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.

The Christmas Martyrs

Image may contain: textThe Christmas Martyrs

A consideration of the collects for the four feasts of the historic English Church that immediately follow the Nativity of our Lord.

 The four great feasts of the “Christmas Martyrs” celebrated amidst mirth and reflection due to their location in the calendar, have much to teach us. They provide a unique contrast to the expectation of Advent and the joy of the twelve-day Christmas feast. Each collect and feast contains a particular mystagogy concerning the Faith. Accompanied by an assist from Shakespeare and Dickens, I hope to present a brief reflection of their meaning.

In the post-reformation Prayer Book (BCP) tradition, three feasts follow The Nativity of our Lord.  The collects used below are from the 1928 US BCP, while  St. Thomas Becket’s collect derives from the Anglican Missal of published by the Anglican Parishes Association (1988)

St. Stephen’s Day, December 26

GRANT, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

The classic BCP collect states that we should give testimony amid suffering.  The power to do so stems from our vision of Christ in Heaven.  As we behold the glory of the King who once suffered for us at the right hand of the Father, we, now filled with the Holy Spirit, then, and only then can we bless our persecutors. St. Stephen represents all Christians who continue to suffer and die to this day, especially those new to the Faith who witness to the Advent of the King.  Stephen’s greatest witness is his intercessory prayer. Stephen behold our Lord in intercessory prayer and mediates that ongoing ministry to his killers. As our Lord prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen acknowledges their meditated malice and asks that the sin, be not held to heir account.

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60)

St. Stephen fulfills Christ’s prophecy that his disciples will do greater works than He will.  Stephen forgives those who knew full well what they were doing.  There is no ignorance in their crime. But it is the Martyr’s prayer of un-requested and unmitigated forgiveness that is his crowning achievement and effects deeply another conspicuous man, Saul of Tarsus.  Stephen’s forgiveness is so powerful it echoes through the years of St. Paul’s life. Luke makes an intentional connection between the martyrdom of Stephen and the beginning of the ministry of Paul.  Paul’s story and his conversion begin at the Forgiveness of Stephen. Paul was obviously affected, he mentions Stephen by name years later.  It is he who obviously passed the details to Luke the careful researcher. (Acts 22:20)

The collect reminds us to find the vision of our first love and passion for Christ and live it. Stephen gives his young life and future into the hands of the Son of God and makes a sacrifice now joined to the sacrifice of Christ.

St. John the Apostle, December 27

MERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it, being instructed by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

John the Evangelist and Apostle exemplifies those who continue to the end through many sufferings.  The collect prays that we may “at length” attain to everlasting life.  It directs us to be mindful of this Apostle’s doctrine, which casts the bright beams of light upon us.  While Stephen dies young, John persists to the end of his days and has been accorded the title of martyr.  This collect and feast join us to the following liturgical season, Epiphany. John’s Gospel is the Gospel of the Epiphany, the season’s readings all stress light shining in the night.  We know most creatures have a natural love,  attraction, and movement toward light. The feast of the beloved John and his life and Gospel move us to Christ that we to may recline with Him at table.Image result for john on patmos book of hours

This collect’s use of light vs. darkness in this season has effects seen in Charles Dickens.  Scrooge, he informs us, likes the dark because it is cheap.  The old money lender shuffles, wrapped in this drained, anemic dusk as he heads home on Christmas Eve.

“Half a dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip. Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

Scrooge the Tight-fisted loves the dark because it does not cost him anything.  If we are faithful, like John, and seek and proclaim the light it will cost us much in this world.  A “martyrdom” for most remains a small daily struggle of sacrifice and self-denial.  The collect again shows us how to persevere, by attending habitually to the Apostles’ doctrine and walking continually in the light.  Where St. Stephen is a martyr that dies in the springtime of his life, St. John stands for those who maintain till the end through many hard and sacrificial years.

The Holy Innocents, December 28

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Holy Innocents are those who are cut off in their gentle genesis. Their collect asks that Almighty God may mortify and kill all vices in us, in effect, to make us like innocent children to inherit the Kingdom of God. What greater vice is there than the ongoing slaughter of the innocents? Infanticide groans to us from long halls of ancient times.  Those innocents died for the Christ Child, who will one day die for them, suffering the outrage of a fearful ruler and his mindless murder of the guiltless.  Abortion and Infanticide, both plagues of the antique world, are still in strength and growing as the new creation of the Kingdom is under the assault of this old crime. Again, Dickens is fairly invoked concerning this issue in the mouth of the Spirit of Christmas Present.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.’

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit. Say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then. ‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. “Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God.  To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.”

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground.Image result for scrooge and the ghost of christmas present tiny tim

The length and breadth of sacred scripture adjure us to care for the Widow, Orphan, and helpless.  After long centuries, are we worse than Herod?  We have in our day fulfilled the charge of Shakespeare in Hamlet (3.2, 12-14) “I would have such a fellow whipped… It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.” What Herod trespassed in greed, wrath, and momentary passion, we now organize, industrialize, and institutionalize our killing of the innocent, both young and old.

While the collect directs us properly to be as children in the Kingdom, the fallen world would again misuse the ideal of spiritual innocence in this festive season of the Christ Child. The voices in this Modern Age that attempt to de-emphasize and kill Christmas (as with other outward influences of Christianity in culture) tell us that Christmas is the holiday “for the children”.  Varied voices use this very phrase. When Maureen O’Hara as Doris Miller, the serious businesswoman in Miracle on 34th Street, uttered the phrase in the eponymous movie, it was an old saw.  The secular world would have us believe Christmas is only for Children and for their indulgence.  These same progressive voices now want us to have fewer children running around to celebrate this feast that supposedly is just for them.

Dickens knew the Feast and Season of Christmas was for everyone, especially modern adults weighed down in an ever efficient and industrializing landscape.  Dickens’ celebration of Christmas made the old, dewy young again, it created innocence amid suffering,  an innocence like Tiny Tim’s. From the introduction:

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.

 Later Dickens says, “I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.”

 Scrooge vows to live the Spirit (innocence of Christmas all year through)

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

Christmas is a time to nurture the Innocent, young and old and the very innocence in our own Soul. We must like a reborn Scrooge to make proper amends in our future charity for past oversights.

St. Thomas of Canterbury, December 29

O God, who for thy Church’s sake didst suffer thy Bishop Saint Thomas gloriously to be slain by the sword of wicked men: grant we beseech thee; that all they who call upon him for succor may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire. Through & c.

Thomas of Canterbury’s martyrdom stands for those who are willing to lose all; wealth, friends, family, the esteem of countrymen for the Gospel’s sake.  St. Thomas was wealthy, influential, well titled, loved, and close to the king.  Thomas found a greater honor then serving his earthly desires and those of Henry II.  He defended the honor of God.

Sadly, Thomas of Canterbury suffered a second martyrdom as his memorial was destroyed by Henry VIII. The shrine stood until it was crushed in 1538, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, on direct orders from King Henry VIII. The king also destroyed Becket’s bones and ordered that all mention of his name be obliterated from records.

The Martyrs of the Christmas Octave remind us that the feast is for all. The joy of the feast is for more than the pleasure of our senses.  It is about the Kingdom of God and our ultimate destiny of Life Eternal with the Blessed Trinity.  Bl. Bishop Sheen reminds us, “[E]very other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.”  And by Christ’s birth and death, he destroyed Death itself, imparting life to hose in the tombs.



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.

Durham University’s Two Year Patristic Lectionary for the Divine Office

Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies has produced an excellent two-year lectionary for Vigils (Office of Readings). Initially edited by Stephen Mark Holmes (University of Edinburgh School of Divinity) and subsequently re-edited and formatted by Michele Freyhauf (Durham University); for Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland. Free access in various formats is provided below.

The History of the Patristic Lectionary

A ‘patristic lectionary’ is a series of readings from the fathers (in Latin patres) of the Church. Scripture has always been read in the Church in the context of tradition. Continue reading

Gavin Ashenden explains why he is becoming Catholic this Sunday

Many of us have enjoyed listening to Gavin Ashenden on Anglican Unscripted on YouTube.  Here in episode  #558 he explains why he left the Church of England to be ordained a Bishop of the Christian Episcopal Church and now why he is now entering the Catholic Church this coming Fourth Sunday of Advent.   A contact in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham tells me he does not believe Ashenden has contacted the ordinariate.  In the discussion below,  we hear the Roman Catholic Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury reached out and invited him.

Hodie in Historia Ecclesia Anglicana

Matthew Parker was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury.

Image result for bishop Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on this day, December 17, 1559, at Lambeth, England. But, was he properly and legitimately consecrated? One of the larger questions in the history of the English Church.

Hodie in Historia Ecclesia Anglicana

The Curse of Cromwell

On this day, December 16, 1653, Parliamentarian General Oliver Cromwell appointed as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

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Winston Churchill’s prescient thoughts upon this reign of terror from his four-volume The History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution, 1957,  “By an uncompleted process of terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the virtual proscription of the Catholic religion, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds… Upon all of us, there still lies ‘the curse of Cromwell.’ ”

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Dr. Gavin Ashenden Discusses his Conversion to Catholicism

ISLE OF MAN ( – An internationally renowned Anglican bishop and former chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is leaving the Anglican Church to become a Catholic… continue full article.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden meets Pope Francis at the Vatican
Bishop Gavin meets Pope Francis at the Vatican

Bishop Gavin Ashenden will be received into full communion by Shrewsbury’s Bp. Mark Davies on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Shrewsbury Cathedral, England.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden to join Catholic Church on 4th Sunday of Advent

Bishop Gavin Ashendon, former chaplain to the Queen, is joining the Catholic Church.

This article via Church Militant makes no mention of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, so I have no idea  where he will be incardinated but he will be received into the  Church this coming Sunday.  I will update when I find out.

What a blessing this well-known pastor of souls and communicator will make inside the  Catholic Church!

From CM:

Bishop Gavin Ashenden will be received into full communion by Shrewsbury’s Bp. Mark Davies on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Shrewsbury Cathedral, England.

The outspoken prelate became a global media celebrity after he objected to the reading of the Koran at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Koranic chapter on Mary, read from the lectern at the service of Holy Communion, on the Feast of the Epiphany 2017, explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus.

Under pressure from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Ashenden resigned his royal chaplaincy in order to be free to challenge the rising tide of apostasy in the Church of England.

Later that year, Ashenden was consecrated a missionary bishop to the United Kingdom and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church to provide episcopal cover to traditionalist Anglicans leaving the Church of England.