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.


A Catholic critique of Alpha

Should ordinariate communities for Catholics of Anglican tradition consider running Alpha, are there any concerns to keep in mind?

In previous posts, I have outlined my experience of Alpha, both in a Baptist church and at our  traditional Anglican parish in Ottawa, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary before it became Catholic.  With each of those posts, I have included some videos on Alpha for Catholics that have people like Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household under both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, extolling its virtues.

BqUyStKIYAEE8JONicky Gumbel, the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, a charismatic Anglican parish in London, who made the videos in the 1990s that launched Alpha as a worldwide phenomenon, has met with Pope Francis, perhaps several times.

So, before offering a Catholic critique, it is important to note the Alpha course has the approval of the Catholic Church at the highest levels.  Let’s take a look at some concerns. Furthermore, is it compatible with the ethos of the ordinariates?  Continue reading

Alpha in a traditional Anglican setting

In a previous post, I wrote about my experience of Alpha in a seeker-friendly Baptist Church back in the 1990s.  Sometime after I joined Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in or around 2000, then a parish of the Traditional Anglican Communion, I participated in two, possibly three Alpha Courses the parish ran.

Being maybe a 10th the size of my previous Baptist Church, Annunciation’s Alpha was much more modest.  Each time, we only had enough participants for one small group.  Instead of a team preparing meals ahead of time,  we  had potluck suppers where parishioners took turns supplying the main dish and others brought salad, or rolls.  We ate around one table in the parish hall, then watched the video(s) on our TV set.   These days, Alpha talks can be downloaded or streamed.  Back then, we used VHS tapes.   Alpha has also adapted various versions to appeal to young people, for shorter coffee break type Alphas in work settings, all of which is new since I did the program.

We did the prescribed facilitator training, registered with Alpha Canada that we were holding a course and off we went.   Then Fr. Carl Reid (now Msgr. Carl Reid and Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross) was the leader.

At one of these Alphas, we had a former television producer from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who had been a recent colleague of mine.  We had both left the CBC in 2000.  We had a young man who had never been baptized, but had been doing a lot of reading and searching on his own.   A Jewish man Fr. Carl invited joined us because he ran the breakfast restaurant where Fr. Carl and his wife regularly ate after Mass.  The discussion was awesome.  I think Fr. Carl did a bit more teaching than the training sessions called for, but the result was that the young man eventually was baptized at our parish and joined us for Sunday worship with his family.

Alpha is a brand, and in order to call it Alpha, one needs to follow the program, but depending on the cast of characters, Alpha can still be quite different each time it is run.

For a small parish like we were, Alpha offers some big challenges.  It’s 11 weeks, including a weekend, so it requires a pretty hefty time commitment. Those who sign on are expected to show up, unless there are serious reasons for absence.  For a community where many people drive great distances, having the people on hand to ensure the food and hospitality, including clean up, can also be difficult.

Often, the first Alpha a parish will run will include mostly its own people.  It’s only after running several Alphas, as Fr. James Mallon, author of Divine Renovation: From Maintenance of Mission has written, that the courses begin to attract people who have never been to church.  Consequently,  running only one Alpha is not likely to do more than give parishioners a refresher course on some Christian basics on sharing the kerygma.  The course will also teach some leadership skills that may be useful later.  The course also provides a good way to fellowship, though our ordinariate parishes are pretty good at providing fellowship in other ways.

However, as several people have pointed out on Facebook, Alpha may not be consistent with the ethos of Catholics of Anglican tradition, nor may it be the best use of a parish’s limited resources.  In a subsequent post, I will look at some potential concerns about Alpha.




The potential benefits of Alpha

While I will be exploring some of the risks of Alpha and critiques from a Catholic perspective in a subsequent post or posts, first I would like to discuss my experience with it and what I perceive as some of its benefits.  Subsequently, I will try to link the discussion back to the personal ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican tradition and how Alpha may or may not work for us.

Back in the 1990s, when I was a member of a seeker-friendly Baptist Church that played a marvelous role in deepening my Christian faith, I participated in several Alpha courses.

Continue reading

Alpha as a tool for evangelization

I doubt Pope Benedict XVI had Alpha  in mind as Anglican patrimony when he published Anglicanorum coetibus, but the 11-week introductory course in the basics of Christianity began in 1977 at Holy Trinity Brompton, a London parish of the Church of England.

If you were to wander into Holy Trinity Brompton,  you would more likely find contemporary worship music and the church packed with worshippers hands raised in the air than the traditional collects of the Book of Common Prayer.  That said, is Alpha something Ordinariate parishes are using or could investigate using?

I know of one parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, St. Thomas More in Scranton, PA, that uses Alpha to help catechize adults, to give inquirers into the Catholic faith a basic introduction into the Christian faith.

Since Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton recorded the video series to accompany a meal and time of fellowship characterizing Alpha, the course has exploded.  Millions have taken part in countries around the world, and is presently being used as a tool for evangelization in Catholic churches.   

According to the website, more than 4,500 Catholic parishes and organization around the world ran Alpha in 2018, involving more than 265,000 participants. Continue reading

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

20191227_094605On behalf of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, I wish all our readers a Joyous Christmastide and Happy New Year.

The society’s mission 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.”

Going into 2020, I am planning a series of podcasts and blog posts on how our various Personal Ordinariate parishes and communities are advancing “deeper conversion, evangelization, education, and the glory of God.”

Many parishes have founded or are now hosting schools and/or home education supplementation as a way of catechizing young children and exposing them to goodness, truth and beauty of the Catholic faith and of our patrimony.

Some parishes are using Catechesis of the Good Shepherdto evangelize and catechize young children. I cannot speak highly enough of this program. 

At least one parish I know of is using the Alpha Course as a way to catechize adults in the basics of the Christian faith—the kerygma.  Alpha is a great tool not only for reaching those with little or no exposure to the Christian faith, but also for giving Christians a refresher on the basics so they have more confidence in sharing the Gospel.  It also provides a simple way of training up leaders who discover their capacity to lead in other areas.

We also hope to have soon video from the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church conference last November.  So stay tuned!  We have an exciting year and decade ahead.

David Torkington on prayer—marvelous!

While making supper this evening, I listened to this podcast: From Meditation to the beginning of Mystical Contemplation by David Torkington, who is an expert on contemplative prayer and author of Wisdom from the Western Isles, Wisdom from The Christian Mystics, and Wisdom from Franciscan Italy

It is marvelous and very much in line with the tradition of English Catholic mysticism.  Thank you, Lisa Nicholas for introducing me to this man’s books, blog and podcasts.

His blog, full of extremely solid and practical teaching on prayer, is here.  

I am as delighted as all other orthodox Catholics that the Spanish Bishops have spoken out against all forms of prayer involving  Eastern meditation techniques and the mindfulness  movement in their document, My Soul Thirsts for God, for the Living God: A Doctrinal Orientation on Christian Prayer (published 3rd September 2019). But is it too little, too late? This spiritual heresy has been deceiving people to my knowledge for over forty years with little official condemnation, leaving the laity in limbo-land,   looking for guidance and looking in vain. Most of these techniques have been imported from Buddhism and have no place in Catholic spirituality. The particular form that I am familiar with is taught by ‘The World Community for Christian Meditation’ which was founded by a Benedictine monk,  Fr John Main. Let me tell you a spiritual horror story to show just how dangerous the teaching of this movement is.


Authentic Christian Contemplative Prayer

Fr. Main told Amelia  to keep repeating the word Maranatha. He explained that by repeating this mantra, she would almost instantly come to experience   inner peace and inner recollection. Furthermore he told her, quite erroneously, that what she was experiencing was in fact the mystical contemplation as described by St Teresa of Avila in her masterwork Interior Castle.  Exactly the opposite happened to her because she was using the word as a short  prayer, not as a technique to generate inner peace. She was in fact using it to ask God to come into  her,  and to abide in her. Her prayer helped her to keep the deep primordial desire for love, that is in all of us,  fixed on God the source of all love. The selfless loving embodied in her constant prayer acted as a spiritual lightning conductor directing God’s love into her heart. However, in authentic Catholic Mystical Theology, as explained best by St John of the Cross, the fire of  God’s love first reveals and then draws out  of a person all the sins and all the sinfulness that prevents being  totally possessed by him. What the receiver must then do is to see the sins and the sinfulness that are preventing  God’s love totally possessing them and confess them, receive absolution and continue praying as before to enable God’s love to continue the process of purification in what St John of the Cross calls The Dark Night of the Soul. Far from leading to inner peace it leads to inner turmoil and sometimes to spiritual depression to see oneself laid bare.

Sent to a Psychiatrist

To a competent mystical theologian this is how God acts in the Night of Purification. But Fr John Main was not a competent mystical theologian, nor for that matter do the later leaders of his movement know anything about mystical theology. Inevitably Amelia was tragically spiritually violated by a charlatan. When she explained how despite what he told her to do she experienced, not peace and tranquillity but inner turmoil, he was perplexed. His ignorance was responsible for giving her potentially disastrous advice. As he and his bogus way to mystical contemplation could not possibly be wrong, he concluded that there must be something wrong with her. He sent her to England to receive psychological help from a psychiatrist in London whom he recommended. Once cured she could then return to him and he would teach her how to attain mystical contemplation in no time at all, simply by endlessly repeating a mantra. Her problem he believed was that she was psychologically ill  and therefore unable to benefit from his mystical teaching which is in fact the old heresy of Pelagianism. Believe me, it is utterly devastating for a poor soul struggling in the Night to be told  they are mentally ill, because it confirms their worst fears and it can not just destroy their spiritual lives but devastate their whole lives, sometimes permanently. These false messiahs must be stopped and stopped for good.

Please read the whole thing and go on over and enrich your spiritual life by reading this man’s work.