Monday, 17 September 2012

Walsingham Way

Members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group forsook W1 for Norfolk on Saturday to join the Ordinariate Pilgrimage to Walsingham. We were each returning to England’s Nazareth for the first time as Catholics to join Mgr Keith Newton and several hundred fellow Ordinariate members for mass at the National Shrine.

For those of us accustomed to the rarified (and nowadays, dare one suggest, rather etiolated) character of Anglo Catholic parishes in London one of the most heartening features of the Ordinariate is the wonderful mix of people who make up its priesthood and laity. As we set off after mass to progress from the Slipper Chapel to the village it was striking that this group of pilgrims was very far from the stereotype of a self-selecting and insular group that one Anglican bishop of our acquaintance likes to refer to as “the Anglo-Catholic travelling circus”. This was quite simply a group of people, men and women, from all parts of the country and from all walks of life, gathered together in England's Nazareth to give thanks for many blessings received, and to celebrate that its petition for union with Holy Mother Church had been answered.

One unexpected consequence of the numbers joining the pilgrimage was that we were diverted from the road on to what had once been the Wells and Fakenham Railway, until it fell victim to Dr Beeching’s axe in 1964, a particular shock for those who had very properly and very bravely chosen to walk unshod and who now forsook the caressing tarmac for unforgiving stones and thistles. We followed the cross, lifted high and glinting in the bright sunlight, and a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham carried by four bearers, if not exactly o’er hill and dale then certainly through countryside a little more rugged than that of Regent’s Park.

Flushed as we were by the unaccustomed exercise, onlookers would not have noticed our blushes when, encountering first our Orthodox brethren outside the Chapel of Saint Seraphim, and then some minutes later the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, we had on each occasion reached the second verse in the Lourdes Hymn:

We pray for God's glory, May his kingdom come!
We pray for His vicar, Our Father, and Rome.

Those blushes dissolved into beams of delight at the greater symbolism of arriving in the little village that is such an important part both of our Catholic history and our Anglican Patrimony, carrying Our Lady onwards into the grounds of the Anglican Shrine where we could offer up more petitions for the unity of Catholic Christendom.

Then, as pilgrims thirsting after righteousness and mindful of our Anglican Patrimony we settled into The Bull to relive the events of the day over a pint. Some things never change.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Looking the Right Way?

When we go on and on, as we often do on this blog, about Christian Unity, perhaps we give the impression that we think Anglicanism has become isolationist.  Of course, it hasn't, but we would accept that sometimes the way we express things might lead people to think that this might be our opinion.

Our recent post A New Direction talked of an isolationist strategy, but there we were not referring to Anglicanism as a whole.  More broadly, Anglicanism is clearly not isolationist.  We acknowledged this in our post entitled Christian Unity, if only in regret that the outward looking moves were towards like-minded state churches of Northern Europe. 
We have talked recently about the views of Metropolitan Hilarion (of the Russian Orthodox Church) on some of the developments in the Church of England. Everything that General Synod does to move away from Unity, it does not only against Unity with Rome and the Church in the West, but also against Unity with the Orthodox. The sole moves that General Synod seems to want to take towards Unity seem to be towards unity with a small band of like-minded national churches (the Porvoo Communion, for example), a process that bizarrely seems to be evolving into overtures from some connected to the US-based Polish National Catholic Church to disaffected members of the Church of England who cannot yet accept the idea of reunion with Rome (the PNCC has recently established a small presence in Norway and smaller ones in Germany and Italy).
This of course is something that can be seen in "western" Anglicanism generally, not just in the Church of England, as this video recently highlighted by Damian Thompson shows : here we see what looks like a very joyful celebration of a mid-offertory, pre-secret dance by the Anglican Archbishop Fred Hiltz, leader of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Lutheran Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, who are in full communion with each other. 

Cardinal Kaspar said to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 that :
We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century
The ultimately doomed Jerusalem Bishopric project, the final straw for Blessed John Henry Newman's time as an Anglican was an earlier if brief manifestation of this same phenomenon, a move towards the Protestant churches of the 16th century.   Newman was horrified at the idea of the Church of England being involved in a project that would provide an Anglican bishop as overseer to those without the same understanding of, among many other things, episcopacy.  He considered that for the Church of England to be doing this was to give ammunition to those who doubted its claim to catholicity: in a tone that seems much more shocking now than it would have done in the nineteenth century, he says that he thought it appalling that the Anglican Communion should coalesce with those such as Lutherans, Calvinists and others of heretical belief. 

We wouldn't put it that way now of course.  Most certainly the Church of England wouldn't, as through Porvoo it is now formally in communion with those whom Newman might rather bluntly have said held heretical beliefs.

Ignoring those objections, the Church of England pressed ahead with its Jerusalem project.  Newman would have liked these disagreements and challenges to have been faced up to rather than buried as unimportant details, or dare I say it, as second order issues.   On Christmas Day 1841, he wrote :
Has not all our misery, as a Church, arisen from people being afraid to look difficulties in the face? They have palliated acts, when they should have denounced them.
He found the idea of the planned system of alternating English-sourced and Prussian-sourced bishops quite ludicrous.  The entities involved had no shared understanding even of what a bishop was, so what was it that they were going to be sharing?   In what is, once again, a rather forthright manner typical of its time, he wrote the following letter to The Times (unpublished) in November 1841:
What is the worth of Episcopacy without orthodoxy?  What is it, but a husk pretending to be what it is not?  Do the Prussians take the orthodox view of the sacraments?  What respect is due to a Bishop who denies the grace of Baptism?  Surely it is an evil great enough to find Bishops heretics, without going on to make heretics Bishops? 
Newman wondered where to look for help, and in his reflections thought of recourse that in our day seems utterly incredible for someone seeking solid Catholic orthodoxy, being the Scottish Episcopalian Church and the forerunner of the US Episcopal Church.  He concluded that any such scheme would create Anglican schism, and of course we all know where his ultimate destination lay, in Rome.

As ever, much of Newman's writing speaks to us directly just as it did to his contemporaries.    Do the themes of pressing ahead regardless, of entering into schemes that provide ammunition to those who question the Church of England's catholicity, and of looking everywhere and anywhere but Rome for assurance not ring a few bells?

True Christian Unity, prayed for explicitly in the Gospel, cannot exist without the Churches of East and West.  Heading in the opposite direction is not a labour likely to achieve Christian Unity: rather, through the act of seeking like-minded friends with whom to ignore the Churches of the First Millenia, and thereby reassuring one's self that doing so is right, it brings with it the danger of preserving the larger existing divisions.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Marylebone Group's First Anniversary

We are now Catholics of one year's standing.  What a joy that is.  As mentioned in our previous post, One Year On, September 3rd, the Feast of St Gregory the Great, marks the first anniversary of the day when Monsignor Newton received the first three members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  We celebrated this happy anniversary in some style yesterday: due to work commitments, sadly one of our group couldn't be with us, but we did what we could to make the day as jolly as possible, notwithstanding his absence.

As well as having another favourable mention in the parish notes at St James's, and having Fr Christopher Pearson in attendance to concelebrate with Fr Colven, we were invited to prepare our own leaflet, to be distributed to all the congregation attending the 1030 Solemn Mass.  The production of the leaflet allowed us to share in the Ordinariate's ongoing task of explaining its purpose to our fellow Catholics.  Thanks are due to Fr Colven for offering us this opportunity. 

The leaflet also included the words and the melody of a hymn we have mentioned before, Though The Streets of Heaven, written for St Mary's Bourne St, our former home in our Anglican days.  To mark our first anniversary in full visible communion, the post-Mass hymn at St James's yesterday was that very Bourne St hymn, so typical of the heyday of Anglo-Catholicism, and so much a part of the patrimony we bring with us.  The same hymn had been sung at our reception one year earlier.   We have previously posted footage of Though The Streets of Heaven being sung at Bourne Street, here it is being sung at St James's yesterday.

My only regret is that, by inadvertently touching the wrong button at the wrong time, I stopped recording not only just as the congregation were getting to know and indeed to enjoy the hymn, but also before the organist dazzled us with his reharmonisation of the last verse.

Perhaps those readers who run parishes or ordinariate groups, or who are responsible for the music there, might consider introducing this great example of Anglican Patrimony into their regular repertoire.  Here are the words and music of Wilfred Knox's 1921 hymn: do download this and try to find an occasion to sing it.

The setting of the ordinary of the Mass was the Mozart Missa Brevis in C K257.  Having had the privilege of Viennese settings so often at Bourne Street (not that, in any way, we can easily call that an example of Anglican Patrimony), it was particularly pleasing that yesterday was a day when we were similarly blessed. 

We are happy below to include a few photos taken during yesterday's liturgy (better quality versions can be found on our Flickr photostream).  The photo of Fr Colven giving the homily shows not only a Crucifix and the image of the Sacred Heart, but also a large statue of St Peter.  In this context, Fr Colven's homily might perhaps have reminded us of one of the many Newman quotations that we have recently included on this blog.  The readings at Mass talked of the importance of looking beyond the externals of religiosity and ensuring that there is true faith, love and right belief underlying religious practice.  This is not to say that religious practice, religion, the Church are unimportant, far from it, but it is to say that they are part of a bigger picture.  Blessed John Henry Newman :
Look into the matter more steadily; it is very pleasant to decorate your chapels, oratories, and studies now, but you cannot be doing this for ever. It is pleasant to adopt a habit or a vestment; to use your office-book or your beads; but it is like feeding on flowers, unless you have that objective vision in your faith, and that satisfaction in your reason, of which devotional exercises and ecclesiastical appointment are the suitable expression. They will not last in the long run, unless commanded and rewarded on Divine authority; they cannot be made to rest on the influence of individuals. It is well to have rich architecture, curious works of art, and splendid vestments, when you have a present God; but, oh! what a mockery if you have not.
This and the other photos tell their own story, of faithful and respectful liturgy executed properly, in the full communion of the Catholic Church, in communion with the Successor of St Peter. 

After Mass, we continued our festivities with another example of Anglican Patrimony, a long lunch in honour of a special occasion.  Deo gratias, and, Deo volente, may there be many more anniversaries to be marked. 

Fr Colven gives the homily, under the splendid tester with its dove symbolising the Holy Spirit.  To the left of the photo, you see the statue of St Peter to which we referred above.

Offertory 1.

Offertory 2.

Offertory 3.

Offertory 4.


Hoc est enim corpus meum.

Ecce Agnus Dei.

The group sits down to a celebratory anniversary lunch with Fr Pearson and Fr Colven.

The group by the 1973 Gavin Stamp poster for St Mary's Bourne St,which includes the Martin Travers image of Our Lady holding St Mary's.

In the post A New Direction, we referred to prints of Pusey and Newman hanging side by side.  Here's the proof.