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 IV
The Duty of the Pastor

The practical conclusion from the statements in the previous chapter is evident. It is the duty of every Pastor of the American Church to reserve the Blessed Sacrament constantly for the use of his congregation. The burden of proof lies upon those who fail to do so, not upon those who comply with the law; and it must be respectfully reiterated that Reservation is the responsibility of the parish priest, and that the few Bishops who undertake to forbid it are acting quite as much ultra vires as if they attempted to limit the frequency with which a rector celebrated the Holy Communion.

And we earnestly press the point that this conclusion is not new, nor does it present an extreme position. It has been held by the most conservative of Churchmen. The expression used above - "acting ultra vires," - is quoted from Canon Malcolm MacColl.

It cannot be said to involve any question of ecclesiastical obedience. A Bishop may hold a different view from his clergy on the subject of Reservation, but it has been exceptional when any Bishop has shown inclination to force his opinions on his clergy. Authorities are plentiful on this point.

In 1878, that most humble and just of Churchmen, the late Dean Church, wrote to Canon Carter: "I certainly cannot suppose that our ordination vows carry with them an engagement to absolute and indefinite submission to a Bishop's judgement. The term 'godly judgement' plainly qualifies and limits the engagement … Where the question is one of wide legal and constitutional dispute between serious, responsible men, I do not think that a Bishop has a right to urge an ordination vow in order to force us to agree with him. The very question at issue is, what is the real law, and no single Bishop can claim to rule that."(1)

On the immediate point itself, Dr. Darwell Stone of Oxford, whose learning and caution have often been a thorn in the side of extreme and precipitate High Churchmen, says:

"The reason which lead me to hold that a parish priest may reserve the Sacrament in his parish church without first obtaining the leave of his Bishop are these. At his institution the parish priest receives the charge of souls. In that solemn moment the responsibility of the Bishop does not cease but the responsibility of the parish priest begins… For the fulfilment of that charge the parish priest is responsible to the Bishop on earth but also to Almighty God. When it is said, as has sometimes been said of late, that the parish priest is merely the instrument of his Bishop, a great and noble office is degraded from its true function and its historical status. In the fulfilment of his responsibility the parish priest has wide powers. It is his duty to find out the spiritual needs of his people. It is his duty to provide the right methods of supplying those needs. It may sometimes be his duty to try experiments. He holds a position which no one else can wholly share; and the heart would soon be taken out of his ministrations if he could never begin anything without first having obtained his Bishop's leave. It has been through the initiative of parish priests that a large part of the restored vigour to the Church of England has been won. The great growth of spiritual efficiency which the 19th and 20th centuries have seen would have been sadly hampered if nothing could have been done without 'positive episcopal sanction' first obtained. It was along these lines that Reservation in the Church of England was restored. Those who began the restoration began it simply by restoring. Often in the stress of the times they did so under unsatisfactory conditions and in unsatisfactory ways. There were elements of secrecy which were not good. There were hidden places which were not fitting for the dignity of the Sacrament. But pioneers cannot always choose all the circumstances of their work; and these pioneers had to deal with difficulties indeed great. As time has gone on, the instances in which Reservation has been begun without the leave of the Bishop having been first obtained, have probably been the great majority, and those in which there was at first 'positive episcopal sanction' the small minority. In that respect Reservation has followed the course of most improvements and reforms. As a rule they have come from the priests, not from Bishops."

To this judgement, Dr. Stone adds:

"Further, if the parish priest was to reserve at all, history and reason and reverence pointed to his parish church as the right place; and, when the Sacrament was reserved it was but acting on the true instinct of a worthy devotion if he allowed his faithful people to pray to our Lord there present."(2)

In concluding this chapter, I would earnestly plead with those who find themselves at disagreement with it, not merely to fall back on some long settled position, nor to dismiss it as being the contention of a school; but to take time to investigate the authorities. If our conclusion is wrong the error can easily be demonstrated. None of us wishes merely to substantiate his own position. What we want, especially at this juncture, is to find the mind of the Church. If our position is not in accord with the Church's mind, let the fact be demonstrated, that our argument and conclusion may, once for all, be dismissed.

1. Life and Letters of T. T. Carter, page 152
2. ii. The Church Times, March 9, 1917

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