“If the Eucharist is just a symbol then to hell with it!” —Flannery O’Connor

Last Sunday, on Corpus Christi, Bishop Steven Lopes based his homily around that famous quote of Flannery O’Connor’s.  I wrote a story on the homily for Catholic papers, though I have not seen it published yet.  In the meantime, anyone who would like to listen to it can do so at St. George’s website here.DSC01992

Bishop Lopes’ on the origins of Divine Worship

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter website has the text of Bishop Steven Lopes’ lecture June 21 at the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary at the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.  You can read the whole text over there.  Here’s an excerpt:

Let me begin by articulating something of a thesis statement. I would like to state at the outset that our Ordinariate liturgy is often misunderstood and therefore not described correctly.
Because our liturgy shares many traditional elements and gestures in common with the
Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it is thought to be a type of “subset” of that form: “the Extraordinary Form in English” as it is sometimes called. But this is neither accurate nor, honestly, helpful. For one thing, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, a principal source for the Ordinariate Missal, is older than the Missal of Saint Pius V, and has its own origins in the Sarum Missal, a variant of the Roman Rite going back to the eleventh century. My first goal today is for you to understand Divine Worship on its own terms, to see the historical and ritual context out of which it develops, and in that light to recognize how it might contribute to the ongoing renewal and development of the Roman Rite.

And so my thesis: Divine Worship is more than a collection of liturgical texts and ritual
gestures. It is the organic expression of the Church’s own lex orandi as it was taken up and developed in an Anglican context over the course of nearly five-hundred years of ecclesial separation, and is now reintegrated into Catholic worship as the authoritative expression of a noble patrimony to be shared with the whole Church. As such, it is to be understood as a distinct form of the Roman Rite. Further, while Divine Worship preserves some external elements more often associated with the Extraordinary Form, its theological and rubrical context is clearly the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. That I situate Divine Worship within the context of the Ordinary Form becomes a fact more discernable when one considers the dual hermeneutic of continuity and reform, which informs the project.


On Cardinal Robert Sarah


Earlier this month, our first life member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, Christopher Mahon, got a chance to meet Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship while attending the Sacra Liturgica 2017 conference in Milan.

We were all joking that he might become a second degree relic someday since everyone I know who follows news about the Catholic Church closely loves Cardinal Robert Sarah and is already rooting for him should a conclave happen any time soon.  We joke that someday Christopher might become a second class relic for having touched a man we believe will be named a saint one day.   Without Cardinal Sarah, we might not have the beautiful Ordinariate liturgy Divine Worship: The Missal.   Christopher said he got a chance to thank Cardinal Sarah for that.

Christopher is very tall, so Cardinal Sarah is not as tiny as he appears in this photo.  I love what this Cardinal has to say in anything I have read of him.   He inspires me in ways that remind me of the effect one Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had on me when I first read him.  I have Cardinal Sarah’s book God or Nothing and I look forward to reading the Power of Silence.

All of this is a lead up to this article by Matthew Schmitz at The Catholic Herald entitled Why Cardinal Sarah terrifies his critics. 

After Pope Francis rejected Sarah’s call last year for priests to celebrate mass ad orientem, contempt for Sarah broke out in a shower of blows: “It is highly unusual for the Vatican to publicly slap down a Prince of the Church, yet not entirely surprising given how Cardinal Sarah has operated…” (Christopher LambTablet); “the Pope slapped down Cardinal Sarah quite strongly, with only a bit of face-saving spared him,” (Anthony RuffPray Tell); “Pope slaps down Sarah” (Robert Mickens, on Twitter); “Pope Francis … slapped him down” (Mickens again, in Commonweal); “a further slap-down” (Mickens once more, a few months later in La Croix). Added up, it makes for quite a beating.

Everyone I know who pays attention loved Cardinal Sarah’s call for priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, but wait, there’s more in this article.

It is indeed remarkable that Sarah has suffered this hail of abuse with such grace. In his newly published book The Power of Silence, we hear his stifled cry of anguish:

I painfully experienced assassination by gossip, slander and public humiliation, and I learned that when a person has decided to destroy you, he has no lack of words, spite and hypocrisy; falsehood has an immense capacity for constructing arguments, proofs and truths out of sand. When this is the behaviour of men of the Church, and in particular of bishops, the pain is still deeper. But … we must remain calm and silent, asking for the grace never to give in to rancour, hatred and feelings of worthlessness. Let us stand firm in our love for God and for his Church, in humility.

Despite it all, Sarah is a man unbowed. His book reiterates his call for Mass ad orientem and the rest of the “reform of the reform”: “God willing, when he wills and as he wills, the reform of the reform will take place in the liturgy. Despite the gnashing of teeth, it will happen, for the future of the Church is at stake.”


Why too much access may be a bad idea

I have been musing for quite some time about how one would overcome the growing tendency to see the Holy Eucharist as a symbol of belonging, a token of inclusion rather than the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The other idea that has taken hold is that the Eucharist is “medicine for the journey,” an aid to the imperfect, and thus should be given even to those in objective states of mortal sin because gradualism and conscience and so on.

So, I thought, hey, maybe the next pope could impose a Eucharistic moratorium, so that while people would still be required to go to Sunday Mass on pain of mortal sin, they would not come to expect to automatically receive.  Only something as radical as that would break the token of belonging and inclusion idea, where everybody, no matter what their state in life and how unrepentant they are, expects to receive the Blessed Sacrament.    Then maybe only those who had received a ticket indicating they had received absolution in Confession could go forward to the altar rail. And the tickets would change color and shape randomly so they could not be counterfeited easily.

Thus, when I came across this old post of Fr. Ray Blake’s I realized he has nailed what it is that has been bothering me.   This is an oldie but goodie that thankfully someone shared today on social media.   Enjoy this and ponder.   An excerpt:

The Second Vatican Council spoke about a ‘universal call to holiness’, what we seem to have difficulty with is coping with the fact that not everyone wants ‘holiness’, or at least wants to delay it until the last moment, or simply feels they are incapable of it. Now I wonder if we have lost that flexibility. Ronald Knox’s remark about the possibility of leaving an umbrella safely in any church, of any denomination, except a Catholic church, because in a Catholic church it was bound to be stolen, because Catholic churches are full of sinners, once contained a lot of truth. I remember certain London churches and certain continental churches that seemed to be full of ladies of certain character and men of  certain ‘exotic’ tendencies, all at the back or behind pillars or in side chapels praying with intensity, and slightly more reflectively ‘pray for us sinners, now and the hour of death’.


The older idea, still prevalent in Orthodoxy and certain declining branches of Protestantism, and amongst more ultra Traditionalists, that people should receive Communion only rarely, and then only after confession and a period of intensified fasting and penance, was the norm up until Pius X. In pre-Reformation England the norm was for Communion once a year, following Lateran IV’s precept of reception at ‘Easter or there abouts’. The confession, penance, prayer and rigorous fasting of Lent was the period of preparation. Lateran IV was trying to correct the ‘abuse’ of people never receiving Holy Communion, or doings so only once in their lives.
Though Vatican II was theologically right, was it pastorally right? What seems to have happened was that we became less tolerant of sinners. I have always wondered about the interpretation of I Cor 11:27-32:

27Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. 28But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. 30Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep. 31But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.

What does verse 30 actually mean? ‘Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep’, could it be that Paul equates infirmity and weakness -and many sleep, a euphemism for death- as being something we experiencing today, that somehow a unworthy reception of Communion leads not to physical illness and death but to a spiritual one, a complete loss of those who cannot live a holy life.

And this:

I fear accommodating VII’s teaching of ‘universal holiness’, we either exclude sinners who are unable to live virtuously, which means excluding those in need of Christ or else we turn a blind eye to sin, pretending it doesn’t exist, which means excluding Christ, as some seemed to desire at the Synod.

Most interesting.

And I lift this out from the excerpts above:  “In pre-Reformation England the norm was for Communion once a year, following Lateran IV’s precept of reception at ‘Easter or there abouts’.”



Communion and Liberation and Pope Francis

I have many friends in Communion and Liberation, a movement founded by Fr. Luigi Giussani.  Every year in Ottawa, they organize a Way of the Cross on Good Friday, and for the past four years, I have been in the schola, and make the rehearsals part of my Lenten observances.

A CL young peoples’ group uses our church basement for meetings.  One of our young men is active in CL.   I attend from time to time some of their social gatherings.  Fr. Giusanni’s writings I find difficult to follow, and they don’t “speak to me” the way Cardinal Robert Sarah’s do, or Pope Benedict XVI.

That said, I found it interesting to read this piece at Crux this morning—an interview with the leader of CL,  Father Julian Carron.

It’s title is:

‘If you don’t think Francis is the cure, you don’t grasp the disease,’ CL head says

So, I read this article as I had my coffee this morning.  Then I responded thus on Facebook.

That was interesting. I still think, though, that this method of “encountering” people and not beating them over the head with doctrine is old. It’s still stuck in the 1970s in a way. On one hand, I agree in the power of the attraction of a Christian life, of Christ within us, of how we can be ambassadors of His love because He is in us. But, through hard experience, I have learned one needs sound doctrine to get to that place. [Of being able to attract with our Christian life] Otherwise, we risk making things up as we go along and our Christian witness will be wobbly at best.

Credo ut intelligam. There’s been a huge, huge vacuum in terms of teaching Catholics what is is exactly the Church teaches and helping people conform their lives to it. Maybe at the initial stages of evangelization, you love people, you don’t insist on anything, you don’t expect them to pull themselves up by bootstraps they don’t even have, but at some point—-one has to be formed in the faith, or else it will become a shipwreck. I speak from experience. I kinda agree in this—that one does not try to reach post-modernists with rational arguments that might sway a modernist. But what’s missing from this is the notion of beauty in liturgy, in worship. Young people today are not attracted to the big mega church, pop music worship music that appealed to Baby Boomers. They find it off-putting. Yes, they are attracted to what’s real in relationships, in authenticity of Christian life, not finger-wagging moralism, but they are also attracted to what’s real in worship–what is awe-inspiring, beautiful, and mysterious.

UK Ordinariate Newsletter – June 20th 2017

You can access the latest issue of the n ewsletter of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by clicking on the banner heading below

The newsletter explains Cardinal Pell’s absence from the recent Diaconal Ordination, and provides some other recent news of Ordinariate groups, such as the move in South Wales  from Cardiff Cathedral to a permanent home in Newport, where Mass is now celebrated weekly – another step forward for the Ordinariate.


This is my first post here at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog. Deborah kindly asked me to be a contributing writer here a while back. I accepted the offer with the proviso that I could not promise how often I would post. I currently serve as pastor of three parishes; an Ordinariate community in Republic, Missouri (St. George) and two diocesan parishes (St. Susanne in Mt. Vernon, and St. Patrick in Greenfield). Before my conversion I served as a priest in the Anglican Church in America. I have been married to my wife Catherine for 27 years, and we have five children. I write most often from my own experiences as a priest as well as a husband and dad. You can also read my thoughts at Beware Yon Dragons.

I finished reading “The Benedict Option” recently. I have to confess I liked it (most of it). I also must confess that I do not think he is encouraging “retreatism” as many people have claimed (that is something of an exaggeration of what he is saying). Yet, the one point that I believe that Dreher makes perfectly clear is his assessment of the state of our society today. “Barbarism” is the word he uses.

Whether we agree with Dreher or not (in any of his points) it would be a mistake to say that the concept of barbarism does not shed light on the current state of affairs for modern culture. It is not so much that there is more sin (though there may very well be), it is the fact that people show little to no recognition of guilt or sense of regret for sinful actions. I like to define barbarism by saying it is the philosophy that “doesn’t get morality”. Some barbarians may be fairly moral in some instances, but they do not understand the concept of morality itself, nor do they grasp the source of morality (i.e. the Divine Creator).

Taking this as a starting point, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking of how this applies to the Church today (and most specifically to parishes in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter). Although there may be many areas of application, the one that repeatedly came to my thoughts was our commission to be evangelistic. We, as Ordinariate Catholics, are called to reach out to a society that “just doesn’t get it” when it comes to the basic concepts of right and wrong. What, therefore, is the manner that we are called to do this within the context of being Catholics with an Anglican patrimony? Although the question can be answered in numerous ways, the one that strikes me the most clearly is to teach them what the word “awesome” means.

I switched from Presbyterian to Anglican some 16 years ago because I saw something in the forms of the Book of Common Prayer that filled me with a sense of “awe” towards God. I felt, back then, that I was seeing for the first time what the word “awesome” really meant. I was struck with the realization that I could not truly honor God with a trite or cheap presentation of something called “worship” (especially when we are not clear who is being honored by our “worship”), and that the “most High God” had to be honored with worship that could be called “most high”.

To use a somewhat crude illustration: when barbarians of years past encountered more civilized societies they were often awestruck by some of the advancements of those other societies precisely because they had never encountered many of those things before. Today, the “barbarians” of modern society that we are seeking to convert have usually never encountered genuine “awe” before. Yes, they may have been shocked by something that is “really, really, really cool” on a 110 inch screen tv set (yes there is one that big!), but that is not the same as genuine awe. The biggest thing that man can do to shock us, is still a far cry from what the Creator of the Universe can do.

Therefore, we should be seeking to communicate not just the details of the gospel (which are absolutely essential), but also the sense of what it means for God to be “wholly other” and completely transcendent. Our society has a hard time thinking of God as anything more than a “really strong man upstairs”, and that is not the historic understanding of the Lord and God of all. Christians have talked about and over-emphasized a sense of God which encourages His nearness for so long, that it does not impress much of anyone any more. An overly personal, and “soft” view of God strikes little to no awe in people because there are so many things that are “personal and soft” that one more of these is boring.

This brings me to a recent experience of mine. We had a visitor to St. George Church recently. I had never met him before, and only had a couple of minutes to speak to him after Mass before he left, but I did get some input from him. He had never before seen anything even remotely liturgical before that day (he was brought up in a protestant tradition that was about as anti-Catholic as they get), and after the Mass he said, “it was…it was…I don’t know the word for it, but I felt like I was visiting another planet”. I thought it would be overload for him if I had told him that the Mass is connecting to something much farther away than another planet.

He never actually used the word “awesome” (possibly because it is overused today by people who do not really know what it means) but it was clear what he was referring to. Not just because of the words on his lips, but because of the look on his face, I could tell that he had been struck with a sense of genuine “awe”. He told me that he had never been baptized (his tradition believed that baptism was only for the early Church and was not necessary today), so I am not aware how much grace he genuinely experienced in the Mass, but he was obviously impacted.

What adds to the weight of this story is the fact that St. George meets in a little chapel which is actually converted from a simple meeting room in a former retreat center (and it is only about 13 feet by 29 feet). It was not the surroundings that struck this gentleman; it was something clearly deeper. I would have to say that it was this very same sense of reverence before God that struck me so many times as an Anglican clergyman and made me want something deeper; something with the full weight of awe.

The world we live in has fallen into starry-eyed adoration of various and sundry idols. Yet, none of those idols can create the awe that comes with falling down before the Creator in reverent worship. It makes me want to stand on the rooftops and cry out “you think that is amazing? wait till you see this!” and then begin the Mass. In my experience, that is the most valuable part of the Anglican patrimony: reverent worship. It is this reverence that impacts everything I do and say. It is this reverence that can convert souls and bring them to the feet of Christ. It is this reverence that we must show to a fallen (and falling) world.

Marian consecration and Anglican patrimony

DSC02036When Bishop Steven Lopes visited Ottawa, one of our parishioners asked him about the role of Marian devotions in the Ordinariates.  He told us that when members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter organized a pilgrimage to Fatima this year, they prepared by doing a 33-Day consecration to Jesus through Mary.  He also said he will ask all the priests of the Ordinariate to join him in their respective parishes in consecrating the Ordinariate to Our Lady on Oct. 15.   Then we got the idea maybe we could prepare for this by encouraging our parishioners to make a 33-Day consecration in preparation.

I entered the Church believing the bare minimum  one had to believe about the Blessed Mother, the Marian dogmas and so on.  For our parish, Mary and papal infallibility were the only issues that needed some extra catechesis in our preparation for becoming Catholic.   That’s changed.  I am more of a maximalist now, and having a personal relationship with Our Lady has deepened my faith, “made my crosses sweet” as promised in Marian consecration, and been all around wonderful.   I’ve made several Marian consecrations, as it is a requirement of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests to make one yearly.

Over the years, I have also witnessed a popular comeback of Marian devotions in the wider Roman Catholic Church and I see good fruit coming from this.

In my work as a journalist for Catholic papers in Canada, the most exciting and spiritually-rewarding story I worked on this year concerned the discovery by some friends of mine of a film documenting the 1947 Marian Congress in Ottawa where Canada was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Father Bob Bedard, the founder of the Companions of the Cross, used to say, “Give God permission.”  And then, something to the effect of, “Then, hold on!”

Well, I believe I have sincerely given God permission many times, but I can’t say I’ve had that “fasten your seat belts” and “hang on” experience, though over the past nine months I have witnessed this happening to my friend Dennis and Angelina Girard.

Here’s a link to the latest story I filed on this now up at the Catholic Register.

The Congress’ “crowning act,” according to Pope Pius XII, was the consecration of the Dominion of Canada to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 22, with consecration prayers read in French and in English by federal cabinet ministers Louis St. Laurent and James J. McCann.

“Obtain for the Holy Church of God peace and complete freedom; stay the rising flood of modern paganism, enkindle in the faithful the love of purity, the practice of Christian virtues and an apostolic zeal, so that the servants of God may increase in holiness and number,” read a portion of the consecration text drafted by the Pope.

Today, as Canada approaches its 150th birthday, Canada’s Catholic bishops have been invited by the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to re-consecrate Canada to the Virgin Mary on July 1 or another appropriate date in their dioceses.



Father Z on Anglicans and Anglicanorum coetibus

Father Zuhlsdorf has a blog post up concerning the latest moves of the Church of England regarding proposals to re-christen people who have had sex change operations.

You can over to Father Z’s to read the post here.   He mentions Anglicanorum coetibus, though the rest is tongue in cheek:

Hence it is time for me to call once again for the Anglicans at long last – at very long last – to issue their groundbreaking and courageous document

Romanorum coetibus!

A few year ago, the Pope of Christian Unity, Benedict XVI, gave us Anglicanorum coetibus by which former Anglicans are welcomed into the Catholic Church and they can retain their heritage.  Their ranks are growing and they are exercising a wonderful enrichment of the whole Roman Church.

Even more urgent today is the need for the Church of England to issue their own document Romanorum coetibus, by which they can welcome into their “ecclesial community” all the dissident Catholics who, rebelling against the Magisterium, desire to keep their most treasured customs.  There in the embrace of the Anglicans they can have their clay pot chalices and burlap banners, their ditties and rainbow stoles, free from the interferences of patriarchal oppression… or now fixed genders or sexes!  Under Romanorum coetibus these folks could maintain their cherished 60’s music, progress to the ordination of women and openly – more openly – pray to the earthmothergoddess… all without the spirit-repressing domination of masculine and gender-particular Rome! When everything is a moving target, then by golly it’s the C of E for you.  What a great contribution those newly rechristened Anglicans could offer!


Bishop Lopes leads Eucharistic Procession in Ottawa


Bishop Steven Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter visited Ottawa this weekend.  He and I had a meeting Saturday morning concerning the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, then he came to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary for lunch and conversation with parishioners.

On Sunday, he presided at the annual Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic Procession that we have done jointly for the past four years with St. George’s, a Roman Catholic parish in our neighborhood.


Msgr. Hans Feichtinger, pastor of St. George’s, used to work with Bishop Lopes at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith so they are old friends.   Msgr. Feichtinger recently took on Ottawa’s German-language parish St. Albertus, so for the first time three parishes participated.  That meant we had some parts of the Mass and some hymns in German.  Msgr. Feichtinger is in the centre.  I do not know the name of the deacon on the left. Our Fr. Kipling Cooper is on the right.


I was surprised and impressed when our own Zach Candy chanted the Lesson in German!  That Zach swings a mean thurifer in addition to his many other gifts.


Our relationship with St. Georges has been enriching for us and ensures we are well-integrated with Catholics in the Ottawa archdiocese.  We have participated on their social justice committee and contributed to the support of a Syrian refugee family with St. George’s.

Bishop Lopes brought hot, humid weather with him from Houston. There were threats of severe thunderstorms in the forecast and high winds made it hard for the men to control the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament.  Thus, we only stopped at one of the three stations set up on the way and that decision spared us getting soaked in a shower.   Fr. Doug Hayman, our pastor, did stop to bless our parish even though we did not have the readings, prayers and full Benediction there.

We wrapped up the annual Procession at St. George’s, then proceeded to a pot luck lunch in their air-conditioned parish hall.


There was another similar table laden with food on the other side of the hall, plus a table full of desserts.



Got a picture of Christopher Mahon, who I believe is the first life member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society and Bishop Lopes.