The Portal Magazine is out!

UPDATE:  Brother John-Bede also responds to an article in The Portal here, complete with links to sublime music on “A Tudor Mass sung in Hampshire.”


The monthly magazine of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, The Portal, is out and has several interesting articles You can read The Portal online here.

These comments from Fr. Mark Woodruff, chairman of the Society of St. John Chrysostom are most interesting:

“Why can’t they just integrate as normal Catholics?” Bemused at the prospect of Anglicans with their own patrimony, some sensed an exclusive import for those who thought Catholicism was not good enough as it was. Aidan Nichols, however, pointed out that English Catholicism has four ingredient traditions – those descending from the undivided pre-Reformation Ecclesia Anglicana; those who migrated from Ireland; the 19th and 20th century converts; and the diaspora from the whole world in the 20th and 21st – but what was missing was the lived experience of the 450-year tradition of liturgical worship in English, and a distinct pastoral-spiritual engagement in life, culture and society to which Catholicism had never been able to address itself from within. The Ordinariate offers this.

Catholics once anxious about its suspected abnormality now wonder where the mainstream Sunday use of Divine Worship as the manifestation of Church and Gospel in such a classic English voice is to be found in more than a handful of places. The writer is a Latin priest serving in a Byzantine Catholic Church that adds its accent to conveying the Catholic faith in an environment that is now less attuned to any form of Christianity. Imagine if the Syriac Christians who rediscovered communion with Peter in 1626 had “just integrated as normal Catholics”.

Go on over and read the whole thing.

Many interesting articles, including some on prison ministry, since some Ordinariate priests are prison chaplains.



A critique of Alpha

In an earlier post on what parishes in the Ordinariate might do to bring seekers into the fold, I recommended the Alpha Course.

Many Catholic parishes in Canada are now using the Alpha Course to re-evangelize cradle Catholics and to reach out to the unchurched.  Some are meeting tremendous success with this approach, such as St. Benedict’s in Halifax.   Fr. James Mallon, former pastor of St. Benedict’s wrote a book about St. Benedict’s parish renewal using Alpha called Divine Renovation.

I came across this critique of the Alpha Course that includes a recommendation Catholic parishes not use it.  Here’s the link and an excerpt:

The General Directory for Catechesis says, “It is the task of catechesis to show who Jesus Christ is, his life and ministry, and to present the Christian faith as the following of his personÖ. The fact that Jesus Christ is the fullness of Revelation is the foundation for the ëChristocentricityí of catechesis: the mystery of Christ, in the revealed message, is not another element alongside others, it is rather the center from which all other elements are structured and illumined.” GDC 41. If Alpha does anything well, it is this; and this is perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity. It is meant to introduce an inquirer to the person of Jesus Christ.

We can affirm as well Alphaís desire to include a number of elements that the Vatican 2 decree Ad Gentes saw as vital to evangelization: “Christian witness, dialogue and presence in charity (GDC 11-12),” and “the proclamation of the Gospel and the call to conversion (GDC 13).” Catholic Alpha acknowledges that from this must follow more detailed catechesis through the catechumenate and initiation into the Catholic community. The GDC speaks of “essential moments” in the process of evangelization, and we can affirm that an initial proclamation to non-believers and the unchurched is going to be distinct from the catechesis of those already introduced to Christ, and for which it lays the foundation. GDC 47

Primary proclamation (the responsibility of all Christians) implies “a going-out, a haste, a message,” while catechesis “starts with the condition indicated by Jesus himself: ëwhosoever believes,í whosoever converts, whosoever decides. Both activities are essential and mutually complementary: go and welcome, proclaim and educate, call and incorporate.” Alpha could be seen as an attempt to accomplish the first. But though primary proclamation and catechesis are distinct, we cannot rigidly separate them, and that is what Alpha seems to suggest by saying that “distinctives” must be left to a “supplementary” program. There must be some content, which provides the basis for the decision to follow Christ; thus the GDC speaks of a “kerygmatic catechesis” or a “pre-catechesis,” which paves the way for “a solid option of faith.” GDC 61-62. We are to have “a single program of evangelization which is both missionary and catechumenal.” GDC 277

The object of catechesis is communion with Jesus Christ. Again, we can affirm the central emphasis of Alpha. “ëThe definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ.í All evangelizing activity is understood as promoting communion with Jesus Christ. Starting with the ëinitialí conversion of a person to the Lord, catechesis seeks to solidify and mature this first adherence.” GDC 80

However, the GDC insists that his initiatory catechesis must be “a comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith.” We are to aim for “a ëcomplete Christian initiation,í which promotes an authentic following of Christ, focused on his Person.” It is “essential” and “common,” but not in the sense of being minimalist; for the GDC this means that we catechize “without entering into disputed questions nor transforming itself into a form of theological investigation.” GDC 67-68. “ÖCatechesis starts out with a simple proposition of the integral structure of the Christian message, and proceeds to explain it in a manner adapted to the capacity of those being catechized.” GDC 112. The guide to this structure is the Apostlesí Creed. GDC 115.

And the GDC rejects an individualistic piety, for “Communion with Jesus Christ, by its own dynamic, leads the disciple to unite himself with everything with which Jesus Christ himself was profoundly united: with God his Father, who sent him into the world, and with the Holy Spirit, who impelled his mission; with the Church, his body, for which he gave himself up, with mankind and with his brothers whose lot he wished to share.” GDC 81

The Church is thus not something that can be discussed as an afterthought to the Gospel message, but is the essential agent in the proclamation of the Gospel. “Catechesis is an essentially ecclesial act.” GDC 78. Christ founded the Church on the apostles, to whom he gave the Holy Spirit, sending them to preach the good news to the entire world. The Church through all ages bears the fullness of the divine Word, in Scripture and Tradition, guided by the Spirit speaking through the Magisterium. As the “universal sacrament of salvation,” the Church not only preaches the Gospel, but communicates Godís gifts in the sacraments. GDC 42-46.

All most interesting.  Your thoughts?

The blessing of asparagus and pets and Easter baskets . . .

UPDATE:  CBC Radio’s As It Happens reports on Gus the Asparagus Man and the controversy he engendered!  There are pictures and video!

Ha ha ha!

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has a humorous post about a controversy in England among Anglicans over one parish’s blessing of the asparagus crop.

Dreher writes:

I am strongly inclined to disagree with the traditionalists here, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. What holds me back fully is that the image of a man dressed like a giant asparagus, participating in the church procession, does make it seem more like an asparagus growers’ promotion.

But leave that clown out, and, well, what’s the big deal? Why should we not ask God’s blessing on our crops, especially one that is so important to the local people within the cathedral’s parish? In south Louisiana fishing communities, Catholic priests bless the shrimp boats on the first day of the season. This sort of thing strikes me as very traditional, very medieval.

I recall seeing over Easter lots of pictures on Facebook of Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Easter baskets of food for the Easter feast being brought to church for blessing.

I’ve seen articles in the past about the blessing of pets;  the blessing of throats, and so on.

I like the idea of the blessing of houses and businesses.  What are your thoughts?

I, too, however, could do without “aparagus man” or mascots of any kind.

What’s in a name?

We have two Ordinariates named after Our Lady:  The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales; and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

In the United States, we have the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

I remember thinking when I heard the name of our North American Ordinariate that, wow, that name is going to make us a bit more of a hard sell from an ecumenical point of view.   And the Marian names of the other two, might also be a bit of a barrier. Let me explain.

When our parish was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church, there were two areas where we needed to focus our catechesis.

We were solid on the Sacraments, on the Creed and on the Church’s moral teaching.  Not much more than a refresher needed on that.

No, our weak areas had to do with ecclesiology and the role of the papacy, especially the sticky issue of papal infallibility and on the later Marian dogmas that had previously been treated as pious opinion to some extent.  We had some very Marian priests and bishops, and prayed the Angelus and so on, but we were not taught this was something we had to assent to, until we were getting ready to sign on the dotted line to join the Catholic Church.

Coming from an evangelical church to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary I had an evangelical’s ignorance of Mary and her role in salvation.  Though I believed in the Virgin birth as a fundamental, non-negotiable part of the Christian faith, I didn’t give much thought to Our Lady.  We heard about Mary in Scripture readings around Christmas time and that’s about it.

So, I came to assent to the Marian dogmas as required and in good conscience but upon entering the Catholic Church five years ago, I would have described myself then as a Marian minimalist.

It was reading historian Roberto de Mattei’s fascinating The Second Vatican Council : an unwritten story that I caught a glimpse of the big debate about Mary at Vatican II, a debate between Marian maximalists who wanted the Council to declare Mary co-Redemptrix and the Marian minimalists who wanted to downplay Our Lady’s importance so as to not put off ecumencial observers.  The minimalists were more successful, in that instead of a separate document on Mary, Our Lady got a chapter in Lumen Gentium.

One of my friends, the late Mary Wells, developed a big devotion to Our Lady in the run-up to our becoming Catholic.  A member of Annunciation, she was prepared to leave to join the Roman Catholic Church, if the process of our community coming into the Catholic Church took too long.  She passed away a couple of years ago.   While I was reading de Mattei’s book about the Marian debates, I had an impression that could have been totally imaginary, that the Mary was speaking to me from wherever she was saying:  “Debby, I’m a maximalist!”

I smiled to myself and thought, gee, I’m becoming a maximalist myself.   I would have no trouble with a declaration of Mary as co-redemptrix.  I have made several Marian consecrations—as it is a yearly requirement of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests, an apostolate I belong to.  I have found in entrusting myself to her, my crosses become sweeter, my spiritual life becomes easier, my growth in grace more effortless.  And no, she doesn’t eclipse Jesus, but helps me to love her Son more.

But it has taken deeper and deeper conversion to fully appreciate Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother.

As for papal infallibility.  I had no trouble, once I learned about the definition from the First Vatican Council, that limited papal infallibility nor did I have any trouble with the notion of the Successor of Peter as a sign of unity, a servant of the servants of God and the defender of the deposit of the faith.

Anyway—the names of our Ordinariates may be signs of our really, truly, finally being fully Catholic and proclaiming it far and wide.  But in a sense they speak of something I raised earlier—that we represent a “Finder’s religion,” the end point for people who have been searching for a long time.  How do we then take something that required lots of conversion and maturity to appreciate and make it seeker friendly?

Fr Hunwicke on vibrant Catholic life

Fr.  Hunwicke, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, has a blog post asking whether the Ordinariates can do something to restore something of the vibrant Catholic life he was reminded of in looking at an old Anglo-Catholic parish magazine.  Go on over to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

The following ‘Vicar’s Notes’ attracted my attention; not least for the sense of a vibrant Catholic parish life during that decade when the Catholic movement in the Church of England was riding so very high. Jalland is writing about the observance of the Patronal Festival, of the Translation of S Thomas of Canterbury, on Saturday July 7.

“On that day there will be Masses at 6.30, 7.30, and a High Mass at 9. It is likely that the first evensong of the feast will be sung at 7.30 p.m., on Friday evening, at which there will be a Sermon by the Reverend Canon A.G.G. Ross, Vicar of St Mark, Swindon. It is hoped that there will be many who will take advantage of this opportunity of adding corporate worship to their personal preparation for the Feast. Confessions will be heard on several days before the Festival … On the Sunday in the Octave the Sermon at Mass will be preached by the Rev. C. Gill, of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, and after Evensong by the Rev.D Sargent, Vicar of St Cross, Holywell …”

Mass, fasting, before breakfast; multiple morning Masses and a High Mass on a weekday morning; First Evensongs; high jinks continuing into the Sunday within the Octave; lots of confessions; and oodles of Visiting Preachers. This is the Anglo-Catholicism which Betjeman remembered and celebrated in his verses, when the Faith was taught and fanned to a holy blaze. I suspect that those inter-war years were the last sparkling times before the Luftwaffe destroyed so many of the old Anglo-Catholic slum churches and dispersed the remnants of their congregations into suburbs and high-rise flats.

How can there be a restoration of vibrant parish life outside of only Sunday Mass when people no longer live within a short distance of their parish, even walking distance?  For Ordinariate parishes, people come from an even wider catchment area.  We have one consecrated hermit who drives at least an hour and a half one way to get to Mass.

There must  to be ways to do it, creative ways to teach the faith and fan it to a “holy blaze” given the distances people have to travel, the demands of work, and the rise of technology and social media.

Pray the offices!  That is one way to observe the First Evensongs and live daily inside the liturgical calendar.  We do have a stress on personal preparation for Lent and for Advent, with encouragement to go to Confession. (We are very blessed in the easy availability of our priests for the Sacrament) Perhaps we could add preparation for Annunciation, Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption, Immaculate Conception?

I like the idea of considering Visiting Preachers!

Ottawa Archbishop responds to blog

_MG_890555Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who received our parish into the Catholic Church five years ago, not only retweeted my tweet of the post “The Myth of the Disgruntled Anglican,” he commented on it:

Replying to

The five years have passed very quickly: may your joy continually attract others to the Roman Catholic family…

What a blessed Archbishop Prendergast was to us in the run-up to our coming into the Catholic Church.  He continues to be a blessing to us and to the whole archdiocese which is alive with fruitful apostolates that he encourages.

Back in the days when our parish was a member of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and so disdained by the Anglican Communion that many Catholic bishops did not want to associate with us because it might upset ecumenical partners, Archbishop Prendergast always had time for our clergy and treated them the same as he would any other clergy.

_MG_884237When we were received into the Catholic Church, he not only assigned a magnificent mentor priest, Fr. Francis Donnelly, a Companion of the Cross, to look after our Sunday Masses and be present while then Bishop Carl Reid led our catechesis to prepare for entry into the Catholic Church, Archbishop Prendergast came to celebrate our then Anglican Use Mass a few times.

He even took time out of his busy schedule to rehearse!  I kidded him whether he had to train for the ballet of genuflection in our Mass, but he said he was used to it since he also celebrates the Extraordinary Form at the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP) parish in the Ottawa archdiocese.  Our first Christmas Eve, when Fr. Francis was unable to come to celebrate Mass, nor could any of his brother Companions, Archbishop Prendergast came himself.  What tremendous paternal care he showed us!

_MG_884136.jpgWhen he received us into the Catholic Church, he again celebrated the Anglican Use Mass ad orientem.  Note the altar arrangement!  Fr. Francis proclaimed the Gospel. Archbishop Prendergast used some of the finest gold vestments in his cathedral sacristry for the occasion.

The gift of Fr. Francis meant that when he couldn’t come to celebrate Mass he would send a brother Companion.   One who came most frequently was the former General Superior of this wonderful charismatic, Marian, Eucharistic and Magisterial order, who is now Bishop Scott McCaig of Canada’s military Ordinariate.

The myth of the ‘disgruntled Anglican’

When Pope Benedict XVI announced Anglicanorum Coetibus in 2009, news stories called this a provision for “disgruntled Anglicans” to come into the Catholic Church.

Everywhere you looked, it seemed, there was something about these “disgruntled Anglicans” who were so unhappy about same-sex blessings or women priests or whatever progressive novelty some in the Anglican Communion they wanted to escape into the Catholic Church.  “Disgruntled Anglicans” was such a negative, disparaging descriptor.

Frankly, it was annoying.

And then, some Catholics patronizingly said we must not become Catholic because were were disgruntled, or because we were running away from something  but we must become Catholic for positive reasons.


This was said so many times and it struck me as patronizing. Often it was said by people who nothing about us, really.  Or by people who should have known better.

Of course, we did have some disgruntled people in our midst.  I think every community has a disgruntled person or two or three or more.  No one, however,  who was a disgruntled person ended up coming with us into the Catholic Church.   The process of coming in was so hard, so uncertain, with such a high bar expected in terms of commitment and faith that those who survived this culling process were a pretty docile [to the Holy Spirit], positive flock of believers who had discerned entering the Catholic Church was God’s will no matter what the cost, and who in good conscience signed on the dotted line that they believed everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true.

When we were finally received into the Catholic Church five years ago on Divine Mercy Sunday there was such joy and thanksgiving even though our clergy faced another two years of uncertainty regarding whether they would ever be ordained as Catholic priests.  The day we were received about 600-700 Catholics from the diocese and beyond joined us at St. Patrick’s Basilica and welcomed us with a standing ovation.  Three standing ovations if I recall correctly.

It has been worth it.  There was a time of travail and suffering before we came in, but that’s all forgotten now we are finally home.  Since we came into the Catholic Church, it has only gotten better and better.

We are extremely well-integrated into the Ottawa archdiocese.  Our people have attended Bible studies and courses in other churches.  We partner with a neighboring Roman Catholic parish in sponsoring a Syrian refugee family and in an annual joint-Corpus Christi Mass and procession through our neighborhood that Bishop Lopes is going to lead this year.   One of our priests is a hospital chaplain for the diocese and fills in sometimes at parishes when a priest is needed to celebrate Mass.

All of us attend Roman Catholic Masses when we are traveling or unable to make it on Sunday morning to our own parish.  We are so grateful to be at home in the Catholic Church wherever we are in the world.  I’m sure similar stories could be told across North America about good relations, and positive integration.

But we are also grateful Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight to issue an Apostolic Constitution that set up a structure to preserve our beautiful Anglican/English Catholic patrimony and liturgy as gifts to be shared with the wider Church.

That we want to preserve this Anglican/English patrimony and pass it on has nothing to do with our being disgruntled Anglicans who think we are better than anyone else, nor is it an indication that, according to some, we have not fully become Catholic.   Thankfully, it is only in some obscure corners of the web this kind of stuff is going on in any regularity.  As far as the mainstream media goes, we are now ignored in any talk about ecumenism or Anglican/ Catholic relations.

Frankly, the people who continue to lob these criticisms at us in the Ordinariate and who scour the internet for signs some of our communities may be fragile or experiencing difficulties so they can snort that we are really no different than Continuing Anglicans and it’s high time we gave up our project and became regular Catholics are the disgruntled ones, seeing everything through a negative lens, listening to other disgruntled people who pass on bits of detraction and even calumny.

Disgruntled people cannot be trusted.  It is sinful to be disgruntled.  Disgruntled people are like the fox in Aesop’s Fable of the fox and the grapes.  When he can’t reach the grapes, he then disparages them as sour.  Most detractors of the Ordinariate and its communities seem to me like that fox.