HERE IS NO SUCH THING as the Sarum Rite. However, there was once such a thing as the “SARUM USE.” During the Middle Ages, practically every diocese (as well as each cathedral and religious order) made small modifications to the Roman Rite. If you attended Mass in Southern England in the year 1450AD, you probably would have encountered the Sarum Use. Father Fortescue wrote in 1912:
In everything of any importance at all, Sarum (and all other mediæval rites) was simply Roman, the rite which we still use. Not only was the whole order and arrangement the same, all the important prayers were the same too.
If you regularly attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form, you would feel right at home with the Sarum Use, even though it has some minor differences. For example, the Extraordinary Form doesn’t allow choir boys to toss unconsecrated hosts on Palm Sunday, whereas Sarum did. We must be on our guard against erroneous internet articles which misrepresent Sarum. I have encountered uninformed authors who believe Sarum was in English! (Sarum was, of course, completely in Latin.)
Fr. Adrian Fortescue explains that Sarum was basically the same as the Extraordinary Form, just like all the other medieval uses:
WHEN I STILL LIVED IN TEXAS, I got into a heated argument with a young man about whether the Anglican Ordinariate “preserved elements of the Sarum Use.” In the end, this young man was unable to point to a single “Sarum” element in the Ordinariate Missal. I would still love to know if there are any major instances. From what I know, the Ordinariate doesn’t toss unconsecrated hosts at the choir boys. The Ordinariate doesn’t call the Introit “Officium.” The Ordinariate doesn’t celebrate Mass in Latin, as Sarum did. The Ordinariate doesn’t use the Sarum Lectionary (which differed slightly from the Extraordinary Form pericopes); it uses the Novus Ordo Lectionary. I’m told the Ordinariate does number “Sundays after Trinity”—but that’s an insignificant detail, hardly worth mentioning. (Nor is that unique to Sarum.) Furthermore, my understanding is that the Ordinariate adapted some Sarum collects.
We must avoid calling things “Sarum” if they were also found in other medieval uses. Let me try to explain what I mean: it would be silly to call mountains “American”—because mountains are found in many countries. It would be silly to call water “European”—because water is found in many continents. In the same way, referring to certain items—round-neck surplices, rood screens, saffron vestments, and so on—as “Sarum” doesn’t make any sense.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
* The “Sarum Use” was based on the particular way the liturgy was celebrated at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire (constructed in the 13th century). Salisbury Cathedral is absolutely stunning in every way. It was originally Roman Catholic, but (alas!) was appropriated by Anglicans in the 16th century. It would be difficult to name a more beautiful Cathedral. If you have never seen it, please google it immediately; it’s breathtaking.