I'm delighted that Christian has invited me to join the roster of The Anglo-Catholic. Here's a little introduction.
I have been a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion's Ottawa Cathedral of the Annunciation for about ten years now. I have a rather bizarre and convoluted spiritual journey that began with my Russian Orthodox baptism as an infant. But I spent most of my teens and early 20s resisting spitefully any overtures from God. Here's a link to my testimony that appeared in the National Post a few years ago.
I did have some tenuous links to Anglicanism in my childhood. My father called himself a "mercenary Episcopalian" because he got paid to sing in some of the top Episcopal Church choirs in the Boston area. I would sometimes accompany him to the Church of the Advent but hanging around during rehearsals was a hardship and I was painfully shy around other children. But I grew up around the musical traditions of both the Russian Orthodox and the Anglican churches.
After my journey into apostasy, through various forms of Gnosticism and then into an "it's just me and Jesus" cafeteria Christianity, I found shelter in a seeker-friendly Baptist Church in the Ottawa area. It is there, in the evangelical world, where I began to develop my adult Christian faith. I am so grateful for the gentle shepherding I received at Kanata Baptist. Had I plunged right into the TAC, I would have suffered the spiritual "bends."
"What? No women priests?" "What? All this vain repetition?" "What? Creeds!" I would have been done in by the Athanasian Creed, I am sure. Thus I have great respect for the different ways the Lord woos us and am comfortable in a range of worship settings. And I hope no one keels over when I say this, but I am so grateful for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
At a certain point in my spiritual journey, I shifted from being someone who had to understand before I could believe to adopting Anselm's Credo ut intelligam–"I believe in order that I may understand."
Thus came a yearning to have an Apostolic faith. It was not long after that a chance meeting after a lecture brought me to our idiosyncratic little cathedral parish and I found I loved the kneeling, the reverence, the language. I already had an intuitive belief in Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist.
And I loved the way our then Bishop Robert Mercer prayed the mass. Somehow, his focus and sense of recollection made it impossible not to be lifted to heaven, to hear every word, to pray with him. I started bringing friends and some of them stuck, too.
Every Saturday, we have breakfast after the Eucharist in our parish hall. What an opportunity for one on one catechesis that was.
When I joined the TAC around 1999-2000, I was still working as a television producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Then I did a little stint as a communications officer for the then Leader of the Official Opposition. Then I got fired when a new leader came in, and started my own little communications business. I also polished up a novel that I had hoped would become a best seller and bring me a huge income I could retire on. The Defilers won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award and was published in 2006. But, alas, it has sold terribly, though people who have bothered to read it have liked it.
Work in my communications business strangely dried up in 2004 and I tried about eight months of "living the dream" of being a full time fiction writer. But the isolation of writing fiction full time proved to be not all I thought it would be. I confess, I like the idea of being a writer more than I like being a real writer. If you see any typos, you'll get my drift. (I don't see them even if I look for them, sorry). I love churning out first drafts. Polishing is a chore. And I needed to earn some money. So when I spied the notice of job opening with Roman Catholic papers to be the national correspondent for a cooperative called Canadian Catholic News, I applied.
Being a Roman Catholic was not a requirement. In my interview with several of the editors, I told them I loved the Catholic Church and I loved the Holy Father. "I'm more Catholic than 85% of the people in the pews of the Catholic Church," I told them. (Yet I didn't know even what a monsignor was. I had a steep learning curve ahead of me.)
The editors traded meaningful glances and left to discuss the matter among themselves. Then they offered me the job.
What an amazing ride it has been. I jumped immediately into covering the same-sex 'marriage' debate then raging in Canada. Within a few weeks, I was covering my first plenary session of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
Now I've covered six plenaries. I've seen some beautiful renewal in the Catholic Church in Canada even in my short time covering the Church. My position in the National Capital has been a great perch from which to observe the many signs of hope here. And I often wonder if there was anything providential in my being a member of the TAC writing for Catholic papers at this time in our journey towards union with the Holy See.
Case in point. When the Apostolic Constitution (AC) was announced, I fortuitously happened to be down in Cornwall, Ontario covering the last CCCB plenary. I had gone to my room on Monday night, checked my computer and people were Tweeting me (sending me messages on Twitter for those who don't use the site) that something was going to happen the next day that involved us. So I set my alarm early and first thing the next morning I checked my email and by 6:00 a.m. Eastern a friend of mine from Zenit had already sent me the texts of both news conferences. So I went off and got about a dozen copies printed off to pass around.
Who should happen to be at the plenary that morning but the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Archbishop Fred Hiltz! I dunno, if I wrote a novel with all those "coincidences" in it, my critique partners would tell me it was just not believable. Hiltz is a very nice man, but he didn't seem to think much of the AC. When I interviewed him later that day, he said he did not expect many Anglicans would avail themselves of it. The juridical authority of the Pope was the sticking point.
Last summer, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI. I had flown over on the Canadian Prime Minister's plane to cover his first papal audience. While the other journalists went off to cover the G8, I had to hang around in Rome for a few days. Poor me.
But a big scandal had broken back in Canada. The Prime Minister, an evangelical, was accused of pocketing the Host during a Catholic funeral prior to leaving for Italy. He didn't, of course. But it sure made my life busy. The meeting with Pope Benedict took place on the day we flew home to Ottawa. I brought him greetings from Bishop Peter Wilkinson.
So here we are.
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