It is not easy to document the origins of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament simply because it came into being during “dangerous times”.
One of the significant moments of the ritualist movement of the second half of the nineteenth century was the trial (literally) of Fr. Arthur Tooth (left) of S.James’ Hatcham in south London. These were the heady days of persecution, riots, ridicule and imprisonment for practices that we would regard as commonplace today: candles on altars, making the sign of the cross, and vestments!
Thus membership lists were secret (and destroyed) for fear they might fall into the wrong hands. As a result, little exists of how we came into being.
Various Anglican Catholic organisations emerged during the 19th century, of which the Society of the Holy Cross (Societas Sancte Crucis or SSC) for priests was the “elite”, so secretive that you could be nominated for membership without even your personal knowledge of it! Seven years later, in 1862, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was founded at All Saints Margaret Street, London by Canon TT Carter (right) for Anglican clergy and laity (the first Catholic society for both) partially out of SSC and in close association with the English Church Union. Its particular emphasis was for the careful preparation of those wishing to come to the Sacrament of Holy Communion, through fasting and confession. These two aspects have remained ever since in our Rules, though the conditions for both have relaxed considerably over the years.
Membership grew rapidly: by the 1870s there were some eight hundred priests-associate of CBS. With such firm beginnings CBS went from strength to strength and, whereas many other smaller devotional societies faded away or united with others, the Confraternity became a leading force.
Financial stability has been one of our strengths, through wise stewardship of the endowments and benefactions made to us. Poor parishes could (and can) be supported with grants of vessels and vestments for the right, proper and dignified celebration of the Eucharist.
Aumbries (or Tabernacles) can be supplied to ensure secure reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.
Many horror stories are told of damp aumbries in porous walls where the Most Holy Sacrament has gone mouldy or the Reserved Sacrament has been kept in a cocoa tin!
Because we accept the words of Jesus at the Last Supper “…this is my body; this is my blood”, there is no more precious thing in the world, than the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and our joy is to help and encourage others to regard as such this most precious gift: Christ’s own abiding Presence among us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.