Ordinariate attacker becomes Catholic

On the Catholic Herald website there is a lovely piece about a former Anglican who attacked the Ordinariate publicly, then visits, finds himself converted to the Catholic Church.

Michael Davis writes:

One of my first posts, an attack on the ordinariate and a call for Anglo-Catholic unity under the See of Canterbury, draws the ire of a certain Damian Thompson. We have a heated (but cordial) exchange over email and part amicably, agreeing to disagree.

Winter 2016 After finishing my degree at USYD I decide to abandon academia and pursue journalism full time. A Catholic friend convinces me to visit Boston’s ordinariate community: if I’m going to spend so much time rubbishing it, I should at least do a bit of field research. Reluctantly, I agree.

The liturgy is almost identical to that of the Church of the Advent’s, except on a much smaller scale. The community meets in the basement chapel of a local parish. Its 12 members make the place feel huge. I take a seat at the back and tap my foot, regretting humouring my friend. Then it comes time for Communion.

When visiting Catholic churches, I always go up to receive a blessing, more out of respect to the priest than anything. I take my place at the far end of the altar rail as the priest begins to make his way back down the line. As he draws nearer, something lights up inside me. It’s a kind of sixth sense, like the one you might feel at the airport when your loved one comes through the gates: you can feel them before you see them. This is what I sense, kneeling at the altar. And suddenly it hits me: this, here – this bit of unleavened bread – this is the living God.

It didn’t matter that this particular community was meeting in a basement chapel of a local parish, or that it only had 12 members.

It didn’t matter that compared to the magnificence of a service at the Anglo-Catholic parish of Church of the Advent the liturgy was pretty bare bones.

What mattered is Jesus in the Eucharist.   What matters is hearts transformed by feeding on Him.



16 thoughts on “Ordinariate attacker becomes Catholic

  1. YES, What matters is Jesus in the Eucharist. What a wonderful story, a small chapel or the largest Cathedral in the world, what matters is to LIVE for the EUCHARIST—- The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


  2. What is this group of twelve that met in a Boston basement in 2016? According to this article, Fr Liias had a congregation of twenty-five at St Gregory the Great, Beverly Farms in 2013 http://chnetwork.org/story/towards-unity-conversion-story-of-fr-jurgen-liias/ The following year the congregation moved to Stoneham, MA and has now merged with St Athanasius, Chestnut Hill, a group which was part of the Archdiocese of Boston, not the Ordinariate, until this year, is certainly larger than twelve and does not worship in a basement. Is there another group of which we have not previously heard?


    • It obviously was St. Gregory the Great. The reported number indicates that a significant number of the community’s members happened to be away for one reason or another on that occasion. There are many occasions, such as school vacations and severe weather, that trigger major drops in attendance at Sunday mass.

      That said, the Church of St. Gregory the Great actually still has a distinct identity from the Congregation of St. Athanasius, and continues to maintain its own web site, apparently under a lay administrator with Fr. Richard S. Bradford supplying normal sacramental ministry. The web site has more functionality now than when Fr. Llias was the community’s pastor, even showing that Fr. Llias will substitute for Fr. Bradford beginning this Sunday while Fr. Bradford is on vacation.



      • Here in Massachusetts, the term “lower church” typically refers to a second oratory in the actual basement (cellar) level of a church building, historically used for the celebration of another mass at times that drew a greater attendance than the main oratory (“upper church”) could accommodate. The entrances at the front of the building provided access only to the main oratory. The “lower church” typically has separate entrances on the sides of the building that require descending exterior flights of stairs. The “lower church” typically had very low ceiling (the underside of the floor of the main level), a very basic organ, very basic lighting, and very simple furnishings, as all of the important celebrations occurred in the main level. These spaces sometimes have the same footprint as the main oratory, but they may lose space for the congregation to provide an elevated area for a choir since there’s no room for a loft, or they may be smaller to provide space for storage and meeting rooms. My home parish, and many others, converted the former “lower church” to a parish hall when it was no longer needed for worship.

        So the description of the space as a “basement chapel” probably really is the writer’s impression, and actually a very accurate description of the space.



      • EPMS, I attended almost every mass celebrated at St Gregory the Great in Stoneham from March 2015 through October 2016, when we moved to join StA’s at St Lawrence Church in Chestnut Hill. Except for special Holy Day masses, such as the one depicted in my photo which you posted, when we were allowed to use the main church, we ideed did meet for our weekly Sunday Mass in the basement chapel aka lower church.


  3. I would like to invite everyone, Catholic, Episcopalian, continuing Anglican, or other Protestant, who likes the language of the Book of Common Prayer and the hymns in the Hymnal 1940 to visit the combined communities of St Gregory the Great and St Athanasius currently meeting at St Lawrence Church in Chestnut Hill, and if it be God’s will, to become part of our community. Our Sunday mass is at 11:30 in this beautiful space: http:www.covert.org/sgglocation/ Please note the GPS address given on that page and the public transit information.

    The Congregation of St Athanasius remains a parish of the Archdiocese of Boston serving the Personal Ordinariaye of the Chair of St Peter by hosting the members of St Gregory the Great Church until a new pastor is assigned to St Gregory the Great. We expect this to happen when Fr Bradford retires as a priest of the Archdiocese in a few years.


  4. To John Covert—I stand corrected. And I am grateful that a knowledgeable person volunteered his knowledge. Was twelve typical attendance?


    • In Winter 2016, typical Sunday attendance in Stoneham was 30. An evening celebration where we advertised special music such as the Immaculate Conception would draw over 100. We had 48 at the Easter Vigil on 26 March 2016.
      The move to Chestnut Hill has hurt our attendance, since many of our people lived right in Stoneham or as far as Newburyport. We’ve also had nine very faithful attendees move completely out of the area or become too infirm to attend (E, L, P, T, R, B, C, T, R). Even combined with St Athanasius, we have fewer than 30, but we are working very hard at getting the word out about the beautiful church we now have available for our 11:30 Sunday mass. We’re making a big push over the summer, which is the time people are moving to Boston or to new homes within Boston and go church shopping.
      Bishop Lopes has made it very clear that Ordinariate parishes are for anyone whose spiritual life is enriched by our liturgy, and not just for former Anglicans. Even for those who don’t qualify for canonical Ordinariate membership, full participation in parish life is possible, and this is no different than a non-Ordinariate Catholic whose canonical parish membership is always determined by defined parish boundaries, but who likes the priest or music or building somewhere else and “registers” with some other parish. That registration has no canonical effect.
      As for canonical Ordinariate membership: It is available to any former Episcopalian/Anglican/Methodist (no matter how brief that possibly undocumented relationship existed) and to all immediate family members of such a person. This is true even if the person or whole family joined the Catholic Church somewhere other than the Ordinariate. And it’s available also to anyone, regardless of background, who is received and confirmed through the Ordinariate, even a cradle Catholic who was not confirmed as a child. Cradle catholics who want canonical Ordinariate membership even have a way in: marry someone eligible for membership or raise a child in the Ordinariate, two ways to acquire an immediate family member.
      But again, canonical ordinariate membership is not required for full participation in the life of an Ordinariate parish: don’t let someone outside the Ordnariate tell you “that’s not for you” if you think it will make you enjoy your life as a Catholic more than elsewhere.


      • Thank you. Human nature abhors a vacuum, and when no information is available about a subject of interest, people start to speculate—optimistically or pessimistically, depending on their agenda. Both kinds of speculation are equally useless and potentially harmful; the pessimistic for obvious reasons, but also the unrealistically optimistic, because people do not like to discover that they have been over-sold. If there is negative information out there about Annunciation parish, there are many very positive accounts from Deborah Gyapong to counter it. Many other communities are shrouded in complete mystery, with no one apparently prepared to contradict anyone who portrays them as a tiny remnant meeting in a shed. And do not try to cheer me up by speculating that a dozen new groups are waiting in the wings, unless you know this for a fact, because that will only confuse me when a year passes and they do not materialize.


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