Monsignor James Crichton
Monsignor James Crichton’s obituary in the Independent described him as “Britain’s foremost Roman Catholic liturgist”. Ordained in 1932, he served the Archdiocese of Birmingham throughout his priesthood, acquiring an interest in liturgy, which became a passion, only after ordination.
His writings were prolific, his many books and becoming the subject of a PhD thesis at the Catholic University of America. He was editor of the Society of Saint Gregory’s journal for twenty years, from 1952 to 1972, prophetically announcing the liturgical renewal before Vatican 2 and leading the way on the bumpy ride when the reforms were implemented. His editorials wrestled with a wide range of ecclesial concerns.
His animated and informative writings served not only English Catholics but all English-speaking Catholics, and his active retirement generated even more and varied publications. Whether you agreed with him or not, whether his words agitated and annoyed you, or whether they made you laugh out loud, whether you responded or reacted to his stance, he gave you no choice but to find a standing place in relation to the issue.
As a priest ordained for the people, Mgr Crichton saw it as his responsibility to serve as ‘the mystagogue leading the people into the mystery’ and he took on that mission enthusiastically and prophetically. Archbishop Vincent Nichols summed up his approach during his homily at Mgr Crichton’s funeral:
I grew to appreciate his central convictions about the quality of liturgy that should be found in our parishes. I share them. He wanted liturgies which were thoughtfully planned and graciously carried out. The Mass must be celebrated prayerfully and with reverence, with everything aimed at aiding and enhancing the prayer of the people in the worship of God.Archbishop Vincent Nichols
At the request of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, Mgr Crichton was awarded an honorary doctorate in sacred liturgy in 1995 from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.
The Society of Saint Gregory honours James Crichton’s memory with an annual lecture in his name, in fulfilment of his final wish that the Society should continue in its efforts to teach and educate.