For a rite that has not been used continuously since the reign of Good Queen Mary Tudor, the Sarum usage has occupied copious amounts of time in the minds and speeches of liturgists, historians, and more common laymen looking for something different from the average parish offering. Most recently one Bernard Brandt has argued for the restoration of the Sarum liturgy on a legal basis, reiterating in depth what Fr. Séan Finnegan wrote years before. Fr. Chadwick is unusually a celebrant of the unadultered Sarum rite in Norman France and occasionally mentions his hopes for the tradition. Other than two Masses by Fr. Finnegan in the 1990s—promptly shut down over legal concerns, Sarum has not been subjected to any visible celebrations.
Why has it remained a more popular point of discussion than the neo-Gallican rites, the use of York, Braga in Portugal, or the idiosyncratic liturgies of Toledo and Milan? Various overlapping Anglican movements (the Tractarian, Oxford, and Ritualist movements) wrought liturgical scholarship into England's Catholic past and new printings of old Sarum books. Scholars in the liturgical movement revived history in the medieval developments that took place in northern Europe. Many of these studies were either conducted in England or were quickly translated into that tongue; the works of Dix and Batiffol come to mind. Lastly, there was the traditionalist movement. Many English Catholics adduced the example of Sarum and York to prove that the liturgical tradition of Latin Christianity existed beyond the Roman rite and was never subjected to proactive papal fiat, hence the pope could not uniformly and unilaterally impose one liturgical rite over a traditionally established praxis. Sarum is discussed, but rarely practiced. What future could it have?
Sarum resources abound the market if one looks hard enough and is willing to pay a handsome sum for hardcover books. Digital books and scholarly materials are available online in both Latin and English. Various ensembles have recorded settings of the Christmas Masses. One enterprising scholar even made a project of uploading the Missal and Divine Office with musical instructions online here, making a restoration feasible outside the Music department at Oxford.
So, we have a Missal, musical notation, a choir and a dozen men ready to serve, but who would be our congregation? In 2011, when the British Ordinariate came to be, there was quite a bit of chatter on St. Giles Street in Oxford that Msgr. Andrew Burnham was fond of Sarum and intended to ask permission to use it as an "extraordinary form" for the community. I met Burnham half a dozen times, but never had the interest to ask him if he even had an affinity for Sarum. The English Ordinariate, unlike its formerly Anglo-Catholic American counterpart, is comprised of former Anglo-Papists, who had been celebrating and interpreting the Pauline liturgy in a conservative Oratorian fashion for decades prior to Anglicanorum coetibus. Their primary concern was not the Catholic heritage of England, it was bridging high Roman Catholicism with Anglicanism. Other than Fr. Hunwicke, not many Ordinariate priests seem interested in older forms of the Roman rite, much less in its English children.
The best chance for Sarum in the Catholic Church is likely as an exceptional form of liturgy for the Church in England to use on special occasions. It is a rite that belongs to English Catholics as a whole, not uniquely to those of "Anglican patrimony." Sarum descends from the Roman rite and the Prayer Book, although part of a new faith, descended in many strong parts from the Sarum praxis and texts. Traditionalists would be best equipped for a minor restoration: they more readily have scholae, priests versed in Latin, laity unafraid of Latin, and, in England, have a sympathy for the heritage of their predecessors who kept the faith.
Would they be interested? A large enough portion for the rare Mass or Vespers, surely. Would they be willing? Herein one finds the sticky situation of relying on other clergy and the benevolence of Churchmen. After the backtrack in 1996/7, one would need a very confident dragoman to examine the laws of the Latin Church and then proceed to do exactly what they allow. An old saying "In England, everything is allowed except what is prohibited; in Russia, everything is prohibited except what is allowed" recapitulates the transformation of liturgical perspective in the last few generations. Interest will get us to the door, but eventually some clerics will have to turn the handle and smile at Rome as they stride over the threshold.
(As a note, the archbishop of Birmingham approved Fr. Finnegan's celebrations in the 1990s. The fallout with Basil Hume and the Vatican can be followed on Mr. Brandt's blog.)
One would hope that if Sarum ever does rise from the dead, its celebrants will utilize its distinctive non-Roman features. Who would not want to read Origen at Mattins on Christmas Eve?
Given the popularity of this quasi-Sarum related post, I think it is at least stocking coped cantors in the boutique for my fellow fetishists.