the one to celebrate our first Centenary Eucharist. We were delighted and honoured, the more so because it was the first occasion on which the newly authorised eucharistic rite of the Anglican Use for the Ordinariates was offered in England. In a sense this was strange for the League as it had once historically nailed its colours to the mast of using the Roman Rite, not as an imitation of Rome, but because it was the only available canonical rite in the western Latin Church. To the founders, since the Book of Common Prayer rite was inadequate to the mission of Catholic proclamation and practice and had been imposed by the civil power, there was no question of using a version of the Prayer Book like 1928 aimed at meeting some Anglo-Catholic aspirations but also at excluding the principles of Papalism and reunion with Rome, nor of a rite that mixed elements of Anglican worship with elements of the Roman rite - this had no legitimacy and even the Interim Rite with episcopal tolerance, or official sanction of the doomed 1928 Revised Prayer Book thrown out by Parliament, was objectionable to the League as unprincipled. Yet here we were celebrating a version of the Roman rite in traditional English translation, with elements of the historic Anglican liturgical patrimony. Here was the Roman Canon, alongside the Collect for Purity, the Prayer Book Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus, the Prayer Book Confession, the Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access in full, and the Prayer of Thanksgiving (the version from the Book of Divine Worship already in use in the Pastoral Provision for Anglican Use parishes in the US, which corrected the impression of Receptionism but also made some novel changes to the grammatical constructions, presumably on the ground of simplification, which can trip up the rhythm of what one is repeating from memory).
Fr Mark, our priest director, who had once been an Anglican cathedral precentor, remarked, it was good to go to a new version of the rite of mass where you did not have to learn new words.
The readings were Ephesians 4 (1-7, 11-13) and John 10 (11-16). The proper of the mass was provided in a Votive for the Unity of Christians, and enabled the use of the principal chants from the Roman rite, along with carefully chosen and deployed hymns from the Anglican tradition. The music was as follows.
- Introductory Hymn: O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray - by William Henry Turton, to the tune, Song 1 by Orlando Gibbons.
- Introit: God in his holy habitation (Deus in loco sancto) - Gregorian
- Choral Setting of Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus: Communion Service in C, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, 1852-1924, completed by Jeremy Dibble in 2010
- Gradual: Psalm 122, "I was glad" - translated by Coverdale and sung to a chant by Sir George Clement Martin
- Alleluia: Ego Pastor Bonus - Gregorian
- Offertory Hymn: Thy hand, O God, has guided - by Edward hayes Plumptre, to the tune Thornbury, by Basil Harwood
- Communion: Amen dico vobis - Gregorian
- Motet: Beati quorum via - by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
- Post Communion Hymn: The Church's One Foundation - by Samuel John Stone, to the tune, Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley