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Friday, October 30, 2009

St. Wilfrid, St. Hilda, St. Bede: Pray for us.

Has anyone noticed the link between, St. Wilfrid who founded the See of Chichester, and the current Anglican Bishop of Chichester? Bishop Hind apparently made trips to Rome to appeal for a way for groups of Anglican to come into the Catholic Church and retain some of their Anglican patrimony. Now he is taking a leadership role in bringing Anglo-Catholics into the Catholic Church.

In his day, Wilfrid, a Celt himself with roots in the monastery at Lindisfarne, made several visits to Rome to study and to ask for Rome’s adjudication of English disputes. He began as a Celtic Christian and ended as a Catholic Celtic Christian. This is what St. Wilfrid said at the famous Synod of Whitby over which St. Hilda presided. His argument carried the day and brought all of England into harmony with the Catholic Church, especially in way the date of Easter is calculated.

“For although your Fathers were holy men, do you imagine that they, a few men in a corner of a remote island, are to be preferred before the universal Church of Christ throughout the world? And even if your Columba – or, may I say, ours also, if he was the servant of Christ – was a Saint potent in miracles, can he take precedence before the most blessed Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said, “Thou art Peter ….” (Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People, Chapter 26.)

I have to say that I am devoted to the Celtic saints for their gentleness, their love of the poor and their closeness to nature. St. Adian, St. Hilda, and St. Chad were admirable. St. Bede, although he always reminded his readers that the Celts were in some ways deficient, honored them for their holiness of life.

Are St. Wilfrid, St. Hilda, St. Chad and St. Bede also adding their prayers for the Anglican Ordinariate?

Anglican Ordinariate

A reporter from NCR asked me, “Have you heard from any Episcopalians who may be thinking about converting?” Truthfully, I have not heard from a single one. After some reflection, I think it would be wrong to expect to. The question assumes that the Pope is “fishing in the Anglican pond,” “poaching,” “attempting to build up the Catholic Church’s traditionalist ranks,” “making a hostile take-over,” or “stationing his tanks on the lawn of Lambeth Palace.” If those accusations were correct, then the measure of success would be the number of Anglican fish on his string, the value of new acquisitions for the Catholic Conglomerate, or the number of Anglican prisoners of war he has captured that he can convert into Vatican troops. It is a bit silly.

The Pope’s establishment of new Anglican Ordinariates is a response to requests from Anglican bishops who affirmed the Catholic faith and requested a way of corporate reunion that could honor the Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Just as the Pastoral Provision was Pope John Paul II’s response to requests by two organized groups of Episcopalians, Pope Benedict’s Anglican Ordinariate is a response to Anglican bishops in England and the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion. The Pastoral Provision was a lower level response to lower level requests, and the Anglican Ordinariate is a higher level response to higher level requests.

The measure of success will not be how many Episcopalians choose to become Catholic, but how many of those who requested a method for corporate reunion decide to take the offer Pope Benedict has made. Anglican bishops in England and the TAC bishops made requests, but I have not heard of any Episcopalians who did. Some recent Episcopal bishops converted under the Pastoral Provision. But they came as individuals, not as representatives of groups or dioceses asking for corporate reunion. Will there be some Episcopalians who decide that this is the time? Certainly. But just as certainly their decision to act now will be the result of a long process of very personal prayer and struggle, not because the Pope has made any move to catch, capture or acquire them. In other words, there will continue to be a steady stream of Episcopalians, but I would not expect a big change. And whatever number it might be will not represent a victory of one church over another. If there are any victories, they will be victories of hope over fear, and conscience over inertia.

Locally, my concern is how St. Therese Parish can be of service to the clergy and members of TAC parishes whose bishops unanimously made the request which led to the offer of the Anglican Ordinariate. It is one thing to think about, hope for, and pray for corporate reunion. It is quite another to make the sacrifices and choices that would be required for it to really happen. We cannot know the future and we cannot expect people to commit themselves to something that does not exist, yet. But we can get to know each other. And if there are some others who decide this is the time to explore whether this is the avenue for them, I would welcome them, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hiking Amicalola to Neels Gap.

Sunday after Mass I am headed off to the mountains of north Georgia to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. I'll take my son's dog Charlie and met Wes at Amicalola. Wes was my best friend from kindergarten until high school graduation. He was always ready for an adventure, which usually meant camping somewhere in the woods that surrounded my house. Chores had to be finished first, of course. In junior high we found an island in the middle of the marsh, accessible by boat at high tide. It was not exactly a Tom Sawyer existence, but it came close. After college our lives separated. Wes stayed in Fernandina, married at about 18, and helped his father run a construction firm. He continues going on adventures, usually with Fernandina's Troop 89. I'm already wearing my boots. They look funny with my black clericals. My pack is ready. Now, if I could just find my pocketknife.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Anglican Ordinariate"

In yesterday’s homily I mused that we may be like Bartimeas in the moment after Jesus told him, “Go you way. Your faith has made you well.” We can hardly see past the end of our noses and find the path to follow, much less how this will all turn out at the end of the journey.

I imagine that now there will be much soul searching among TAC Anglicans, some Church of England Anglicans and a few Episcopalians. It is one thing for bishops to say they are moving to Rome. It is quite another for the priests and laity. For those who imagine there will be large numbers, I would caution that the same thing was said after the publication of Apostolicae Curae. For all the interest Episcopalians used to have about unity with Rome, it was mostly about having Rome recognize the validity of Anglican orders and some kind of mutual recognition, perhaps a post-reformation peace treaty. Episcopalians would have been thrilled to have “open borders” with Roman Catholics. We would have been thrilled to have Anglican bishops invited to church councils, as long as they could still go home and be independent of the Vatican. But hardly anyone talked about what it would be like to answer the question all converts are asked – “Do you believe all that the Catholic Church teaches….” Hardly anyone considered what it would be like for Anglican priests to be vetted to determine whether they could be ordained Catholic priests. Hardly anyone talked about the kinds of parish closings and consolidations that could be required as tiny Episcopal and Anglican churches move into the Catholic Church.

Of course the new Anglican Ordinariate was the topic of conversation after Mass yesterday. We do not have the text, and more importantly we do not know how it will be interpreted and implemented. We had a good time speculating, but speculations are not a good foundation for taking action.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing that can be done. We can be hospitable and at least get to know our TAC neighbors and any others who may be considering Pope Benedict’s invitation. We can share that most Anglican glass of sherry, read Evening Prayer and have a meal together. Those of us who have made the journey can share what it has been like for us to try to pick out the path as we try to make our path the same as the one Jesus is walking, even if we can’t see past the end of our noses.

Jesus told Bartimeas, “Go your way.” He is the one who had to decide that going his way meant following Jesus to Jerusalem. Our TAC neighbors are going to have to decide what those same words mean to them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

St. Therese at work

I received the following note today from another convinced that St. Therese is "spending her heaven doing good on earth."

Dear Father Davis,


Your story about the Anglican Ordinariate and St Therese (which came to me via England this morning) is very interesting. And I can tell you another connexion with her.


I am the Anglican Catholic Bishop of Canada in the TAC. I was present at the Synod of TAC Bishops in Portsmouth England in October 2007 which voted unanimously to ask for full communion, and signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The first full day of the Synod was October 1st, the 'new' date of St Therese's feast, and the actual vote to ask for full communion was taken on October 3rd 'old' date of her feast.


I also accompanied the Primate and Bishop Robert Mercer CR to deliver the Letter to the CDF where we had been directed by the Holy Father. My friend Mother Teresa of the Carmel in Edmonton had given me some holy cards with a piece of cloth touched to her relics. Each of us carried one of these cards, and we asked St Therese's prayers on our venture. We also had similar cards from Poland of the Servant of God John Paul II.


I have continued 'to bother her' about a favourable response to our request, and now thanks to the generosity and love of the Holy Father who has taken a personal interest in us for many years, and the prayers of St Therese, something wonderful has come about.


God bless you,


+Peter Wilkinson, OSG


Bishop Ordinary

Anglican Catholic Church of Canada

TAC


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anglican Ordinariate

I have not posted anything since July because I have been working on a small book, but todays news demands some response.

People have asked me to help help them understand the new Apostolic Constitution and how it differs from the Pastoral Provision under which I was ordained a Catholic priest. Please remember that this is very new and the text has not been released yet.

First, the Pastoral Provision is local and provisional. The Pastoral Provision is in effect in the United States and provides a process by which former Episcopal or Anglican priests may be considered for ordination in the Catholic Church, temporarily suspends the discipline of celibacy during the lifetime of the priest's wife, and allows for groups of former Episcopalians to retain some of their liturgical traditions using an approved modification of the Book of Common Prayer called the Book of Divine Worship. The Pastoral Provision is also in force in Great Britain, but British bishops have not approved an Anglican based liturgy. The Pastoral Provision does not apply in the rest of the world, although individual priests may convert and be considered for ordination on a case by case basis. Second, the Pastoral Provision has a limited but indefinite time-frame. Its purpose was to allow Anglicans to be absorbed into the Catholic Church. An Apostolic Constitution is issued at a much higher level of authority and is not intended to be time-limited. So it is quite possible that the Pope envisions that an Anglican community will exist within Catholicism for quite some time and even provides the possibility of separate Anglican tracks within Catholic seminaries to provide for future continuity.

The new Apostolic Constitution can apply anywhere in the world, and it provides the possibility of much more autonomy for former Anglicans. They will not have the same level of authority as the sister Eastern Rite Catholics, but there will be some similarities. It is a very, very generous gift, made in response to petitions from as many as fifty different Anglican bishops around the world. It was said that the Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth was discussing such a move. They have since separated themselves from the Episcopal Church, but have not said definitively that they want to become Catholic. Several small Anglican parishes in Kansas City may be members of the Traditional Anglican Communion that made a petition to become Catholic. The TAC is a worldwide body.

For the easily bored and sound-bite fed U.S. audience, most news outlets will reduce this to conflicts about women and gays and then move on to the next controversy. The truth is much richer. Anglicans have been converting to the Catholic Church since the reformation. Since the 1840s, some Anglicans have been working and praying for reunion. In the late 19th century an Anglican religious order, the Francisan Friars of the Atonement (Grayfriars) joined the Catholic Church to work for reunion from within Catholicism and since then have provided the leadership for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Since Vatican II, Anglicans and Catholics have been in high level discussions aimed at creating the kinds of mutual understandings that would someday lead to reunion. Vatican II paved the way for Catholics to make the kinds of concessions Pope Benedict made that will allow Anglicans to retain some of their liturgy and spirituality, recognizing that Catholicism is enriched and not diminished by this kind of diversity. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism paved the way for Vatican II, and will be beatified in 2011 when the Pope visits England. Anglicans and Catholics flocked to visit the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux as they made a very recent pilgrimage to England. Her relics rested on her feast day at York Minister, the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of York. In other words, preparations for this Apostolic Constitution have been in process for 170 years, and some of the preparations have been made at levels that are higher than popes.

It is true that in the United States and Canada some Episcopalians have been willing to divide the church in order to introduce innovations to the sacraments of ordination and marriage without the authority of the rest of the church Catholic. Some believe that these actions are prophetic, and that church division is a price worth paying. For myself, these innovations raise the question of how a church that claims to be part of the Catholic Church while remaining separate from the Catholic Church can introduce fundamental changes in sacramental theology. I came to believe that simple majority votes within small slivers of the church are not sufficient to deal with fundamental doctrinal changes. It made me realize that the Episcopalian claim to be part of the Catholic Church is simply a beautiful illusion. I have always believed that the Catholic Church is essential to God's relationship with the world, and that if it was important for me to be Catholic, I needed to be in the Catholic Church. Finally realizing I was not Catholic, I joined the Catholic Church.

There's no way that all that can fit into a sound bite.