Be England Thy Dowry

Charles Coulombe’s latest for Crisis – on the Ordinariates: Be England Thy Dowry.

Famous amongst Catholics for the part played by converts like St. John Henry Newman in reviving the Church in England, the Oxford Movement also gave rise to Anglo-Catholicism. In time this movement would transform the externals of Anglicanism, if not its doctrines or ethos. Nevertheless, it revived among its members belief in the Real Presence, prayers for the dead, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and founded devotional societies to these and other such causes, including the Sanctity of Charles I. Its liturgies often surpassed in ritual splendor contemporary Catholic Masses. It also revived such shrines as Walsingham and Glastonbury. Anglo-Catholic religious communities went in both for monastic life and missionary work overseas and among the urban poor.

Indeed, the propensity of Protestant-minded Anglican bishops to punish their Anglo-Catholic clergy by dumping them in undesirable areas led to the rise of the Anglo-Catholic “slum priests,” many of whom became legendary as much for their pastoral zeal as for the extraordinarily beautiful churches they built for their flocks. Whole provinces of the Anglican Communion, such as the West Indies and South Africa, were formed in the Anglo- Catholic way. For a time, it seemed as though the dream of those Oxford Movement members who did not swim the Tiber—that Anglicanism as a whole could be Catholicized—was within grasp.

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So, what gifts do they bring us? To begin with, a reverent liturgy in sacral language and an extensive devotional life—things lost among many Catholics after Vatican II. They bring deeply pastoral traditions, as the far smaller Anglo-Catholic parishes were always more of a family affair than the huge parishes most Catholics in urban centers are used to. Due to historical persecution, Catholic intellectual life in the Anglosphere was primarily carried on by converts and foreign immigrants.

But Anglo-Catholicism produced not only many of those same converts but a large number of clerical theologians and lay thinkers of the caliber of T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Arthur Machen, Dorothy Sayers, George Grant, and a host of others—all of whom can be re-examined for what insights they may offer. In return, the Ordinariate members are in full communion with the Pope, and thereby with such revered figures of their own past as Julian of Norwich, Alfred the Great, St. Edward the Confessor, and the English martyrs. May this reunion be both a catalyst for and a foreshadowing of the re-evangelization of the Anglosphere.

Go on over and read the whole thing!

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