New keynote: Fr Jack Barker to headline our Toronto conference

The AC Society is delighted to announce that Fr Jack Barker will be the keynote speaker at our upcoming conference on the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church this November 15th & 16th in Toronto, Ontario.

IMG_0156Fr Barker, one of the first few Pastoral Provision priests in the world, is one of the pioneers of the Anglican tradition movement in the Catholic Church and currently serves the ordinariate in southern California.

On hearing of his confirmation as our keynote speaker, Bishop Lopes expressed his appreciation, saying “I have known Fr Jack Barker for years. Without a doubt, he is a pioneer of the Pastoral Provision not only in his own personal journey of faith, but in the great deal of work he did with the Holy See in making that Provision possible. He will have a wonderful story to share!”

Fr Barker is a fitting choice to deliver the keynote at our upcoming Toronto conference in thanksgiving for ten years of Anglicanorum Coetibus and forty years of the Pastoral Provision. He, along with others like Fr Christopher Phillips (whom we had initially hoped would also be a speaker), played a foundational role both in the talks that led to the Pastoral Provision and in our continuing efforts to preserve the Anglican tradition and common identity in the Catholic Church.

A dynamic speaker with a great sense of humour, Fr Barker has been well-known in Anglo-Catholic and ordinariate circles for decades, and is highly respected by both his fellow clergy and the faithful who have been blessed by his ministry.

We will have more to report about Fr Barker’s participation soon, as well as more information on our other conference speakers. We will also soon post some suggestions regarding accommodation and we have had a few people come forward to offer sponsorships to help people attend. Further news will be posted in the coming days, but register now!

Update on conference speakers

We’re pleased to see the increasing interest in our 2019 Conference on the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church in Toronto November 15th & 16th. Please register as early as you can to secure a spot. It is going to be an exciting time of beautiful liturgies, great talks, and opportunities for fellowship with fellow ordinariate members and other Catholics interested in our Anglican patrimony.

We have some very exciting news about our keynote speaker that we will reveal in the coming days. [Updated: the keynote news can be found here] Unfortunately, Fr Christopher Phillips, our original keynote, has had to send his regrets. As he has commented on his facebook page, “I thought I’d be able to take part in the Anglicanorum Coetibus conference in Toronto, but alas, I’ve decided I’m not going to be able to make the trip. I know there will be some who will be disappointed, but believe me, if I felt able to travel I would. After a tough year, including some time in the hospital, I realize I’m just not up to doing it. Please… know that I’m grateful for your understanding and prayers..” We are disappointed that he won’t be able to speak at the upcoming conference, as we had initially hoped.


Fr Phillips is a highly respected figure in the ordinariate community and is much loved in Canada, having been a source of great encouragement to our congregations when the ordinariate was still in formation. He was also a speaker at the Mississauga conference on the ordinariate hosted by Cardinal Collins back in 2011. We wish Fr Phillips all the best and thank him for his ongoing support for the Society, the ordinariates, and the Anglican patrimony.

With all that said, we are delighted to have confirmed a new keynote speaker and we will be making a full announcement along with further details in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Rest in Peace, Cardinal Levada

IMG_1221Cardinal William Levada has passed away at the age of 83.

As Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 2005-2012 under Pope Benedict XVI,  Cardinal Levada played a key role in all that led to the publication of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009 and the subsequent establishment of the personal ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican tradition, starting with the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Jan. 2011.

Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter served as Cardinal Levada’s secretary, starting when he was Archbishop of San Francisco, and continuing during his years at CDF.

I took the photo above in 2010 when Cardinal Levada came to Kingston, Ontario to deliver the annual St. John Fisher Lecture at Queen’s University.

Here are a few excerpts of that talk, which now seems prophetic.

As a way of celebrating these 500 years since the time of St. John Fisher’s saintly and intrepid life, which brought him the martyr’s crown, and of celebrating as well this year’s promised beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose search for the fullness of truth led him to Rome without requiring that he abandon the spiritual heritage that had nurtured him in the Anglican Communion, I entitled my presentation today “500 Years After St. John Fisher: Pope Benedict’s Initiatives Regarding the Anglican Communion.”

It’s interesting that we are now on the verge of celebrating Cardinal Newman’s canonization. Continue reading

Finding balance in one’s spiritual growth


The picture above shows Fr. Mathias Thelen of Encounter Ministries praying for someone  at a charismatic Catholic gathering in Ottawa in late August.

In writing for the Catholic papers, and coming in contact with all kinds of different communities within the Catholic Church, I have been greatly blessed by exposure to the many different charisms of diverse communities and apostolates in the Body of Christ.

I wish sometimes that all Catholics could have the same kind of exposure I have had.  There is all the diversity inside the Catholic Church that I had found in the Protestant world, though unified around the Pope.   Some communities are charismatic and favor contemporary worship songs, and experiences of the Holy Spirit.

Some are more traditional like our little parish in Ottawa.


Some communities are composed of social justice Catholics deeply committed to serving the poor and cleaning up the environment;  others stress an intellectual approach to studying doctrine and Church history;  and some communities cater to cradle Catholics who have grown accustomed to a certain way of doing things.

We have Catholics who are warm and loving but need to discipline their experience of the Holy Spirit with sound doctrine;  we have Catholics who are steeped in sound doctrine but come across as dry and perhaps need to experience God’s love in a more direct way in order to better share it;  we have Catholics who care so much about helping the poor that they forget to  keep Christ at the centre and risk becoming like any other NGO.

Where do we in the ordinariates stand and where do we need to grow spiritually?

Mutual enrichment discussed Father Z’s blog and interesting comments ensue

069Last June, Father John Zuhlsdorf posted on his blog a most interesting letter from a priest with a charismatic Catholic background on his experience going on the annual Chartres Pilgrimage last June and learning the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, aka the Traditional Latin Mass.

I only came across this post on Friday and found the letter and the discussion in the combox most interesting, given the experience many of us in the ordinariates have had with  with charismatic renewal and our own traditional Divine Worship.

The priest writes (with Father Z’s emphases and comments in brackets):

The great boon in celebrating the Extraordinary Form, for me, was mainly twofold.  First, there is something very liberating about incessantly asking the Lord for forgiveness as we do, in not only the Confiteor but also the many private prayers of the priest.  The Scripture became very true for me:  “Humiliamini in conspectu Domini, et exaltabit vos.”  Second–and I understand that some of your readership may differ from me here–as a Charismatic Catholic, I deeply, deeply appreciated the celebration of the Pentecost Octave, with the sevenfold Veni, Sancte Spiritus and the focus on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle.  I’ll come right out and say it:  The “mutual enrichment” envisioned by Pope Benedict has come true in my own priesthood by the exchange between Traditionalism and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Without abandoning the Ordinary Form, I confess that the older Missal and Breviary has enriched my priesthood in ways I had never imagined.  In fact, I found myself becoming more robustly priestly and fatherly.

[ NB] I also want to take a moment for public repentance.  Long ago, at a certain liberal seminary far, far away, I was indoctrinated with a disdain for, and even a mockery of, Traditional Catholics.  I jumped on the bandwagon for their supposed liturgical naivete and sanctimony.  I was convinced that they were backwards, habitually uncharitable, and elitist.  After being around 14,000 other Traditional Catholics and priests of more traditional religious congregations, I found them to be astonishingly affable, joyous, and genuine.  I was especially surprised to not have heard a single murmur against Pope Francis during the Chartres Pilgrimage.  So, to all of those Traditional Catholics I mocked in the past:  I am truly sorry.  I was wrong.  You are doing tremendous good for Christ and His Church.

Back in 2011,  Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa (shown above greeting Barb Reid, wife of Msgr. Carl Reid, now Ordinary of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia. at his diaconal ordination in 2013) assigned a priest from the Companions of the Cross, a relatively new charismatic order,  as our “mentor priest” while we underwent catechesis prior to our reception into the Catholic Church in April 2012.

After we became Catholic, during the time when our former clergy were awaiting ordination as Catholic priests, our mentor priest celebrated Mass for us, according to the now-replaced Anglican Use liturgy of the Book of Divine Worship.  When he couldn’t make it on a Sunday, he would get one of his brother priests, including the General Superior of the order, to celebrate it for us.

The General Superior so loved our Mass that he asked Msgr. Steenson for permission to celebrate it!   He loved the richness of the prayers.   All of the Companions, who were used to guitar masses and hands raised in worship, celebrated our Mass with reverence, ad orientem, and according to the rubrics.   It was such a great example of the treasures of our Anglican tradition being shared, as Pope Benedict XVI hoped they would be.  And we were blessed by the spontaneity and love of these priests, their freedom in Christ. Continue reading

High Church low church—a primer

Br. John-Bede Pauley had an excellent response in the combox of yesterday’s post that I think warrants a post of its own.

In it, he helps us to better define our terms when we speak of low church and high church distinctions.  He writes:

Even if the best one can manage are what we call working definitions, an attempt to define the terms “High Church” and “Low Church” is necessary in these kinds of discussions, I think.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers the following definitions.

High Church: favoring especially in Anglican worship the sacerdotal, liturgical, ceremonial, and traditional elements in worship

Low Church: tending especially in Anglican worship to minimize emphasis on the priesthood, sacraments, and ceremonial in worship and often to emphasize evangelical principles.

To distill things down even further, the adjective “high” refers to a high—by which is meant a sacerdotal—view of the priesthood. The adjective “low” thus refers to a view of the clergy as not being primarily sacerdotal but more ministerial. (Low Church clergy tend to invest themselves more completely in their sermons than in other aspects of worship.)

Discussions quickly degenerate into confusion when the adjectives “high” and “low” are taken to mean distinctions on other levels. For example, an implicit assumption which often needs to be ferreted out and refuted is that “high”-vs.-”low” in the sacerdotal sense means “high”-vs.-“low” in the sense of socio-economic class, “high”-vs.-“low” in the sense of superior education, “high”-vs.-“low” in the sense of aesthetics, and so on. The High Church Tractarians moved into “low class” areas of London in the 19th century, for example, while the royal family (considered the pinnacle of the socio-economic strata) were “snake-belly low” in their Churchmanship. Disagree though I do with some of the writings of such Low Church and Puritan writers as Cranmer, John Milton, and the Wesley brothers, it would be folly to impugn their erudition and the “high” aesthetic standards they attained in their writings.

The references to “ceremonial” in the Merriam-Webster definitions make sense to me only if “ceremonial in worship” is never, but never, considered apart from the “high” (sacerdotal) view of the clergy and thus from all of the sacraments. Though respect for the sacraments means a healthy reverence for the traditions that have developed in celebrating them, many of us have experienced punctilious, fussy “sacristy rats” and self-described “High Church” aesthetes for whom the adjective “high” means something other than worshiping God in the beauty of holiness.

For this reason, I do not regard the Cistercians, for example, as low-church. (Peter Jesserer Smith does not actually say they are, though he mentions them along with “low-church Christians.”) As a former Cistercian (and as a Benedictine who is more latently Cistercian than my black habit indicates), I would suggest that the pared-down ceremonial of the Cistercian reforms was as “high” as anything Cluny was doing at the time. Indeed, one of the points of the Cistercian reform was to allow monks and nuns the time and space and silence to enter even more profoundly into the sacramental realities they were celebrating.

To get back to the original question about “attracting ‘low church’ folks,” my suggestion would be to focus on liturgy. But this would be liturgy that privileges that time and space and silence referred to above so that everyone participates in the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that liturgy actually is. Especially for smaller parishes and groups—i.e., parishes that simply don’t have much in the way of personnel and resources—this will often mean liturgies that are not “high” in the sense of elaborate ceremonial but are “high” in the sacramental sense of being more fully present to both word and sacrament.

This was basically the priority of the Oxford Movement. Newman, Keble, Pusey, and the others were not that interested in ceremonial as such. Keble and Pusey, who remained in the CofE as the Ritualist movement developed, were somewhat wary of the Ritualist project (though without condemning it). Though ritual and aesthetics have to flow from a solid sacramental theology, the sacerdotal/sacramental essence of the Oxford Movement—rather than privileging ritual and/or aesthetics—is why, I’m convinced, building beautiful parishes in poor areas of London naturally—or super-naturally—followed, as did missionary activity, as did the writing of excellent music, as did the publication of spiritual classics, as did the revival of religious orders in the CofE, and so on.

As I have written elsewhere, a focus on liturgy in the Anglican context necessarily includes a pastoral emphasis as well. It is for this reason that when preaching in the High Church tradition is done well and when the “fellowship” after liturgy is done well, they are integrally, symbiotically connected to liturgy.

Brother John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.

More on attracting “low church” folks

As promised in yesterday’s post,  here’s an email conversation I had with Peter Jesserer Smith of St. Alban’s Catholic Church,  in Rochester, New York, on how one attracts those from low-church backgrounds.

Peter writes:

I’ve never been what you’d describe as “low church,” but I think it’s worth learning from and appropriating good ideas and insights from “low church” Christian communities about how to “do church.” My impression is that when you get down to brass tacks, the low church aesthetic is motivated by a sincere desire to encounter Jesus Christ. This might surprise people, but honestly there’s plenty of precedent for this Christian current: the early Cistercians embraced a church aesthetic that emphasized light and stripped-down simplicity. (Not everyone’s cup of tea in the Middle Ages, but it was nonetheless there). Both examples of low-church Christians and Cistercians may in part have been a reaction against Christian communities with a “high church” aesthetic where Christ seemed absent, or his absence seemed obscured by high church pageantry.

To me, it seems how you invite a person from a low church background into a “high church” Catholic community is to be sincere and authentic in high church worship that manifests the deep and abiding love of Christ. How you worship and prayer must show we are truly coming here to encounter God made manifest in Jesus, and not putting on a pleasing concert performance. People can tell if what you offer is a deep encounter with the Living God who is Love, because the liturgy will increase the love (agape) of the brethren for each other united with Christ the head. But people will conclude the high church liturgy is about showmanship if either clergy or people manifest contempt for the brother and his mistakes, or if it makes no difference in how they live out the Christian life through the week. Jesus meant what he said, and there is no way around it: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). It’s important to remember that low church aesthetic is not immune to what it originally may have reacted against: people still may ask, “is this an really encounter with Jesus, or is this just a high quality show without Jesus?”

So, if you’re high church, and feeding people Jesus, they will get that. The worship in the “beauty of holiness” will speak to their senses, because Jesus is speaking. Because Jesus is attractive. Give them Jesus. In Word. In Sacrament. In Fellowship. 

The other reality is that a lot of “low church” groups are just doing church at subsidiary levels well. It’s nothing a Catholic church with “high church” worship cannot do. Parish priests just need to work with a core group of lay disciples, men and women, who will build the church throughout the week particularly through small gatherings of prayer and fellowship. For example, I’ve been intrigued by the “community groups” structure of one large Christian church in our area called Northridge Rochester. This church has a central campus, with three satellite locations — think of it as a kind of Protestant cathedral with three other branch churches — but they have dozens of small groups throughout the county (not just the immediate neighborhood) that the church’s members have formed. Even though the church is very large, it is these community groups that keep the experience of faith very personal and build relationships that are the bridge to inviting people to come to church and follow Jesus Christ.

Catholic churches and fellowships, esp. in the Ordianariate, could learn how to appropriate these ideas into their own context, particularly in the intervals between when their community meets. At St. Alban’s Catholic Church, we’re about to roll out our own take on Northridge Rochester’s community groups thanks to Flocknote. We’re smaller in numbers, so rather than have dedicated community groups, we’ll roll out in the next week or so a dedicated “St. Alban in the Community” Flocknote page / community board for St. Alban’s members to submit announcements for informal fellowship gatherings through the week, other Catholic activities, such as adoration, Mass, social ministry, etc. that our priest and parishioners are involved in. Parishioners who subscribe to the group will get an immediate heads up via text or email as they prefer.

We’ll see how it goes, but I think there’s real opportunity for Ordinariate communities to grow and for pre-Ordinariate Fellowships to establish themselves as it gives people an opportunity to see Jesus truly present and living among the members of this community. And when they experience Jesus among people, that will only solidify the connection to how they experience Jesus in an Ordinariate Catholic church’s worship.