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

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Question of Collaboration

Vincent Uher wonders:

Why did the USA not benefit from the kind of name accorded to the UK in the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham?

Clearly, the English, Anglican, and Catholic convergence in the UK was recognised around its most central apparition of Our Lady at Walsingham as the most appropriate name for the Ordinariate under the patronage of that most famous convert Blessed John Henry Newman. Deo gratias!

Was there nothing similar in the USA? Does the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter resonate with anyone as uniquely expressive of the American Anglican experience being welcomed into the Church? I entered the Church on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter so that has meaning to me. And communion with the Chair of St. Peter has been a most important aspiration over the years.

The name is majestic and wonderful, but does it speak to the American Anglican experience and the long held desire for corporate reunion with Rome? Of course, it does, and in that respect it is successful. But it could be just as true in Australia or South Africa or elsewhere. Unfortunately, there is no explanation of how this name was chosen, but it is said that it came to be chosen without any consulation of the Anglican Use parishes, clergy, and people. How very sad if true.

I am long on record that I had hoped the Ordinariates around the world would all be called Ordinariates of Our Lady of Walsingham. We would have been able to set down the difficult appellation "Anglican", and we could have been called "Walsingham Catholics" as a kind of short-hand the world over.

I also held a second opinion that if each were to be different bearing something of national character then Father Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana had clearly pointed the way for us. I have no doubt that the 'Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Atonement' would have been the best choice. For those who do not know, Fr. Paul and Mother Lurana were Episcopalians and their communities came into the Catholic Church with a devotion to Our Lady of the Atonement for the sake of Christian Unity. This devotion was embraced by the Catholic Church and the Pope himself embraced the devotion and honoured it.

Does it make a difference? I think so. How much more appropriate would the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Atonement under the patronage of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton be in comparison to what was chosen. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was of course a convert from the Episcopal Church, and it is her major relic that is in the High Altar of the gorgeous Our Lady of Walsingham Church in Houston, Texas which over many years was my home parish.

Of course, no one asked. So how could I or any others have made representation to authorities of our hopes or aspirations regarding a name or anything else? No the generosity and openness of Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum coetibus was met with a brotherhood of absolute secrecy worthy of Freemasons in the establishment of the U.S. Ordinariate.

If the way the U.S. Ordinariate began shrouded in secrecy is to be the norm, then a key element of the Anglican patrimony is to be left behind. Collaboration cannot be reduced to a few folks gathered together in an unnecessarily secretive liturgical committee or particular Working Group. None of this is the Manhattan Project.

This post is actually meant to undergird this simple plea: that those to be affected by decisions be invited to collaborate prior to the final judgements being rendered. Our Anglican background has taught us well how to do this, and it does not mean that we are putting anything to a vote. But now without the sort of vote that Anglicans once held in synod and on council, surely collaboration and investigation of the laity's aspirations and ideas prior to delivering decisions is the wisest course of action to ensure that there are no unnecessary troubles along the way.

Do visit his blog Tonus Peregrinus. Mr Uher is well worth the read, and I am very happy to see him writing more often these days.

I won't disagree with his conclusion that there should be widespread consultation with the faithful by the pastors of the Church. I believe Blessed JH Newman thought the same, and that should be enough to recommend the idea.

But regarding the name for the North American Ordinariate, I have to say that I am surprised that Mr. Uher doesn't see the rationale for the name of the Ordinariate. While the feast of Our Lady of the Atonement was indeed ratified by Rome (in 1946), and I am very happy to see it on the Ordinariate Calendar, there was another liturgical celebration begun by Fr. Paul of Greymoor that won ratification by Rome even earlier than OLA...the Chair of Unity Octave, now usually known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

It was Fr. Paul's and Mother Lurana's insight that there could be no unity among Christians without communion with Peter, and thus the Octave in January from the feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome to the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. (Of course, the modern Roman calendar combined the January 18th feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome with the February 22nd feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Antioch into one feast, but the Octave remains in January. Letting the editors at Reader's Digest revise the calendar is another reason to be glad that the Anglican Missal tradition and the promoters of the 1962 Roman Missal kept the old Calendar in play; else how would we know why we start that Octave of Prayer when we do?) Couldn't the origin of the Unity Octave be the rationale for the selection of this name for the Ordinariate in the US?

On a related, if tangential note, in the most recent issue of the Anglican Use Society's publication Anglican Embers, the propers for the feast of Our Lady of the Atonement have been published, set to psalm tones after the manner of the Anglican Use Gradual. You may download the propers for the feast at the Embers page.

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