Not making an idol out of Anglican patrimony

Fr. Doug Hayman, pastor of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa, has an interesting reflection in our monthly newsletter the Annunciator about the dangers of idolatry and putting anything, even good things, ahead of our relationship with God.  This part jumped out:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me. Deuteronomy 5:6-7
Back in November 2014, I wrote in the Annunciator about a word which had come to me while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I was drawn to Joshua 13 and 24, to the words of Moses’ successor as he addressed his people Israel, as they were preparing to settle in the Promised Land. He exhorted them to make a decision about whom they would serve henceforth, warning them that committing themselves to the LORD was not something which they could do lightly. “Of course,” they responded at once, “We will serve the LORD!”

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD; for He is a holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”

Joshua 24:16-20. In effect, he was telling them: You cannot do this unless it’s wholehearted. If you ‘set your hand to the plow’, then turn back, the consequences will be far greater than had you never taken it up at all. You cannot play at being God’s people; you must give yourselves completely or not at all. And the people said to Joshua, “Nay; but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve Him.” Then Joshua continued by giving stern and clear direction, “Then put away the foreign gods
which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.”v.21-23
I thought at the time that this was a word to us as a parish, and my sense is that it is becoming more clearly focused as such. Do we truly believe that our Lord has brought us to this place, into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, into full Communion with the Catholic Church? Are we willing to let go of everything into His hands: i.e. all that we were, and are, and will become? Do we trust Him? Will we trust Him to take us where He wants us to be?
Many of us continue to struggle with questions of Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church, particularly regarding what we have or have not been able to bring with us into full Communion, and what might yet be part of our life and ministry in the future. Of course when, in our profession of faith, we declared, “I believe and profess all
that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” we acknowledged our willingness to trust the Church to judge what of our Anglican heritage may be gathered in to express full and fruitful Catholic Faith.

Still, there may well be some things which we need, in all humility, to continue to discuss—maybe even respectfully argue about—but we must be careful that they not hold first place in our hearts, else they in fact come between us and obedience to the call of our Lord.

There’s a lot more at the link.  This is a good text to keep in mind as we pursue the goals of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society  (from our Mission Statement at our website:

Our Work and Mission

The mission of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society is:

  • To offer independent and loyal support to the Personal Ordinariates established under the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

  • To foster relations among the members of the Ordinariates worldwide and encourage communion.

  • To evangelize by encouraging and supporting patrimonial communities outside the Ordinariates which may become communities in formation for the Ordinariates.

  • To promote and where possible to provide an environment where thinking, pondering, discussing, informing, educating, creating, writing and publishing can take place with regard to the entire span of the received Anglican patrimony – liturgical, intellectual, pastoral, spiritual, theological, literary, artistic, musical, social – which the Ordinariates are called to bring into the Catholic Church as a treasure to be shared.

  • To encourage full active participation of lay members of the Ordinariates.

  • To embody the ecumenical spirit of the Ordinariates by reaching out to other Christians who are also custodians of the Anglican patrimony, encouraging them to participate fully in our activities and  become members.


Fr. Hayman concludes:

The Ordinariate was not established to be a life-raft to
rescue us from Anglo-apostasy and afford us a comfortable
corner in which to live in eccentricity, rehearsing quaint
Cranmerian prayers, quoting the KJV, intoning plainsong
and Sarum Chant, while inhaling clouds of incense.
Rather we have been appointed to share the treasure of the
Gospel as it has shaped our distinctive forms of worship
and rhythms of thought and prayer—where these
Anglican Traditions have remained rooted in the Catholic
Faith—that we may be an instrument of renewal of the
Catholic Church, for her mission to share Christ with the
world. To that we end, we are called to live faithfully and
sacrificially in the offering of all our resources—money,
time, physical presence and energy, prayer and witness—
allowing ourselves to be broken, that the glory of God may
be made manifest, shining in the face of Jesus Christ,
reflected in us, made and renewed in His image. Let us
offer ourselves, sincerely, deliberately and completely to
Him. Ask what He wills and set our hearts to do it.

We had two members leave our fold over the Anglican patrimony issue in recent months.  Very sad and a “pruning” experience.  However, thankfully, I would say those of us who remain are on the same page as our priests and willing to make that wholehearted, sacrificial offering.


19 thoughts on “Not making an idol out of Anglican patrimony

  1. Fr Hayman is an exceptionally good homilist. Thankfully the problem he identifies is rather exceptional in the ordinariates. As Pope Benedict recognized in Anglicanorum Coetibus, the vast majority of us who have come into the Catholic Church were led to do so precisely because of the benefit of our Anglican patrimony. Defending that Anglican patrimony is thus a necessary duty for those of us who belong to it and should not be confused with making an idol out of it, not that Fr Hayman’s general thrust isn’t something we should all heed. As for those who have struggled with these things in recent years, I’m reminded of the smoldering wick that we should be careful to not snuff out. The two members you mentioned who left, could they have been helped to remain had a different approach to their concerns been used? It’s true that there are some who take a minimalist approach to the matter of the degree to which Anglican patrimony can be preserved by Catholics and others who take a more holistic approach. Both are feasible in the context of the Catholic faith, but I’d argue that the latter would be the more faithful to both the letter and the spirit of Anglicanorum Coetibus.


    • Rather, it seems to me that the “minimalist” approach is completely contrary to what our Lord teaches in the gospel. Our Lord states the greatest commandment quite simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind.” Nothing short of full commitment of our whole being, of everything that we are and will become, can meet that standard.



  2. Some of the larger Ordinariate parishes have been around for decades and/or attracted significant numbers of “cradle Catholics”. We can see in their parish life a blend of Anglican patrimony and mainstream Catholic elements such as the Knights of Columbus. Simnel cake meets the cupcake rosary. Eventually virtually no one in a typical Ordinariate parish will have ever been an Anglican. Inevitably that will change the way things are done. A church is not a theme park; it is a living community.


    • I think you’ve identified something we should guard against. First of all, the ordinariate is not a ‘blend’ of the Anglican and the “mainstream Catholic”. Our Anglican patrimony is now “mainstream Catholic” in and of itself. While it is true that over time more and more of our membership will proportionately be cradle Catholic, those cradle Catholics born into the ordinariate will also be born into the Anglican patrimony of these ordinariates. We will pass on our Anglican heritage and identity to our successive generations within the Catholic Church. This is how we will ensure that our Anglican way of doing things will continue, even if we experience the natural organic development that comes with being a living Church.

      Liked by 1 person

      • By “mainstream” I meant elements common to most Western Rite Catholics. There was no implication that customs observed only in certain communities are less Catholic. In many Hispanic countries fifteen year old girls take part in a special ceremony which begins with mass at the local parish. Entirely Catholic, but not “mainstream” in the sense I meant. Neither is simnel cake.


      • My point is that contrary to what you’ve suggested may happen, we have a duty to ensure that our Anglican heritage is not watered down over the coming years but is given a chance to set down deep roots and to develop as a living Church develops, true to her heritage and identity. We’ll be mainstream, as are other Catholic Churches, just in our own distinctive Anglican way.

        Interestingly enough, now that we’re mandated by papal authority to preserve, celebrate and share Anglican patrimony, we’re actually being more deliberately Anglican than we felt free to be before. I know that in the ordinariate people have begun to explore and adopt elements of their own Anglican heritage that they may not have been in touch with before they became Catholic. In this way, Anglican customs can actually become more mainstream within the Catholic Church.

        What we must certainly do is prevent our Anglican customs from being supplanted by the more common RC customs found everywhere else. In the undisputed Catholicism of the ordinariate, we have been freed to be more fulsomely and confidently Anglican than we ever were in the Canterbury or Continuing communities.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Regarding your follow-up point of July 6 below, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, “getting in touch with your roots” by adopting customs you never previously experienced seems faux to me—like the third generation descendant of a lowland urban Scottish immigrant getting into kilts and bagpipes. On the other hand, if parishioners at a given Ordinariate church like the aesthetic of the Divine Mercy painting better than Martin Travers and want a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Lady Chapel rather than Our Lady of Walsingham, shouldn’t that be allowed? It’s pretty difficult to legislate either way, parish life being the incremantal process it is. Although the Knights of Columbus, a very un-Anglican organization, seems to have caught on quickly in many places.


      • All customs are customs that at one point one had never experienced before, but that doesn’t diminish the value of exploring one’s roots. We learn about our own culture as we grow into it no matter who we are. It’s interesting, though, that it seems people readily question taking up the customs of our own forefathers and ancestors (those that are Catholic-compatible of course) but would never question taking up things like the Divine Mercy devotion which our people may also never have experienced. What I argue is that we must strive to preserve the traditions that are ours alone to preserve. That is what Anglicanorum Coetibus has laid on us to do. If someone in the Anglican ordinariate wants to adhere to the Divine Mercy devotion they’re certainly free to do so, but our community-wide responsibility is to preserve Anglican patrimony as best we’re able. No one else will. In a related parallel, although not an exact one, the vigilance exhibited by Byzantine Catholics towards Latinizations is not a judgement against the legitimacy of those Latin traditions. Rather it’s an attempt to protect their own Byzantine customs against the overwhelming cultural force of the majority Latin culture. A similar challenge faces us.

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    • In the greatest Catholic Eastern Church in my country, virtually no one has ever been Orthodox (and this has been true for several generations). Yet, communities are still distinictively different.


      • Are the services in Polish or another language? Do the congregants share a distinctive ethnicity? I imagine that these are factors which help preserve the character of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.


    • Here, I think that the experience of the so-called “national parishes” that many dioceses erected for various immigrant groups a century or more ago is instructive. In that day, the liturgy of the Roman Rite was exclusively in Latin but the “national parishes” nevertheless differed from their diocesan counterparts in two important respects: (1) they provided other pastoral services in the languages of the respective nationalities that they served, (2) they observed the liturgical celebrations that were important in that culture with greater solemnity and with accompanying social and cultural events (a Portuguese “national parish” would make a big deal over the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal and the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, for example). Of course, it was the immigrants served by these parishes whose sweat, blood, and treasure built churches, rectories, schools, and other facilities that belong to parishes, and those buildings and the art inside them also reflected the respective culture and the saints and other liturgical festivals that were important to it. Decades later, succeeding generations growing up here in America were fluent in English so the pastoral services became bilingual over the course of time. When the liturgy shifted to the vernacular, the majority of masses in these parishes were in English, though a few did celebrate one or two masses in the language of the respective nationality.

      By the present millennium, the need for many of the “national parishes” erected a century or more ago had completely subsided as new waves of immigrants are coming from different countries with different languages and cultures and dwindling ranks of clergy have made it exceedingly difficult for many dioceses to staff them. Nevertheless, efforts to close those parishes have met with phenomenal resistance. Young people growing up in these parishes very quickly take to their festivals and other unique elements and to their families’ roles in the history of the parish — elements which are lacking elsewhere. The cultural and familial attachment is very, very strong!

      Let’s not underestimate the power of this influence in ordinariate communities a few decades and even centuries from now. The liturgical calendars for the ordinariates incorporate many saints and other liturgical celebrations of particular importance to Anglican spirituality, and ordinariate congregations most assuredly will develop various social and cultural customs around this as they grow and build their parish homes. I think that the experience of the “national parishes” is very instructive here.



      • The point is simply that closures of so-called “national parishes” have seldom been because they lacked a distinctive identity or because they ceased to be viable as parishes and thus were assimilated into the mainstream of territorial parishes. Rather, such parishes typically possessed both. In most cases, closure of so-called “national parishes” was due solely to lack of clergy to staff them.



    • What you say comes to questioning the very existence of anything like distinctive Anglican patrimony.
      Yet, it does exist. And incorporation of some new Catholic-wide elements, like Knights of Columbus or Our Lady of Fatima statue you have mentioned, will not kill it. There are still enough differentiators, the key one being liturgy.


      • Most OOLW groups use the OF, so liturgy is not the key distinction there. Presumably other “differentiators” that North Americans think of as “Anglican” are in fact just English and hence shared with all Catholics there, or at least Catholic parishes that have the means to support, say, a men and boys’ choir or commission embroidered hassocks
        Those that are indeed distintively Anglican are presumably being preserved by Anglicans, first and foremost. After all, Eastern rite Catholics do not claim that they are the sole repository of Byzantine customs.


      • No, but the sui juris ritual churches of Byzantine Rite brought Byzantine patrimony into the Catholic Church as a treasure to share with the rest of the Catholic Church. As a result, many Roman Rite churches now have authentic icons — clearly a major element of Byzantine patrimony — alongside their statues.

        Note, BTW, that some of the sui juris ritual churches are of other rites — Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Chaldean/Assyrian, etc. — that are not Byzantine.


        Liked by 1 person

  3. I used Byzantine ecause that was Christopher Mahon’s example. But the point is equally valid for any of the other rites. I think the Armenian Orthodox Church feels it could preserve Armenian patrimony without the help of Armenian Catholics. And for that matter many Anglican churches have authentic icons. Here is a Presbyterian applying ashes on Ash Wednesday;f=70;t=025741 These are eclectic times.


  4. Did the people who left go to another Catholic parish or did they return to some form of Anglicanism? The title of the post suggests the latter. It is dicouraging to think that someone would come to think they had lost more than they gained by becoming Catholic. After all, a parishioner who moved to Montreal, Winnipeg, or to New York City, for that matter, would have no opportunity to worship regularly in an Ordinariate parish. One’s OCSP group could fold. Anglican Patrimony should not be the beginning and the end of one’s Catholicism.

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