Keeping the Catholic in the Anglican

We have had a preoccupation in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society with keeping the Anglican in the Catholic, i.e. promoting our Anglican tradition and common identity within the Catholic Church.

Thanks to Lisa Nicholas and a post of hers on Facebook,  I have come across this website Akenside Press: Renewing Catholic Reality in Anglican Parishes.  Its mission seems to be to keep the Catholic in the Anglican.  Perhaps we share some common goals but on different sides of the Tiber.

The site was founded by Fr. Matthew Dallman.

He is a student of the theology of Martin Thornton and the English School of Catholic spirituality (Anglican patrimony, properly understood), and he is an Anglican Parish Priest serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield for the Parish of Tazewell County. He was ordained to the Deaconate on the Feast of Saint Barnabas 2016, and to the Priesthood on the Feast of Saint Lucy, 2016.

Father Dallman is also an Oblate of Saint Benedict, having made his Final Act of Oblation on September 16, 2017, to the Saint Benet Biscop Chapter of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Here is an interesting and relevant article entitled On Anglican Patrimony and the English School of Catholic Spiritualitythat I urge you to read in full.  Here are some excerpts:

What is Anglican patrimony? In terms of its significance for spirituality and prayer, it is the name used latterly to refer to that infectious ferment of Christian activity and culture alive through various phases in the British and English lands, as well as its ecclesial heirs. It did not begin in 1833 with the Assize Sermon, nor in 1660 with the Restoration, nor in 1549 with the Book of Common Prayer, nor in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy, nor in 1213 with Papal feudalism, nor in 664 with the Synod of Whitby.

All these moments initiated major episodes in the life and ascetical practice of the faithful Remnant within this tradition or “school” of the Church—the English School—influences upon it being varied: anchoritic, Benedictine/Cistercian, Franciscan, Dominican, Caroline, Ignatian, Wesleyan, to name several of the primary ones. Yet Anglican patrimony actively ferments in any age through growing relationship in Christ, despite its often turbulent and chaotic relationship to social history.

Anglican patrimony as the English School issues in a comprehensive way of being Christian—through liturgy and hymnody, as well as less tangibly but more fundamentally through patterns of parochial, pastoral, and ascetical theology—and indeed at its best constitutes a school that is a full member of the glorious family of Catholic schools of spirituality.

The post then goes on to discuss the writings of a Fr. Martin Thornton, in his 1960 work English Spirituality: An Outline of Ascetical Theology According to the English Pastoral Tradition

Lots of rich quotes from Thornton’s work, which looks well worth reading.  But this struck me from Fr. Dallman’s article:

This amounts to a truly Catholic ferment within the Anglican spiritual tradition. Characteristic of the English School is (1) superb synthesis between Affective and Speculative strains of Catholic spirituality, (2) a spirit of optimism and theological humanism, and (3) a constant an thorough-going insistence upon the unity of the Church—religious and secular, priest and layman, bishop and people: all are knit together in the One Body of Christ. Thus English/Anglican pastoral reflections are “warm, ‘homely’, domestic” that prizes the “uniqueness of each individual soul growing happily within the corporate order of the Church.”

That is what it means, for Thornton, to refer to Anglican patrimony as possessing, historically as well as presently, the English school of Catholic spirituality within it. Whether we should do so remains an open question. Presumably people intellectually or temperamentally against aspects of the Catholic Faith within Anglicanism would not be eager to do so. On the other hand, plenty of good Christian people of whatever stripe might not be persuaded by an English theologian they have never heard of before (Thornton, by and large, remains unknown to the majority of Anglicans). The postliberal movement might want to correct or fine-tune. And of course Thornton might be just completely off-base in this entire analysis.

But at this point in a very weakened Anglican state of being, we are begging for renewal. If Anglican renewal is understood to be a parish- and family-rooted phenomenon (I think that is the only truly sustainable location for renewal, although all dimensions of Anglicanism ought play a role), then the envisioning of true Anglican patrimony as a school of Catholic spirituality directly presents a renewal agenda: in parish formation programs, get to know our tradition! Understand how the Book of Common Prayer came to be, and how it functions as the anchor of a total system of spirituality, or “Regula.”

What of these elements are key to the renewal, deeper conversion and evangelization in the ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican patrimony?  How important is it for us to dig even deeper into the pre-Reformation roots?

Lots of interesting material here, including entire chapters of Thornton’s work on the website.


6 thoughts on “Keeping the Catholic in the Anglican

  1. Interested readers will find the book English Spirituality more easily if you identify the author as “Martin” Thornton, as he is correctly named in the passage you quote describing Fr Dallman, not “a Matthew Thornton.” .


  2. That is a good essay. As Fr. Dallman points out, the English “flavor” of of the Catholic faith combines many ingredients that have blended together over time. But even the most complex sauce has certain “base notes,” and I think one of the English Church’s base flavors, binding the others together, is definitely the Benedictine. Esther de Waal’s wonderful book, Seeking God, which applies Benedictine principles to ordinary everyday life, impressed this indelibly on my mind many years ago when I first read it. I seem to remember that she had something to say about the way the Benedictine rule of stability relates to hospitality. I think I’ll put her book on my “to be re-read” list, and move Martin Thornton’s book up to the top of my “to be read” list.


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