Mount Calvary Church celebrates 175 years with altar consecration Nov. 11

MC1Please forgive the light blogging as I have been extraordinarily busy with my journalism work in recent days.  However, a Society member Tom Bako from Mount Calvary Parish in Baltimore has come to my rescue with news of this wonderful upcoming celebration Nov. 11 marking the church’s 175th anniversary.

“Founded in 1842, Mount Calvary is one of the most famous historic Anglo-Catholic parishes in America, one known to Bl. John Henry Newman among others,” Tom wrote.

“Prior to its A-C days, Robert E. Lee worshiped there in the 1840s when he was in Baltimore as a U.S. Army colonel,” he said.

“The parish voted in 2010 to separate from the Episcopal Church and become an Anglican Use parish united with Rome,” he wrote. “It has seen a lot of growth and vitality in the last couple of years, with the addition especially of many young families with children. It has most recently added Sunday Evensong to its regular divine services.”

The parish belongs to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and was received into the Catholic Church by Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson in January 2012.

“Altar consecrations are of course ‘once in a lifetime’ events in the life of a parish, and this marks the supreme liturgical and hierarchical recognition not only of Mount Calvary as the newest permanent canonical parish in the Ordinariate, but of the fact that it is indeed ‘meet and right’ to offer the Most Holy Mysteries on this beautiful historic altar, now firmly in the bosom of the Catholic Church,” he said. “The liturgy will be, as Fr. Albert Scharbach put it, ‘the Patrimony in overdrive’ — a Solemn Mass in the Divine Worship Form, with full choir (augmented by additional voices for the occasion), singing William Byrd’s Mass among other things.”

“Bishop Lopes will also enclose a newly-acquired first-class relic of St. John of the Cross in the altar,” he said. “Earlier that day at 11 AM, Fr Scharbach will be formally instituted as Pastor of the newly-erected canonical parish of Mount Calvary. The Mass is a vigil that fulfills the Sunday obligation, by the way.”

There’s a lot of interesting history of Mount Calvary at their website and I see they have an active Facebook page as well.

Thanks so much, Tom, for helping us out at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog.   We welcome news from our communities.   We have received some news from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham as well that we will post soon.

Here’s some more information from the poster Tom provided.


Retaining faith and identity

DSC02954Yesterday, I had the joy of meeting the new Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholics who was in Ottawa as part of a congress bringing together bishops from the countries of immigration.  Then I attended Vespers at St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Ottawa.

Though the service was in Arabic, a screen showed the English translation of some of the prayers.   There were Psalms and the Phos Hilarion, but wow, what a different, oriental setting than the one we sing at our Evensong.  Beautiful and beautifully done by an all male choir.


I found it thrilling to be there, including the fact that I am, as a Catholic, in communion with them, yet our worship style and culture is so different.  Our unity comes from our unity in the faith and our communion with the Bishop of Rome.

I also mused how it would be a shame if their unique and ancient expression of the Catholic faith were to die out, or to be homogenized into a one-size-fits all, bland lowest common denominator version, like a trademarked brand.    Yet, I am opposed to any diversity that fiddles around with the faith once-delivered to the Apostles.   The Anglican world has tried that.  Big fail.

In an interview afterwards with the Patriarch Youssef Absi and the Canadian Eparchial Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, we discussed the challenges facing Melkites in the Middle East and in Canada.

In the Middle East, war, instability and emigration threaten their ability to maintain their communities;  here in Canada its atheism, consumerism, and all the subtle forces of assimilation and cultural homogenization.

“In the Middle East if you are born a Melkite, you die a Melkite,”  Bishop Ibrahim explained.  But here in Canada there’s a risk not only of not dying a Melkite but of not dying a even as a Catholic, of losing one’s faith altogether.   Convenience, losing the language, a desire of children to fit in with their peers, all mitigate against passing on the faith in this unique expression.

I remember a discussion I had with a Ukrainian Catholic priest once about the dangers of ethnic parishes merely becoming a place where the language and culture are pass on, with the faith and sharing the Gospel receding into the background.

This goes back to my conversation with one of our new board members about ensuring we are about the salvation of souls while maintaining our traditions and our ethos within the Catholic Church.  We may be less convenient, perhaps offering worship at odd times, or in a school or less than optimum borrowed space; our people may have to drive further distances when there is a local Roman Catholic parish within walking distance.  We may lack the beautiful music and church building of some of the Anglican churches some of us left behind.  Thus it is all the more incumbent upon us to make sure it is the fire of the Holy Spirit that unites our communities in mission and attracts new members to join us.

I feel deeply blessed by yesterday’s encounter and happy to observe the Holy Spirit fire is alive and well among the Melkite Catholics.


If it isn’t about the salvation of souls, why bother?

Had an interesting conversation with one of our new board members via Skype last night and one thing we discussed was the mission of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.

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.

Our new member thought this was too big a mouthful, and that we needed something shorter.

I said my “elevator speech” on the Society is that we’re about promoting Anglican patrimony inside and outside of the Catholic Church.

But then our new member asked, what does promoting Anglican patrimony mean?  Does it mean preserving it like in a museum?


It means handing it on, I said.  That’s what the roots of the word ‘tradition’ mean.

But why? I may not be fairly paraphrasing, but our new member stressed it has to be about the salvation of souls, though with an Anglican flavour or tinge to it—and about finding its fulfillment in the Catholic Church.

Well, yes!  Yes!

A priest from Ottawa is attending this event  Kairos 2017 going on now in Kansas City —a big charismatic conference and event featuring speakers from both the Catholic and the evangelical world.   It’s sponsored by a movement called United in Christ.   I know some of the speakers involved, and Pope Francis has encouraged this movement.  In fact, Cardinal Di Nardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of the headline speakers.

Alas, the phrase I am looking for is not now on either site, but it went something like this:  Tradition means handing on the fire not the ashes.   

I’m going to steal that, though it means something different in this context.  The purpose of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society is to hand on the fire.  But the fire is kept and nourished with the equipping we need to ignite the fire, keep that fire burning in us and pass the fire to subsequent generations.   We are equipped through our beautiful liturgy; our encouragement of lay participation in the daily offices; our community life; our passion for Holy Scripture and sound teaching; our theologically deep hymns;  the beauty of our musical heritage; and our openness to supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

So let’s hand on the fire!  This means that our music should never only be a performance; that our preaching should never only be a dry academic exercise; that our community life should never be about clubbiness and cliques; that all the treasures we have as Catholics with Anglican heritage are not merely polished off and displayed for our own benefit but for the salvation of souls.




What of Anglicanism have I been able to keep?

I have already written of what from the Anglican world I had to put off in order to become Catholic.  Now, let me share some of the things I have been able to keep, what Pope Benedict XVI called in Anglicanorum Coetibus a “precious gift” and a “treasure to be shared.”

First a little autobiographical digression.   Though I was baptized Russian Orthodox, my parents were not especially religious.  My dad, however, had a beautiful bass/baritone voice and loved choral singing, so his weekend hobby involved singing in various Episcopalian Church choirs in the Boston area.

He used to joke he was a “mercenary Episcopalian” because he got paid to sing in places like Boston’s famed Anglo-Catholic Church of the Advent, and others churches that had hefty music endowments to hire professional singers, including those who were paid soloists with the various choirs that would sing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and so on.

So, one thing about Anglican heritage that we get to keep is our musical heritage and the beauty of choral music well-sung.  My dad’s religious faith grew and in later years he was warden of an Episcopal parish though a fairly liberal one.  His funeral drew singers from around the Boston area who sang for free in the choir the music director assembled.  Dad had chosen the music and my oh my was the funeral beautiful.  So, everytime I hear a good choir, I think of my dad and hope he has found a heavenly choir to join.

I remember accompanying him to church occasionally when I was very young, but I would have to wait through the rehearsal and then the service, so it was a long, boring wait amidst pews and wood panelling.

In later years, when home for Christmas, I would go with my dad to Christmas Eve services where the carol singing and music selection was sublime.  Then afterwards, we would join the choir members and the minister for egg nog made the old fashioned way with real cream and whipped egg whites and rum.  So, I got a taste of a version of Anglican-style fellowship along the way.

Because my parents wanted me to be biblically literate as part of my overall education, sent me to Protestant Sunday schools, including the Episcopal church that was across a busy street from our neighborhood.

I remember being too shy to sing out loud there. I also remember making plaster-of-Paris nativity figurines during Sunday school using a red rubbery mold.  I recall having a child’s quiet veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus figures I brought home to put under our Christmas tree.  Thankfully, all this veneration has been restored to me.

I remember church bazaars in the parish hall adjacent to the church, and the fact the minister had a boy named Joel and a huge Great Dane.  Once when I was around eight years old, Joel had come across the busy street with his dog and got into a wrestling match with Joey, a Catholic boy from a family of ten kids that lived up the hill from us.  Joey was on top of Joel, so the dog quietly used his teeth to grab Joey by the seat of his pants and lift him off.   Joey ran crying home, saying the dog bit him.

Then a kid in my younger sister’s class in elementary school set the church on fire, so during the time it was getting renovated, we were sent to the Congregational Church, which also had church bazaars, white elephant tables, surprise gift bags and such.  It also had a Sunday School where we drew pictures of Bible stories—or mostly colored in mimeographed versions.

When I started coming to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary around the year 2000, then a parish of the Traditional Anglican Communion, I did not find the choral singing tradition as the parish is too poor to have a music endowment.

What I did find though was a beauty and reverence in worship that transported me despite the humble surroundings.  We have kept that reverence in worship and more because our Mass is now a Catholic Mass and we have no doubts about our Holy Orders or our Sacraments.

And we had a tremendously gifted cantor in Fr. Carl Reid and now with our organist and cantor Michael Trolly and a tradition of congregational singing —in four part harmony if we’re familiar enough with it—that we have also retained, thanks be to God.    You can always tell who are the former Anglicans in a Roman Catholic parish—they’re the one’s singing lustily with a loud voice.

We also have brought with us the tradition of theologically weighty hymns that go with the readings of the Sunday (or Solemnity or Feast Day) and we sing all of the verses except when it says in the hymn book, only use these during Advent or on the particular saint’s day.   Sometimes no one knows the hymn tune but we gamely try anyway and by the end of verse 19 we know it.   (Just kidding, but 7 or 8 verses is not uncommon.)

Thus we have brought with us a treasure trove of wonderful hymns with beautiful tunes and poetic English translations of the original Latin in many instances.

We have also retained our old-fashioned version of inclusive language, i.e. ‘mankind’ and ‘men’ including all of us in the human race.  Even though someone has written in pencil in some of our old hymnals politically correct inclusive terms, we have never bowed to them.   We even sing Onward Christian Soldiers from time to time and rock the house.

Another Anglican tradition we have been able to preserve is our immersion in the liturgical year with all the various seasons.   Coming from the evangelical world as an adult, where in the parish I attended only marked Christmas and Easter with a little nod to Advent with an annual Advent ladies’ breakfast or dessert evening, what a joy to live inside the liturgical year in a much deeper, prayerful sense.   To observe a penitential Advent (and no Christmas carols until Christmas Eve!) and a rigorous Lent, complemented by the way people would decorate our humble parish to mark various seasons and holy days.  We’ve kept that.

Another treasure we have brought with us, though a final Rome-approved version has yet to be unveiled, is the habit of cultivating among lay and clergy alike a daily recitation of the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  The daily office has also been a way of living inside the Church Year and the life of Christ and His teachings, immersing myself in them.

We have also brought a tradition of fellowship and feasting together that has a typical Anglican flavor to it:  from our breakfasts after Mass on Saturdays and Sundays that offer lots of good things to eat and times for all kinds of meaningful conversations and the joy of being together and welcoming newcomers into our midst to our annual celebrations of Thanksgiving and Epiphany dinners; a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper; and Mothering Sunday with a simnel cake and I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff.

UPDATE:   We had a tradition of great preaching in addition to beautiful liturgy by clergy who believe the prayers they pray, and the Bible they expound upon.  We have retained that, as well, thanks be to God, though enhanced by care they interpret Holy Scripture with the Catholic Church.


So, what did I have to put off to become Catholic?

In the run-up to our becoming Catholic on Divine Mercy Sunday 2012, I recall  the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion Archbishop John Hepworth saying  our greatest difficulty would be to learn to stop saying, “This is what I think,” and to instead ask, “What does the Church say?”

To think with the Church—that was key— Archbishop Hepworth said.  We had to lay down the habit of being “our own Pope.”

He predicted it would be a hard practice to give up.

Thinking with the Church and not being my own Pope was not all that difficult for me under Pope Benedict XVI.   I had been in search of an Apostolic Faith since the mid 1990s when I discovered it was important to have one, that believing the Truth as handed down from the Apostles was key to my freedom in Christ.    I trusted him and had been a fan since the late 1990s when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   Our little parish rooted for him in the 2005 Conclave, despite all the predictions of the mainstream media that he was too old, and an unlikely candidate.

What was supremely difficult for me was the matter of trust in other aspects of the hierarchy, of being able to see the indefectible Holy Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, when I seemed to have suddenly acquired strange glasses that magnified every blemish, every flaw in the sinful and imperfect people who made up the outward, worldly institution of the Catholic Church.    I was overwhelmed by the “tares” and so overfocused on them I had trouble seeing the wheat.   To say it was an anguishing time is an understatement.

How could I trust when the authority in the Church was misused?  When people I knew were being treated unjustly?

What helped was that I also got to know people in even higher authority in the Church who exhibited supernatural love, and all the other fruits of the Spirit that made the Church attractive, men whose fatherly encouragement helped me to stay on course.

However, the clincher was the beautiful faith and trust exemplified by our clergy who faced even more uncertainty than I did.  Their very identities as priests had to be offered up, along with their livelihoods.  My livelihood and identity as a journalist was not at stake.

I had to give up the “What if?” bad scenarios.   I had to put off worry that Anglicanorum Coetibus was a “bait and switch,” that our coming into the Catholic Church would become a steamroller over everything I regarded as precious in our little fragile community’s faith life; that the process would disintegrate us and we would end up coming in as individuals with no home left except the local Roman Catholic parishes.

I had to “Trust and Obey” as the old hymn goes.  Or obey and trust.   Thankfully, our clergy showed beautiful leadership on this front, so I trusted and obeyed them in their obedience and trust.

Once the decision was made by then Bishop Peter Wilkinson and the rest of our clergy loyal to him to come into the Catholic Church with no conditions (not even a nulla osta among them) and those docile members of our parishes followed suit like a flock of birds all tipping at the change in direction of a lead bird, all the anguish lifted and I came to see it was a form of spiritual attack to dissuade us from unity.   Then the last four or so months before our reception into the Church become a time of peace and trust.  The awful glasses had fallen off my face.

Pretty much everything we had hoped for and dreamed of has come true for us in the Ordinariates.

So—in a nutshell, I had to put off doubt, distrust, an overfocus on evil and problems and the carnal side of human nature operating in the Church hierarchy and realize whatever barriers or opposition we were experiencing, somehow God was allowing it for our purification and sanctification.

Those lessons I have found have had to be relearned.  So as a Catholic, I have to be on guard against “fretting,” against frustration, against falling prey to a critical spirit, a doubtful spirit, a divisive spirit.  When I would bring my fretting to my spiritual director, instead of engaging me on the frustrations and doubts I was airing, he would ask, “How’s your prayer life?”

So, these days, when tempted to lose the peace of Christ, I remember Our Lady promised, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph,” and if I have trouble seeing the purity and indefectibility of the Catholic Church, I turn my gaze on her, and on the fruit of her womb, Jesus.




Putting off old identity and putting on the new

If it ever came to be that I had to choose between my Catholic identity and my Anglican identity, I would choose my Catholic identity.  Thankfully, I do not have to choose but I did have had to put off aspects of my Anglican identity that did not fit with a Catholic identity and while that was not easy, it was part of my spiritual growth and deeper conversion.

We had a member of our parish who came with us to join the Catholic Church, but one perceived insult in subtle changes in our parish life after another began to add up.   I’m not sure exactly what these insult were, but I believe they were along the lines of our adding the Marian anthems and the Phos Hilarion to Evensong, perhaps to changing the posture for the Lord’s Prayer to standing rather than kneeling, that kind of thing.   But then it was a remark about married priesthood and how it was going to be phased out in the Ordinariates that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, so he left and joined the part of our former parish that had broken away.

I guess his perceived Anglican identity was stronger than his Catholic identity.  Maybe he saw Anglicanorum Coetibus as a “bait ‘n switch” move that promised far more than was actually delivered.   I, however, am pleased and grateful at how much of our patrimony has been preserved in the Mass and I do not miss the things we had to give up even if I had some preferences.

I’ve been thinking of the piece about Cardinal Newman  by Fr. Hunwicke both Christopher Mahon and I have quoted recently and this line:

When he put off all that was schismatic, separatist, narrow, flawed, partial, heretical, in the ethos he imbibed from the Church of England, he was free to be more perfectly and fully Anglican than ever he had been before.

So what don’t I miss?  I don’t miss congregationalism or synodalism and the underlying current in the Anglican world that somehow democracy decides what we believe or whom we choose to have as our spiritual leaders.   Thus, if there’s a disagreement on something, we leave and find another bishop to lead us.

I don’t miss Branch Theory and the ideas that went with it that somehow we in the traditional Anglican world were purer than the Roman Catholic Church which had to repent before we could be in communion with it.

I don’t miss the tendency towards division that makes one get up and get out when things aren’t going the way you want them.

There are other things that I personally had to put off, but I must get ready to go to Mass, so that will have to wait for another post.


Preparing the “elevator conversation”

Back in the day when I was trying to get a novel published, I attended various writers’ conferences to learn how to attract an agent and a publisher.

One of the things we had to learn to do was prepare a “pitch,” a short, maybe 30 second description of our novel just in case we happened to be in an elevator with an agent or publisher.  The proverbial elevator was usually your short opportunity to meet a prospective agent or publisher face to face.

Well, I have been thinking of the elevator conversation when it comes to describing who we are to strangers.   And when I say who we are, I’m thinking not only about those of us who are members of the Personal Ordinariates of the Chair of St. Peter, Our Lady of Walsingham or Our Lady of the Southern Cross but also who we are as members of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.

First of all, one elevator pitch may not work in all circumstances.  Context is important.

Thus, I can use the shorthand of “Anglican Ordinariate” in Ottawa because the Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast gave us a high profile welcome into the Catholic Church, receiving us at one of his two beautiful historic basilicas with hundreds of Roman Catholics present to welcome us in.  We are known in our area as fully Catholic, fully integrated into the wider Catholic Community.

But “Anglican Ordinariate” could prove offensive or confusing in other contexts, where we are introducing ourselves to people who are in the Anglican or the Episcopal Church, or to Catholics who have never heard of the Personal Ordinariates.   As one person commented on the Facebook Anglican Ordinariate Informal Conversation Forum, people might think we’re a halfway house to the Catholic Church and not fully Catholic, but on our way.

In those circumstances, I might introduce myself as a Catholic who belongs to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure Pope Benedict XVI created to receive former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.  We are fully Catholic and any Catholic can worship with us and fulfill their Sunday obligation, but our liturgy has a distinct Anglican flavour to it.

As for the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, I’ll have to work on my elevator speech, but I remember a conversation I had with Christopher Mahon about it when we went as “ambassadors” of the Society to the installation of the new priest at the local Anglican Network in Canada parish.

Christopher was grumbling about our cumbersome name, saying something about it being “the obscure, awkwardly-long, foreign-language name of a legal instrument designed to erect a jurisdiction precisely for people who had left Anglican communities like ANiC, and thus not only an unwieldy way to introduce ourselves but possibly also offensive to Continuing Anglicans who might see it as a matter of ‘poaching’.”

“Just say it means Groups of Anglicans,”  I told him.   Our Society’s mission is the promotion of Anglican patrimony inside and outside of the Catholic Church and to engage in evangelism and the good kind of ecumenism and bridge-building.

When I was in the Traditional Anglican Communion I needed an elevator speech on who we were as Continuing Anglicans and so on.

What’s your elevator speech?   What works and doesn’t work?