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George Rundle Prynne
An Early Chapter in the History of the Catholic Revival
by A. Clifton Kelway

London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1905. 248 pp.


ECCLESIASTICAL events are moving rapidly, and in these days there is perhaps some danger of the past being speedily forgotten. It is surely regrettable that this should be the case; for the lessons to be derived from the past, and especially from the early stages of the Catholic Movement, have a very real and useful bearing upon the present situation, and may help to a wise and peaceful solution of some existing difficulties.

The life of George Rundle Prynne takes us back to those early years, in the story of which his figure stands out as that of a pioneer who won back for Catholics in the Anglican Communion some precious parts of their rightful heritage. The restoration of the Daily Eucharist, after the lapse of centuries, was undoubtedly Prynne's first and greatest work. As the Bishop of Fond du Lac has lately affirmed, it is to "a general daily revival of the Eucharist that the victory of the Anglican Church will be given." With Prynne all else that, under God's blessing, he was able to achieve accorded with that memorable and great revival. The vindication of the Sacrament of Penance, the development and organization of Sisterhood work in parishes, the provision of Eucharistic teaching and devotions in a form previously unknown to members of the Anglican Communion-these and the other things which George Rundle Prynne set himself to accomplish, were the natural and logical outcome of his complete devotion to our Blessed Lord and his vivid realization of the Divine Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.

To such pioneers we surely owe an affectionate remembrance. To ourselves and to them do we not owe a careful study of their life's work, and a serious attempt to ascertain how far we have followed the lines they laid down with so much wisdom, patience, and good judgment? Such consideration of root principles may well increase the veneration of younger Catholics for those good men who, when days were darkest, and friends few, broke up the fallow ground, and recalled the Church of England to long-forgotten ways and splendid traditions. It may also help a generation which some one has described as being always in a hurry, to look deeper than it is wont to do, and not to confuse essentials with non-essentials, or to substitute the outward signs for the things whereof they are intended to teach.

To take one point for example. The practice of this old Tractarian in the 'forties, and the preaching of the Bishop already quoted in the present day, point alike to one supreme necessity-the general daily revival of the Holy Eucharist at the altars of the Anglican Communion. More than fifty years after the recovery of this priceless gift, and in days when the circumstances of that restoration are well-nigh forgotten, how do we stand in this matter? How far have the Catholic clergy emulated Prynne's example on this all-important point? We know that the Daily Eucharist is still far from general, that the "victory of the Anglican Church" is still postponed, while the necessity for that victory becomes more and more urgent every day.

The consideration of such questions as these may well give pause to Catholics of to-day. Those old pioneers, or many of them at any rate, were entirely ignorant of modern Roman cults; they knew little, and cared less, about innumerable other and minor points which are sometimes permitted to engross such a disproportionate amount of attention to-day. But they laboured patiently and suffered contentedly for the essentials of faith and practice; and in this, surely, their example is worthy of attention and imitation by Catholics of the present generation. In this direction, as in so many others, the experience of the past is surely the wisdom of the future.

The task of compiling this biography has been rendered somewhat difficult owing to the absence of the usual materials. Prynne only kept a diary, and that a brief one, for three years of his long life, from 1845 to 1848; moreover, the majority of those with whom he corresponded on matters of general interest have long since died, and very few of his letters have been obtainable. Some of the newspapers which reported the chief incidents of his early career are now no longer in existence, and their files impossible of access.

The writer is considerably indebted to Mr. T. W. S. Godding, of Plymouth, for valuable help in examining and putting together much of the material in the early chapters of the book; and to Mrs. Brine, Dr. Pusey's only surviving daughter, for giving permission to print a selection of her father's letters to Mr. Prynne.


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