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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Practicing and praying

I'm just back from Mass. Usually I am ready for a nap, but today I'm energized. We're getting ready for our Parish Mission in just a few weeks, then we start an expanded Sunday School program for our young people, then we have our Homecoming in October. We keep having new people every week and also people who were members years ago are coming back to check us out. After Mass we ran through the Anglican Use Liturgy of the Word for our presentions beginning next week. I hadn't sung the Willan Kyrie and Gloria in years until I introduced them to Sandy our cantor and Kathy our organist last week. They are so positive. Kathy raves about the organ, and Sandy reports many supportive comments and curious inquiries from area musicians and liturgists. The members of Our Lady of Hope were so at home with the Kyrie and Gloria I couldn't get them to stop. They seem to be afraid to get their hopes up, asking "Will anybody come? Will we be the only ones?" I keep looking at the signs and I see answered prayers all around us. We now have three aspiring deacons who will assist in the liturgy. But I am praying that God will send us many more people who are ready to come home to the Catholic Church, others who are curious, and other people of good will who can help out. We'll keep praying and practicing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fr. Eric Bergman to visit October 6 - 8

Fr. Eric Bergman of the Anglican Use Society will be in Kansas City October 6 – 8. He will meet with Our Lady of Hope Society on Monday evening to offer us his encouragement and insight. On Tuesday during the day he can be available to meet privately with Episcopal and Anglican clergy about the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use. People who want to meet with privately and confidentially can contact him through the Anglican Use Society website or by calling me at St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City 816-444-5406.

Fr. Bergman will speak to the public Tuesday evening. Details about his topic, its time and location will be announced as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dwight Longenecker spreads the word

Check Fr. Longenecker's blog- gkupsidedown - for some helpful and critical comments about Our Lady of Hope and St. Therese - the parish and the society not the saints!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chad helps spread the news

Chad helps spread the word. Thank you, Chad.

David Virtue helps spread the word

David Virtue included this notice in his most recent post. Thank you, David. "
In the ROMAN CATHOLIC Diocese of Kansas City, MO, - St Joseph, Fr. Ernie Davis of St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church, wrote VOL to say that his parish was going to provide another haven for orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans in Kansas City."We are beginning September 7th at 11:15 with the Liturgy of the Word (Rite I) from the Book of Divine Worship followed by an instructive talk. Presentations will be made by Catholics with Episcopalian or Anglican backgrounds. These liturgies and presentations will continue through Advent when we will launch the Anglican Use mass. It is not necessary to intend to convert to the Catholic Church. People can visit and participate as long as they like, but Catholic discipline on reception of the sacraments will apply." Orthodox or lapsed Episcopalians who may be willing to give the Anglican Use a visit are welcome, he said. People can visit his blog www.gospel-anglican.blogspot.com, or his website: www.ourladyofhope.org. "

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vocations

I've just had two people speak to me about a possible vocation! Keep the prayers coming! We haven't even started yet and there are hints of a bountiful harvest.

Keep us humble

Yesterday evening a met with a member of the Our Lady of Hope Society who agreed to help get our sacristy in order for the Anglican Use. When I shared how excited I am about this new work, she brought me back to earth right away. She said, "I am willing to work for this Anglican thing, but really all I want to do is be a member of this parish. I appreciate the history behind the Anglican Use and there is nothing better to help me prepare for Lent. But it is more important to me to be a Catholic." Whoa. Don't we all need to hear that. I especially need to hear it. It reminds me of an article by John Jay Hughes, the author of "Absolutely Null and Utterly Void," the great study of the controversy about Anglican orders and Apostolicae Curae. As an Anglican curate he was deflated by a woman who had stopped attending the elaborate Mass at his Anglo-Catholic parish for a humble Catholic parish closer to her home. She told him, "It amounts to the same thing." I'll post the link and look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Creating the Ritual

I worked with Chad yesterday evening walking through the ritual of the Anglican Use. Our delegation to the Anglican Use Conference brought home the Ritual from Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston. I would like to give people an experience of the Anglican Use right from the beginning, recognizing that we must start simply. So my goal is to create a basic structure requiring only the celebrant and one server taking the place of the what Our Lady of Walsingham calls the Clerk. That term will take some getting used to. Percy Dearmer describes the role of the Clerk in his Parson's Handbook, but this is actually what we called the subdeacon at S. Stephen's in Providence. Of course Anglicanism has not had subdeacons since the Reformation. Since we are beginning with the Liturgy of the Word until we begin the Mass in Advent, this should work quite nicely. As others join us we can add roles until we are ready for the full Solemn Mass. Having a deacon full time would be a great blessing. "Gabe" is the son of one of our Society of Our Lady of Hope members and he is eager to find someone to serve with him. I've got two who are eager to serve as clerk and one of them is ready to try a vocation as deacon. But that won't help the liturgy and ministry at St. Therese for a long time! We have an organist to help us get started - a wonderful Lutheran woman who has facility with Anglican music. She'll soon be putting the organ through its paces. Now we need a cantor and sacristan. Anybody want to help polish brass? Ours hasn't been used or polished in decades.

The Anglican Use liturgy will work quite well at St. Therese. It is a lovely church with wonderful acoustics. The people who built this church may not have been rich, but they loved their church and it has been well cared for. The sanctuary was modified for the novus ordo, but I have to say it the renovations were done with great care. We will be able to use an eastern orientation. Every space has its own integrity and has an effect on how the liturgy is celebrated in it. And every space has its quirks that we have to live with. One of the major ones I don't have a solution for is the lack of an altar rail. It wouldn't be appropriate at our 9:15 Gospel mass. But how do we make up for one at the Anglican Use mass when there will certainly be people who receive communion kneeling. I found the old kneeling pads. But what do we do without the rail? I'm open to suggestions.

What a Parish!

It is occurring to me that when St. Therese begins an Anglican Use Mass, we may be the only existing Catholic parish that has added an Anglican Use Mass to their normal Sunday schedule. If I am wrong, I hope someone corrects me. Part of the reason is probably that most Anglican Use communities and parishes began with a priest and accompanying converts. Most Episcopal priests convert individually, however, and are delighted to serve wherever we are needed in Catholic parishes. Most parishes do not have the capacity to divert resources and time to establishing a Sunday mass for a relatively small community. And if they did, they might not want to face the questions and conflicts that would certainly arise, such as, "Why can't they worship like the rest of us, if they really want to be Catholic?"

St. Therese is a unique parish. We lived through the cauldron of racial conflict and "block busting" by unscrupulous real estate agents. The parish suffered, but created an new identity made of neighborhood residents who stuck it out, new African-American residents and converts, community service and organizing, and Catholics who wanted to be part of a diverse and energetic community. Presiding at the liturgy is amazing. I have had many experiences of subbing for masses at other parishes that begin with a layperson saying, "Good morning! In the spirit of celebration on this X Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us all turn and greet out neighbors." You might see some good natured or resigned nodding and hand shaking. At St. Therese, that is never said. It is not needed. People are glad to see each other and glad to welcome visitors. Participation in the liturgy is full and intelligent, not because people are instructed to act that way, but because that's just what they expect. I have yet to see anyone looking at watch as if to say, "Is it over, yet?" Nobody. Get this. Nobody leaves after communion. It is amazing! Gospel music reigns, with guitar, bass, and percussion backing up a rocking piano.

Is it crazy to think that one parish and one priest can worship in two very different liturgical styles? I really don't think so. Neither the Anglican Use nor the Gospel Mass are typical white bread Catholic liturgies. Each of them has a basic integrity. And our parishioners can readily identify with people who believe they have been cast out. Many of our parishioners are quite curious about what is going on, and have expressed a desire to at least come and visit the Anglican Use liturgy. They want to come hear the Sunday morning talks about the Catholic faith by people who have embraced it, many of them converts themselves. People at St. Therese aren't immune from feelings of unease about change. But I can tell you that I am looking forward to hearing from our Gospel Mass parishioners after they visit the Anglican Use, and vice versa!

We'll have some deliberate opportunities to grow into one parish community, notably through our Sunday School (yes, Catholics can have Sunday School!) between the two masses. But more about that later. This is a great experiment, and I am eager for it. I think St. Therese of Lisieux (the saint, not the parish) is eager for it too. And if answered prayers are an indication, Our Lady of Hope is eager for it too, for the honor of her Son and his Church. Keep praying for us. And send your lapsed friends in our direction. Then come for a visit yourselves.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Anglican Use Sacramentary

As I arrived at the rectory this morning I decided to open a package that had been sitting around for a couple of days. I had assumed it must contain bulletin inserts for the next special collection or a book someone had ordered, but I didn’t recognize the source: Lulu Enterprises. When I opened the box, I found treasure! The Anglican Use Sacramentary, Volumes I and II! A perfect gift for the Society of Our Lady of Hope on the Feast of the Assumption! The outside of the volumes is nothing to brag about, an orangish slick red. But inside it is another story. Just thumbing through it for a few minutes I am in awe of the amount of work done by the editor, C. David Burt, to make the Book of Divine Worship useful for a celebrant. The pages are nicely laid out, the prefaces and sung portions of the liturgy are noted, and the rubrics – you guessed it – are red. It solves the problem I was just beginning to consider – how to actually put the Book of Divine Worship into use. I was beginning to think I would have to use a notebook with things copied from the Catholic BDW and from the Episcopalian Altar Book, a pretty sloppy way of presiding at a liturgy. This will take care of that problem quite nicely, indeed.

Looking further into The Anglican Use Sacramentary, one will notice other useful devotional material for use in the liturgy and private prayers said by the celebrant. There is, for instance, and expansion of the private prayers at the Breaking of the Bread which seem to come from the Anglican Missal. Indeed, Mr. Burt notes in his Preface that he has drawn on material from the Anglican Use Gradual, the Anglican Service Book, the Anglican Missal, the Priest’s Handbook, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, the Knott Missal and from the Roman Sacramentary. Thumbing through it makes me eager to share it with Fr. Frowin Reed at Conception Abbey, and especially with the Society of Our Lady of Hope here in Kansas City with whom we will soon begin using the Anglican Use.

While I wish it had a more beautiful cover reflecting the dignity of what is included inside, I can live with it until someone shares an alternative. But there is something lacking which makes me hesitate to put it into use. There is no imprimatur. The title page notes that this is just a draft, a work in process. But perhaps it is just far along enough that local bishops can give permission for it to be put into use until the final version is issued. I hope so, and will certainly check with Bishop Finn.

And being just a draft means there is another chance to take care of embarrassing typos. And can’t we do something about the highly inaccurate description of the Roman Canon in Rite I as an “Old English Translation.” Is it old as in antique? But I didn’t think things from the 1940s counted as antique, and if this is Knott’s translation of the Canon, it is certainly 20th century. On the other hand, this is no “Old English” like I have ever seen. Beowulf was written in Old English. I can’t make heads or tails of Beowulf, and this is elegant enough to stand beside a Cranmer collect or preface. If this is Knott’s translation, why can’t we just say that? That is just a quibble, but it will make me cringe every time I see it, even more than the orange cover. But don’t let that give the impression that I disapprove of The Anglican Use Sacramentary. This is a magnificent piece of work. Mr. Burt and his team are to be commended.

The Society of Our Lady of Hope in Kansas City owes a debt of gratitude to our friends of the St. Thomas More Society who sent us this gift. Thank you very much. We will remember you every time we use it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bishop Finn gives his blessing!

Bishop Finn has given his blessing to St. Therese Parish as we welcome The Society of Our Lady of Hope! As soon as we can get it on his calendar, we will announce the date for Confirmation and the date we can move from the Liturgy of the Word to the full Anglican Use Mass! We are still aiming for Advent. Bishop Finn does express his understanding of disappointment that for various reasons some may not be able to receive the sacrament of Confirmation as early as some others, but he urges us all to persevere. The wait is worth it!

Bishop Finn also expressed his approval about our series of Sunday morning talks with the Liturgy of the Word. His only concern was that we not leave people behind if they get started late! I assured him that we will make every effort to help people catch up. He also urged that we try to get the word out through the Catholic Key so that we include as many people as possible, both those who may be interested in learning more about the Catholic faith as well as people who may be willing to help us get started.

If you are in the Kansas City area, please plan on joining us at St. Therese Little FLower Parish, Sunday mornings beginning September 7th at 11:15 for a taste of the Anglican Use and an important presentation about the Catholic faith.

I had a very encouraging meeting today with Dr. Bruce Prince-Joseph, the renowned organist most recently at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. He offered much encouragement and expressed a great deal of interest in helping us in some capacity. We still need an organist to help us get started! Keep praying! Use the Novena to Our Lady of Hope. Visit our Shrine of St. Therese. Everything else is falling into place, this will too.

Our distribution list keeps growing as more and more people want to be included. Please send me your email address if you would like to receive direct e-mails about our progress. edavis-sttherese@kc.rr.com.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why I became a Catholic

People often ask, “Why did you become a Catholic?” My short answer is, “Because I finally realized I wasn’t.” For an Anglican or an Episcopalian, that answer might make sense. They might not agree, but they can understand it. Catholics may be mystified by it.

I loved the Episcopal Church, and being a priest was all I ever wanted to be. It took me a long time to accept it and admit it, but it’s true.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church www.stpetersparish in Fernandina Beach, Florida, is a jewel box of a church. It was built in the glory days of the first Florida boom when the congregation was filled with people of intelligence, taste, and financial means. They were able to express in architecture the faith they believed, expressing in native yellow pine, tabby, and stained glass the reformed Catholicism of the Episcopal liturgy. The church was made for the sacraments. The priests of the parish made a lasting impression on me. Fr. Neil Gray was the most intelligent person I knew, and I believed him when he taught us in confirmation and in acolyte training that Episcopalians are Catholics who did away with corruption and superstition in the Reformation. I believed him when he taught us that our liturgy and our faith were the liturgy and the faith of the undivided Catholic Church, and that the Catholic faith continued unbroken and essentially unchanged through the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. Fr. Gray and his successor, Fr. Ralph Kelley, were small town heroes for justice during the difficult days of church and school desegregation. St. Peter’s and St. Michael’s Catholic Church were the only churches in town that had a history of racial inclusion – not perfect, but it made me proud. When the KKK threatened to burn a cross on the rectory lawn, Fr. Kelley let it be known that he owned a shot gun. That impressed me. I remember my mother planning her Sunday school class with Mrs. Frances Holliday, an African-American woman, and it made me proud of my faith and family.

The first chink in the myth that the Anglican and Episcopal Churches are Catholic came when I visited Williamsburg, Virginia, as a pre-teen. According to the myth that Catholicism continued in an unbroken line, one would expect that colonial Anglican church building would reflect that faith in the sacramental nature of the liturgy and the church. Instead, I was surprised to see that the colonial Anglican churches looked very much like Methodist or Presbyterian churches. They emphasized the preaching of the word, and not the sacraments, the plain gospel and not traditional beauty. I didn’t know what to make of it. The evidence didn’t fit the myth. But it didn’t knock me off track, either. I loved the myth, and I loved the Episcopal Church.

Because I loved the myth so much, when I had choices, I always chose experiences that tended to support the myth. When choosing a seminary, I avoided the ones that emphasized the protestant and word-oriented roots of the Episcopal Church and visited the ones that supported my pre-conceived notion of what the church should be. The priests I respected most recommended Nashotah House, the semi-monastic Anglo-Catholic seminary in Wisconsin www.nashotah.edu. For various reasons I chose instead to go to the General Theological Seminary www.gts.edu.  GTS had a strong academic reputation, prided itself in being a “little Oxford,” and based its community life on the daily round of Morning Prayer, Mass, and Evensong. We had some great professors, whom I still admire. Fr. J. Robert Wright grounded us in the church fathers, and Fr. Phil Turner took us back to the last great Anglican moral theologian, Kenneth Kirk, the Anglo-Catholic Bishop of Oxford who based his texts on Thomas Aquinas.

It was while I was at GTS that I had to face that while the myth of the continuity of Catholicism within Anglicanism may be beautiful, it is largely untrue. As we studied liturgics and church history, it became clear that the myth I loved was largely the creation of the 19th century Oxford Movement in the Anglican Communion. That what I loved about the Episcopal ethos, its beauty and sacramental focus, its style of Eucharistic celebration, were learned from 19th century Catholicism and from a study of pre-reformation Catholicism as it was practiced in England.

Also at GTS I had to face that our Episcopalian method of doing theology and ethics left a lot to be desired. It was hard to tell the difference between life lived in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and life within the seminary close. As far as sexual ethics were concerned, we were required to avoid “predatory” behavior. Everything else seemed to be approved of. In fact, the seminary faculty came down hard on anybody who talked about seminary life to anyone outside the seminary community. I made the “mistake” of talking to my bishop, the bishop made the “mistake” of talking the dean, and the faculty nearly blackballed me. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my head down. I studied hard, found much to enjoy about life in New York, and graduated with honors. For my thesis, I wrote about the changes in the use of blood in Old Testament sacrifice.

When I graduated from seminary, there was a surplus of priests, and there was no opening for me in the diocese that sponsored me, the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. But I had the great privilege of finding a position as Curate at S. Stephen’s Church in Providence, Rhode Island www.sstephens.org.  Sometimes called “Smokey Steve’s,” S. Stephen’s is one of the great Anglo-Catholic parishes in the northeast. It was my first experience assisting at mass with full Anglo-Catholic ritual, with great music, great dignity, and full-sacramental focus. When I was ordained, it was with the full understanding and intention that I was being ordained for the Catholic Church. Capital C. Capital C.

For fifteen years I served as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I loved every parish and every challenge. But these years finally destroyed the myth which formed the foundation of my love of the Episcopal Church. I don’t think it was any particular innovation during those years that finally dispersed the fog. Some I embraced, some I accepted, and some I resisted. If I even mention the hot-button issues it will lead some to say, “Aha! I knew it all along. He left because he opposed ‘X’! Fr. Davis is a reactionary! We don’t need his kind in the Catholic Church!” I’ll take that risk, because I want to share the truth of the way I finally came to be a Catholic. And for my own freedom, I need to be able to tell you the story.

To me, all these innovations share a common fault: the embrace and defense of abortion and euthanasia, the opening of the sacramental ministries of the church to those not ordained in apostolic orders, the opening of holy communion to the non-baptized and the non-Christian, the ordination of women, and same-sex marriage. These innovations could only be embraced by a church that considers that the sacraments are not essential to the church, that we are not actually in an unbroken relationship with a God who reveals his truth in a trustworthy way in all the ages of the church, and that Episcopalians are free to establish new doctrines and enforce new disciplines that conflict with the universal Church. Whether I agreed or disagreed with any of them, they all pointed to the same fault. The Episcopal Church is not Catholic because it makes doctrine and enforces discipline based on the ephemeral notions of what is currently important to a very small group people who happen to take their own comfort as the standard by which to measure everything. Dare I say it? I just did, and I was one and could have been one for a lifetime.

People sometimes tell me, “It must have been hard to leave the Episcopal Church. It must have taken you a long time to decide.” Let me tell you, it was not hard to decide at all. It was quite easy. Once I realized that the answer to the question, “Is the Episcopal Church really part of the Catholic Church?” is really, “No. Never has been. Never will be,” the myth dissolved and I knew I was standing in the light of day. I simply knew, “If I’m not a Catholic, then I need to get to where the Catholic Church really is.” It is always easier to live in the truth than to live in a falsehood, and I’ve never regretted my decision to leave.

The practical steps were much harder. Leaving a faith community is never easy. Trying to act responsibly toward the souls that have not shared my inner journey was difficult. Finding a way to make a living outside the comfort and dependability of a well-run organization with a very generous salary structure and pension fund was stressful. I do not recommend that anyone make the same journey assuming that someone will be there to catch you when you walk off the edge of the cliff. You’ve got to find a path, and sometimes that path goes through the wilderness.

I’ve been a Catholic now for ten years, five of them as a priest. Sometimes Catholics wonder why I left because, for them, the Episcopal Church looks like the answer to a Catholic’s dream. Some want to push one of the Catholic hot button issues and see how I’ll react. I hardly ever do. Sure, there are issues that bother a lot of Catholics. Sure, some would make very different decisions than the Catholic Church is has made. For me, it means everything to be part of a church that does not rush things, especially the ones on which our lives and our faith depend. I am proud to be a Catholic and a member of a church that can speak the capital T Truth to power on behalf of the world’s poor, our children, our disabled, our aged, and on behalf of the sanctity of nature and of life itself.

What it comes down to is this. Is it important to be a Catholic? If it is, then get to where the Catholic Church is. It is easier to live in the light of reality than in a myth. Much easier.  

I hope you will visit the website for a growing group of former Anglicans and Episcopaliansin Kansas City who are coming home to the Catholic Church www.ourladyofhopesociety.org.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Let's start!

I'm Fr. Ernie Davis, and I'm having the time of my life! It is crazy-busy, but thrilling, too. For the past year I have been pastor (actual title Pastoral Administrator, but more about that some other time) at St. Therese Little Flower in Kansas City. This is a gem of a Catholic parish, where the people are here because they want to be, the worship is genuine and full of joy, the people are friendly, and the parish is a cornerstone in the neighborhood. People sing the gospel from their hearts and live it in their lives. Some of the great pastors in our diocese left their legacies here, and we count a couple of bishops and even a cardinal amount those who have assisted here in their younger days. It is truly a privilege to be a pastor here.

And if this wasn't enough, we now have a growing group of former Anglicans and Episcopalians who are making this their home parish. Their arrival here stirred in me some feelings that may be similar to St. Paul's feelings as he wrote of his affection for as well as his hopes for his Jewish heritage (Romans 9:1-5). As happy, relieved, secure, and at home in the Catholic Church as my family and I have been for the last ten years, I long for the complete reconciliation of the Anglican Communion with her mother, that we can share the unity of the faith we used to share in the undivided Catholic Church. I'm also nostalgic for the beauty and grace of the Anglican liturgy. The Our Lady of Hope Society has stirred my passion. Why should we wait? The Pastoral Provision and the Anglican Use give us the possibility of welcoming our separated brothers and sisters into the fullness and richness of the Catholic faith.

How could that work at St. Therese? Perhaps God has been preparing a place here and smoothing the path for this to happen. For a number of years St. Therese was yoked with another parish, and in that relationship we had two early morning masses on Sundays, at 8:00 and 9:15. When Bishop Finn assigned a priest here full time, we tried our best to move the 9:15 mass to 10:00 - but for a number of reasons it just didn't work. That has left the late morning time-slot available for a new mass.

We have a group of former Anglicans and Episcopalians ready to begin their preparation for confirmation. So beginning on Sunday, September 7 at 11:15, we will celebrate the Liturgy of the Word from the Book of Divine Worship (the Anglican Use liturgy for Catholics from an Episcopalian or Anglican heritage.) Afterwards we will listen to a talk on a topic important to people thinking of conversion. A number of gifted people, many of them Catholic converts themselves, will be helping out. I'm looking forward to listening to them myself!

Matthew Teel will be giving a couple of talks. Folks at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Kansas City will remember him. He is a former Episcopal priest who converted to the Catholic Church in 2005. Rob Rodgers, from the Coming Home Network will also be giving a talk. He is a former evangelical protestant as well as an Anglican, now a Catholic, who works full time to assist protestant laypeople and clergy who are on the journey home. Fr. Eric Bergman from the St. Thomas More Society will be coming down speak with us so that we can learn from their experience. Check out the ourladyofhopesociety.org website for the full schedule.

In addition to welcoming those who are thinking of becoming Catholic, we need help from people who have already made the journey. We need choir members, cantors, and an organist; altar guild members, ushers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of holy communion; altar servers, Sunday School teachers, and confirmation sponsors. Members of St. Therese will be helping out a lot, but we are a small parish and people are spread thin. This could be a chance to do something exciting and new, and I invite you to think and pray about joining us, even if it is just to help us get started this first year! You could be part of something historic! I'll try to keep you posted about our progress, and share a bit about myself and my journey.