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

Sunday, September 16, 2012

St. Luke's Bladensburg and the Anglican Use in the nation's capital

Father Scott Hurd wrote on Facebook last Sunday (September 9th):

Great meeting last night at which the future of Saint Luke's (in Bladensburg, for now) was unveiled. It was great to be with my friends and colleagues Fr. Mark Lewis and Fr. Rick Kramer, the communications directors for both the North American and UK ordinariates; Susan Gibbs and Fr. James Bradley.

The shape of that future was not mentioned in Fr. Hurd's post, and the web sites of the Ordinariate and St. Luke's are not updated yet with info. However, I have heard from a friend that the future that is contemplated is that there will be a unified parish at St. Luke's in Bladensburg for all Anglican Use Catholics in the area. While St. Luke's will sponsor regular Anglican Use masses at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls, VA, there is no provision for services to continue at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Anselm's, which has been hosting the Anglican Use Society of St. Thomas of Canterbury for nearly two years now.

The current plan includes moving St. Luke's from its current site in two years after the lease period is up. A search for a new site has yet to be found, possibly in the northeast quadrant of DC. At the same time, the Archdiocese apparently would like St. Luke's to consider moving to a place where Catholics are underserved by parishes now, which, for all practical purposes, could amount to the same thing. There is also talk of a capital campaign to purchase and build the new place, wherever it is to be located. However, that plan has not yet been put into place.

My correspondent assures me that some of the members of St. Luke's, of the St. Thomas Society and the St. Gregory Society (the branch in Northern Virginia) were consulted ahead of this announcement, but the correspondent was uncertain as to whether they had any real input into the actual formation of the plan. It will be the case, as announced earlier, that there will be regular Masses in Northern Virginia at Our Lady of Hope church in Potomac Falls.

Two concerns are raised by the announcements at this meeting.

First, one of the great things about the group that had been meeting at St. Anselm's was that they were regularly meeting for Evensong. It cannot be stressed enough that Evensong is one of the true jewels of the Anglican Patrimony. It should be a goal of every parish to offer it regularly. It is a service that is at once rooted in the earliest liturgies of the Church, that shows forth the beauty of holiness in liturgical worship and yet is a fully evangelical service: the perfect vehicle, as it were, to reach out to other Christians and the unchurched. Of course, as we have all been taught, the Mass is the summit of Christian prayer; but St. Paul didn't enter a town, celebrate the Divine Liturgy and invite folks in: he went to the synagogue for its regular servcie of psalms and lessons and preached the Gospel there, where anyone, Jew or Gentile, might hear (as the daily lesson from Acts in the Daily Office earlier this week reminded us).

John Wesley, in his The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America declared:
There is no LITURGY in the World, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational Piety, than the COMMON PRAYER of the CHURCH of ENGLAND.
As quoted on page 5 in American Methodist Worship by Karen B. Westerfield Tucker.

This endorsement of the value of the Prayer Book liturgy, and especially the daily offices, are echoed by scholars and liturgists down to our day. Fr. Louis Bouyer, of the Oratory wrote in his great book Liturgical Piety:

We must admit frankly that the Offices of Morning Prayer and of Evensong, as they are performed even today in St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, or Canterbury Cathedral, are not only one of the most impressive, but also one of the purest forms of Christian common prayer to be found anywhere in the world.

and more recently, in an article by Ed Franklin in The Walsingham Way, (published by the principal church of the US Ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston), Eamon Duffy is quoted as writing:
Anglican Choral Evensong is to my mind the greatest liturgical achievement of the Reformation, a perfect blend of noble prayer in memorable language, interspersed with the reading of two extended passages of scripture, all set to glorious music.

Secondly, one of the issues that many of the Anglican Use parishes face, whether Ordinariate or Pastoral Provision, and which they share with many parishes of Eastern Catholic Churches, is the great distance that parishioners must travel in order to attend worship at the parish church. In Boston, we are well acquainted with this: I travel almost 45 minutes from the south to the church, while my fellow schola member Allen travels almost 45 minuters from the north. It means that, except for Sunday and occasional Holy Days, there is no contact with the church. Many of the parishioners cannot reasonably come even every week because of the distance. But what if there were a way to have regular worship closer to home? It would certainly be feasible to have one or two additional sites (preferably a church or oratory, but even a home or other setting) for midweek worship and fellowship.

My DC correspondent wrote that a suggestion was made during the meeting by one of the clergymen that there might be faith formation offered during the week for people in DC, i.e., the people from the St. Thomas of Canterbury Society, since St. Luke's will be offering similar catechesis on Wednesdays in Bladensburg. In theory, there could be an informal evening prayer or compline service during these sessions, but the prayer component was not discussed at that time. I hope it will be.

In the D.C. area up until this time, there was an opportunity for worship close to home at St. Anselm's, where I was fortunate enough to visit back in January of this year. And as that community grew, it recognized this need for worship opportunity close to home, and started the associated Society of St. Gregory the Great for Northern Virginia residents. It would be a shame if this attempt to meet the needs of parishioners was discontinuted, particularly for a parish as richly blessed with clergy as St. Luke's is, which counts among its clergy Fr. Lewis, Fr. Kramer, and Fr. Sly.

CUA is blessed with a number of chapels (the one in Caldwell Hall is particularly beautiful) and is surrounded by religious houses like St. Anselm's (including the wonderful Dominican Study House. located right across Michigan Ave from the center of CUA's campus). Why not regular services on campus and introduce the Ordinariate and the Anglican Use liturgy to a cadre of students who would then bring the memory and hopefully the practice of those treasures of Anglican patrimony out to the world as they graduate?


  1. While I too lament the loss of St. Anselm's, I think everyone kind of viewed that as a temporary/guest situation. Had to come to an end at some point.

    As for CUA, your idea would never pass muster with campus ministry, which is run by liberal Franciscans. I've been trying to get a TLM there for years, and have run into resistance from militant liberals working there. Let's just say that many of the lay men working there are called to a life of celibate chastity, if you know what I mean. Liberals.

    Finally, Evensong is very nice to hear, but it's not exactly Patristic. It makes the LOTH look rigorous by comparison. That's not to denigrate it (it's a totally valid form of the Office), but it isn't the gilded exemplar you present here. It's just OK relative to the classical Roman solemn vespers.

  2. Ryan, classical Roman Vespers is essentially a monastic office. Evensong is a parochial office, which fulfills the mission of the Ordinariate, which Msgr. Steenson stated as being "to bring into the fuller life of the Catholic Church those enduring elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony which are oriented to Catholic truth. This liturgical identity seeks to balance two historic principles -- that Christian prayer and proclamation should be offered in the vernacular and that the language of worship should be sacral."

    The Church has long urged her pastors to provide for Vespers, at least on Sundays. This is the teaching of the Council of Trent and of Vatican II. And yet, when we go into most Catholic parish churches on Sunday, what do we hear? Crickets! I don't think this is caused simply by disobedience and ignorance, certainly not in whole. And this situation is not much different from before the Second Vatican Council. The liturgy was not what had people flocking to churches in the evening, it was extra-liturgical devotions that did that.

    Choral Evensong is much more common in Anglican churches than Solemn Vespers in Catholic Churches. Evensong is part of the patrimony, the legacy, which Ordinariate and Anglican Use parishes are to foster, and while there is great beauty in Solemn Vespers, the former is obviously the more reasonable choice of format for Anglican Use parishes. Evensong, using the lectionary for the Daily Office, also allows for the extended reading of Sacred Scripture that is more amenable to both meditation and instruction. Vespers, on the other hand, has only a 1-2 verse lesson (chapter) which repeats week after week. WIthin the context of monastics or clergy who are also praying the office of Matins, and perhaps doing lectio divina, this is suitable. But in a parish context where this would be the only office, or one of two, that the people attend, it does not lend itself to either instruction or meditation.

    The resources needed for Evensong also more accessible. Whether an group of Anglican Use Catholics wanted to use Anglican Chant or Plainsong, there are psalters easily available for both; the Book of Divine Worship is readily available for download and all that is needed are the texts there and a Bible. How easily would we be able to obtain the resources to conduct Solemn Vespers, and how much practice would that take? I remember reading Thomas Merton, writing about all the practice the monks performed in order to sing the office on feast days. How would that happen in a parish church? Well, it wouldn't.

    The original divine office, as prayed by the desert Fathers, was simply the psalter. The addition of canticles, antiphons, etc., all came later. You can say you don't mean to denigrate Evensong, but how else can your comments be read? I have prayed all three versions of the Office, and do not find the Daily Office of the Book of Divine Worship inferior to the older Latin office or the contemporary LOTH. And as a sung office, and liturgy should be sung, it is vastly superior in practice to the other forms as they are celebrated in parish churches.

  3. This does not surprise me. I said this to myself when I saw all the "groups of Anglicans" springing up all over - well, not beyond Ft. Worth west. You have already pointed out the difficulties that will arise. I imagine those at St. Luke's unable to travel to another location as well as other people in the various areas will 'revert' to TEC or a 'Continuing' parish if one is available. I know, they should attend the local Roman parish but even with the 'new improved' Rite it is still not the same thing. I think there was a hope that with AC and the Ordinariate being established that more Anglicans would flock to these groups. Unfortunately we have not seen this happen. When Queen Elizabeth I 'brainwashed' the Roman Catholics into English catholics she accomplished a thing no one else has been able to do, not the Nazis, the Communists, the French Revolutionists, no one has ever done it so thoroughly. I am as disappointed as any one to see this failure. Hoping I'm wrong.

  4. Matthew, I am not sure that your conclusions of "failure" are warranted by anything I wrote above. The difficulties of distance are not insurmountable; they are simply difficulties. I do know that there are several people who do not regularly attend services at St. Athanasius Boston because of distance; but that does not mean they have left the Church or gone back to TEC or to a continuing parish (which are nearly as far flung as Ordinariate/Pastoral Provision parishes).

    The Ordinariate is the US/Canada is less than one year old. There have been well over a thousand added to the rolls of the Ordinariate this year (140 in Orlando today!); as more parishes are available, more will enter the Church. There are practical reasons that some parishes in various Anglican jurisdictions have not yet entered full communion; that doesn't mean they aren't on their way. Pessimism such as reflected in your comment is not, I believe, warranted by the facts.

    That doesn't mean suggestions can't be made for doing things differently, as I have tried to do in my post today. It is a question of trying to build up the communities that are entering into full communion, each of which is a victory for unity and for ecumenism.

  5. Steve, you are correct. I just am disappointed with Episcopalians in general as they seem to be unaffected by what TEC has become and is becoming.
    I only meant 'failure' in the sense of not being flooded by those Episcopalians who know what they should do but don't. I do hope St. Luke's can find a property and/or church in the right location to relocate to, even a Catholic Church that could be revitalized as an Anglican Use parish like Saint Thomas More in Scranton, Pa.