Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Kansas City Woman Ordained Priest

            Several weeks ago there was a momentary tizzy when Georgia Walker, a Catholic woman, was ordained.  The Kansas City Star and the National Catholic Reporter proclaimed her to be the first Kansas City woman to be ordained a Catholic priest.      
            Actually, a different Kansas City woman, Katrina van Alstyne Welles Swanson was ordained as a Catholic priest on July 29, 1974, over 40 years before Georgia Walker.   On that solemn morning, in front a congregation of two thousand, she was presented for ordination as a priest in Christ’s holy Catholic Church, just as Georgia Walker was presented recently.  Katrina Swanson was ordained by three bishops.  One of them was her father, the Rt. Rev. Edward R. Welles, Bishop of West Missouri.
            Bishop Welles, of course, was an Episcopalian.  Almost everyone would recognize that if Welles was Catholic, it was of a peculiar sort.  Katrina and Georgia, and the bishops that ordained them, share a kind of communion with the Catholic Church because they share the same baptism.  And perhaps the Catholic Church would recognize that the historic episcopate maintained in the Episcopal Church and claimed by the Womanpriest movement has a certain affinity with essential Catholic structures.  They may even claim to celebrate some or all of the same sacraments and preach from the same bible.  But Bishop Welles would never have claimed the right to join the council of all the Catholic bishops at Vatican II. Nor would he have ever claimed to believe or to teach everything the Catholic Church believes and teaches.  He may have worn a cope and miter and have stood beside the local Catholic bishop, but he would never have claimed to be in communion with him, or to celebrate the sacraments for local Catholic parishioners.  He could claim to be Catholic, but only within the context of the meaning of that term as understood by other Episcopalians. All of those ordained by him could only make a similar limited claim.  And the bishop who ordained Georgia Walker can only make a similar claim.
            The Catholic faith is not about magic, and bishops are not dispensers of magical power.  The bishops who ordained the two women were not acting for the Catholic Church.  Catholic bishops represent the whole Catholic faith and act in union with the universal church. The bishops who ordained Katrina and Georgia reject much of what Catholic Church understands to be essential to Catholicism, they teach much that is incompatible with Catholicsim and they were not in union with the universal church. So they could not have ordained Katrina and Georgia as Catholic priests, in the most common understanding of the term.  The definition of Catholicism made by Katrina’s Episcopal Church and Georgia’s Womanpriest movement does not include communion with the Catholic Church and does not include the full Catholic faith.  They can define the word Catholic for themselves and use it within their own context in whatever way their traditions choose.  But if all are honest, they will recognize that their definitions are very peculiar. 
            Georgia Walker is not even the second Kansas City woman to be ordained a priest.  In the forty years since the first ordination of women as priests, any number of Kansas City women have been ordained  priests.  Given the movement of members back and forth between the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church, it is likely that a few Catholic women were ordained priests in "Christ's Holy Catholic Church" by Episcopalian bishops.  It is also possible that others have been ordained priests in one of the iterations of the Old Catholic Church that sprout locally.  A little research could determine the numbers, but it really doesn't matter all that much.              Episcopal bishops ordain priests for the Episcopal Church. Old Catholic bishops ordain Old Catholic priests. And Womanpriest bishops ordain Womanpriest priests.  Only Catholic bishops ordain priests for the Catholic Church.  No matter what her ordination liturgy may have claimed Katrina Swanson was only a priest in the Episcopal Church, not the Catholic Church.  And no matter what her ordination may have claimed, Georgia Walker is a priest for her movement, but not for the Catholic Church.
            The recent attention to Georgia Walker’s ordination does have a potential positive outcomes. It gives us an opportunity to remember a bit of local history and recall headline-making events.  Katrina Wells Swanson nor Georgia Walker will not be recognized as Catholic priests for the Catholic Church, but Katrina’s ordination should be remembered as being a historic first, forty years before Georgia’s.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Practical Questions About Liturgy at Our Lady of Hope

1. What is the church like?
When you walk into Our Lady of Sorrows Church where we worship, you get a distinct feeling of the presence of the Lord. Indeed He is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Upon entering one becomes immediately "worshipful" in manner and upon entering one is given to silence.

2. How is the liturgy celebrated?
Whether the congregation is small or large, everything is dignified, and reverent as the "Lord of Hosts is with us".  The vestments are rich and beautiful, often handmade.  Then the solemn manner in which sacred ministers, cantors, servers, altar guild and readers perform their part in the eternal drama, absolutely contributes to the piety of all. This tone and manner is shared by the congregation, who fully participate.

3. What kind of music is used?
Probably the most dramatic contribution to the Anglican Patrimony is its hymnody. Magnificent music planned and directed by Dr. Bruce Prince-Joseph our organist, sung in the most venerable traditions, shared by a congregation singing to the rafters literally lifts the soul to the heavenly throne.

4.  How do the people receive communion?
We receive communion in the traditional manner, kneeling at the altar rail.  Those who cannot kneel are welcome to stand. Some receive the sacrament on the tongue. But most make a simple, humble "throne" of the left hand for the right, whereon is placed the precious Sacrament. From there, the Body untouched is raised to the mouth of the communicant.

5. Are the people reverent?
Such things as bowing the head at Our Lord's name, making the sign of the cross at timely points of prayer, genuflecting at the Incarnatus in the creed, acknowledging the Lord at the elevation of the Host at the time of consecration - all these "engage" the faithful in the act of worship. The faithful are not only involved, but their participation lends to their understanding and their personal piety. They help us to present ourselves as a "living sacrifice." They help to shape a humble, contrite, awe-inspired heart when we come before Him. That reverent participation is also a part of the Anglican Way.

5. Why not use everyday English?
The language of the liturgy is Elizabethan English, as in most traditional parishes. Its formality, poetry, and beauty add a special dignity, and once again reverence, to the order of worship and contribute to the piety of the people. It helps to establish in a unique way, a humble, separate, not presumptuous, relationship between creature and Creator. It doesn't put off, but rather gathers together reverently. Formal expression can be inspiring. Therefore those prayers and hymns employing that formal language tend to put the faithful in a reverent attitude before the Holy of Holies.

6. How is the liturgy related to the Anglican Prayer Book?
The Book of Common Prayer is itself a work of great spiritual and practical genius, a rich gift to the faithful. Anglicans know it as well as they know their Bibles. Anglicans throughout the world can pick it up and know they are "at home.  All of those familiar with the prayer book tradition will be soon right at home with the Catholic “Book of Divine Worship” used in Ordinariate liturgies.  Catholics will immediately recognize the familiar structure of the Mass, enriched with historic Anglican devotion.

7. Who can receive communion?
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law. . . . " 

(Many thanks to Marthat Eischen, "Anglican Patrimony or the Anglican Way," published in VirtueOnline, June 29, 2011.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Anglican Use Liturgy

Those who grew up in the Episcopal or Anglican churches may be right at home with some of the liturgy we use on Sunday mornings.  Even Methodists who know their own traditions will find some language that is familiar.  However, some things will definitely be unfamiliar, and we may trip over strange wording.  Some of the unfamiliarity is caused because various national Books of Common Prayer developed differently in the U.S, Canada, Britain and Australia.  Our liturgy unites the various traditions.  Some of the unfamiliar bits are not from any official Book of Common Prayer but come from Anglican and American Missals – versions of the Anglican liturgy used in some Anglo-Catholic parishes before the liturgical changes introduced after Vatican II.  It is likely that the liturgy we are using is unfamiliar to everyone in some way.  Even so, it is an attempt to preserve and express the Anglican tradition, to create a liturgy that will unite the members of the Ordinariates around the world, and also celebrate a liturgy that is a gift to the Catholic Church

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fifth Anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus

A Homily for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran.  November 9, 2014. Our Lady of Hope. Kansas City MO

What are we doing here? 
            Last week the question touched on a real controversy for the churches of the reformation: 
            Purgatory, Prayers for the Dead, and the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Today we can ask the same question, but not stir up and controversy. 
            The only controversy – and very little of that – is why celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica at all?  Anglicans stopped celebrating it 450 years ago. 
            Catholics may even wonder why we do it.
            Why take up a whole Sunday to celebrate the dedication of a church most of us have never even heard of?  Sundays are supposed to be more important than any other celebration except for major feasts and solemnities.

So we’ve just answered our question.  We celebrate this Feast as if it is a big deal because it IS a big deal.  It’s a bigger deal than the celebration of the dedication of Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, given by the emperor Constantine after the Peace of the Church – the Basilica of Christ the Savior, the Head and Mother of all churches, the oldest church in the West.

The Lateran Basilica is the first Christian temple.  It tells us a great deal about the Christian faith.  Christians did not create a temple and place it among all the older ones to the pagan gods and goddesses.  Christianity is not one religion among others.

Nor did they build a temple to serve primarily as a shrine for an empty Holy of Holies as in Jerusalem, or a place for an idol into which only priests or priestesses could enter.

Rather, this first Christian Temple was a basilica – a former public building, rededicated to the celebration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word of God – a Temple for the People of God, priests and laity.

The Lateran Basilica is a House of God and a House of the Church.

Even so, it doesn’t see to be a big enough deal to trump the celebration of Sunday – the primordial feast.

That is, until we start praying and reading the scriptures appointed for the day.
Then you see that we are not as much celebrating the dedication of the church building as we are celebrating the living Church of God, the mystical Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit. 

If we are looking for any controversy of a protestant kind, we could ask, “Did Christ intend to establish a church?” And answer, “Yes indeed he did!  And this is it!”  And I am not talking about Our Lady of Sorrows – as beautiful as it may be.

It may not be an accident that almost exactly five years ago – November 4, 2009, Pope Benedict issued his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.  And it was just two years ago, exactly, that we celebrated the opening Mass of the Anglican Use Conference we celebrated.

The opening four paragraphs of Anglicanorum Coetibus are a stunning proclamation of the reason why we celebrate this Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.

I have the bad habit of skipping over the opening paragraphs of documents like this – all the “Whereas” paragraphs, and get right to the action paragraphs, “Therefore be it resolved.”  Not that the Pope writes like the Roberts Rules of Order.  But these four paragraphs are worth spending some time on.  Pope Benedict XVI established the “ecclesiological principles”  that establish the source and purpose of the church’s unity.

Pope Benedict teaches us that the church is the People of God gathered into the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That the church is designed to bring people into unity with God and each other, and to preach the gospel to every creature.

We are baptized into one church, united by the teaching of the apostles.  We profess one faith, and break one Eucharistic bread.

Almost all of his fourth paragraph is a quotation from the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium:
            “This single Church of Christ which we profess in the Creed as one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, “subsists in the Catholic Church which is governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him.  Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside her visible confines.  Since these are gifts properly belonging to the church of Christ they are forces impelling toward Catholic Unity.”

It is a remarkable statement by the Council and by the Pope, and it rings true to my experience and faith.  It tells us that even while we lived the disunity that contradicts the will of Christ and wounds the Church and scandalizes the world, the Holy Spirit was with us.  And the same Holy Spirit was calling us home.

Although he did not quote it explicitly when he wrote Anglicanorum Coetibus, Pope Benedict may very have had in mind another statement from Vatican II, the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio

            “Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place.”

In other words, the most important traditions of our Anglican heritage, our liturgical and sacramental heritage and our historical episcopate were tools of the Holy Spirit.

Our Anglican heritage was more than just a personal and private satisfaction.  It played and still plays a role in God’s plan to unite all things in Christ.  We should always be grateful.  It was there that we came to love the teaching of the apostles, the church fathers and the saints.  We were built and nourished with sacraments that were not empty vessels.  We were united in a way through the historic episcopate..

But as valuable as it was, it was and is a wounded community, and a wound in the unity of the Body of Christ.

We picked and chose the parts of the Catholic faith that we liked, and we fought with others picked other parts and who rejected the parts we chose.  We celebrated some sacraments, and rejected some others as unnecessary, or not even sacraments at all.  We experienced the embarrassment and scandal of bishops who rejected the faith they were sworn to uphold and who were unable to live in unity with even their own small portion of the Christian world.

In Anglicanorum Coetibus Pope Benedict heard and responded to the groups of Anglicans who repeatedly and insistently petitioned to be received into the Catholic Church.

But more than that he heard and listened to the Holy Spirit and the Prayer of Christ that all his disciples be one.

And he issued an invitation to receive the church’s healing medicine.

That we join the church in the profession of the faith in its entirety.
That we join the church in the celebration of all the sacraments instituted by Christ.
And that our leaders join the governance of the Church through the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff.

We aren’t here to point the finger at our brothers and sisters who haven’t accepted the invitation and taken the church’s medicine, yet.  We don’t have to point the finger because the Lord is reaching out his hand to them.  The same God who called us into unity is calling them, too.

And we ARE here to ask God to show us how we can be of help to those who are suffering from the wounds in the Body of Christ, and for whom the church’s medicine seems bitter and for whom it requires sacrifice.

We ARE here to celebrate with joy (Anglican, restrained, and dignified) joy, the unity that Pope Benedict offered and that we received, the great living and very real unity with the Mystical Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Does Kansas City Need Another Catholic Church? 4

I began by saying that if we have nothing distinctive to offer, then there are plenty of other Catholic parishes in Kansas City.  But Our Lady of Hope is not like any other.  We have a particular mission: to those sisters and brothers whom God is calling into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  Certainly every other parish shares that same mission.  But none of them, except for those in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, are called to place that mission at the top of the list. All of us were separated, called, and reconciled, so we know what kinds of sacrifices are sometimes required.  We also have another distinctive characteristic: Joy!  Catholic converts are happy Catholics.  We know what we have found!  The treasure in a field, a pearl of great price.

I invite you to read the story of one of our Ordinariate priests who was with us at the recent clergy and wives' conference.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Does Kansas City Need Another Catholic Church? 3

Does Kansas City Need Another Catholic Church? 3

            Everybody needs to know that Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church is really small.  Even by Episcopalian standards, where Sunday attendance in an average parish has declined to 65, we are very small.  On a good Sunday we have about half that many. If we are content to join the slow decline of Episcopalian, Anglican, mainline Protestant and Evangelical parishes (last one to leave, please turn out the light) then no, Kansas City does not need us. If our goal is to preserve a liturgy as a museum piece and to serve the religious sentiments of club members, then no, Kansas City does not need us for that, either.
            A few weeks ago I asked one of our original members, Jodeen, how she came up with the suggestion of Our Lady of Hope for our name.  She told me, “I didn’t know anything about the name.  I believe it was a direct inspiration from God.”  Our name calls us to be people of hope.  This whole Christian enterprise started with one person.  Luke does not record that anyone was with Mary when Gabriel visited her. And from the one person who dared to believe that the hopes of her people would be fulfilled, everything began.  One is not none, and small is not nothing.
            Back when I was working in the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri with my good friend, Fr. Jim Carlyle, our jobs were to start or restart parishes.  We knew that new parishes have a much better chance of growing than old ones, because when everyone is new, all start from the same place.  There are no established power structures that newcomers have to break into and people can start belonging right away.  We both had small groups to start with, but our goal was to open new churches with 200 in attendance on our first Sunday. We used telemarketing, mailings, and personal invitations.  He worked to launch St. Anne’s Episcopal in Lee’s Summit, and I worked to re-launch St. Michael’s Episcopal in Independence. Twenty years ago, we both worked to remove perceived “barriers.”  That meant making the liturgy user-friendly, the music contemporary, denominational identification invisible, and to a certain extent, the faith non-challenging.
            Things have changed a lot in twenty years.  Our Lady of Hope is no more than what we used to call a “core group.”  We don’t have any plans to do any telemarketing. If anything, Our Lady of Hope is doing a slow launch.  I don’t have the luxury of devoting myself to this project full time, and we don’t have the financial resources that the Episcopal diocese devoted to our projects.  But we have something that is much more important – the Catholic faith, the inexorable work of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of Mary and of all the saints.
            Our Lady of Hope has a potential that our previous work in the Episcopal diocese never had.  And we have a potential that no other Catholic parish can match.  The Holy Spirit is our telemarketing campaign.  And the Holy Spirit is calling evangelicals into the Catholic Church.  Can you imagine what a Catholic parish would be like if it fully embraced and empowered their evangelical skills and zeal instead of keeping them at arm’s length?  The Holy Spirit is calling Anglicans, Episcopalians and Methodists who love their tradition, but even more love Christ and his call to be one in him as he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is calling Catholics who want to celebrate the liturgy in the beauty of holiness, and who are eager to share the depth of their faith with others.
            Are you being called?  Do you know others who may be called?  Do you hope to be part of a Catholic parish like this?  Are you willing to give of yourself, your time, your energy, and your faith, and to be a person of hope?
More to come!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Does Kansas City need another Catholic Church? 2

Four or five years ago it seemed that having an "Anglican Use" community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish could be a long-term mutually beneficial solution.  I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese until retirement.  The Anglican Use community added resources to the struggling inner-city parish, and the parish provided space to worship, a link to the wider Catholic community, and assistance with pastoral programming.  We began some projects that assumed we would have a long-term home at St. Therese.

When I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese long-term, I didn't realize was that St. Therese Parish and the Anglican Use community had a deep and basic conflict.  St. Therese Parish depends on attracting people who feel like they don't fit in a regular parish.  St. Therese Parish can be very warm and welcoming and some neighborhood parishes can be very cold.  But some of our key parishioners had a deep animosity toward the church hierarchy and Catholic dogma and discipline.  On the other hand, I and the other former Anglican converts who joined me at St. Therese had made an adult choice to enter the Catholic faith.  And to enter the full communion of the Church we had affirmed that we believe what the Catholic Church believes.  This was a rift that simply could not be bridged, and it continued to feed the suspicions of some parishioners that our presence and my pastoral leadership could not be trusted.  It became clear to me that I would not be able to remain at St. Therese long-term, and it also became clear that one person could not be pastor of both communities.

The Anglican Use community at St. Therese never discussed this.  Instead our discussion focused on our future.  Our study of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the mission of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter convinced us that we needed to take charge of our own future and find a way to enter the Ordinariate.

Now that we are Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church we can embrace our Catholic identity in a way that would never have been possible at St. Therese Little Flower.  Converts make joyful Catholics, and that should make us good evangelists.  I am convinced that this is our fundamental mission, more important than anything else, that we put Christ first.  We are taking steps to put our money and our program where our mission is, and to keep from getting diverted into things that will take lots of energy but aren't directly related to our mission.

More to come!