Anglicanorum Coetibus

How did the Ordinariate come to be?

In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches,[1] could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization... (Taken from Anglicanorum Coetibus)

From the mid sixties to the end of the first decade of the current millennia, bishops and clergy have been petitioning Rome for a reunion.  For many of the bishops and priest of the Anglican communion, the “experiment” of Anglicanism had proven itself to be a failure.

How did this come to be?

Let me attempt to explain.  The Anglican Church was formed by Elizabeth I.  It was to be the English expression of the Catholic Church.  The continental reformation (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli) had by that time been around for quite some time, and Elizabeth’s predecessor (once removed) to the throne, Edward, had tried to bring the continental reformation to Britain, and failed, mostly because he died at a very young age, and Mary of course took England back to Catholicism.  Elizabeth set up the Anglican Church to be without a pope; the monarch would be the final say on Church politic, the Bible would be the final say on theological issues.  This “system” did work for a time.  But two things happened that no man could have foretold.  

First, there would be a time that the monarch of England would not rule over all of Anglicanism.  Elizabeth could not have foreseen that the British empire would fracture, beginning with the North American colonies.  Once America had removed English rule from their continent, the Church of England that was left behind found itself to be Anglican, but not British.  This situation would happen time and time again with colonies in Africa, India, and the far east.  How would these Anglican Churches continue without a connection to the king or queen?  To make a long story short, England would simply “give” these colonies bishops.  These bishops, upon their ordination would promise to uphold scripture, but gave their allegiance to no particular government.  The bishops, after a time, found an issue (that is so clear in hindsight), who would lead these many and diverse bishops in the same theological path?  As years progressed new issues came to the fore, and each bishop was dealing with them as they saw scripture leading.  This resulted in as many theological positions as there are translations and commentaries on scripture. (A lot….). The “communion” of the Anglican Church saw itself in trouble, and they began to look back to England for solutions.  The Archbishop of Canterbury would call a meeting of all bishops in 1867, known as the Lambeth Conference.  From the beginning this synod would be hamstrung, as the Archbishop at the time opened the synod telling all he had no interest in making this any kind of a binding synod.  What it became was a meeting for bishops to come to a “gentleman’s agreement” on how to lead the communion.  When bishops discontinued being gentleman, this recurring synod became a meaningless gathering of prelates.  The Anglican communion was a ship without a rudder.

Second, scripture came into question.  Again, Elizabeth could have never seen this coming.  In the 19 century, scripture itself came into question.  Questions like “is the Bible truly inspired by God, or is it just a bunch of stories told by men”?  “Could God have foretold all the progressive ideas and reality of the modern times”?  These questions seem ridiculous to the Catholic, but for many these questions were concerning and pressing issues for discussion. Most of the Anglican provinces would begin to make decisions based on public opinion, leaving scripture out of the mix.  Love the sinner hate the sin is the old Christian adage; but for many bishops love the sinner and accept the sin became the norm, in the name of love.

The Anglican Church became adrift, no rudder and no leadership.  Looking back it was doomed from the beginning, with no pope, with no leadership, the communion, though not even 200 years old, quickly devolved into every man doing as he pleased.  It was at this point that many clerics and laity saw that the Anglican communion was not a communion, but a federation of disparate dioceses, each doing as they pleased.  Each diocese was self governed, and quite honestly if left alone to its own devices, would and could be very happy on its own little island.  But in the name of the Anglican Church, many dioceses were doing things that hurt mankind.  Allowances for abortion, divorce, alternate lifestyles were a norm, and the affects were hurting society in the name of Anglicanism.  This is why Catholicism concerns itself with communion, what one does in a Church does affect the others; each diocese cannot be an island, we must work together to forward the kingdom of God.  When this lack of communion within the Anglican Church became apparent to many of the  laity and clergy alike, many started to look towards Rome for help.  It was because of this reality that “In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately”.

This is the first of several articles to be written on Anglicanorum Coetibus, please stay tuned.

God Bless

Fr Scott

East Facing?

“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27)

Why do churches face east?  This is a question that the building committee is wrestling with, so I thought I would weigh in on the subject.

As children of God, we long to be united with God.  Because of this part of our nature, it makes sense that we would want to turn to Him, literally, in prayer.  This makes special sense because we are a sacramental Church.  When we look to the tabernacle to pray, even though we see bread and wine, we believe Christ’s body and blood to be there in a real way.  When we are baptized we do not see the sins removed nor do we see our fallen nature fixed, but we believe it to be true.  All sacraments have outwards symbols, but the real work is done out of our sight.  Resting on these very real examples, if we look for Christ’s return, if we want to be united with Him, we should look east.

The canon of the council of Trent speaks of this also:

Canon XCII.

He speaks of the written doctrine, and the unwritten tradition of the Apostles, and says, that both have the same efficacy as to religion.  The unwritten traditions which he mentions, are the signing those who hope in Christ with the Cross; praying toward the East, to denote, that we are in quest of Eden,…

This canon speaks very clearly of certain unwritten traditions (facing towards the east to pray being one) of the Church being “ dogma full of authority, venerable for its antiquity”.  

Five years before he became Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger wrote that, notwithstanding various liturgical innovations, “one thing has remained clear for the whole of Christendom: praying towards the east is a tradition that goes back to the beginning.” As he wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy:

The common turning toward the east was not a “celebration toward the wall;” it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people.” . . . For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord.” . . . They did not close themselves into a circle; they did not gaze at one another; but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us. – 

And finally, the Apostolic Constitutions, a work of eastern Christianity written between 375 and 380 AD, gave it as a rule that churches should have the sanctuary (with apse and sacristies) at the east end, to enable Christians to pray eastward in church as in private or in small groups.

BOWING TOWARD THE EAST, a practice in the early Christian churches. “Its origin is thus stated: The sun being a symbol of Christ, the place of its rising was a fitting though imaginary representation of heaven, whence Christ descended, and to which he ascended in glory as the mediator between God and man. The heathens charged the Christians with worshipping the rising sun; but St. Augustine repudiates such an idea when he says, ‘We turn to the east, whence the heavens, or the light of heaven arises, not as if God was only there, and had forsaken all other parts of the world, but to put ourselves in mind of turning to a more excellent nature, that is, to the Lord.’

 M’Clintock, J., & Strong, J. (1880). Bowing toward the East. In Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Vol. 1, p. 865). New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers.

Don’t Fear the New

Jamie Johnson’s song “In Color” is one of my favorites.  It seems my favorite past time is looking back and thinking how great it was then….whenever “then” was.  Johnsons song speaks of old black and white pictures, and how as we look at them, the fact that they are not in color causes todays observer to miss some of the main emotions and realities of the moment when the picture was taken.  

A similar conceptualization could be used about the average person when they look forward.  I have never taken a scientific pole, but it would be interesting to find how many folks are exactly where they thought they would be when they made their plans as an 18 year old.  Honestly, just a look in the mirror and my 18 year old self would faint at the toll time has taken on my physical appearance!  

We love the past, we fear the future.  The past is known.  There are parts we look back to fondly, like the birth of all three of my boys, and there are parts of our past that we hide and never think about; like the time I read the gospel instead of the epistle when I was a seminarian reading to a church full of bishops. (That still brings shivers…it was 25 years ago!)  What amazes me about that horrible note in my history is at the time I thought I was done.  I had infuriated my professors, embarrassed my own bishop, and publicly humiliated myself to most of the conservative bishops in the United States.  I was in seminary, under my bishop, and obviously wanted to work in a church in the US, I had not just torpedoed my career, I set off a nuclear bomb right at its center.  

The moral to that horrible tale?  Set your own ribbons!  But also breathe, take another step and rely on God to chart your course.  I not only was ordained as an Episcopal minister, but also am blessed by a priestly ministry in the Catholic Church, I have been tremendously blessed!

The past is written, the future is in God’s hands.  Honestly I have no idea how I got through that one mistake, but God does; because it is only by His grace that I could have recovered.  We all have these mistakes in our past, maybe not as bad as mine, but mistakes none the less.  We can look back and picture it; but the picture doesn’t tell the whole story.  Yes the embarrassment fades a bit, but that is not the part of the picture I am speaking of.  God’s hand; picking us up and dusting us off, taking care of us, this is not seen in that black and white picture. (OK Im not that old but role with me on the analogy)  

The future is just the same.  Whatever comes, God is there to guide us with whatever we need.  Mind you the need may be chastisement, but there are times in our lives that we need poverty and persecution, the Church grows in such conditions.

Don’t fear the new, we will see this future through with Gods help and grace.  Pray for our parish, pray for our country.

God Bless

Fr Scott

Nashotah House Chapel

I Don’t want Volunteers!

2 Chron 17:16. …Adnah the commander, with three hundred thousand mighty men of valor, 15 and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with two hundred and eighty thousand, 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the Lord, with two hundred thousand mighty men of valor…

The word “volunteer” only appears in Holy Scripture 3 times, and nowhere does it appear in the New Testament.  You may think this good news, as the next SJV asks for volunteers you can tell us that “volunteer” does not appear in the New Testament, and where it does appear in the Old Testament, it refers to military men helping the Israelites in their various causes; mercenaries.  

To be brutally honest, I don’t want mercenaries anyway.  Mercenaries fight because they are talented, they are at home in conflict.  They fight and kill for money, never asking themselves is the cause just.  When things go badly, they are the first to run, as to valiantly lose a battle for the betterment of the cause is fallacy to them.

So what was Jesus to do?  No volunteers for the Son of God?  Nope.  In my humble opinion Jesus did not want volunteers, He wanted men and women that would live and die for the cause of the Gospel.  He knew that God made us all for a purpose, there are no red shirts in humanity. (Aka in Star Trek where the extras that would go into dangerous situations always wore red shirts and always got killed). God has a reason for each of us, we were all born to proclaim the Gospel in our own way.  

I have been asking for volunteers,  perhaps when I ask I am speaking in error.  I should be asking for those who were made for the purpose of filling these open jobs to please step forward!  God has given St John Vianney everything we need to flourish, but there are important jobs empty, while other jobs are under manned.  That means that many among us have gifts they are not sharing.  You may think that your gift is small and unimportant, but you would be wrong.  God put you here, at St John Vianney, because you are an important part of our success!  

Let us renew our allegiance to God.  We are not mercenaries, fighting only when it suits us, we are Christian soldiers, ready to live and die for God and His Gospel.

Fr Scott

VOLUNTEER!!

We are a small congregation.  We have 35 families, and 85 members.  Our budget is hovering around $120,000.00.  By any definition, we are a small congregation.  If we stay at this size, we will surely die as a congregation.

Struggling?  Yes.  Hopeless?  Hardly.  We are blessed with land that is (or will be soon) paid off.  We also have enough to build a church, parish hall, classrooms, chapel and offices.  We are blessed.  All this will be fully paid for, we will have no debt.

It is strange to be so blessed, while at the same time be concerned for our future; but this is where we are.  

Would you like to see St. John Vianney continue and be here for generations to come?  Would you like to think that our little parish will provide the sacraments for our children and grand children? If your answer is yes, then volunteer.

We are in urgent need of the following:

  • Teachers/Catechists
  • Cleaners (wiping pews)
  • Lectors (men or women)
  • Acolytes (men or boys)
  • MC’s for mass (Men)
  • Lay Readers (Men)
  • Eucharistic visitors
  • Altar Guild workers
  • Nursery workers

Please consider volunteering, as God calls you.  If we are to grow we need to give our time, talent and treasure.  If we are to grow we must also invite our friends and neighbors to mass.  Tell everyone of our building process, tell them about the reverence of our mass, tell them of the friendships we share.

Let us grow together.  Let us provide Cleburne the Catholic witness that God is calling us be.

God Bless

Fr Scott