The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of the BVM in Baltimore

On a personal note, I'll be in the mid-Atlantic next week, and I'm looking forward to visiting Mount Calvary for this feast day and renewing my acquaintance with my Baltimore friends.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Vatican City, 16 June 2014 (VIS) – The awareness that the objective of unity may seem distant, but is always the aim of the path of ecumenism and common concern for the ills of humanity, especially human trafficking, were some of the key themes in the Holy Father's encounter with His Grace Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, in the Vatican this morning.

“The Lord’s question – 'What were you arguing about on the way?' – might also apply to us. When Jesus put this question to his disciples they were silent; they were ashamed, for they had been arguing about who was the greatest among them. We too feel ashamed when we ponder the distance between the Lord’s call and our meagre response. Beneath his merciful gaze, we cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world. Our vision is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded”.

Despite these difficulties, “The Holy Spirit gives us the strength not to grow disheartened and invites us to trust fully in the power of His works. As disciples who strive to follow the Lord, we realise that the faith has come to us through many witnesses. We are indebted to great saints, teachers and communities; they have handed down the faith over the ages and they bear witness to our common roots”.

The bishop of Rome went on to remark that yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the archbishop of Canterbury celebrated Vespers in the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, “from which Pope Gregory the Great sent forth Augustine and his monastic companions to evangelise the peoples of England, thus inaugurating a history of faith and holiness which in turn enriched many other European peoples. This glorious history has profoundly shaped institutions and ecclesial traditions which we share and which serve as a solid basis for our fraternal relations”.

“On this basis, then, let us look with confidence to the future. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission represent especially significant forums for examining, in a constructive spirit, older and newer challenges to our ecumenical engagement. He also emphasised their shared “horror in the face of the scourge of human trafficking and forms of modern-day slavery” and thanked Archbishop Welby “for the leadership you have shown in opposing these intolerable crimes against human dignity”.

“In attempting to respond to this urgent need, notable collaborative efforts have been initiated on the ecumenical level and in cooperation with civil authorities and international organisations. Many charitable initiatives have been undertaken by our communities, and they are operating with generosity and courage in various parts of the world. I think in particular of the action network against the trafficking in women set up by a number of women’s religious institutes”. He concluded, “Let us persevere in our commitment to combat new forms of enslavement, in the hope that we can help provide relief to victims and oppose this deplorable trade. I thank God that, as disciples sent to heal a wounded world, we stand together, with perseverance and determination, in opposing this grave evil”.

From the Vatican Information Service's Daily Bulletin.

See also the address by Pope Francis to His Grace Justin Welby earlier today.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Daily Office; beginning with the Portal Magazine's essay on the Ordinariate Use liturgy

In the June 2014 issue of the Portal Magazine, Msgr. Andrew Burnham has a very comprehensive, yet concise, article on the Ordinariate Liturgy. He begins his essay with this story.

There is a story about Mgr Graham Leonard, formerly Anglican Bishop of London, being asked by Cardinal Hume what he valued in the worship of the Church of England and would miss as a Catholic. He replied that it would be the Prayer Book Offices of Matins and Evensong, and in particular the psalms in course, following the Coverdale Psalter, as set in the Book of Common Prayer.

There is no doubt that the daily services are the jewel in the crown and, when both Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI expressed their admiration for Anglican worship, it was the public celebration of the Offices that they had most clearly in mind. Small wonder then that the Ordinariate clergy in the United Kingdom particularly value the availability to them, as Catholics, of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Prayer Book tradition, as distilled in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham.

There is a wealth of material in the Customary, which I've been reading through again in recent weeks. And while Msgr. Burnham does not focus exclusively on the Daily Office in his essay (which you should go and read for all that it contains), I think that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the Daily Office as a truly daily experience of prayer in the life of Catholics, and particularly for those of the Anglican Use, for whom this is a particular heritage and tradition.

A recent post on the blog Gerry Lynch's Thoughts... asks "Why is Cathedral Evensong Growing and What Does It Mean?", and one of his answers is that he sees "weekday Evensong as ecumenical, interfaith and vital for a growing, healthy, Church." Evensong is ecumenical and interfaith, because anyone can participate, even those not yet baptized. While the Mass is undoubtedly important for evangelization, it also necessarily excludes some people from what, to many, will seem the central rite of the Eucharist, the Communion. But there is no part of Evensong (or Mattins) that I, as a confirmed, baptized Catholic, can do as a member of the congregation, that an unchurched seeker cannot do; whatever barriers there are to participation will be wholly interior, but that removes a modern complaint about erecting barriers; because in this service, we erect none.

And yet, as the author goes on to note: "Evensong is not necessarily undemanding. It gives tremendous space for daily study of Scripture, and disciplined prayer sustaining a life of Christian service."

For both reasons, evangelization and growth in Christian discipleship (and more), the Daily Office should be a key element of every parish, and particularly, every Ordinariate and Pastoral Provision's life.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Announcement from Saint Lukes Church, Bladensburg

My dear brothers and sisters--
Soon after Anglicanorum Coetibus was promulgated in 2009, many of us gathered rejoicing and worked for a day when there would be a parish for the Ordinariate here in the nation's capital.  When St. Luke's [Bladensburg] became the first Episcopal Church in America to enter the Catholic Church through Pope Benedicts XVI’s Apostolic Constitution, the decision was made that it would form the basis of that presence here in the DC metro area. Now, St. Luke's is planting its roots in the city. As of September 7th of this year, Sunday Masses using the Divine Worship Liturgy will be offered by St. Luke's at Immaculate Conception; Mass will be at 8:30 am with coffee hour to follow at 10 am in the school auditorium.
For those of you unacquainted with the beautiful Immaculate Conception Church, it is located at the corner of 8th and N Streets NW. Built in the 1870s, this Gothic Revival brick building contains an historic 19th century organ, a high Gothic altar of Italian marble, and Stations of the Cross painted by Franz Kaspar Huibrecht Vinck, a famous late 19th Century Belgian artist. Photos of the interior may be viewed at
To begin our life together as a DC parish, an Ordinariate Day is planned for June 28th at 10 am at Immaculate Conception Church. We will begin with Mass, followed by a tour of the church, and discussion and fellowship. I urge you all to join us that morning and on each Sunday morning beginning this fall as we seek to build a community that will bear fruit for the Kingdom in our capital city. Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. We look forward to laboring with you all as we build a new urban parish for the Ordinariate in service of our Lord.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Miracle of Pentecost

The Miracle of Pentecost refers to the Apostolic preaching on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection of Jesus when the crowds in Jerusalem, from countries all around the ancient world, were able to understand the Apostles. The story is related in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

At St. Athanasius in Boston, we have always had the custom of having the lesson from Acts 2 read in as many languages as possible by readers from the congregation. We have had most of the Romance languages, ancient Greek and Latin, Chinese, Afrikaans, Dutch, German and Dinku all proclaimed within the liturgy.

The practical aid for this is a book compiled by C. David Burt called, aptly enough, The Miracle of Pentecost. It has the lesson from Acts 2:1-11 in many dozens of languages, grouped by continent. You can find the book at his Partridge Hill Press site on The bound book is $88.00, but you can also download a PDF of the book, from which you can print just the languages needed if your congregation wishes to employ this custom. The direct link for the PDF is:

Spring Liturgies at Mount Calvary, Baltimore

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue Releases Joint Statement: “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness.”

April 22, 2014
WASHINGTON—The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA) has concluded a six-year round of dialogue with the release of “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness,” approved at the most recent meeting February 24-25, 2014, at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting was chaired by Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee; the Roman Catholic co-chairman, Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, was unable to attend for health reasons.

In 2008 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, asked the ARC-USA to address questions of ethics and the Christian life in the context of ecclesiology, in an effort to achieve greater clarity regarding areas of agreement and disagreement. They were aware that dialogue on these issues was also taking place between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion at the international level, and also in other bilateral dialogues between churches of various traditions.

The statement reflects on the way the two churches pursue the work of teaching and learning within the Christian moral life. It examines the extent to which their respective church structures influence the way they teach and what they teach on moral questions. Inquiries and discussions about moral formation and the teaching charism of the churches guided them in addressing this topic.

With a focus on two case studies concerning migration/immigration and same sex relations, the dialogue concluded that even if the moral teachings of Anglicans and Catholics diverge on some questions, they also share important common features. The statement delves into these differences and similarities and represents progress toward a more unified Gospel witness capable of addressing contemporary concerns in ways that are useful and attractive to all Christians, as well as larger society. As Bishop Bauerschmidt said, "ARC-USA has produced some important statements in the past. This statement represents the latest landmark in our journey together as churches, and is a valuable contribution to an important topic." The full text is available online here:

Read the rest of the releast at:

Hat tip to Chris Buckley.

Monday, April 14, 2014

St. Edmund's Update: In praise of Benedict

The excellent Update from the Sodality of St. Edmund has just been published. While I commend all the content to you, I call your attention to this wonderful paen to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI by Monsginor Mercer:

 There are many Benedicts. The name means "blest" or "blessed" (by God of course). There is St Benedict of Nursia (480 - 550), the patrician Italian who is considered to be the patriarch of Western monasticism. He wrote his famous Rule for men and women who wished to withdraw from secular society and live communal lives of prayer, study and manual labour. In the Dark Ages of Europe which followed upon the collapse of the Roman empire, monasteries became a civilizing influence, centres of peace in a violent world, places of agriculture, education, hospitality and medical care.
There is St Benedict Biscop (628 - 689), a patrician Brit who became a Benedictine monk in France and then founded monasteries back home in county Durham. He was famous for his learning and patronage of music and art. There is St Benedict Aniane of France (750 - 821) about whom similar things could be said.
There is St Benedict Labre (1748 - 1783), a holy tramp of no fixed abode who wandered about the famous shrines of Europe. It takes all sorts to build the communion of saints. There was a not dissimilar man in modern times, John Bradburne, who finally ended up in Zimbabwe living among lepers where he was martyred by Mugabe's freedom fighters. He too will be canonized one day ("Strange Vagabond of God" by John Dove SJ published by Gracewing).
Sixteen popes have been called Benedict. Number XV tried hard to be a peacemaker (Matthew 6,9). He attempted to stop the First World War before it began, he tried to end it sooner than it did, and afterwards he attempted to ensure there'd be no future wars. He might now be thought of as a "son of God" (Beatitude no. 6) but what can a mere clergyman do against bellicose politicians? So far as I know, Joseph Ratzinger has not told us why he adopted the name Benedict when he was elected pope. Perhaps he was thinking both of the civilizing and pacifying effect of St Benedict the Great, and of the eirenic attempts of Benedict XV? However, because he is orthodox and Biblical he came to be nicknamed the panzer cardinal or the rottweiler. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is courteous, gentle, modest, an excellent listener who can explain your own point of view better than you can yourself. If you are looking for somebody to tell your sins to, he's just the chap. He has written, "The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and His Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the church to obedience to Christ and to His Word".
He has had a powerful effect upon evangelical Protestants, Lutherans and Anglicans. He is responsible for an agreement with the Lutheran World Federation which says that whatever else might separate the two churches, the doctrine of justification by faith does not. He is responsible for an agreement with the Coptic Church of Egypt and its sister churches like the Armenian, which says that whatever else might separate their churches, the doctrines of Christ's divinity and humanity do not. He has tried hard for rapprochement with the Eastern Orthodox churches.
There is a lot of Thomist philosophy knocking about the RC church and the Vatican and many of us from the Anglican tradition are all at sea with it. Benedict once told a theologian at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "I am not a Thomist". But he is a Biblical scholar, and this is why so many Anglicans feel at home with him. Benedict knows and often quotes St Jerome who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ". Benedict has written, "The normative theologians are the authors of Holy Scripture. This statement is valid not only with regard to the objective written statements which they left behind but also with regard to their manner of speaking in which it is God Himself Who speaks". Benedict has written, "Leading men and women to God, to the God Who speaks in the Bible, is the supreme and fundamental priority of the church". There are three introductions to Benedict's thought:
The Thought of Benedict XVI  by Aidan Nichols OP published in 1988 by Burns Oates. (I have written about this author in a previous "Update").
Ratzinger's Faith by Tracy Rowland published in 2008 by Oxford University Press. (She mentions the TAC and our desire for unity.)
Covenant and Communion: the Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI  by Scott Hahn published in 2009 by Brazos Press. (This author is a former Presbyterian minister whose rapprochement with the Catholic church was presumably by way of Benedict's writings.)
There is a special place in the heart of the Ordinariate for Benedict. He welcomed us to communion while at the same time allowing us to be ourselves. When we hang up his photographs we do so with personal affection and deep gratitude. Benedict himself would say that Catholicism is not about Popes but about Christ. He might therefore prefer us to read his three slim volumes about his dear Lord and ours, "Jesus of Nazareth".
To Whom with His Father in the unity of Their Spirit be thanks for evermore.
Monsignor Robert Mercer CR