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.


How can low-church Christians find a home in the ordinariates?

At Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa, the air is blue with incense on Sundays and feast days.  Though we don’t have a choir and our building is small and humble, our liturgical sensibility would strike most as high church, with smells and bells and genuflections.
Interestingly, though, both our priests come from more low church backgrounds prior to becoming Catholic.   One grew up in a Pentecostal home before finding his way into Anglicanism; the other was on the evangelical end of the Anglican Church of Canada.  A substantial portion of our congregation comes from evangelical or charismatic Protestant backgrounds.
So what is it that drew those of us from evangelical and charismatic backgrounds to a place where the liturgy is traditional and high church?
I myself occasionally attended Episcopalian Sunday School as a child, and my father sang in the choir of the Church of the Advent in the Boston area, a nose-bleed Anglo-Catholic church at the time, with a big music endowment.  I think it’s gone the way of many other Anglo-Catholic parishes and retained the ritual but chucked the catholic doctrine and maybe even become an “affirming parish.”   But my adult formation as I journeyed back to the faith, was as an evangelical in a very minimalist liturgical setting as a Baptist.
I bring this up, because a while back on one of the Facebook forums devoted to discussions of Anglican patrimony in the ordinariates, someone asked:
Question for converts from “low-church” traditions that are now in the ordinariate:  What drew you to the ordinariate?  What is the secret sauce that makes a former Protestant with a low-church background become an ordinariate Catholic?
What is the secret sauce?  That’s a huge question as we in the ordinariates seek to evangelize and encourage others to make the journey across the Tiber we made.
I particularly loved this response from Andrea Erdman:

Andrea Erdman Well, there’s a question! I was brought up in a nominally Christian, mostly secular liberal family. I found faith at age 16 when I was leading a broken life and I found beauty, welcome and peace attending a Disciples of Christ church in Missouri. To be honest, the people demonstrated the love of God in everything they did, and I fell in love with Him.

Fast forward to college, I met someone else who loved God, too, who felt called to the Episcopal priesthood, and we got married. I was inspired by their sense of open hearted love and commitment to serving others in the image of God. As time went on, the more I learned about the church fathers, the early church, and the beauty of the Church (art, buildings, language), I became attracted to a faith that focused on how I could prepare my soul to meet God. I found same sex marriage to be inconsistent with His creation (no matter how hard I tried to reconcile it). I realized that performance of social justice must be guided by Truth. God must instruct us how to reach out to others in love, or else the people we love are led to a path of misery and hopelessness.

By this time, I was more than halfway there. God’s grace had been guiding me all along. I read Pope Benedict’s Call to Communion and realized that the papacy, Petrine primacy was biblical, and I had to reassess every other belief holding me back from Catholicism.

So, in answer to your question: why Ordinariate? Every person I know in the Ordinariate is passionate about God, has strong, intelligent spiritual formation and loving fellowship. We support each other in leading the Catholic life which is so foreign to newbies like me (which is absolutely necessary for me to give up birth control (!!!)) They are loving and reverent without sacrificing Truth.

Having been a social worker, I know the importance of social service. As a new parish/diocese, those programs aren’t available yet. That’s okay. I can help make that happen. Programs don’t make a church. Saints do.

So, here is my short answer to your question. Become Saints. God will do the rest.

Holiness attracts.  When I came to  Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary around 2000, the congregation was small, seemed dominated by octogenarians, the building was tiny and most humble.  But the worship was so beautiful, so much an experience of heaven coming down to earth, because the bishop—Bishop Robert Mercer, and the rector, Fr. Carl Reid, believed to profoundly in Christ’s Real Presence.  There was also fellowship at Annunciation—after Mass and on Saturdays breakfast after Mass, where you could sit near the priest or bishop and ask all the questions you want.  Now that we’re Catholic, we still have this kind of fellowship, though Bishop Mercer is  now Msgr. Mercer and retired in England, and Fr. Carl has gone on to be Ordinary in Australia.  And the fellowship is real, like a family, where even occasionally difficult people, those hard to love, are welcomed to be at home.

When I came to Annunciation, I had already had a love of the traditional language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and a preference for the style of hymns.  I was also looking for an Apostolic faith, and finding that intuitively, my faith was growing more sacramental.   So, as I have often said, I see my little ordinariate parish as a “Finder’s Church,” rather than a “Seeker’s Church,” because I am finally home and comfortable in my surroundings, and have not had to give up anything good that I picked up along the way in my seeking.

Tomorrow, I will post a lengthy response to this question of the “secret sauce” by Peter Jesserer Smith of the St. Alban’s Fellowship in Rochester, New York.


Reclaiming the Second Vatican Council

If the Second Vatican Council had not happened, there would be no ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican tradition.

Consequently, this post by Bishop Robert Barron on Reclaiming the Second Vatican Council  at Word on Fire is of crucial importance.

He explains two opposite reactions to the implementation of Vatican II, which Henri de Lubac called the implementation of a “para-council” that did not reflect the wishes of the Council fathers.

On the one hand, we have the so-called “liberal” Catholics who, under the auspices of the para-Council, encourage predominantly modernist and secular mentalities. There is a strong emphasis on the “pastoral” dimension of ministry while downplaying the intellectual and theological dimensions. Liturgy, from the para-Council view, is an anthropocentric enterprise where the gratification of the ego dictates the music, preaching, architecture, and celebration of the Eucharist. Social justice is reduced to a simple activism, which St. Teresa of Kolkata so often warned against. The Catholic identity of our schools and universities is repressed, leaving behind a shell of their former distinctiveness. As a result of these mindsets and practices, millions of Catholics have left the Church as she seemingly fades into the background of society, just another sentimental institution among others in the humdrum of civilization.

On the other hand, many “conservative” or “traditional” Catholics are in all-out rebellion against Vatican II, or more appropriately, what is falsely peddled as Vatican II. Witnessing the deterioration of solemnity, piety, catechesis, and beauty due to the para-Council, there is a temptation to “circle the wagons” and return to the tried and true infrastructures pre-Vatican II Catholicism. This regression is rooted in an admirable desire, even if its zeal is misplaced. Recognizing the steadfast doctrines, traditions, and practices of Trent, they hope to revive the past glory of the Church so she can reassert her unique presence in the world. This is verified by the growing number of young men and women who are opting for the Traditional Latin liturgy, seeing it in opposition to the liturgy of Vatican II.

Both of these competing poles are reactions to the para-Council, and each equally misunderstands the Second Vatican Council. The one side is told Vatican II opened the doors to a “new age” and “modern” theology that encourages a dismantling of the tired traditions and close-minded beliefs of the “pre-Vatican II” Church. The other is told Vatican II suppressed Latin and ad orientem, disavowed orthodox theology, and paved the way for the perversion of our religion. None of these claims are correct.

Many faithful Catholics are being attracted to the traditionalist critique because they see Vatican II used to justify modernism and progressivism, something they rightly reject.

As one theologian said to me a couple of years ago, when I was wrestling with these issues:  “It’s better to be a traditionalist than a modernist; but it’s best of all to be a continuist, a word I just made up.” Continue reading

Newman Symposium in Rome Oct. 12

For those going to Rome for the canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman, there’s a “Celebratory Symposium”  Newman the Prophet: a Saint for Our Times on Saturday Oct. 12 at the Angelicum that many ordinariate members are attending.  According to the event website:

With Contributions from…

Archbishop Bernard Longley

Archbishop Antony Fisher, O.P.

Sr. Catherine Joseph Droste, O.p.

Fr. Guy Nicholls, Cong Orat

Prof. Tracey Rowland

George Weigel

Thomas Farr

You can register here.

Fr Benedict Kiely on Christian Persecution

Fr. Benedict Kiely, a priest incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, founded, a charity devoted to “aid and advocacy for Persecuted Christians throughout the world, but with a particular focus on the Middle East – the ‘Cradle of Christianity,’ ” according to the website.

It’s my hope to  arrange a podcast interview with Fr. Kiely in the near future, because the persecution of Christians is a hugely-neglected story in the west.  I think it’s great his charitable work is nestled in the heart of the ordinariates.  This is a cause about which we should be passionate.

Fr. Kiely has a piece at Crisis Magazine entitled The Paradox of Persecution that stresses the horror of this persecution and warns us about the dangers in the west of persecution of a different sort.

The persecution of Christians throughout the world is one of the great evils of our time. The twentieth century saw the death of more Christians under the atheistic Nazi and Communist regimes than all the previous centuries combined. The first decades of the 21st century have seen ancient persecutors of the Faith reemerge—something Belloc predicted after the defeat of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I.

The threat is posed, not only radical Islam (certainly the most deadly and widespread cause of Christian persecution today), but also radical Hinduism and Buddhism. Although not yet experiencing persecution to the point of death, the new and ugly phenomenon of aggressive secularism in the West brings persecution of a different sort.

In Canada, I have had a front row seat in covering aggressive secularism at work in the major political parties, in the courts, and in so-called human rights tribunals that seem tor recognize the rights of every enumerated group imaginable except Christians. Continue reading

Conference in Toronto Nov. 15-16, 2019


AUC 2019 brand

Nov.15-16, 2019  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

St. Michael’s Cathedral, 65 Bond St, M5B 1X1

  • Solemn Mass & Te Deum, Friday, November 15th, 7 PM. Reception to follow in Atrium
  • Choral Mattins, Saturday, November 16th, 10 AM
  • Choral Evensong & Benediction, Saturday, November 16th, 3:30 PM

Conference, Saturday, November 16, 9 AM-3:30 PM, across the street at St. Michael’s Choir School.   Details here.       Register here.