The mission of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society is: To promote the Anglican tradition and common identity within the Catholic Church for the purposes of deeper conversion, evangelization, education, and the glory of God.
I would add our mission also includes recovering that English Catholic patrimony that preceded the Reformation, hence my interest in the works of English Catholic mysticism such as The Cloud of Unknowing. Bishop Steven Lopes has described this two-fold approach as English Christianity. These words incorporate both what is distinctly Post-Reformation Anglican tradition that we have been permitted to bring into the Church as a “treasure to be shared” as well as the pre-Reformation English Catholic heritage that needs restoration.
Bishop Lopes gave a powerful talk at the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church conference in Toronto Nov. 15-16 that highlighted the role of the Church in determining our patrimony. He described a gathering of some Episcopalians and/or Anglicans and Archbishop DiNoia of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Archbishop kept asking them to describe exactly what Anglican patrimony is, and the men could not agree amongst themselves. Thus, it was the Church that determined the patrimony; the Church selected among the various strands of Anglicanism worldwide—not an easy task. What a beautiful and familiar liturgy the Church has given us in Divine Worship! We have so much to be grateful for.
Now, of course, we Catholic lay people are also part of the Church. Especially since the Second Vatican Council’s stress on the universal call to holiness, the Church is not only seen as the hierarchy, or of some officials in the Roman Curia.
This is not an excuse for congregationalism, however, or efforts among lay people to try to change Church doctrine by lobbying or democracy. It means we as baptized Catholics participate in the three-fold ministry of Christ as prophet/priest and king as friends and brothers and sisters of Jesus, as “sons” of God the Father. The hierarchical episcopacy and priesthood participate in a fatherly way to equip us with the sacramental graces and paternal guidance.
If we look at the difference between the Book of Divine Worship and our present missal, we see improvements. Perhaps further down the road, some hitherto unrecognized aspect of patrimony or identity will be recognized by Rome. But pushing for it the way others in the Church lobby for the advancement of the LGBT agenda is contrary to the ministry under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are all called to and He is always calling us towards unity in Christ, not division.
We already have so many treasures to unpack in the Catholic Church and I believe now our focus should be on evangelization, deeper conversion and the glory of God. How does our Anglican and English Catholic tradition advance evangelization, deeper conversion and the glory of God? What elements are key to those purposes which make our mission dynamic, and not a static exercise in museum curation?
When I first came to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was the reverence and holiness of the way then Bishop Robert Mercer and then Father Carl Reid celebrated the liturgy that made me keep coming back. Coming in as a seeker-friendly Baptist and an evangelical Christian, I found the way they prayed the liturgy conveyed so much truth about Real Presence and the worship of heaven that merely participating in it went a long way to preparing me for our parish’s journey into the Catholic Church that was completed in 2012. The picture shows Msgr. Mercer and Msgr. Reid in Rome for the canonization of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman.
Another thing that was key to my deeper conversion was the habit that lay people have in our parish of also praying the offices daily. When I was an evangelical, there was always some new book out that everyone was reading, some hit bestseller in Christian circles making the rounds. There were also Bible studies one could do in a small group that might focus on a particular aspect of Scripture. I always found myself at a bit of a loss of what to read in the Bible when I wasn’t doing a study of some kind. Just picking the Bible up and opening it at random, or constantly going to one’s favorite Psalms or passages was not enough for me. Having the Book of Common Prayer and daily cycle of readings that takes you through the whole of the Bible on a regular basis, developed the habit of looking at the whole of Scripture and keeping everything in context rather than the Protestant habit of proof-texting. It helped me to memorize the canticles and protected my faith during the week when I faced challenges in my workaday life. While we don’t have an approved office book yet—I understand it will be coming soon—many of us continue in the habit of doing the daily offices. If you have not started doing so, John Covert’s excellent site Daily Morning and Evening Prayer does all the work for you if you don’t have a Book of Common Prayer or Bible handy. It updates the Psalms, Scripture readings and collects morning and evening everyday and is a great resource. I encourage you to start if you are not praying the offices daily already. There’s a button on the side of this blog to take you to the site should you ever need to find it again.
The third thing that contributed to my deeper conversion was the fellowship at our parish. Every Saturday morning, our priests (and Bishop prior to when we were Catholic) host an informal breakfast after 9:00 am Mass. There, over coffee and muffins and cereal, a newcomer like myself could ask our clergy any sort of theological question. We would sometimes have some rather difficult or peculiar people —some not members of our parish—come to the breakfast but all were welcome and included. This was something that impressed me about our priests—was how they loved even the hard-to-love. It felt like a family where people were allowed to even sometimes have meltdowns or be eccentric, but they were still embraced as members. This was a different feel from the kind of gathering of peers or like-minded people.
On Sundays, we always have a great time of conversation over breakfast after Mass. There is enough time for meaningful interactions beyond chit chat and small talk, which I don’t like that much. And several times a year, we have sit-down dinners, with beautiful decorations, most notably at Thanksgiving and Epiphany. And our Mothering Sunday tea is always memorable. Last year, Alice Candy was our Mother of the Year.
The other thing I loved about our fellowship is the vertical age-integration. We have everything from toddlers (and soon another babe-in-arms) to octogenarians in our parish and they all interact, instead of peer groups being hived off into separate enclaves. This requires some patience and tolerance on the part of all of us, as children make noise, they say things during Mass, like “Uh oh!” during the consecration. The cry during the homily or occasionally squabble in the back pew.
In my 15-years as a journalist for Catholic papers, it seemed to me that all of the most faithful Catholics I met were involved not only with their parish, but also in some movement such as Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Focolare or the charismatic renewal. I have good friends in all of these movements, and I respect how their involvement has deepened their faith. But none of these spiritualities fit me, even if I benefit greatly from being on the peripheries of these movements through my friends. But the spirituality of our parish—the liturgy, the daily offices, and the fellowship, as been enough for me to grow in my faith and to keep on growing.
All this to say nothing of the fact that our priests are also wonderful confessors and spiritual directors and are available to us.