There are a couple of articles about the “Becoming One” gathering, written by Mary Ann Mueller, and posted over at VirtueOnline. Here's the first article, and now the second one can be found here. Apparently the regular readers of that blog couldn’t hold it back any more — there weren’t any comments on the first article, but now there are some appearing in response to the second article, many of them with the usual condemnations of the Catholic Church, and the expected accusations of our disloyalty to Anglicanism — in other words, nothing out of the ordinary.
The first article quoted extensively from the talk I gave on Tuesday evening, and I’ve posted that text here. Since the second article quotes from the talk I delivered on Wednesday evening, I’ll provide my complete text for you here.
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“Becoming One” – Wednesday evening talk
We’ve spent some important time together, and I think we’ve made real progress in “becoming one.” In fact, I imagine that if we were to take a poll, most of us would think that we've reached the point that the Ordinariate for the United States should be established right now. Many of us have felt ready for it for quite a while, and I'm sure it's our universal experience that, once we've made the decision, we want it to happen now.
In fact, I've thought for a long time that we, in this country, are perhaps more ready than any other. I know we're reading a lot about developments in England — and of course, we all want the Ordinariate to be established there, and as soon as possible. But in some ways, we're further along than the English situation. We have sizeable Anglican Use parishes already in full communion with the Holy See. No other country can claim that. There are several parishes that have made the decision to leave their Episcopalian or Continuing Anglican jurisdiction in order to join – again, we have more parishes in that situation than can be found in any other country. The Ordinariate in this country will be able to start on a firm financial footing because we have financially secure parishes such as this one — and there are others — ready not only to join the Ordinariate, but to provide considerable resources for the founding of new parishes, to support missionary priests, and to provide for the needs of the Ordinariate and its Ordinary. And this means that there'll be a constantly increasing financial stability, because our universal experience is that when a parish enters into full and visible Catholic communion, growth inevitably happens, income increases, and the local parish ministry expands dramatically. No other country will have the stable and financially secure beginning that we'll see right at the beginning of the United States Ordinariate. The truth is, we don't want a long wait.
In fact, when the text of Anglicanorum coetibus was made public, I had no hesitation at all in wanting to be part of an Ordinariate. I happened to be in Rome at the time of the announcement, and I excitedly called my archbishop and said to him that I wanted to send in a request right away. I really excited about it, and it never dawned on me that he wouldn't be just as excited. His response? "What's your hurry?"
At the time, his question didn't make any sense to me. In fact, I pondered it all the way back from Rome. But eventually I figured it out, and at the same time I saw the immense wisdom of the Holy Father in giving us a separate jurisdiction. My archbishop – a wonderful and godly man, and now, sadly for us, moved to Los Angeles — couldn't really understand what we were about, as an Anglican Use parish. Certainly, he liked visiting here; he always showed great respect to me as one of his pastors, and to us as a parish, because we're part of his archdiocese, just like his other priests and parishes. Sure, we have a different liturgical use. But when you go around the archdiocese you'd swear that every parish has its own liturgical use! He appreciated the loyalty we gave to him as our archbishop. He was always very proud of our school as one of the finest in the archdiocese, and he was very pleased when it was recognized nationally as an excellent educational institution. Very importantly, we always pay our assessment on time. We've always been supportive of archdiocesan programs, such as pro-life efforts, the apostolate to the homeless and needy, the seminary, and a host of other things. But I don’t think he ever understood the particular charism of the parish, or the place of the Anglican Use in the Western Church. And that’s not rare among the bishops in this country. We’ve existed for nearly thirty years, but if you mention the Anglican Use to the average bishop, you’ll receive either a blank stare, or there’ll be an immediate attempt to hem it in, and squeeze it out of existence. And that’s not an uncharitable assessment – thirty years of experience tells us it’s so. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s simply the fact.
So what happens when my archbishop gets a call from me, all excited about the new Apostolic Constitution, and the possibility of becoming part of an Ordinariate? “What’s your hurry?” I didn't stop to think that he hadn't been particularly waiting for this development. In fact, it hadn't been on his radar screen at all – and that’s completely understandable. Bishops have lots of people and myriad issues to deal with; the demand upon them as Fathers-in-God and as shepherds of a huge flock means they can’t possible understand every nuance of every group of Catholics under their care.
The thing is, our immediate desire to be part of an Ordinariate isn't hurrying at all. We've been working for this and praying for this for some thirty years. When approaches were made to the Holy See back in the 1970's, we had no idea what the Church might do for us. When the Pastoral Provision was established by Pope John Paul II, it was a huge step forward, and we entered into the process as quickly as we could. Why would we have waited around? We asked; Rome responded; we fulfilled the requirements as soon as possible, and we came home. But even then, we knew that some sort of separate jurisdiction was going to be necessary if our parishes were going to grow and increase in numbers. And at the same time, other Anglican groups were traveling the same road, with the same realization, as approach after approach was made to the Holy See.
So what we knew to be necessary all along is precisely what’s happening with the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus. A new structure is being provided. We tried it the way the Episcopal Conference wanted it to be. Where we were allowed to exist, we were made part of the existing diocesan structures under the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary. And that's the problem, clearly stated: "where we were allowed to exist." There were a few bishops who allowed the erection of parishes, but many bishops refused to allow a parish to be established under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Some bishops were confused by it all, and would refer it to someone in the Chancery system, where the request would languish. Many bishops saw this only in terms of "married priests." Still other bishops couldn't see the purpose of us having our own liturgy, and a number of them told potential converts, "Sign up for RCIA, and just become Catholics in your local parish." They weren’t acting in bad faith – they just couldn’t understand.
But now, with Anglicanorum coetibus, all that's changing. Pope Benedict XVI recognized the constraints the Anglican Use parishes have had for these many years, and in his response to the ongoing petitions from TAC, from FiF, and from other groups, is providing the solution. And he not only provides it, but he’s written it into the law of the Church, and extended it throughout the world.
Having arrived at the decision that this is where we want to be – that the Ordinariate is the proper home for us – we don’t want to wait, because most of us just don’t like to wait. Certainly, in America we have little patience for it. We love our expressways for driving and our express lines for checking out of the supermarkets. We measure a computer’s worth by how fast it works, and we’ve come to disdain snail-mail. When Anglicanorum coetibus was unveiled, a lot of us expected it to be implemented right away – if not that week, then the next week at the latest! Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but one thing’s for certain: we didn’t want to wait for long. We’re not a patient people, and I put myself among the worst offenders.
In some ways we’re quite right to want the Ordinariates to be put in place immediately. As many of you know from your own experience, there are lots of small parishes made up of people who are ready to enter into full communion with the Holy See. There are many of you here, who are fine and faithful clergy but who have to expend untold amounts of energy in holding things together until you can bring your people home to an Ordinariate. Meanwhile, people aren’t getting any younger, and those of more advanced years would like to find their place in the Catholic Church before they die. Young people are being prepared for Confirmation, or perhaps for Holy Matrimony, and they’d like these things to take place in union with the Successor of St. Peter. There are lots of reasons for Anglicanorum coetibus to be implemented right away – and every one of those reasons has a human face – faces you know, of people you love.
But there’s also grace in the waiting. Impatient though we might be, there’s never a wasted moment in God’s time – and the Ordinariate will be established in God’s time. The scriptures tell us that it was “in the fullness of time” when Christ came. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the apostles had to return to Jerusalem where they prayerfully waited. St. Paul wanted to go into Asia Minor, but he was constrained because the time wasn’t right. Over and over again, in His dealings with men, God asks for a time of patient waiting. And it’s always for a reason, even though it might not be evident at the time.
When something like Anglicanorum coetibus comes along – something that’s obviously so right for so many, and aside from the fact that it comes from the mind of the Holy Father himself – it’s perfectly understandable that we want to see it established now. But then, I have to remind myself. God took some thirty-three years for the Incarnation to come to the Cross, and it was another three days before His resurrection. Even though He’d spent three years with His apostles, He gave them another forty days before His ascension, because they needed more time of preparation. God is the God of time, and of patient waiting. But it’s waiting for a purpose, unlike those first Christians in Thessalonica. Remember them? They were waiting for His return, which they expected at any minute, so they simply stopped what they were doing, sat down, and waited. That’s pointless waiting, and St. Paul told them to get off their backsides, in no uncertain terms.
Our waiting has purpose. It’s a time to prepare spiritually, through prayer and study. It’s a time to prepare practically, getting mundane details in order. It’s the kind of waiting we experience when we’re getting ready for an exciting trip, when there are things to pack and arrangements to be made. This isn’t wasted time. God gives it to us for our good. But it’s up to us to use it productively, expectantly, and wisely.
Finally, a few words about our Anglican Patrimony. When we try to define our patrimony, we need to let it be a bit open-ended. I know that’s usually not our way. Those who are on the traditional side of things tend to like tight descriptions and clear statements. Not always, but usually. However, this is one of those times when the definition of patrimony is going to change – or perhaps I should say it’s going to be enriched – with the passing of time. As unusual as it might seem, some aspects of our patrimony are yet to come – and I’m going to speak from our nearly thirty years of experience in living the Anglican patrimony in full communion with the Holy See.
The usual definition of patrimony is “something inherited from one’s ancestors.” And as we think about our own Anglican patrimony, of course we think of things like liturgy and language, music, aspects of architecture, things done “decently and in order.” Lots of things are defined, and a lot of it is undefined – but it’s all unmistakably Anglican. However, we know also that “patrimony” isn’t static. For instance, we have parochial patrimonies which are reflected in particular churchmanship, treasured vestments, an honored tradition of music, pastoral practices with which we identify. But unless a parish is dead, its patrimony continues to grow and develop. It stands on what came before, certainly, but what we hand on to subsequent generations isn’t exactly the same as what we received from our ancestors.
The Ordinariates will be moving into almost-uncharted waters. I say “almost-uncharted” because, as I said, a few of us have had the opportunity to scout on ahead, and we’re already experiencing the Anglican patrimony as a living part of the Latin Rite. We’re finding there’s a richness which has developed as we’ve unpacked precious Anglican treasures in our new home. It’s rather like when my wife uses one of my mother’s recipes, and I discover it tastes even better even better than when Mom made it.
This idea of a “developing patrimony” struck me one day when I was offering one of the early weekday Masses. Of the forty-five or fifty people there, I don’t think any of them had ever attended an Episcopal or Anglican church. Almost all of them have belonged only to this parish – either for most of their adult lives, or even from the time they were children. For them, the Collect for Purity is simply a Catholic prayer said at the beginning of the Mass; the Comfortable Words are part of a Catholic penitential rite; the Prayer of Humble Access is what Catholics say before receiving Holy Communion. They don't think of our liturgy as coming from “someplace else.” It’s just a Catholic liturgy. Of course, they've attended other Catholic parishes. They know our liturgy is different, and that our parish has a particular “feel.” But they’ve embraced and experienced our Anglican patrimony exclusively as Catholics, and in that way these second-generation Anglican Use Catholics probably have a clearer understanding of the patrimony as being a living and developing patrimony, than we do, who are first-generation converts. They haven’t had to try to live as Catholics outside the communion of the Catholic Church, and they’ve never gone through the mental gymnastics we had to endure, trying to put a Catholic spin on things, when much of the evidence around us was contrary to what we believed about ourselves.
The little experiment which is the Anglican Use, local though it is, gives a glimpse of the future, because the Ordinariates will be doing all this on a grand scale – oh, probably not grand at the beginning, but when second-generation Ordinariate Catholics become the majority of our members, there’s going to be a much deeper understanding of our Anglican patrimony, because it will have been experienced in the context of full communion with the Holy See.
Right now, those of us heading toward the Ordinariate think in terms of what we'll be able to bring with us, and that's important. Our Lord said, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost,” and certainly that applies to the various elements of our patrimony which come from our past. But the Lord also said, “Behold, I make all things new,” and that, too, applies to our patrimony. Within the Ordinariates, all the familiar things we love will be made new, for a new generation of Catholics. Our past is building the future.
From whatever beginning God grants to the Ordinariate, this marvellous patrimony is going to expand and be strengthened. With every conversion, with the birth of every child, with the steady growth of every parish, the patrimony will continue to flourish.
Maybe that's one of the reasons the Apostolic Constitution calls them "Personal Ordinariates." They have to do with persons, not things. My final thought? Look around you. Look at the people in this room. In the end, we’re the patrimony – the living patrimony.
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I thought maybe you'd like to see a few more pictures from the event. There may even be some familiar faces.
Ralph Johnston (Headmaster of the Academy), Fr. William "Doc" Holiday (Incarnation, Orlando), Christian Campbell (Incarnation, Orlando and Moderator of this blog) and Deacon Michael Noble (St. Anselm, Corpus Christi)
Two of our Upper School students, ready to assist our guests at Mass
Clergy and laity from Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston
It was great to have Bishop Botterill with us from Canada.
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The gorgeous weather allowed us to have our coffee breaks al fresco.
Be sure to follow our Moderator at Eccentric Bliss
, his personal blog!