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Friday, November 20, 2009

Ordinariates and Ecumenism

This is unattributed, but it makes a good point. How can it be that the Episcopal Church, which has done so much to take concrete steps toward disunity (communion for the non-baptized and non-Christian, "marriage" of same-sex partners, ordinations of those who have not intention to be chaste in singleness or in marriage, ordinations of women as bishops and priests) can be offended when the Pope makes a concrete interim step toward unity? Go figure.

"Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church's deputy to the Presiding Bishop for ecumenical and interreligious relations, took Pope Benedict XVI to task, claiming that Anglicanorum Coetibus is “not necessarily very ecumenical" (which translated means “unecumenical,”) a “distraction,” and a violation of the real goal of genuine ecumenical dialogue which happens to be “ecumenical conversation.”

If I understand him correctly, Bishop Epting has single handedly established an entirely new goal for the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Formerly, the agreed goal was church unity. For example, Salvation and the Church states “The purpose of our dialogue is the restoration of full ecclesial communion between us. Our work has recalled for us still wider perspectives not only the unity of all Christian people but the fulfilment of all things in Christ.”
, Feast of St Gregory the Great.) Now, with the click of the keyboard, the goal of genuine ecumenical dialogue has become “ecumenical conversation.” Now that we are clear on that point, the achievements of the ecumenical dialogue can become more easily measured. We came, we talked, we adjourned.

Perhaps, in readjusting the goal of ecumenical conversation, Bishop Epting has also erased the necessity for taking concrete steps toward that goal. Formerly, Anglicanorum Coetibus could easily have been recognized as an interim step toward unity. “The Malta Report of 1968 envisaged the coming together of the Roman Catholic church and the churches of the Anglican Communion in terms of "unity by stages". (The Authority of the Church I, 1976) If “full ecclesial communion” is no longer the goal, having been replaced by “ecumenical conversation,” then concrete interim steps can replaced by having little chats and keepings minutes no one will read.

It is quite bracing to hear such a clear rebuke to violations of true dialogue. After all, why shouldn’t the ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, which has rushed ahead with one-sided innovations time after time, without consultation with dialogue partners and in violation of previous agreements, get his nose out of joint when the Catholic Church takes a concrete step toward the agreed upon goal? Oops, I forgot, Bishop Epting has changed the goal. With such a clear rebuke, the Catholic Church is certain to repent."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


We’ve had our first discussion about the relocation of the tabernacle. One of my predecessors did a fine job of modifying the sanctuary for the new Missal of Paul VI. The altar is noble and the ambo is quite fitting for the proclamation of the Word. Two modifications have not stood the test of time. First, the new presider’s and assistants’ chairs were intended to be at the level of the old altar. That position was abandoned some time ago. Second, the tabernacle was relocated off center and at an angle beside the pillar to the sanctuary arch, a position I have observed would be more appropriate for a potted plant or a religious statue. Its position is neither noble, dignified, beautiful or prominent; nor is it on a side altar, on the old main altar, or in a chapel.

Some might think I am foolish for opening a discussion about this issue and would argue that I should simply get a ruling from the bishop to relocate the tabernacle to the “right” place. So, I am a fool, and on our first adventure into a discussion of the issue, I have learned a lot.

I learned that moving the tabernacle back to its central location in the sanctuary would symbolize a return to pre-Vatican II non-participatory Masses. For them, the new Mass is awe inspiring, and the movement of the tabernacle out of the center of the sanctuary was a key that opened the possibility of that new experience.

I learned that having the tabernacle close to the people made Christ very close and accessible at a very difficult time, and that moving the tabernacle behind the altar would put a barrier between them.

I learned that having the tabernacle off on the side makes it seem like Christ is not the center of our parish life, and that when some genuflect and some walk right by without acknowledging Christ’s presence it appears disrespectful. I learned that it is disconcerting to visit a church where the tabernacle is not readily visible, making one wonder, “What have they done with Christ?”

I learned that having the tabernacle close to the door by which people come and go makes it easy to ignore him when our minds are focused on something else.

I learned that even raising the issue makes some feel like it is a devious plot to foist an ad orientem celebration over on the parish. And I learned that what seems obvious and in keeping with our faith and the integrity of the building, means something else entirely to some others.

And above all, I learned that we can have a difficult but respectful conversation when we truly try to listen and understand. We’ve made a start and the conversation will take a while. I’ll keep you posted.

Cardinal Kasper on Anglicanorum Coetibus

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

St. Therese and the Requiem Mass for Father de Feydeau

Preached this morning at his requiem by the Prior, Father Anderson - who on Saturday buried his own mother.

+ Requiem Mass
The Reverend Father Dom Francois de Feydeau de Saint-Christophe November 17, 2009

For unto thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away: and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven (Preface of the Dead)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
My very dear Brother Monks,

The words just quoted from the Preface for the Requiem Mass express the Faith of the Church that shines in the face of the darkest trial that assails the human heart—that is to say the sad reality of death.
Rooted in the Most Precious Blood and water that poured forth from the side of the Savior on Calvary, the Faith comes to our aid in this moment of sorrow, reminding us of Christ’s eternal victory over sin, the world and the “enemy death that shall be destroyed last, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet”. (I Cor. 15:26)

Sharing in this same Faith and making it “earn interest” like the good servant of the parable, that great Theologian of the Little Way, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus of Lisieux gives us her particular insight into the reality of bodily death. As she neared her own end at the age of twenty-four this young Doctor of the Church made the boldest of
affirmations: “I die not; I enter into life.” When a man or a woman--in particular a religious--comes to that crucial moment of the great passage to the other side of things, the truth comes forth without pretention. Saint Therese affirms her belief in eternal life, not in order simply to comfort us, but rather because it is the truth.

Of course, the Saint of Lisieux did not mean to dismiss the possibility of Hell or Purgatory, but having made her great discovery concerning the Merciful Love of God, to which she consecrated herself as a victim of Divine Mercy, she simply was beyond doubting that the Judge of Heaven and Earth would forgive her every fault if she only remained small--very small--with the trust of a little child. And lest we be tempted to think that it was on her merits as a Carmelite nun that she felt so bold in presenting herself to the just Judge, she affirms categorically that she will appear before Him with “empty hands”, that is to say without the merits any good works to speak of--save her childlike confidence itself.

Saint Therese liked to quote the line from that other great doctor of Carmel, Saint John of the Cross, who said that “on the evening of this life it is on love that we will be judged”. Although she felt quite incapable of performing the feats of asceticism that we so admire in the great Saints, she knew for a fact that there was immense love in her heart—better yet, she knew that her vocation was to be the love in the heart of her mother the Church.

As we prepare to commit the mortal remains of a beloved monk to the earth, to that very earth from which the first man was taken, we do well not to forget the luminous path traced by so many saints—from Our Blessed Father Saint Benedict to Saint Therese of Lisieux--that have illumined the world and transfigured the experience of death. Above all we must not forget what Our Lord said about the need for the grain of wheat to die, in order that it not remain sterile but produce much fruit. If we cannot help feeling the bitter grief of seeing a father and brother stolen away from the visible plane of our existence, we must not act like the pagans of yesterday and today, who live without real love in this world and without hope for the next.

May Our Lady of a Happy Dying, Notre-Dame du Bien Mourir, so venerated at Fontgombault Abbey, our mother-house in France, who manifestly helped our brother through the narrow passage of his last days, obtain for us all to die so well. Thus having followed the path of our monastic spirituality, in imitation of the Ecce, Fiat of the Virgin of Nazareth, may we all come to take our places in the eternal liturgical celebrations of Heaven in the presence of God and of the Lamb. Amen.

History of Anglican-Catholic Reunion

Click here for a short history of 400 years of proposals for Anglican-Catholic reunion.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hiking the AT

Wes, “Charlie” and I had a great hike on the Appalachian Trail. We met up at Amicalola Falls State Park, left one car there, and drove to our starting place at Neel’s Gap. We paid a quick visit to the Walasi Yi hiking store and admired their display of all the inadequate and worn out equipment left there by hikers who took the chance to upgrade after finishing their first 40 miles.

Our first stop was Blood Mountain. We had planned to go on to the next shelter because that would have divided our mileage into better portions, but I am glad we decided to quit early. The Blood Mountain shelter is an old CCC shelter and inadequate by today’s standards, but it sits near the crest with beautiful views in all directions. We sat up on top of the rock and watched the sun set and an almost full moon rise. If we had gone on as I had planned we would have missed one of the most beautiful sights in all my hiking.

After the ascent of Blood Mountain Wes decided the hike was going to be more than he could handle. Being a wise Scout leader, he chose safety first, and went back to the car while Charlie and I continued.

Charlie is my son’s dog who loves the opportunity to get out on the trail. He got lot’s of attention on the trail, carrying his own food in his saddle-bag-like pack. He provided me lots of entertainment and company. He’s trot up the trail ahead of me, then come running back to check on me.

I keep learning more every time I go. On the second evening I couldn't find the Good Gap Shelter. The trail guide gave very clear instructions: cross the road and take the blue blazed trail to the shelter, but I couldn't find the blue blazed trail. The guide said the side trail would come back to the main trail in about 1/3 mile so I took the main trail but after more than a mile there wasn't any sign of it. I found a good tent site - the wood was all piled up and ready for a fire, so Charlie and I used the tent that night. The next morning, after about another 1/4 mile, I passed the shelter. It was a new shelter in a new location since my trail guide was published. So on my next hikes I'm going to need to check and see if the trail has changed.

The second full day we covered fewer miles, but there weren't many water sources that afternoon. Charlie was thirsty so I have him half the water and ran out of water for myself. Because I didn't have any water I couldn't eat my candy bar, so by the time I got to the shelter I was really dragging. So I learned that I should make Charlie carry some water for himself. We were joined by three other groups of hikers. Two of the groups stayed in their tents, so the shelter wasn’t crowded. I had a nice talk around the campfire with a firefighter from Crescent Beach who knew a lot of Florida history.

The third full day of hiking we walked through hardwoods and then descended along Long Creek with beautiful waterfalls. The creek ran through some apparently virgin hemlocks, so moving they brought tears of gratitude. We got to the top of Mount Springer and to our last camping spot early in the afternoon. It was moving to think of so many hikers starting there to try to make it all the way to Maine, and the southbound hikers finishing their 2200 mile hikes there. We got there earlier than we had expected so we pushed on to Amicalola and the car. That meant hiking a little over sixteen miles that day – a bit longer than I like to do, but it was a nice afternoon and we were making good time.

Charlie didn't like having to be on a leash as we walked though the state park, and he really didn't like walking down the steps. The path down to the car went down the steps that go right in front of the waterfall. It was a beautiful sight. But the steps had open metal treads and Charlie had to look down at the ground or at the water through them and it spooked him. But he made it. We got back to the car about 4:45, just before the ranger station closed. Then we drove until about 10:00, got a motel and arrived home a day early.

I find the rhythm of hiking to be very conducive to prayer and reflection. It makes me wish I had more of the psalms memorized. Praying the Jesus Prayer helps me get through the difficult climbs. For some reason I keep losing my place in the Rosary, but the Angelus is perfect. Mary gave me a gift while hiking. Perhaps because I came from a Protestant background my relationship with her has been somewhat dutiful, but not affectionate. On this hike, for the first time, I felt her maternal love. It wasn't profound, but I am very grateful.

Charlie is already asking when we are going on our next hike. He really loves the chance to run without having to be on a leash.

The Real Shower of Roses

Thursday, November 12, 2009

St. Therese and Archbishop of Canterbury

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams referred to St. Therese of Lisieux while preaching at the All Saints Day Mass at All Saints Margaret Street. (All Saints is an Anglo-Catholic bastion in the Church of England.

"When we celebrate the Saints, we celebrate those who have given evidence, who have made God believable by how they have lived and how they have died. The saints are the people who recognise that arguments will finally not win the day. God does not make himself credible by argument. God does not respond to our doubts, our intellectual querying, our uncertainty, by delivering from Heaven a neatly annotated list of logical propositions with which we cannot disagree. (I'm afraid that Professor Dawkins can bang on the doors of Heaven as long as he likes if that is what he expects to happen.) God deals with us by our life and a death, by Jesus. And God continues to deal with us by lives and deaths that make him credible, that make Jesus tangible here and now. All those people who flocked into Westminster Cathedral a couple of weeks' ago to pay their respects to St Therese of Lisieux were recognizing that in her Christ became tangible for her generation and for ours and that is what the Saints do."

Benedict XVI and Anglican Converts: Newman’s Perspective - Catholic Online

Benedict XVI and Anglican Converts: Newman’s Perspective - Catholic Online

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bridging the Tiber

I am trying to imagine how those Anglicans who have asked for unity must be feeling right now. If I can remember correctly, as an Episcopalian, I imagined unity with Rome as a kind of covering Rome would throw over the Anglican Communion, offering legitimacy, blessing, collegiality, and support for the Anglo-Catholic interpretation of Anglicanism, without being intrusive. I may have imagined a kind of unity that we could take off the shelf and use to our advantage when it suited us, and put back on the shelf when we were finished with it. It would certainly have suited us to have Catholic recognition of Anglican orders, Catholic endorsement of Anglican sacraments, Catholic representation at Anglican altars at special functions, Catholic bishops' hands participating at Anglican ordinations, and Catholic boosts to the Anglican ethos of having a special place and role to play as the bridge church. We would have been pleased to have Catholics at Anglican communion rails, and Catholic contributors in our pews. In other words, I imagined that we could be Anglican first, and Catholic when it suited us.

Based on what I have been reading and hearing, at least some Anglicans who asked for union with Rome hoped unity with Rome might be something like what I described. Now, faced with the offer of an Anglican Ordinariate in the Catholic Church, Anglicans are faced with an invitation to be Catholic, and the reaction of some seems to be, "But I don't want to be Catholic! I don't want to convert!"

I hope my fellow Catholics will not be dismissive of such reactions. I think it is absolutely necessary for Anglicans to wrestle with real issues and express the emotions related to them. Newman's entry into the Catholic Church did not happen in one day. Nor did he just think himself through the process, although thinking was absolutely necessary. Newman helps us realize that we reason not only mentally, but physically, emotionally and socially as well. If we try to shut down the process and demand instant gratitude for a gracious offer, then we demean those for whom this is almost a life and death issue involving one's core identity.

To be helpful to our Anglican sisters and brothers, Catholics should recognize, that Anglicans are faced with huge sacrifices. To take up Rome's offer, Anglicans are asked to trust the unfamiliar, to put more of a premium on hope than on their past, to be able to state with conviction they believe all the Catholic Church teaches, and to define themselves more as a people who are for something than against something. To become Catholic they will have to give up participating in the sacraments until they are prepared to make professions of faith as Catholics, and for Anglicans in irregular marriages, to forego the sacraments and enter the Catholic annulment process for a ruling on the status of their marriages. Anglican clergy, especially the TAC clergy who may not have seminary educations, are being asked to give up their ministries for what may be an extended period. Because only Catholic priests can be incardinated into the Ordinariate, former Anglican clergy will have to wait until the Ordinariate can establish the educational processes so they can meet Catholic standards and be ordained Catholic priests. If they are married, petitions still have to go to Rome and the Ordinariate will have to demonstrate that there is a need for their ministry. Some Anglicans may know right now, intuitively, that they ready to cross the bridge. But I imagine that for most, especially here in the U.S., it will take some time.

Some, perhaps many, Anglicans who hoped and prayed for an invitation, will decide not to accept it. Even making that decision will require a huge shift in identity. After hoping, praying, and working for unity with Rome as the solution to Anglicanism's problems, those who decide not to accept unity on Rome's terms will have to go through a huge process of reorientation toward a new and different future.

The gap between Rome's "Here is what you requested" and Anglicanism's "Is this what I was asking for?" is huge. The gap is between Rome's offer of an Anglican expression of Catholicism and Anglicanism's hope for a Catholic blessing of Anglicanism. Bridging that gap will involve a very real struggle and it is entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit working with people of good will and wisdom from both sides of the gap. As Anglicanorum Coetibus states, the Holy Spirit moved groups of Anglicans to petition for unity. The Holy Spirit is the principle of unity, establishing the Church as a communion. The Holy Spirit has brought us this far, and he will certainly carry us further.

Come Holy Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created.

And you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful. Grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may have a right judgment in all things, and ever rejoice in his holy consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.