CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - In a well written February 26, 2010 editorial for the Wall Street Journal entitled "The Beginning of the Reformation´s End",
Charlotte Hays described an event which may become more common in the year ahead:
"On a recent evening, about 60 people-ex-Episcopalians, curious Catholics and a smattering of earnest Episcopal priests in clerical collars-gathered downtown for an unusual liturgy: It was Evensong and Benediction, sung according to the Book of Divine Worship, an Anglican Use liturgical book still being prepared in Rome.
"Beautiful evensongs are a signature of Protestant Episcopal worship. Benediction, which consists of hymns, canticles or litanies before the consecrated host on the altar, is a Catholic devotion. We were getting a blend of both at St. Mary Mother of God Church, lent for the occasion.
"One former Episcopalian present confessed to having to choke back tears as the first plainsong strains of "Humbly I Adore Thee," the Anglican version of a hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, floated down from the organ in the balcony. A convert to Catholicism, she could not believe she was sitting in a Catholic Church, hearing the words of her Anglican girlhood-and as part of an authorized, Roman Catholic liturgy."
As I have written before in "Here Come the Anglicans",
the movement is gaining traction. On Wednesday March 3, 2010, members of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) in the United States (who use the organizational name Anglican Church in America) voted to give their "Fiat"
, their "Yes" of love to the invitation of the Holy Spirit working through the Successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. They will come into the full communion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Their response to the apostolic constitution entitled "Anglicanorum Coetibus,"
will now trigger the procedure set forth within this historic framework. It enables them to form "personal ordinariates", a canonical structure similar to a diocese which will be presided over by an Ordinary. They will be able to retain some aspects of their Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition while being in full communion with all other Catholics throughout the world.
For some Catholics, particularly some traditionalists, the concept is causing concern. For those who welcome the historic move, the structure, like the erection of "personal prelatures" for the ecclesial movement "Opus Dei" and the development of some of the juridical frameworks erected for the proper incorporation of other ecclesial movements, is a reflection of the wisdom of the Church and a sign of the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A review of the 2000 year history of the One Church of Christ demonstrates that legitimate diversity, both liturgical and devotional, within fidelity to orthodoxy and orthopraxy, is at the heart of what it means to be "catholic". As a Roman Catholic Deacon, who serves the Eastern "Byzantine" Liturgy with approval and has a great love for the Eastern Christian tradition, I am thrilled. It is great source of joy to witness the way in which the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church in the Third Millennium. The High Priestly Prayer of the Lord Himself, "Ut Unum Sint", "May They Be One" moves closer to fulfillment in our day.
The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America issued their announcement on Wednesday. They noted that they met ".together with our Primate and the Reverend Christopher Phillips of the 'Anglican Use' Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement (San Antonio, Texas) and others." They explained, "At this meeting, the decision was made formally to request the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'
in the United States of America by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
The Anglican Church in America (ACA) was instituted in 1991 in response to some of the moves away from orthodoxy in doctrine and orthopraxy in worship and order which have been so regrettably demonstrated in the American Episcopal Church. The ACA has 5,200 members in 100 congregations. It is part of the global expression of similarly situated Anglican Christians which is called the "Traditional Anglican Communion." It has 400,000 members worldwide.
The "Traditional Anglican Communion" sent a formal letter to the Holy See in 2007 requesting a way into full communion with the Catholic Church. They asked if they could retain some of their Anglican identity and enter in as a group. They pledged full adherence to the Catholic Catechism and fidelity to the Pope and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. They humbly sought permission to retain only what would be proper from their Anglican traditions and ethos.
In 2008, the Holy See indicated its intention to consider this historic request. Many observers were shocked, still others, like this writer, were delighted.
On October 20, 2009 Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded formally on behalf of the Pope. He indicated to these sincere Christians seeking a home within the Bark (Barque) of Peter that Pope Benedict XVI intended to issue an Apostolic Constitution making all of this possible. On November 9, 2010, the historic Anglicanorum Coetibus
, (Latin for "concerning groups of Anglicans") was issued.
We welcome this response from the Anglican Church in America. We also note that a similar response has already been issued by the members of the Traditional Anglican Communion in Australia. In addition, other groups of Anglicans, some gathered under the name of "Forward in Faith", are considering the same path to full communion. This is an historic moment not only for these dear Christian brethren seeking a home in the Catholic Church but for the members of the Catholic Church who will receive them.
We invite the global readership of Catholic Online to pray "Ut Unum Sint
" and extend our hearts and our hands over the next year. We are witnessing one of the great moments of Christian history.
Only a revitalized Catholic Christian Church can arrest the decline of western civilization evident in this arid period of history called "post modern." In fact, this "post-modern" age has succumbed to a hungry new paganism. What is desperately needed in this hour is a new missionary age. Only the Church, fully alive in the Holy Spirit, in her fullness of expression, can help to rebuild what was once a great treasure for the whole world, Christendom.
Legitimate diversity in liturgical expression within fidelity to orthodoxy of doctrine is not a problem
for the Catholic Church. Rather, it is a blessing - and an invitation for her to rise to the challenge of this historic moment and fulfill her very mission. We are witnessing the restoration of the Church.
What is needed next in this historic moment is for the "two lungs" of the One Church, East and West, to breathe together again. May we witness - in this very hour of history - Orthodox Christianity and Catholic Christianity embracing one another again as brothers. For these two great ancient expressions of the One Church which Christ established to forge a full communion with one another would unleash an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our day akin to a New Pentecost .
Such a fullness of communion within the One Church will respect the legitimate and beautiful distinctives of Eastern and Western Christianity while enabling us to embrace one another in the One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism. This must be done for the sake of a world that is waiting to be born. There can be a common missionary effort in this Third Millennium of Christianity unparalleled since the first Millennium.
Some say this is not possible. Others fight old battles, and in effect, pour salt into the wounds in the Body of Christ. However, what occurred this past week is a prophetic sign that the words spoken by the Angel to the Mother of the Lord remain as pregnant with hope as when they were first spoken and embraced, "Nothing is impossible with God".
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.