Traditional Anglicanism provided the lifeboat to bring me home to the Church Christ founded
I am now a member of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, one of three Ordinariates set up (so far) for former Anglicans who believe and profess the Catholic faith, and who have a passionate desire for Christian unity and communion with the pope. We are fully Roman Catholics with an Anglican accent and ethos.
The liturgy of the Ordinariate seems like a bridge or interpretive key between the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite — it has helped me appreciate and understand both forms. The Ordinariates are also bridges of new evangelization to reach out to Bible-believing Christians.
I was baptized Russian Orthodox, but my parents sent me to various Protestant Sunday schools to acquaint me with the Bible. The intent was to make me culturally literate, not faithful. My father, a choral singer by hobby, got paid to sing in Boston’s best Episcopal Church choirs, but we seldom joined him except on Christmas Eve.
By the time I attended college, when it became fashionable to throw out the works of “dead white men,” I held churches, especially the Catholic Church, in active derision.
In my 20s, however, two profound experiences of God shifted the trajectory of my life. I acquired a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Bible, and believed that was all I needed.
Eventually, I began moving toward an orthodox Christian faith. Occasionally attending a local Anglican parish, I found myself drawn to the Book of Common Prayer. I discovered I loved actions, and the poetic language of liturgical worship. At the little traditional Anglican parish of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa, I became hooked. The parish was housed in a dollhouse of a church with red carpeting over grey linoleum tiles, creaking wooden pews and two ceiling fans whirring overhead. But what holy silence and prayerfulness before Mass!
The bell would ring, the bishop and/or priests and altar servers would process in and the Mass was prayed with such reverence and recollection I felt transported to heaven. These men prayed as if they really meant every word they prayed. The preaching was as powerful as anything I had ever heard in Evangelical settings. I wondered why there wasn’t a line around the corner to get into this church.
Some background on the origin of the Ordinariates: I discovered that Annunciation was part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), which had been in informal talks with Rome since its inception in the 1990s. The TAC gathered in so-called Continuing Anglican churches that had left the Canterbury Communion over the ordination of women in the late 1970s.
We were not the only Anglican group seeking unity. Bishops from the Episcopal Church in the United States had quietly made overtures, as had many bishops from the Church of England. So, when I joined Annunciation, I caught its vision of unity with the Catholic Church and thus began a long period of catechesis.
In 2007, the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium on the altar of St. Agatha’s church in Portsmouth, England. They sent the books with a letter to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, requesting “a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment.”
Two years later, Pope Benedict XVI answered with the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus (AC). It opens with these words: “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 favorably to such petitions.”
The constitution recognizes “liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”
The Holy Father’s incredible generosity led to the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia, and our Ordinariate in North America.
In 2012, the archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence Prendergast, received members of our little parish into the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday. In order to welcome us, the archbishop celebrated the then-approved Anglican Use liturgy (the forerunner to our Divine Worship) ad orientem in St. Patrick’s Basilica.
Archbishop Prendergast’s homily closed with these words: “You are not just favored guests. This is your home. We love you. I love you. May our public witness of unity draw many from the edges of faith into God’s Kingdom, no longer subject to judgement but to Divine Mercy.”
Our former clergy, after a period of formation, have been ordained Catholic priests, even though most are married men.
Our liturgy is a Catholic Mass in the language of Shakespeare. We pray using sacral language forms of “thee” and “thou.” Though fully approved by the relevant Vatican congregations, our Mass is touched by the Reformation through the use of some of Archbishop Cranmer’s gorgeous English translations of Latin collects, the inclusion of the Comfortable Words of Scripture following our Penitential Rite and the beautiful Prayer of Humble Access before Holy Communion. Our liturgy also incorporates elements of pre-Reformation English Catholicism in its use of Sarum collects and chants.
Read more…Why I love the Latin Mass
The rubrics are similar to those of the Traditional Latin Mass—it is a ballet of genuflection, usually prayed ad orientem, but it has many of the hallmarks of the reform of the liturgy called for in the Second Vatican Council: it’s in the vernacular and in addition to traditional chanted introits and graduals we sing hymns (robustly, often in four-part harmony!).
What Pope Benedict XVI made possible was for us to bring the heirlooms of English Catholicism and the underpinning of the civilization of the English-speaking world into their pride of place in the Catholic Church, from which they developed.
For more information about the Ordinariates and my own parish, see links below:
Archbishop Pendergast’s homily at the Mass when I was received into the Church with the members of my parish
Information on the Collect for Purity
The beautiful prayer of Humble Access, said before Communion
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