Sunday, 30 October 2011

Confidently Proclaiming the Catholic Faith

There was sometimes a real sense of almost "naughty" fun about being an Anglo-Catholic.  Somehow, in attempting to enhance the catholic side of things in what we did in our own parishes, the disagreement and disapproval of the Anglican establishment was almost an incentive to us.  Some worried that there would be something rather important lost in this regard when we crossed the Tiber, even if none of would miss the flip side of the fun, ie the ability of the Anglican establishment to do the opposite back to us!

Well, that worry was unnecessary.  The confidence with which the Catholic Faith is proclaimed within the Catholic Church is inspiring.  The shared common position is very powerful : there may be disagreements about details in some quarters, but these are details around an agreed set of fundamental premises.  In a blogpost a few days ago we made reference to the example of the hymn O Bread of Heaven, which symbolises the difference we now feel : the theme of that hymn was a much debated and hard fought over point before, whereas now, in the Catholic Church, it is quite simply the shared point of view. 

Fr Colven's parish notes at St James's Spanish Place this week made the same point. A fearless expression of the life to come, and of the Communion of Saints.  They are reproduced below, and make inspiring reading. 

Before that though, our joy this month at the Marian hymns sung as a recessional after the 1030 Solemn Mass at St James's has been unbounded.  In another post earlier this month, we mentioned one such example.  This morning we had the joy of another H F Hemy tune, as the tune for the hymn "I'll sing a hymn to Mary, the Mother of my God".

I couldn't find an outstandlingly good rendition of that hymn on youtube, but we shall be pleased to make do with Fr Francis.

The Rector writes ...

At the beginning of the 18th century, Alexander Pope penned some lines which serve as a sort of secular creed: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man”. According to this view of human nature we can only really understand what can be tested empirically, and any kind of metaphysical speculation is therefore rendered meaningless. It is an argument which, in varying forms, we hear from the secular humanists of our own day, and has entered into the consciousness of the age. The Christian rejoinder is, of course, to point to belief in the Incarnation – that God assumes the human condition himself and that, in the historical person of his Christ, he becomes accessible, even tangible: “he is the image of the unseen God – in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1: 15). Human beings no longer have to reach out beyond themselves in the attempt to comprehend the unfathomable mystery of God – it is he who chooses to illuminate the mystery, and place himself within the human context.

Nowhere is the secular mind-set more clearly demonstrated than in current attitudes to death. Most funerals today concentrate almost exclusively on what has been, rather than what will be … and what else could they do when the majority do not believe that anything meaningful can be said about life beyond the grave (hence the growing fashion for “memorial” services sometime after the human remains have been quietly disposed of). How different the matrix of thought and understanding behind the words of the dying Saint Dominic: “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death, and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life”. At every Sunday Mass we state our belief in the communion of saints, and this constituent of Christian faith means that, far from there being nothing which can be said about the state of those who die, we have an enormous contribution to offer with 2,000 years of accumulated experience to draw upon - living and praying, as we do, “with the Angels and Archangels, and with the great multitude of the Saints”.

Saint Paul could say of the dead: “do not grieve about them like the other people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13): not that we should not mourn those who have gone before us (the cost of love is the pain of separation) but that faith in Christ’s resurrection, and our own, provides a context where grief is lightened by trust, and where, in words from the requiem Mass “the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality: for your faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not ended". All this serves to demonstrate why we venerate and love the saints – for us, they are a living connection to the fullness of life which awaits, nothing less than stepping stones to heaven. The saints are our family and friends to whose care and concern we turn as naturally as we would to our own blood relatives. It is this inter-action between heaven and earth, between what we can see and touch, and what we can only as yet perceive by faith, which makes for our understanding of a “single communion and fellowship”. The Catholic vision of a profound unity binding heaven and earth, of a continuum between time and eternity, is focussed, personified, in those we adopt as our patron saints. By studying their lives, following their example, and commending our needs to their intercession, we place our daily living in the context of eternity.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Holy Father hosts in Assisi

Very much in line with the theme of yesterday's blogpost, The Pope of Christian Unity, in Assisi yesterday the Holy Father hosted leaders of Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, as well as leaders of other religions, for an Interreligious meeting in Assisi, at which he and his guests renewed their commitment to peace.

This was the third such meeting.  The first took place 25 years ago, the second shortly after the events of 11 September 2011.  This time, the much discussed moment of common prayer was not included, rather leaders were each given an opportunity to make a contribution, and then separately each had time for prayer and reflection.  

The Holy Father's message was that there should be no more violence in the name of religion, that we as Christians have the shameful task of acknowledging that violence has in the past been used in the name of Christianity, and that the contributions of each religion in this life should be "Justice and Peace, Forgiveness and Life, Love"
As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put "suffering-with" (compassion) and "loving-with" in place of force. His name is "God of love and peace" (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans

The Holy Father also included agnostics in the guest list, picking up on the theme of the homily preached last month in Germany, where he pointed out that agnostics who seek God are closer to the heart of God than those who are ostensibly believers but whose life in faith is lived solely through routine and convention.
In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: "There is no God". They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace". They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.
It is important not to misunderstand the events of yesterday.  This was not (and neither were the previous Assisi meetings), a watering down of Catholicism, or even of Christianity in any sense, in order to have a 1960s style pow-wow.  In no way did yesterday contradict what many, including Blessed John Henry Newman, have said about relativism.  Rather, it was a meeting of all those who lead world religions, held with a view to dedicating themselves to peace.  Indeed, the Holy Father, when talking of agnostics, commented that each us must seek the truest sense of our faith :

Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.
This is entirely consistent with what he said in the first quotation above, that violence committed in the name of Christianity contradicts its very nature, and is based on incorrect and falsified understandings.

Regular readers of this blog with keen eyes will note that in some of the footage included above, the Porziuncola can be seen.  We have previously talked of the Porziuncola here  and here.

St Francis of Assisi, Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Pope of Christian Unity

The ancient churches of the east have long fascinated me.  I found that one of the most interesting parts of Diarmaid MacCulloch's BBC documentary A History of Christianity was his opening section on the east, not only the Syrian Orthodox Church, but also the very early progress of Christianity in China. 

On a more personal level, I had the good fortune to spend several months in Armenia in 1998, where, thanks to the insatiable appetite for knowledge and thirst for history of my French boss at the time, I visited and attended the liturgy at a number of ancient churches and monasteries, including of course Echmiadzin and the astonishing and beautiful Khor Virap, which sits right on the current Turkish border with spectacular views of Mt Ararat.  Khor Virap is where St Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a cave for many years before finally being released and converting the King of Armenia, making Armenia the first country to declare itself formally Christian (in 301AD).

The reason for indulging myself in this trip down memory lane is that today is the Feast of St Frumentius, the Apostle to Ethiopia.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, like the Armenian Apostolic Church, is very ancient, and is an Oriental Orthodox church.  These churches split from the Western Church long before the Catholic/Orthodox divide that arose in the eleventh century.  The fundamental difference between these Oriental Orthodox churches and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the west is a disagreement that crystallised at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD. 

In the west, we refer to the Oriental Orthodox Churches as Monophysite, meaning that they believe that Christ had one single nature, whereas western teaching is that Christ has two natures, being, as the Divine Praises say, "True God and True Man", being wholly divine and wholly human.  The Oriental Orthodox reject the label of Monophysite, preferring Miaphysite, meaning that their definition of one nature really means a union in one form of two different natures.  These differences, which in this short summary and even in their underlying origins, turn on very subtle interpretations and in some cases on differences in translations, have kept the Oriental Orthodox and the Western Churches apart for over 1500 years, and it is only in the most recent times that small steps towards greater understanding have been made. 

A high point in the move towards greater understanding and reconciliation was the visit of Coptic Patriarch Pope Shenouda III to the Vatican in 1973, where Pope Paul VI presented him with a relic of St Athanasius (of whom a little more below), which relic is now housed in the Coptic Cathedral of St Mark in Cairo.  We must hope and pray that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, the "Pope of Christian Unity" as he is being called, continues the good work that has been started.

St Frumentius, having found himself shipwrecked in Ethiopia, was eventually sent to Alexandria, where in 328AD he was ordained Bishop by St Athanasius, who for so long was credited as the author of the Quicumque Vult, a text that is not as well known any more as it should be ("Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith....").  From Alexandria, Frumentius returned south as Abune ("father") of Ethiopia, thereby starting a tradition that endured until 1959 of the Coptic Pope naming an Egyptian Copt as Archbishop of Ethiopia.  Like St Gregory the Illuminator, he baptised the King, and converted the country.

No post on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church can be complete with something on Lalibela, the series of churches carved out of the rock, each being quite literally monolithic, ie one single stone.  Here is an extract from a documentary about these astonishing buildings.

For me, gaining more and more understanding about the ancient churches of the first millenium, and seeing that, even if very very slowly, efforts are being made to explore ways to bridge our gaps, is ever so slightly bittersweet.  It is of course wonderful that these things are being done, these are clear examples of work and prayer being put in with a view to finding ways to come closer to unity of Christians.  Who does not rejoice at seeing this photo of the Holy Father with Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch, symbolising in one image small steps that, while still fraught with difficulty, were thought impossible within living memory?

Yet the label of bittersweet still applies, because it reminds us that our former home, the Church of England, is not moving in the same direction, but in the opposite, towards some sort of increasingly formal affiliation with the national protestant churches of Scandinavia, rejecting more and more the idea of unity with the ancient Church of East and West : some kinds of Anglicans, in saying something anti-Papal, forget that the Orthodox Churches view developments in their church no more positively than does the Catholic Church.

We must pray with Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity, with St Gregory the Illuminator and St Frumentius for the unity of all Christians.  On a day when the Holy Father is gathering around him not only the leaders of other religions, but also the leaders of Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, this seems doubly appropriate.

Let us also offer a prayer for those in the Ethiopian Catholic Metropolitan Church, who are in communion with the Holy Father, and who follow an Ethiopic Rite, especially those in Eritrea, whose ecclesial structure became an Ordinariate in 1930, later being raised to an Exarchate and thence to an Eparchate under the Metropolitan See of Addis Ababa.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

St Cedd, the Synod of Whitby, and Puzzlement

The Synod of Whitby took place in 664 in the Abbey of St Hilda in Whitby.  St Cedd, whose feast day falls day, played a key role in the Synod.  He was not only a Bishop, an Abbot and a trusted adviser to the King of Northumbria (in whose kingdom the Synod took place), but also a talented linguist, and therefore able to assist in the complex discussions between the participants, who would have had spoken a mixture of Latin, a nascent form of English, Welsh, Gaelic and perhaps other languages too.  It is not unreasonable to conclude that he might have had a significant influence on proceedings.

While it had as its specific purpose the resolution of a small number of matters that we might today see as being of varying degrees of significance (the method of the setting of the date of Easter, and the method of applying the tonsure), the Synod of Whitby stands as a key milestone in the process of increasing the conformity of the practices of the Church in this country with the practices of the Church more widely.

Despite some rather wilful misinterpretations over the years (even to this very day in certain quarters), on a similar scale to the completely Brigadoon-esque fantasies of nineteenth century romanticisers of Scottish legends and "tradition" (eg Ossian, the clan tartan system etc.), it was not a case of an independent “Celtic Church” being subsumed into a territorially avaricious Roman Church. There was no proto-Church of England, let alone a proto-Church of Scotland, present at the Synod of Whitby.  What was happening was an alignment of local and universal practice, using an argument (advanced by the “British”, not by the “Italians”) of Petrine supremacy and the universality of the Church.

The leading advocate of the argument for falling into line with the wider practices of the Church was St Wilfred.  We have already commented in a blogpost earlier this month on our puzzlement at the choice of St Wilfred as a patron of a society for those dedicated to remaining in the Church of England rather than pursuing the option of the Ordinariate.  When one looks at the reasons advanced by St Wilfred for alignment with the universal practices of the Church rather than following the practices on Iona (which, in any case, were under pressure from Ireland to conform to wider practice), as cited by the Venerable Bede, the reasons for our puzzlement become even clearer. 
  • it was the practice in Rome, where the apostles Ss Peter and Paul had “lived, taught, suffered, and are buried”;
  • it was the universal practice of the Church, "even as far as Egypt";
  • the customs of the apostle John were particular to the needs of his community and his age and, since then, the Council of Nicaea and established a different practice (the local Ionan or “Celtic” customs followed practices first established by St John the Apostle);
  • Columba (the founder of Iona) had done the best he could considering his knowledge, and thus his irregular practice is excusable, but the Ionan monks at present did not have the excuse of ignorance; and
  • whatever the case, no one has authority over Peter (and thus his successors, the Bishops of Rome).
Once these arguments had been presented, and all parties had agreed that they considered that, in line with what is stated in the Gospel, St Peter had been given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and was the rock on which the Church was built, and that therefore he and his successors had recognized authority, the conclusion of the Synod was clear.

A short while after the Synod had concluded, St Cedd returned to the monastery he had established at Lastingham, and died of the plague later that year.  Aside from his significance derived from the Synod of Whitby, he is variously known as the Bishop of the East Saxons and the Apostle to Essex (on account of his success in evangelisation there, even now several parishes and associated schools bear his name). 

The church constructed by St Cedd, St Peter (what else?) in Bradwell-on-Sea, one of the oldest churches still standing in the UK, and now run by the Church of England, can still be visited today.

St Cedd, St Wilfred and St Hilda, pray for us.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Persecuted Christians Then and Now

October 25 is the Feast day of Ss Crispin and Crispinian.  We know little about them, other than that these two young Roman twins went on an expedition to Gaul, where they were successful in their dayjob as missionaries, bringing people to the Faith.  We know also that by night they worked as shoemakers in order to have enough money to fund their daytime activities of evangelism and almsgiving.  All very typical, an ancient story of worthy people: nothing spectacular, the modern reader might think, nothing that relates to our lives now.  Well, we also know that they were subject to torture for their efforts (stories vary as to precisely what kind of torture, but none of it was pleasant) and ultimately beheaded.  This may not relate to our existence as members of the Catholic Church in England today, but very sadly it is still a very modern story.

There has been a very interesting discussion this week, started by Anne Widdecombe, in her capacity as Special Envoy for Religious Freedom for the Aid to the Church in Need ("ACN"). 

Let us be perfectly clear, in case there is any attempt at wilful misinterpretation of either what Ann Widdecombe said, or what is being said here.  We should at all times make efforts to protect those who are being oppressed in any way, persecuted, tortured or killed.  That most certainly includes people affected for reasons of, inter alios, race, gender, sexuality, age, appearance or culture : but surely it also includes people who suffer simply because of their faith.  Neither Ann Widdecombe nor this blog was or is seeking special treatment for those persecuted for their faith, simply that persecution on grounds of faith be seen as being as unacceptable as any other reason for persecution.

An article in the Catholic Herald reports on what Anne Widdecombe said, and a longer, more detailed and more graphic article in The Telegraph does the same.

She makes a call to the UK government to stand up for people discriminated against for their faith.  She agrees with the government for its action in cutting aid to the Malawian government by £19m, where two gay men have quite shockingly been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour for having contravened anti-gay laws.  Such treatment of human beings is clearly utterly unacceptable, and should not in any way be condoned or supported by anyone.  The issue is though, that the UK government is seemingly totally unwilling to stand up for Christians who face similar persecution.

Miss Widdecombe cites the recent tragedy in Egypt, where church authorities and eyewitnesses accuse the Egyptian government (which denies the allegations) of sponsoring a "rabble army" to lead an attack that is reported to have led to 25 deaths (mostly of Coptic Christians) and to over 300 people being injured.  She also mentions a case in Pakistan (which receives £350m of UK aid each year), where a Christian labourer is understood to be on death row as a result of prosecution for blasphemy.  The article in the Catholic Herald says :
In her speech in Westminster Cathedral Hall, Miss Widdecombe will accuse the Government of indifference to the rights of Christians.  Ann Widdecombe, who in March became ACN’s special envoy to religious freedom, will say: “You stand a better chance of earnest representation if you are a hedgehog – and I speak as a patron of the Hedgehog Protection Society.  In the last 10 years, how many debates have there been on persecution of Christians, how many Government statements on the subject?”  Her comments come after Aid to the Church in Need gave statistics in its report on Christian persecution showing that 75 per cent of all religious persecution was directed against Christians.  Other research shows that 105,000 Christians are killed every year for faith-related reasons
We absolutely correctly want to protect the oppressed.  No-one is arguing that the government should not have acted against Malawi, for example.  Ghana and Uganda can and should expect similar treatment.  Aid should not end up funding limousines and palaces of course (the government of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, ordered a private jet for its President in 2009), but no more should it go into the coffers of governments who wish to treat their people in such terrible ways  Yet, it is truly awful that the UK government shows no interest whatsoever in the plight of oppressed Christians.

The Catholic Herald goes on to quote Ann Widdecombe as follows :
Today we should all begin to act. Each of us should pick one country, pray for it, donate to the Church there, write to [UK Foreign Secretary] William Hague and the local MP.  We should make it our business to follow reports about persecuted Christians – especially through the work of Aid to the Church in Need.
For the purposes of clarification, aid being cut is aid to governments, we are not talking about other charitable aid flowing directly into these poorer countries without passing through the local government.  

We often read of and talk of the rights of Christians being infringed in this country, clearly these are valid concerns : but even as you read this, Christians are being tortured and killed for nothing more than believing what you do.

Please take a look at the website of Aid to the Church in Need and consider offering your prayers and, if you can, some financial support.  You can listen to Ann Widdecombe's speech through their website.

Although one can debate the motives of the fictionalised character giving this speech, one of the most moving and motivational speeches in the English language is surely Shakespeare's words for Henry V in his St Crispin's Day Speech.  Let us try to be stirred by this the last section of this famous call to take action, even as others do nothing.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Ss Crispin and Crispinian, pray for us and for all who are persecuted, including those who suffer for the Faith.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Full in the Panting Heart of Rome

In the last few days before we were each received into the Catholic Church, each of us had the feeling that something momentous was about to happen.  The nearest parallel we could find was that it was comparable, in some ways, to the feelings in the days leading up to getting married, or to becoming a parent.  It was a "life event", as they say.  It was a significant occasion with significant meaning.  By the same token, people seem to regard us as more serious (or perhaps, these days, more dangerous) Christians than before : there is something about becoming and being a Catholic that conveys serious intent and conviction even to people who have little or no interest in religion or Christianity. 

To the wider world, even the most eloquent explanation of Anglo-Catholic branch theories could not stir up that sentiment.  It is something that takes a bit of getting used to.  Instead of saying “You don’t really believe all that, do you?” as non-believing friends did in our Church of England days (it being the default presumption of English society that nobody in the Church of England really does), they now look in amazement and say “I can’t understand how it is that you believe all that”.   That might not sound like progress, but it most definitely is: friends and colleagues are not instantly converted of course, but people suddenly realise that yes, we are serious about this. 

We are a constant reminder to people we encounter that there is this thing called Christianity and there is this thing called the Catholic Church.   Coming into the full communion of the Catholic Church was not just a selfish process of sorting our own position out, but was also automatically an act of witness.  The effect is not on the same level as Blessed John Henry Newman’s conversion, which sent shockwaves around society at the time, but on our own scale, what has happened most definitely registers in some small way with all around us.

Some of our ordinariate group attended the birthday party of a mutual friend at the weekend.  There on one of the shelves of his endless bookshelves, placed quite by hazard, was the Order of Service from our Reception Mass.  It was just slightly too far away across the furniture for people to read, but even from a distance, one could quite easily see the smiling portrait of the Holy Father that also graces the right hand sidebar of this blog (and which is reproduced below).  Quite possibly no-one noticed that photo but us, but perhaps some did, and perhaps in the two seconds that they thought about the picture they had seen of the Pope, they came into closer contact with the Church than they had done in years, or perhaps than they had ever done.

To our now separated brethren, to our friends who remain in the Church of England, we stand as a reminder that there is another way.   Another way, one that reaches out to them with welcoming arms.  Another way, one that doesn’t see them as an awkward group of trouble-makers that needs to be contained, but cherishes them as brothers and sisters in the Faith, who, if they wish, will be welcomed into the Catholic Church. Another way, one that doesn’t find their beliefs in the Saints, in the Real Presence, in the Sacraments and in the “Faith once delivered to the Apostles” to be an embarrassment, but that rejoices in a shared Patrimony.

Last week, I made a quip about having resisted the “pull” of becoming a Calvinist during my trip to Geneva, and said that for certain types of Anglicans, a trip to Rome might pose a few questions of a rather more compelling kind.  The beauty and majesty of Rome, its ancient yet permanent nature, these are a constant reminder too, just as much, and indeed more so than anything that any of us might say or do.  This is enthusiastically expressed in the Cardinal Wiseman hymn “Full in the panting heart of Rome”, much loved of course by excited new Catholics (and by Anglo-Papalists in the old days), but no less a fine expression of very sound sentiments for that.  Even the title of the hymn seems shocking to the modern ear, expressing enthusiasm, excitement even and religious faith, in the context of support for the Petrine ministry and the universality of the Catholic Church.  What a powerful and truly Catholic hymn it is

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Blessed John Paul II

Today is the first feast day of Blessed John Paul II.  The day is being marked in Rome and in Poland, but it is not (yet) marked elsewhere.  We shall have to wait for his canonisation for that.

For members of the Ordinariate, and indeed for Anglo-Catholics still holding on in the Church of England, he has a most significant meaning.  His visit to the UK in 1982 represented what we would consider to have been the very highest point for hopes of some kind of corporate reunion between the Church of England and the Catholic Church.  "The successor of St Peter greets the successor of St Augustine" is what Blessed John Paul II said to Robert Runcie, then the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The two prayed before the shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury, and knelt together before the nave altar of Canterbury Cathedral. 

These words from Blessed John Paul II's homily that day :
My dear brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, “whom I love and long for” (Phil. 4, 1), how happy I am to be able to speak directly to you today in this great Cathedral! The building itself is an eloquent witness both to our long years of common inheritance and to the sad years of division that followed......I appeal to you in this holy place, all my fellow Christians, and especially the members of the Church of England and the members of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, to accept the commitment to which Archbishop Runcie and I pledge ourselves anew before you today. This commitment is that of praying and working for reconciliation and ecclesial unity according to the mind and heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ.  On this first visit of a Pope to Canterbury, I come to you in love - the love of Peter to whom the Lord said, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luc. 22, 32). I come to you also in the love of Gregory, who sent Saint Augustine to this place to give the Lord’s flock a shepherd’s care (Cfr. 1 Petr. 5, 2). Just as every minister of the Gospel must do, so today I echo the words of the Master: “I am among you as one who serves” (Luc. 22, 27). With me I bring to you, beloved brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, the hopes and the desires, the prayers and good will of all who are united with the Church of Rome, which from earliest times was said to “preside in love” (S. IGNATII ANTIOCHENI Ad Romanos, Prooem.).
Was reunion as likely as was thought and hoped by Anglo-Catholics at the time?  Well, possibly not, there were many who would have been very against it.  Yet it was not impossible: no-one thought it would be easy, but no-one thought it was beyond reach.

Time has moved on, and the high point of that meeting Canterbury Cathedral was countered by various decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England that mean few now believe that corporate reunion is likely in any of our lifetimes.  When the current Archbishop of Canterbury received Pope Benedict XVI at Lambeth Palace in 2010, there was much expression of tremendous and genuine mutual good will and respect, but no sentiment that we were possibly on our way to corporate reunion. 

In some of the first posts on this blog, for example Pope Benedict XVI at Westminster Cathedral and Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us, we highlighted how much of a role the visit of the current Holy Father to these shores had on those of us who have joined the Ordinariate.  Apart from all the various reasons mentioned in earlier blogposts, perhaps some of us compared the visit of 2010 with the visit of 1982, and compared the hopes for Catholic Unity.  The landscape was very, very different.
Might an Ordinariate have been created earlier, perhaps in the 1990s after the first of the major changes in the Church of England?  Quite possibly.  We referred in a recent blogpost to discussions between Monsignor Graham Leonard, Cardinal Hume and the then Cardinal Ratzinger on what to do about the wave of Anglicans joining the Catholic Church at the time.  Blessed John Paul II famously asked Cardinal Hume to make sure that the Catholic Church "was generous" in this context, and so it was in welcoming many hundreds of clergy and many thousands of laity : but we would have to wait a little longer for an Ordinariate. 

Whether through the Ordinariate or through parish and diocesan channels, those of us who have become Catholics give thanks that we have been able to contribute in our own very small way towards that objective of which Blessed John Paul II spoke, the Unity of the Church.

It is easy to remember only the last years of Blessed John Paul II's papacy.  The agony of that Holy Week in 2005.  The slow and obviously painful decline of a man determined to perform all his duties.  The perseverance of one who felt that his suffering showed a "witness for the vulnerable", in the words of Eamon Duffy.  As strong as these memories are, we shouldn't lose sight of that vibrant character and presence, who even in his final years fulfilled monumental tasks (who can forget the solitary, hunched figure at the Wailing Wall?).

Here is some footage of the new Pope John Paul II in 1979, visiting the USA.  Full of energy, blessed with a tremendous gift for communication, not least with the young : this is also part of the man that we must not forget. 

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Catholic Treasure, Anglican Patrimony

Yesterday's post Anglican Patrimony and the Ordinariate discussed the various elements that can be considered as Anglican Patrimony, that gift that ex-Anglicans joining the Catholic Church can bring, as part of a process of mutual enrichment.  Our blogpost was clear that Anglican Patrimony covers more than liturgy, more than Cranmerian language and hymns, and extends across the whole range of an ex-Anglican's involvement with the Church. 

What we bring with us as Anglican Patrimony is important, but even more important is the fact that we are now full members of the Catholic Church, fully in communion with the Holy Father and with over one fifth of all humanity.  Because of that, and because, much as we loved our previous home it was beset with difficulties, we are all immensely grateful to the Holy Father for his generous response to the requests of many Anglicans in Anglicanorum Coetibus. 

I'm afraid to say that I loved the picture of the Barque of Peter that I included in the blogpost yesterday so much that I am going to include it today as well, along with a rather nice picture of the Holy Father on board a "barque" as he approached Sydney Harbour for World Youth Day there a few years ago.

We are delighted to bring what we bring as Anglican Patrimony, but other Catholics should not worry that we value this above the treasures of the Catholic Church.  We contribute what we can, and what is of value.  We also receive and learn much that is of value.  No member of the Ordinariate has secret plans to reproduce the Book of Common Prayer. 

Anglicans may have a strong musical and liturgical tradition of their own, but we are happier seeing the following than even our "best" moments as Anglicans. 

It is often said that Anglican Patrimony means hymns.  Well, that is slightly glib, but it is true that when we were in the Church of England, we were probably more used to hymns than many Catholics.  However, the hymns we have encountered in the Catholic Church are very much to our liking and to our taste.  Our first blogpost this week included a link to a recording of the beautiful Fr Faber hymn sung last Sunday at St James's Spanish Place. 

However, we would like to make mention of one very special hymn that we have encountered in the Catholic Church.  Sung to the H F Hemy tune St Catherine, which is often used in the US for Faith of our Fathers, St Alphonsus Liguori's hymn O Bread of Heaven has had a great effect on us: it is a clear expression of a doctrine for which Anglo-Catholics had to fight so hard, but in the Catholic Church simply reflects the agreed position.  Here it is sung at Westminster Cathedral on the occasion of the Holy Father's visit in 2010. The hymn was also sung at Westminster Cathedral on 15 January 2011, during Communion at the Ordination Mass of Monsignors Newton, Burnham and Broadhurst, which is where we first heard and sang it.  The last verse is especially wonderful.

O Bread of Heaven, beneath this veil
Thou dost my very God conceal:
My Jesus, dearest treasure, hail!
I love Thee and, adoring, kneel;
Each loving soul by Thee is fed
With Thine own Self in form of Bread.

O food of life, Thou Who dost give
The pledge of immortality;
I live, no 'tis not I that live;
God gives me life, God lives in me:
He feeds my soul, He guides my ways,
And every grief with joy repays.

O Bond of love that dost unite
The servant to his living Lord;
Could I dare live and not requite
Such love - then death were meet reward:
I cannot live unless to prove
Some love for such unmeasured love.

Beloved Lord, in Heaven above
There, Jesus, Thou awaitest me,
To gaze on Thee with endless love;
Yes, thus I hope, thus shall it be:
For how can He deny me Heaven,
Who here on earth Himself hath given?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Anglican Patrimony and the Ordinariate

If you ever feel like raising your blood pressure, a good tactic is often to read the comments that appear underneath online news articles.   Even if the article itself is thought provoking, and invites consideration and debate, before long in the series of comments the discussion has gone off at a tangent, and extreme views begin to be expressed on topics of limited relevance to the original article.

This is not something restricted to any one topic or to any one sort of politics.  The comments on an online article in the Daily Mail and in the Guardian are as bizarre as each other.

The world of blogs on religion is no exception.  The most famous example is probably Damian Thompson's blog in the Daily Telegraph,  which although it does not solely focus on topics connected to religion, has an army of people ready to comment on each and every post.  There, you have the whole spectrum of views, from hardline atheists, to hardline liberal Anglicans (if that sounds like an oxymoron, believe me it isn't), to hardline traditionalist Catholics, to hardline Protestants.  Comments usually run in to the hundreds, and there is no hope, after the first few, that the topic commented upon will be the same as the comment written upon by Damian Thompson.  This is all rather a shame, as the blog itself is fascinating, always well informed, and highly supportive of the Holy Father and of the Ordinariate. 

On the Ordinariate itself, comments on the well-established blogs have often been colourful.  Fr Ed Tomlinson's blog for the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate Group has always been very fair at allowing sometimes rather heated debate, as long as it was "on topic", in the comments.  This was even more the case for Fr Tomlinson while he was still an Anglican, his old St Barnabas Tunbridge Wells blog was blessed with many a commenter who wished to provide forthright advice.  Open debate is good, especially if well informed, considered, and polite.  Sadly, it isn't always like that. 

One of the topics most often used in a failed attempt to knock the Ordinariate is the well known concept contained in Anglicanorum Coetibus of "Anglican Patrimony".  There are some who like to say that there is nothing that can be shown to be Anglican Patrimony that Ordinariate members will take with them, and therefore the Ordinariate is a waste of time.  Yes, there really are people who think like that, and who believe that that is some kind of persuasive argument.  (I wonder if I could submit this as evidence of failings in the British education system?)

Anglicanorum Coetibus, first of all, is not an attempt by the Holy Father to go out and grab some nice bits of Cranmerian text and a few jolly hymns that can be used in the Catholic Church.  It is a response to requests made by Anglicans in various parts of the world, whereby they can find a way to come into the full communion of the Catholic Church as groups, and while retaining such aspects of their Anglican Patrimony as are consistent with Catholic teaching.  Therefore, very clearly, neither the priority nor the litmus test of the Ordinariate revolves around what little treats people could bring with them: no, the priority is following Our Lord's will that all might be one, "Ut unum sint".  If we want to be "Anglican Patrimony" about it, we could say that we are following the prayer contained in the hymn O Thou who at the Eucharist didst pray that all Thy Church might be for ever one.

Critics like to say that many of the new Ordinariate priests, in their Anglican days, never used the Book of Common Prayer or Common Worship, and were already using the Roman Rite.  Therefore, so goes the glib argument, they have no Anglican Patrimony to bring, ergo, so they say, the Ordinariate is a waste of time.  The flimsiness of that argument is laughable, and displays an unhealthy obsession with liturgy as the sole measure of the Christian life. 

Other comments I have seen on blogs argue that all Anglican Patrimony means is that an Ordinariate mass includes a few hymns, and that this is a terribly minor difference, and that (yes, you guessed it) therefore the Ordinariate is a waste of time. 

No, it seems to me very obvious that Anglican Patrimony is a more complicated subject than a short comment, or even a long blog post, can cover.  It is about far more than hymns and Cranmerian language. 

One also has to remember that for the kind of Anglo-Catholic most likely to take up the offer contained in Anglicanorum Coetibus, the differences between the catholic practices found in the Catholic Church and those found in the Church of England are often not to be found in obvious places such as the great set pieces of public liturgy.  We shouldn't for one second expect that an Ordinariate Mass should look anything like Holy Communion at Westminster Abbey: it should, and does, look much more like Westminster Cathedral or, dare I say it, St James's, Spanish Place.  I would strongly urge you to read an excellent piece by William Oddie  in The Catholic Herald on this very topic.  An extract from his article is as follows : has to be said that in the case of mainstream broad church Anglicanism I really don’t think that our communities do understand each other better: what has happened is that Roman Catholics have begun to understand Catholic-minded Anglicans a lot better (it isn’t just that Anglo-Catholics have realised that any kind of understanding with Anglicanism as it has developed is now impossible for them): and the “Anglican patrimony” they bring with them is of a kind entirely compatible with the Roman patrimony of the mainstream English Catholic Church.  Largely that is because, over the decades, beginning with the Oxford movement in which John Henry Newman was such a major formative influence, Anglo-Catholics made themselve  relatively comfortable within Anglicanism by constructing a liturgical culture and an ecclesiology (which has now entirely collapsed) according to which the Anglican Church had never really left the mainstream of Western Christendom. That explains why the Tractarians and post-Tractarians (or “Anglo-Catholics”) were culturally so entirely happy with – and showed, many of them, such wonderful comprehension of – the Catholic spiritual tradition...
So perhaps we need to look for Anglican Patrimony not just in the liturgy, but elsewhere.  Fr Christopher Colven has suggested that one thing it might mean is a greater awareness of community, both within parishes and in relation to the civil community around us.  We covered this very thoughtful idea in a blogpost last month.  In another blogpost last month, on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham, we reflected on whether one form of Anglican Patrimony was allowing the Catholic Church to regain some of the devotions and practices that it had forgotten.

By focussing on areas other than the liturgy, I do not, of course, mean to exclude the liturgy, and the many undoubted treasures of the Anglican tradition, from the discussion.  Monsignor Andrew Burnham has played a large part in discussing, describing and developing what Anglican Patrimony means in this context.  For example, last weekend he gave a fascinating lecture to the Association for Latin Liturgy, part of which gave a detailed insight into how the Ordinariate Liturgy is taking shape, and into what Anglican Patrimony might bring in this context. 

There are many things that ex-Anglicans can bring to the Catholic Church, just as there are innumerable things that we ex-Anglicans delight in discovering in the Catholic Church. 

Professional detractors of the Ordinariate would do well to think a little more deeply before trying to claim, in substance, that the Ordinariate is pointless if it doesn't mean wholesale copying and pasting of the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship.  Our Anglican Patrimony is worth far more than that.  The Holy Father sees that, and offers us the opportunity to bring our gifts with us.  How could anyone say no?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

From Geneva to Oxford with St Luke

A daytrip to Geneva today.  From here in Paris, where I work, the capital city of the Eldest Daughter of the Church, to the home of Calvinism.  Readers will be glad to know that I managed to return without having had a change of heart on having joined the Catholic Church.  One can imagine that for a certain kind of Anglican visiting the Eternal City of Rome at the moment, such a trip might be rather tougher on the convictions, but as it is, I remain steadfast in the Faith.

However, Geneva is a wonderful place, and the weather today certainly beats the grim drizzle that greeted me on my return to Paris a little earlier on.  The first picture was taken just after lunch in the Place du Molard, the second on Lake Geneva, and the third in the sunshine of Paris.

Today is the Feast of St Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke and of the Acts of the Apostles.  These texts are of course full of very widely known passages, but perhaps in the context of a blog related to the Ordinariate, it makes sense to refer to the Magnificat.  The Magnificat is the Canticle of Mary, one of the most ancient hymns of the Church, and certainly one of the most ancient Marian texts.

There is a link there of course to Our Lady of Walsingham, but in any discussion of Anglican Patrimony, the topic of Solemn Evensong and Benediction comes up, and there one can find a veritable wealth of Anglican music that can be used in a Catholic setting.  The Oxford Ordinariate group has done some pioneering work in this regard, already having held a service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction, and planning to hold another one tomorrow night (19 October at 19h30) for the Feast of the Patron Saint of Oxford, St Frideswide.  Here is the Magnificat as sung at their June Solemn Evensong and Benediction.

The poster for their event tomorrow night is shown below.

It is hoped that we may eventually be able to co-ordinate something similar to occur at St James's, Spanish Place, but this is yet in the planning and subject to the agreement and consent of many parties.  It could be a great opportunity to gather together, from all across London and the South East, a decent number of Ordinariate members, non-Ordinariate Catholics who like the tradition of Solemn Evensong and Benediction, and Anglican friends of the Ordinariate eager to see an example of Anglican Patrimony in use.

The big question now is which Stanford Magnificat to include as the closing piece of music in this blogpost.  Stanford is perhaps the classic composer of Anglican settings of the Magnificat for Evensong.  His best known setting is arguably the one in B flat, a staple of parish church choirs and public school chapels up and down the land, but that is perhaps not the finest.  For me, it is a tie between Stanford in G (with the image, created by the "spinning" of the quaver accompaniment to the treble solo, of the maiden at her wheel) and the majesty and delicacy of Stanford in G.  In for a penny, in for a pound - let's have both. 

Our Lady, pray for us.
St Luke, pray for us. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

O Yes, We Have no Lions

We were pleased yesterday to be visited at St James's by two long-standing friends of the members of our Ordinariate group, both Anglicans, and both more than happy to come to see what St James's was like.  Rather good, was the answer to their question.  Fr Colven gave a thought-provoking homily, the liturgy was beautifully presented and the music was excellent. The Offertory motet was a favourite from my (and our guests') Pusey House days, Mendelssohn's setting of Ave Maria.  Indeed, the piece reached Pusey House precisely because I had just bought the then brand new Westminster Cathedral CD from which the recording below is taken.

The Father Faber recessional hymn, "O purest of creatures! Sweet mother, sweet maid," was a very happy reminder of Walsingham pilgrimages and parish processions past.  Much joy all round.

After all that, we repaired to a nearby pub (surely an example of Anglican Patrimony) for a couple of drinks and thence to lunch. 

If, by opening this "window on the Catholic Church", we can show our Anglican friends that there is a real likelihood (risk?) that they might in fact like what they find, then we feel that have performed "some definite service".  Doing that doesn't meant that they will want to follow us, but it does mean that we help to remove any negative pre-conceptions, so that people, in their own time and for their own reasons, can come to their own conclusions on the basis of the reality they would face, were they ever to wonder about life within the Ordinariate.  The decision can only be theirs, not ours, but we can help ensure that they have the full facts at their disposal.

As much as anyone, we know that closing the door on one very familiar place of worship and opening the door on another can be daunting (even without implications on employment and housing).  That's why it is absolutely vital that all of us as Catholics make sure that those thinking about joining us are aware of the many things that they will love about the Church.  By that, I do not only refer to the privilege of being, without doubt, part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, nor of Sacramental Assurance, nor of the joy of being in communion with the Holy Father : Anglicans with even the slightest peripheral interest in the Ordinariate are well aware of those. 

No, I mean the practical day-to-day aspects of being involved in the Catholic Church.  Some of those who might one day make the journey to join the Catholic Church are not only worried about things they might leave behind, but also anxious about what they might find when they arrive.  Where we can allay some of those anxieties, we each have a duty to do so.

Then beyond that, we also need to reassure people who have in their minds negative perceptions, in some cases fed to them deliberately in order to put them off the idea of joining the Catholic Church.  In a blogpost last month, we referred to the false image that some have, that the Catholic Church is a cold place, full of uncaring people imposing impossible rules, with no thought for or awareness of those who live "real lives".  It is worthwhile rereading that post, and watching the video of the Holy Father that is included.   The Catholic Church is for everyone, and all who wish to be welcomed will be welcomed.

The Ordinariate is a positive thing, joined by people for positive reasons, not because people were running away from their former homes.  Indeed, the "former homes" were usually rather nice, thank you very much: nobody walks away from the buildings and communities of eg St Mary's Bourne St or St Barnabas Tunbridge Wells easily.  No, those who have joined did so joyfully because they placed the need for Catholic Unity as amongst the highest of priorities, because they saw that the Holy Father had responded positively and generously to repeated requests from Anglicans, and because they could see no reason good enough to justify deciding to keep themselves outside the Catholic Church.

The joy in the Ordinariate is easy to see.  The welcome we have received at the parish level is beyond doubt, whether or not there might be politicking going on elsewhere.  Of course, we want to share that joy.  As Fr Ed Tomlinson points out on his blog, a second wave is now building up of Anglicans looking to come into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  It may well be that once the Church of England's General Synod has met next year, a third wave could build up.  There could even be further waves at later stages, because each person and each group will come to their own conclusions at their own times.  There is no time limit on Anglicanorum Coetibus.

It isn't easy to leave behind what is so familiar: a parish church you were baptised or married in; a parish church you have been involved with for years; a particular vision of the Church of England that has been dear to your heart.  It's doubly difficult for those whose livelihoods and housing are dependent on all that.  So, our duty as Ordinariate members is to answer questions, to reassure, to encourage, and to pray.

Today, in the modern calendar, is the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch, one of our earliest links to the time of Christ, St Peter and St John the Apostle, who through his surviving letters has given us some understanding of the developing theology of that early period. 

In the context of the discussion above, his direct relevance is that he is thought to be the first known writer to have used the phrase Catholic Church, and when he did use it in writing, just after the turn of the first century AD, he used it in the manner of an established term, rather than of a neat turn of phrase that he had just created.  This is said to be potential evidence that the term Catholic Church existed and was understood as an entity even in the part of the first century.

A robust believer in the Eucharist truly being the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Ignatius willingly and indeed eagerly accepted his fate as a martyr, being thrown to the lions in the Colisseum in Rome.

The sacrifices asked of those considering joining the Ordinariate today are rather less life-limiting of course.  However, we should not be flippant in underestimating how much thought and reflection is required, and just how difficult that step can be.  Some say that those of us who have gone already are the brave pioneers, and perhaps so in some ways: but each individual journey, or consideration given to a journey, is a challenge of its own. 

St Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Levitation, Flagellation, Ecstasy and the Baroque

St Teresa is a saint that most people find rather hard to understand.  All those stories of levitation, flagellation and ecstasy.  It's hard to link that to the experiences most of us have on a day-to-day basis (at least it is in my case).  The record shows that it was rather awkward for St Teresa in her own time too.  Levitation has always been seen as rather socially awkward.

Yet, there is a side to St Teresa that surely everyone can understand.  She is often cited as some who engaged in many forms of prayer, and this is so, but most of us can probably relate more easily to an earlier period of St Teresa's life, when she found prayer very difficult.

A homily preached at Pusey House many years ago by one of the clergy there who is now a Catholic layman related a tale from his Anglican seminary days at Mirfield.  A young seminarian was feeling a lack of motivation to engage in the programmed hours of meditation and prayer.  When challenged on this, his response was to say "I am very worried, Father, because I don't want to pray".  The answer that came back was in the form of a question "Ah, but do you want to want to pray?"  That mini-debate must resonate with many a well-intentioned believer struggling to build their prayer life. 

St Teresa was a reformer, not only in ecclesiastical terms but also in social terms, a prolific writer, a great intellect and a powerful theologian.  She was, along with St Catherine of Siena, one of the first two women to be declared a Doctor of the Church.  She has been a huge influence in Spanish Catholicism but also very far beyond - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has written a book on her, and along with Julian of Norwich, she was regularly cited by the then Vicar of St Mary's Bourne Street in homilies during my early years there.

You can find out more about her here.

The Holy Father gives a concise summary of her importance in this video. 

The Introit set for mass today is Dilexisti justitiam, the same text as was sung during communion during the Holy Father's recent visit to Germany.  Here you can see the small schola singing the chant.

Finally, since we have had a few days without anything baroque, here is a rather fine piece of Spanish baroque sacred music by Sebastian de Vivanco, who was born in Avila in the same century as St Teresa. 

St Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Our Lady of Fatima, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and what we think of the Bishops

Once again, just as with our series of posts on Our Lady of Victories and Our Lady of the Rosary, which you can find here, here (including a homily from Fr John Hunwicke preached at St Mary's Bourne Street,  and here,  we have focused on one commemoration in the Church's calendar at the expense of another.  October 13 is indeed our local feast day, a celebration of St Edward the Confessor.  Yet, elsewhere in the Catholic world, millions also mark events in Fatima.  The last of the six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima occurred on this date in 1917.  If you watch the film at the end of this post, you'll see Bishop Fulton Sheen explain, in his awe-inspiring style, the implications and remarkable nature of these events in this truly remarkable footage. 

Now there's a Bishop telling like it is without any apology.  His unique and inimitable style brought many to the Faith, and reinforced the faith of many others.  His weekly television broadcasts in the 1950s attracted audiences of up to 30 million, achieving more viewers than the most popular entertainers of the time.  Yet, Bishop Sheen, even if blessed with the same dramatic screen presence as the Pope at the time, Pope Pius XII (to whom frequent reference is made in the footage below), was no mere showman.   He rose to become an Auxiliary Bishop in the diocese of New York and eventually became Archbishop of a Titular See.  He was a convincing and eloquent speaker on world affairs, condemning the Vietnam War but also well known for his outspoken condemnation of communism, especially under Stalin (a few weeks after Bishop Sheen's famous February 1953 broadcast in which he announced that "Stalin must one day meet his judgment", Stalin had a stroke and died). He held a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Louvain, and was the first American to win the Cardinal Mercier prize, awarded for his doctoral thesis.  The Cardinal's name is very familiar to the former regulars of St Mary's Bourne St who make up the Marylebone Ordinariate Group of course, and another Sheen connection to Bourne St is that while teaching at St Edmund's College, Ware, he met Ronald Knox.

Warmly embraced by Pope John Paul II at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 1979, the Cause for his Canonisation has been open since 2002.  Let us pray that the Church will soon be able recognise its loyal son, this Servant of God, as a saint.

Do all these kind words about a Bishop seem strange when coming from a former Anglo-Catholic?  After all, Anglo-Catholics have always been well known for having a deep suspicion of their bishops, even if their respect for the office of bishop is beyond question.  Anglo-Catholic history is full of huge disputes with the bishops of the Church of England (and still is).  Anglo-Catholics were always happier with a selected group of like-minded Anglican bishops: in recent days that meant the "Flying Bishops", almost all of whom are now with us in the Ordinariate, and in days long gone that often meant those from far flung corners of Empire.  This phenomenon is referred to in a poem by Eric Mascall (another giant in the history of St Mary's Bourne St), the "Ultra-Catholic", and in John Betjeman's "Summoned by Bells".
I am an Ultra-Catholic -No 'Anglo, I beseeech you!
You'll find no trace of heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The Psalms of David I recite in heaven's own native Latin,
And though I don't quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi's strict Westmonasteriensis.

I read the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C. of E.'s in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the Rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop's put me under his 'profoundest disapproval'
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren't so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'
Consisting of five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I've not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.
And now the Betjeman extract, reflecting a different time of course, when the Church of England, in the words of Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher, was happy to state openly that "The Church of England has no doctrine of its own save that of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" and when it still thought that the "greater question" as Betjeman put it, was something other than a need to create greater divides with the Church in the West and the East :
Silk-dressing-gowned, to Sunday-morning bells,
Long after breakfast had been cleared in Hall,
I wandered to my lavender-scented bath;
Then, with a loosely knotted shantung tie
And hair well soaked in Delhez' Genêt d'Or,
Strolled to the Eastgate. Oxford marmalade
And a thin volume by Lowes Dickinson
But half-engaged my thoughts till Sunday calm
Led me by crumbling walls and echoing lanes,
Past college chapels with their organ-groan
And churches stacked with bicycles outside,
To worship at High Mass in Pusey House.

Those were the days when that divine baroque
Transformed our English altars and our ways.
Fiddle-back chasuble in mid-Lent pink
Scandalized Rome and Protestants alike:
"Why do you try to ape the Holy See?"
"Why do you sojourn in a halfway house?"
And if these doubts had ever troubled me
(Praise God, they don't) I would have made the move.
What seemed to me a greater question then
Tugged, and still tugs: Is Christ the Son of God?
Despite my frequent lapses into lust,
Despite hypocrisy, revenge and hate,
I learned at Pusey House the Catholic faith.
Friends of those days, now patient parish priests,
By worldly standards you have not 'got on'
Who knelt with me as Oxford sunlight streamed
On some colonial bishop's broidered cope.
Some know for all their lives that Christ is God,
Some start upon that arduous love affair
In clouds of doubt and argument; and some
(My closest friends) seem not to want His love -
And why this is I wish to God I knew.
As at the Dragon School, so still for me
The steps to truth were made by sculptured stone,
Stained glass and vestments, holy-water stoups,
Incense and crossings of myself - the things
That hearty middle-stumpers most despise
As 'all the inessentials of the Faith'.
Those were the old days.  Now we are happy members of the Catholic Church, in the Ordinariate, there are some, such as the eminent and always interesting Damian Thompson who would tell us that we should not worry that our attitude to the episcopacy and the hierarchy needs to change.   That may or may not be right, we are too young in the Church to know : let us pray that the Bishops of England and Wales, like all of us, follow the clear message and reminder given by Cardinal Levada recently that the Ordinariate is the Holy Father's personal project and it is his will that it succeed and be encouraged to succeed.  Any loyal son or daughter of the Church will work for the success of the Ordinariate, that is beyond question.

At a more practical level, in the Ordinariate, we have as our Ordinary Monsignor Keith Newton, not the local diocesan Bishop. In that sense at least, the debate is to some extent irrelevant.  All being recent arrivals from the Church of England, we know each other's approach.  Furthermore, for us specifically, the Marylebone Ordinariate Group attends Mass in a diocesan church, where we have been made to feel extremely welcome.  The Ordinariate has much to offer the Church in England and Wales (not least many extra pairs of consecrated hands to assist where and when needed, when Ordinariate commitments permit), and the Church in England and Wales has much to offer the Ordinariate.  In a spirit of charity and positivity, and in obedience to our Holy Father, there is much we can achieve together.

There may or may not be politicking among the hierarchy, but even if there is, for as long as they are still committed to teaching the Catholic faith, for as long as they believe in the Mass, for as long as they are in communion all with each other, all with us and all with the Holy Father, there is nothing too much to worry about.  All that makes our journey worth it, with absolutely no regrets.  Our Lord prayed that all might be one, and so that must remain a priority: a lot of the matters of politicking, whether in the Catholic Church or in the Church of England do not have the same status.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

St Edward the Confessor, Henry Purcell and broken teeth

Our local feast day.  St Edward, apart from being the patron saint of those in difficult marriages, is also the patron saint of the City of Westminster.  St James's Spanish Place, and indeed St Mary's Bourne Street, are both situated in this ancient city.  Tonight, Westminster Abbey have a Sung Eucharist for the Translation of St Edward, October 13 the date in 1269 when his mortal remains were transferred to their current location in a chapel at the very far east end of Westminster Abbey.  On Saturday, they mark the National Pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Edward with  Evensong and a Procession. 

St Peter's Abbey, or the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, which of course we now call Westminster Abbey, was rebuilt by St Edward as a royal burial church, but that is not the building we see today, which was erected by King Henry III in the latter part of thirteenth century.

St Edward of Westminster, pray for us, or as we used to sing in the Litany of the Saints at Bourne Street, Sancti Edwardi Westmonasteriensis, ora pro nobis.

One of the names most associated with Westminster Abbey is Henry Purcell.  We all know of Purcell as one of the greatest English composers, his works are widely performed, but in fact he is one of most unknown characters in music history.  Most writings about his life rather than his music indulge in a lot of speculation, reasonable guesses and inferred likelihoods.  One of the intriguing little mysteries about Purcell (whose name most musicologists will encourage you to say like the washing powder, but in fact we just don't know) is whether he was a Catholic.  Although he finished his life on good terms with the Chapter at Westminster Abbey, I recall an anecdote (which may have been no more than the same speculation as referred to above) told during one of my undergraduate music lectures that the Abbey were so concerned that he might be a secret Catholic that on one occasion they forced him to receive communion. 

O God, Thou art my God, filled with delightful "English cadences" that generate a wince of delight amongst musicians, is quite typical of Purcell's church style, to the extent that such a composer ever has a typical style: he was a master of many styles.  If you listen all the way through, you will notice the final Alleluia is something you will surely recognise.  

If you can't think how you know the final Alleluia from that motet, then watch this, sung at Westminster Abbey upon the occasion of the Holy Father's visit in 2010.  This hymn was also a regular favourite for the congregational singing of Tantum Ergo Sacramentum at St Mary's Bourne St, and no doubt still is, when the temptation to sing the text to Cwm Rhondda can be resisted.

One of my favourite pieces of Purcell is a tour de force in which he shows off his mastery of several styles.  It is also highly unusual, being one of only two sacred pieces set by Purcell in Latin (no, that is not the reason why I like it). "Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei" is not as widely sung as it could be, but always pleases when it is.  The psalmist's reassuring text "Qui percussisti omnes inimicos meos maxilliam, dentes improborum confregisti" is perhaps one of those lines that surprises the modern, desperately sensitive ear : 'Thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked’. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

From Lepanto to Le Barroux

How to follow yesterday's post, Memories of Bourne St, Lepanto and Fr Hunwicke?  There's a challenge.  Traffic on this blog was double usual levels yesterday, and the post has rushed straight up the hit parade to be the most read blogpost we have yet put up.

Perhaps readers of this blog have a particular devotion of Our Lady of Victories and Our Lady of the Rosary.  Surely so, but no doubt the post was also happy reading for those present at St Mary's Bourne St when Fr Hunwicke delivered the homily quite brilliantly, and no doubt the post was manna to those who are fans of the Liturgical Notes blog.

Thanks are due once again to the homilist for his kind permission to reproduce his work.  Thanks also to friends of this blog who shared the Facebook post announcing the publishing of the blogpost : keep up the publicity!  New readers, please sign up to join our Facebook group to receive regular updates, the link is shown on the right.

The one unfortunate effect of having focussed on Our Lady of Victories yesterday is that we couldn't get in a mention for St Firminus of Uzès.  Uzès has a special significance for a significant number of current and former members of St Mary's Bourne St, with many happy memories of holidays spent near there in small and large groups at a traditional Mas belonging to a member of the St Mary's congregation.

Meeting the Sunday obligation there often involves attending Mass at Uzès Cathedral (a rather good photo can be found here), and for a special treat might involve a trip to Le Barroux.

Today's saint of the day is St Wilfred.  Over the past year or so, St Wilfred has become a slightly tricky saint to discuss in the context of Anglo-Catholicism and the Ordinariate.  An Anglican society has been named in honour of St Wilfred and St Hilda, attempting to seek to secure some kind of provision for Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England for the new era that will dawn once General Synod votes in favour of the ordination of women to the Church of England's episcopacy.  Since it is a tricky subject, I shall steer well clear, other than to echo the sentiments of others who find the naming of the society rather strange at at time when the Ordinariate is in existence, as both St Wilfred and St Hilda are saints who, in their time on this earth, were renowned for sorting out the English Church and, particularly in Wilfred's case, prioritising obedience to Rome over obedience to Canterbury.  I leave the polemics to others more skilled in the matter, and wish to assure all our Anglican friends of the prayers and support of the members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group.  Shared years kneeling together at the same altar are not easily forgotten.  In the unlikely event that there are any comments on this particular topic, I regret to say that they will not be published: there are plenty of far more suitable places to discuss what is going on in the Church of England than here. 

All this talk of ex-Anglicans and remaining Anglicans brings to mind an article that the Ordinariate Portal highlighted earlier this week.  The piece by William Oddie talks of the significance and genesis of the Ordinariate project, not so much in  terms of the practical discussions of the last couple of years, but in terms of Blessed John Henry Newman's vision; of the conversations between the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Hume and Monsignor Graham Leonard (then Anglican Bishop of London) that might, had things been different, have led to an Ordinariate far earlier; and of William Oddie's prescient book The Roman Option

While the article seems to assume that everything would happen at once, we know of course that those coming over will come over in a number of waves.   Avid readers of blogs will know that several new Ordinariate groups have been announced in recent weeks, including yet another one in Central London and one in Balham, as well as a number outside London.  We also note the pleasing article in the Catholic Herald, referring to statements by Cardinal Wuerl, made upon the occasion of his visit to Stirling in Scotland, about the imminent launch of an Ordiniarate in the US.

William Oddie concludes the article with a most wonderful extract from Blessed John Henry Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua.  We have now added that same extract to the right hand sidebar of this blog.  It is indeed very moving, expressing a hope that one day we shall all be united, and reunited, into One Fold and under One Shepherd.
… I gather up and bear in memory those familiar affectionate companions and counsellors, who in Oxford were given to me, one after another, to be my daily solace and relief; and all those others, of great name and high example, who were my thorough friends, and showed me true attachment in times long past….
And I earnestly pray for this whole company, with a hope against hope, that all of us, who once were so united, and so happy in our union, may even now be brought at length, by the Power of the Divine Will, into One Fold and under One Shepherd.
Powerful words indeed.  We finish with one of the most Catholic, if you will, settings in the Byrd Gradualia, Tu es Petrus.  As Anglican Patrimony, however, we have posted a version being sung by King's College Cambridge.  The performance is very much of its time, but the words and the music are as potent as ever.

St Wilfred, St Firminus, pray for us.