Project Canterbury

Reservation and Adoration:
A Historical and Devotional Inquiry

Shirley Carter Hughson
Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross

The Holy Cross Press
West Park, New York

transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G Mellilo
AD 2000

Chapter 10
Reservation in America

About seventy years ago(1) the systematic revival of Reservation began under the influence of the Oxford Movement, and spread rapidly to every part of the Anglican world. As we are more concerned in the present issue with the American Church than with our brethren in England, we shall deal in a single paragraph with conditions in the mother Church, and then go on to consider Reservation in the United States.

No attempt has been made to secure exact figures as to the extent of the practice in England. Its wide prevalence is well known. Especially since the beginning of the War, numerous bishops have given it their support, notably Bishop Winnington-Ingram of London. In defending public Reservation in February, 1917, he stated that the Sacrament was reserved in forty-two churches in his diocese, and at the present time the number is said to be more than one hundred. In a recent address delivered in London a prominent conservative English Catholic makes the statement "that the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in our churches has been won for us by the Bishop of London."(2) It is said that this great bishop fought for two days in Convocation for the freedom of Reservation, and secured it for his clergy in spite of powerful opposition.

It is impossible to say when the Blessed Sacrament began to be reserved in the American Church. The first record I have been able to find relates to the practice of the Reverend Doctor Wyatt, rector of Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore, whose incumbency of nearly fifty years ended at the opening of the Civil War.

Bishop Grafton, who was his assistant, gives us in his book, A Journey Godward, an account of it. Dr Wyatt, he says, "always reserved a large portion of the precious Blood of the Holy Sacrament," in a large glass receptacle which was silver mounted and locked. This was always placed in an ambry or small closet, locked, in the wall of the sacristy.(3)

Dr Wyatt was one of the most distinguished Churchmen of his time. He was President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention, and was prominently mentioned for the Bishopric of Maryland. Nor, according to Bishop Grafton, was he alone in his practice. Dr Craik, of Louisville, Kentucky, the famous pastor and devotional author, was said to have followed the same custom.

Bishop Grafton had some scruple about it, and consulted the Rev. Dr Francis L. Hawks. He says: "Dr Hawks gave me his opinion that the rector was quite right, and was following out a received custom of our Church in doing so."

It would be most interesting to know what Dr Hawks, who was a distinguished canonist, meant by a "received custom." He could not have meant that it was commonly accepted amongst us, for this was clearly not a fact. Did he mean that we had received it as a part of our rightful heritage from our fathers?

In any case, none of the clergy concerned seemed to have had scruples about the practice. The grounds of objection so commonly and confidently raised in our time seemed to have made no appeal to them. Curiously enough, it was Grafton the Catholic, the patron and builder of great monastic foundations, the profound devotee of our Lord in His Holy Sacrament, who hesitated, and sought counsel before he felt he could conform to the custom which such scholars and saints as Craik, Wyatt, and Hawks took for granted as right and proper. I think it fair to regard this incident as creating at least a precedent for the first half of the last century.

Dr Arthur Ritchie tells me that in his seminary days in New York (1868-1871), "it was commonly believed" that the Sacrament was perpetually reserved in a private tabernacle by the Rev. George Hendricks Houghton at the Church of the Transfiguration. Several others persons, intimately associated with this parish at that time, express themselves positively that this was the case. This cannot be verified, however.

As early as 1874 there was Reservation at Saint Mary's Church, the mother-church of Kansas City, Missouri, under the rectorate of the Reverend George C. Betts.

The Cowley Fathers reserved at Saint Clement's, Philadelphia, in 1881, and in Boston in the later eighties.

More recently, war conditions have given an impulse to Reservation. Many chaplains found it necessary to reserve, and at least one bishop, the Right Rev. Dr. Israel of Erie, carried the Blessed Sacrament with him constantly when at the Front, and administered It frequently.

In many cases the Reservation has been perpetual. In others it has been only for particular periods of epidemic disease, as in Saint Mary's Cathedral, Memphis, Tennessee, during the yellow fever scourge in the seventies. In other cases again, the Sacrament has been reserved by regular custom, but only on occasion, as the special needs of individual cases of illness required.

There have been occasional protests from some of the bishops, but in no instance has a priest been brought before the ecclesiastical courts for violation of the Church's order in reserving. So far from this being the case, many of the clergy who have been foremost in reviving this custom have been marked out by the Church for preferment.

Among the bishops in whose jurisdiction the Sacrament has been reserved, was the late Bishop John Williams of Connecticut, perhaps the most learned and revered Presiding Bishop the Church has had. In 1887 the Reverend L. N. Booth, rector of Trinity Church, Bridgeport, began Reservation, and continued it until his death in 1907. It is now reserved perpetually and publicly in this same parish and in a number of others in that diocese.

Bishop Clark of Rhode Island, who succeeded Bishop Williams as Presiding Bishop of the American Church, nearly thirty years ago gave formal approval of Reservation in a convent of Sisters in Providence; and it has been the custom in parish churches in that diocese for many years.

The Sacrament has been for a great many years reserved perpetually in the diocese of our present venerable Presiding Bishop. Under Bishop Horatio Potter of New York, Reservation was instituted at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, New York City, with his knowledge and consent, about forty years ago; and every Bishop of New York since his time, including his great nephew, Bishop Henry Codman Potter, has permitted it.

We have seen that Reservation was practised in Bishop Whittingham's day at Saint Paul's, Baltimore, and under Bishop Smith of Kentucky, who was for many years the Presiding Bishop of the Church. It was under Bishop Quintard's episcopate in Tennessee that the Sacrament was reserved in his Cathedral over forty years ago.

During Bishop Doane's lifetime perpetual, public Reservation of the Sacrament was practised in his own see city of Albany, where It was resorted to by the faithful for purposes of devotion. This great bishop testified both to the propriety and to the value of Reservation by requesting, during his last illness, that the Sacrament be reserved at the early Eucharist at the Cathedral, and brought to him. It is now frequently reserved in the tabernacle of the "War Chapel" at the Albany Cathedral.

Reservation was begun in the Diocese of Chicago at the Church of the Ascension by the Reverend Arthur Ritchie in 1876, and was perhaps the first instance in America of perpetual, public Reservation for purposes of devotion as well as for the Communion of the sick. Reservation was also the ordinary practice in the Cathedral of the late Bishop McLaren in Chicago, as it still is under Bishop Anderson. For many years the Rev. Dr. John Wright reserved in Saint Paul's, Minnesota, and laboured and wrote widely in behalf of the spread of the custom.

The late Rev. Dr. Gold, professor at the Western Theological Seminary, reserved the Sacrament at Dundas, Minnesota, in Bishop Whipple's time. In the Birch Colliee Indian Mission the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession to the sick, accompanied by the choir, singing hymns of praise. The Rev. William C. Pope describes such a procession going as far as a quarter of a mile from the Church.(4)

For twenty-five years Bishop Nelson of Georgia was a commanding figure in the Church in the South. A priest of his diocese writes that he informed him of his practice of reserving for the sick, and he replied: "I will not interfere with it." In such dioceses as Fond du Lac and Milwaukee the practice has, of course, obtained at the Cathedrals, and in many, if not practically all the parishes, for many years.

These names are selected as representative ones to show how widespread is the custom, how long it has been practised, and how it has been regarded by bishops of various schools of Churchmanship. It has been confined to no one section, and to no one type of diocese.

In a considerable number of cases the bishops have acted on the ground that they were authorised by the Church's law to give formal permission for Reservation, although there is no canonical precedent for this claim. In far the greater number of instances, however, they have taken the position contemplated by the Canons on Reservation, namely, that the responsibility of reserving belongs to the parish priest; that it pertains to the jurisdiction given him, when on entering upon his cure, the language of the Church declares him to be "possessed of full power to perform every Act of Sacerdotal Function among the People."(5) In short, the matter was left to the discretion of the local clergy.

1. i. Readers note: this essay was published in 1919.

2. ii. Reverend A. V. Magee. See Caritas, June, 1919.

3. iii. Grafton. A Journey Godward, pages 34-35.

4. iv. John Wright, The Restoration of Reservation, pages 49-50.

5. v. Institution Office, Book of Common Prayer

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