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Sunday Night Journal — June 17, 2012

Report on Anglican Developments

I haven’t yet written about my experience with our local instance of the Anglican Ordinariate. I first mentioned it here on Easter Sunday (see this SNJ), shortly after it had come to my attention, and a great deal has happened since then. The first word I had, back in April, was that a seminarian, Matthew Venuti, who was an Episcopal priest and hoped to be ordained in June had founded a group called The Society of St. Gregory the Great, and would soon begin offering the Anglican service called Evensong or Evening Prayer, a descendent of the traditional liturgical rite of Vespers. That began shortly after Easter. It was held at St. Mary’s in Mobile, which is one of the two most beautiful churches in this area (the other being the cathedral), on Sunday afternoons before a regularly-scheduled 6:30 Mass.

An Anglican Use Mass was to begin in June when Matthew was ordained. Up until a week or so before the June 2 ordinations there was some doubt as to whether that would actually happen. I’m not sure what the problems were but I think they had something to do with the speed with which he had gone from being ordained in the Episcopal Church, to Catholic seminary, to ordination. In the end, though, he became Fr. Venuti, and following the ordination on Saturday June 2 he was the celebrant on Sunday at an Anglican Use Mass. And we now have a regular Sunday afternoon Evensong followed by Mass with the Anglican Use liturgy. There are also three Masses during the week.

We were doing Evening Prayer at a side chapel. The first Mass was in the main church. Now we are in a tiny chapel apart from the church proper, normally used for Adoration, and very plain, which is good. There are plans to erect an altar in the side chapel, positioned suitably for a liturgy in which the priest faces the altar. We fit in the tiny chapel because we are a tiny group, fewer than a dozen. Of these, not all are eligible for formal membership in the Ordinariate, which is restricted to former Anglicans (more on that in a moment). There are a couple of people who have never been Anglican who come because they love the liturgy.

So much for the facts; what of the experience?

Well, the Evensong services have been beautiful and deeply moving. My eyes filled with tears when I heard some of those prayers, and participated in them. For the first time in many years, I felt the full sentiment of formal communal prayer. I don’t mean to say that when I participated in such prayer in the usual Mass I was insincere. I intended what the words said but in an instrumental sort of way; as a rule, they did not, by their own beauty and richness, call up the emotion that ought to have accompanied them. Except when a prayer touched on some particular personal concern of the moment, they were a prayer of the mind but not the heart. There is a great difference between saying “Well, in the end, life really doesn’t amount to much,” and Macbeth’s terrible “Out, out, brief candle...” speech. That’s the difference between the functional English of the current liturgy and the poetry of the Book of Divine Worship, the Catholicized Book of Common Prayer used in the Ordinariate.

And we have had excellent music. Our little group is struggling with the Anglican chant settings of things like the Magnificat, but we’ll get there. For several Sundays we had an organist, which meant that even a dozen or so people could do pretty well with the hymns, also mostly out of the Anglican tradition. The organist has been out recently, but will return.

The Mass itself has been, for me at least, a more difficult adjustment than I expected. I think this is because, unlike Evensong, it is a variant of something I’ve experienced every Sunday (at minimum) for over 30 years. It’s enough like what I’m used to, and yet enough different, that I find myself getting confused. And the whole group, including our priest, is still learning the rite. At the first one, on June 3, I was still tired and feeling a bit dislocated after having been away for most of a week, and I felt like I was really not all there. But we have now had two Masses since then, and things are coming together.

There has been a whirlwind quality about all this, and I feel like I haven’t fully taken it in yet. It was utterly unexpected, and, coming as it does long after I had learned to live with the—what do I call it?--the normal English Mass, or the Novus Ordo in English, whatever the right term is—it feels, I’m sorry to say, a bit of an anti-climax. Where was this when I really needed it? I want to say. But I am grateful, and certainly will stay with it as long as I have a choice.

Moreover, it’s still in flux. We need more people if the thing is to continue, and naturally we want it to grow because we believe it is a great gift to the Church. And there is one very troubling thing about the whole project. I hadn’t realized, on reading about the Ordinariate when it was first established, that formal membership is open only to former Anglicans. I had envisioned it becoming a light to the nations who have to live with a Mass which is at best colorless, drawing anyone who would appreciate the beauty and dignity of its liturgy. This, I’m told, is exactly what happened at one major parish which came into the Church in the early 1980s under the Pastoral Provision of 1982, and a majority of its members are now Latin Rite Catholics who came in after the original Episcopal congregation became Catholic as a group. But the restrictions on entry into the Ordinariate have resulted in this parish having decided (again, so I’m told) not to become part of it.

This limitation would seem to box it in permanently as a niche for ex-Episcopalians, a niche which would always remain very small and perhaps dwindle away entirely in time. Nothing of course would prevent any Catholic from attending the liturgies, but no matter how many did so, the official head count of the Ordinariate would remain low, and there would be no possibility of recruiting new priests for it apart from the occasional Episcopal priest deciding to take the great leap.

Well, all that must be placed in God’s hands for now—like everything else, of course, but in this case requiring a distinct effort. And we will continue to work on those chants, and try to attract a few more people.


The congregation: that's my foot in the lower right, and there are two other people not visible in this picture, so, a total of nine, counting Fr. Venuti's six-month-old son.


The Elevation: ad orientem, y'all!

The local paper did a story on Fr. Venuti, which was ok as far as it went, but it focused almost exclusively on him and the fact that he is married, with almost nothing about the Ordinariate. I'm about to write a letter to the editor.

You can hear the chanted Magnificat in the YouTube video below, beginning at 1:34:




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Well, at least the confusion should be familiar since we've been having that for the past 7 months. I was thinking yesterday how you can tell who said, "It is right to give Him thanks and praise," all the way across the room by the wry expressions on their faces.


My daughter reports that yesterday, when the congregation replied to the opening greeting with "And with your spirit," she heard a woman behind her say, "What? Did they change it?!"

That's pretty funny. Not just that she didn't know, but that she volunteered--like raising your hand in class to say something about the chapter you didn't read.

That's true, Janet, although our confusion is even worse, since it's more than language--some things are not exactly in the same order.

It reminds me of the first time I went to an Episcopalian church. I had had no idea that their liturgy was so much like ours. So, after a bit I got really comfortable and confident and was praying in a normal tone of voice when we got to that "quick and dead" part. I toned it down after that.


And what you say also reminds me of the first Latin Mass I attended after John Paul II gave permission for indult Masses. I just thought I was going to a regular Sunday Mass and it turned out to be the first Latin Mass in Memphis since VII, or at least the first licit one. I had nice nostalgic feelings about Mass when I was growing up and once I figured out what was going on, I looked forward to it, but it just wasn't the same.


I really like "the quick and the dead," though I suppose it's nostalgia as much as anything, because it was in the Apostle's Creed as I learned it in the Methodist Church.

About the Latin Mass, do you mean the Mass was different, or that it was the same but you didn't feel the way you thought you would?

Where was this when I really needed it?

I'm tempted to say that if you got through without it, you didn't really need it. Now you have it not as a crutch, but as a superabundance. But what do I know?

"not as a crutch, but as a superabundance"

Yes, that's exactly right. As for the other, there are degrees of need. Didn't need it to survive, so in that sense I didn't really need it, but I might have been in considerably better shape at several points if I'd had it.

As I said, what do I know?

Well, I think it was the same, but don't know. One thing was that I felt excluded. I have been to maybe 20 Tridentine Masses since then and I couldn't follow along in most of them because I couldn't hear the priest. I think that after a while I would get used to the Mass and not feel so out of it, but it's very hard for me not to get distracted. Also, I'm pretty sure that in 1963, we began to respond to some of the Mass in Latin and I've been to Masses where we did that and I much preferred them.

Before the changes, I was just soaked in that liturgy. I went to Mass 6 days a week for most of my life. Now it's become kind of foreign; however, if I was closer to a parish where they prayed the Latin Mass, I might try going there. Actually, your sounds better to me.


Your experience is pretty much the same as mine. I always defend the Tridentine Rite and the Indult, and I think it's pretty shameful the way the bishops in general treated those who didn't want to lose it. All that said, though, my few experiences of it have not been inspired me to seek it out. It's one thing not to understand everything, quite another to have absolutely no clue where we are in the rite through most of it.

And although I didn't grow up Catholic I did have two years of Latin in high school, which would be enough for me to follow along if I could hear.

I'm curious; how exactly does "formal membership is open only to former Anglicans" work?

I'm a little ignorant on these matters as a relatively new Catholic with no Catholic family in the States. I spent a few months regularly attending an Byzantine divine liturgy and no one raised an eyebrow.

Does it mean that if you tried to formally register as a parishioner, you'd be denied? Couldn't you regularly attend anyways? I suppose you'd be under a penumbra of 'disobedience' by traditional standards, but in our world of LCWR and SSPX...

Anyways, I don't live near any ordinariate sites, but a very interesting post. Thanks.

There are two kinds of Latin Mass where I live in the States, not in different places but in the same churches. The causes of the variations are beyond my observation. There is one where it is as Janet says and the priest just mutters away quietly and there is one that is what they call a dialogue mass, with some things spoken by the congregation. I prefer the latter, but I prefer either to the novus ordo. There are pictures in the book I use so I can figure pretty easily what is happening, and I am one of the most liturgically ignorant rad trads out there

I believe I've encountered the term "dialogue mass" in pre-VII writings, treated as a sort of progressive thing.

"Does it mean that if you tried to formally register as a parishioner, you'd be denied? Couldn't you regularly attend anyways?"

Yes and yes, as I understand it. I am very hazy about this, not being much learned in ecclesiastical stuff, but if you're formally in the Ordinariate, it's sort of like being in a non-geographical diocese. I don't know that there would be anything disobedient about attending the Anglican Mass regularly, but you would probably feel less than fully a part of it. And from my somewhat selfish point of view, this restriction would in effect seem not only to limit the growth but eventually kill off the Anglican thing, because there are only so many Episcopalians and other Anglicans who are going to cross over, and I would think that in another generation or so that would end, as the Episcopal Church becomes more purely what it is now and also continues to shrink, as it has been doing for a while.

And what about children?


Good question.

I think formal membership would in practice only matter for things like weddings, christenings, confirmations. And is the Easter obligation not to be met in one's own parish? Or is that not even recommended these days?

For the first time in my life I almost wish I were an ex- Anglican. Almost.

I don't know if it would have been worth it, Louise.:-)

I never heard that about the Easter obligation, Paul, but that certainly doesn't mean it isn't the case. I think what you say about formal membership would be true day-to-day. It's the long-term prospect I'm concerned about. The "only matters for weddings etc." can cut both ways. There are a significant number of Lebanese here, going back to the late 19th c, who are technically part of the Maronite rite, but there is no Maronite liturgy.

I couldn´t put ´dialogue mass´in inverted commas because I couldn´t figure out where they were on the French keyboard. A lot of the keys were not where my fingers anticipated them, so it was hard to say much.

I recently read a book by Laszlo Dobszay (RIP), with a title such as ´The Restoration and Reform and Organic Development of the Roman Rite´. He absolutely prefers the Roman Rite, ie roughly something like the 1962 mass in Latin ad orientem. He also says it will die if it does not contue to develop organically, that is, if it remains fossilized in the 1962 format. He also observes that, most people, if they went to the Old Mass, would be entirely disengaged from it. They have become too used to the Mass in the vernacular. He suggests, as one way forward, to have the Old Roman Rite in the vernacular, ad orientem. Dobszay was a musicologist, and wrote lots of music for the Propers in Hungarian (his vernacular).

I agree with his sentiments, but the constituency for this is even smaller than that for the 1962 mass in Latin ad orientem. Those guys and gals who go to that mass don´t want any reform or organic development of it. They want it to be fossilized. They object to the ´dialogue mass´on ´slippery slope´principles.

What Mac is liking in the Ordinariate Mass seems to be something along parallel lines to what Dobszay proposes. It is great. It is just that there doesn´t seem to be a huge market for it. So what I´m saying is that, if one has to chose between Novus Ordo as currently performed and Usus Antiquor in its current fossilized state, I sadly select the latter.

I think I'd go with the former. I haven't really had the option. I'm not even certain that the old Latin Mass is offered regularly in this diocese now, and if it is, it's at an inconvenient place and time. I'm not drawn enough to it to go to the trouble, as I'm doing with the Anglican one.

Yes, there's a definite parallel with Dobszay's idea. I would like to think that there actually is a market for the Anglican Use. The experience of that Texas parish suggests there might be. Most likely, however, Rome doesn't really want there to be.

I resonate with your comment, ´where was this when I needed it´. I know it is would be pious to respond that God deliberately kept it from you when you needed it so you wouldn´t idolatise it. But we do not know that. It may just have been an awful thing that happened that you had to deal with. For 20 or more years I hoped they would do an Órdinariate´type scheme and ´catholicise´the BCP enough to make it usable as an RC rite. But now that is happening, I have grown attached to the old Roman rite!

What I would like to see in parish that have a mix of English and Spanish-speaking parishioners like ours, is the Novus Ordo in Latin. That way we can have Mass together, without anybody "winning" or "losing." It seems like learning the Mass in Latin together would be much more community-building that toggling back and forth between English and Spanish.


Lassarona, Larrasoana, it's all the same to me.

I didn't realize that you had been hoping for a Catholic BCP etc. Actually I'd wondered what you and Paul thought--if to you it was maybe just some C of E thing that you had no interest in.

As to the why...theodicy to me is sort of a hopeless labyrinth.

Cross-posted with you, Janet.

That would be a good idea in some ways, though personally I just don't have any attachment to Latin at all. I suppose it would come in time. Interesting, though--I never thought about it, but in a multi-lingual environment the vernacular Mass is actually divisive--the natural tendency over time would be to have English parishes and Spanish parishes.

Well, it's very divisive. Why don't you learn Spanish songs? Well, you know them, why don't you join the choir and lead the Spanish songs? Stuff like that. It's like we didn't really need to use a common language in Mass before, and then we gave it up just before we really began to need it.


Some major churches in Brussels do a Mass with the core in Latin and the rest (hymns, homily) alternating Dutch and French. It's OK if your Dutch and French are good, but can be a bit alienating otherwise. Particularly when they don't give a mini-sermon in one language and then in the other, but just have one sermon and switch languages halfway.

Both my parents, and one of my grandparents (and, indeed, one of my great-grandparents, and a great aunt), were converts from Anglicanism. I think this is something my grandmother might have appreciated (she took the occasion offered by quite severe rheumatoid arthritis to excuse herself from attending "modern masses"; it didn't stop her getting about to other things when she had a mind to though).

just have one sermon and switch languages halfway.



Yes, that sounds pretty horrible. Surely the assumption is that nearly everybody can understand both?!

That's an impressive heritage, Paul. And I must say impressive that you've stuck with it. It seems that convert lines often peter out. Well, having said that, I realize I have very little to base it on, just a few cases.

Janet, after we crossed the Pyrannees I said to a guy from Venezuala, ´the weather was beautiful, deo gratias´. He didn´t get that. All he got from it was the upward glance. So he said ´gracias a senor´.

So I repose no hope in the Novus Ordo in latin bringing English / Spanish congregations together. But I think there is an urgent need for something, because at present in my op, the Spanish do not identify with the American Catholic church.

Mac, I was never enough of an Anglican to be deeply inculcated with their liturgy. But I always did thing the BCP was better than the novus ordo

Certainly any Latin Mass would require a lot of Latin. Nobody much has even the knowledge that a 10-year-old altar boy in 1960 would have had. I know someone who attends a parish where they occasionally do something like the Agnus Dei in Latin. She refers to it as "all that ray-ray stuff." As in "miserere".

Fr. George Rutler, on converting from Anglicanism (well post V-II) is said to have remarked that he did miss having the Mass in English.

So, coincidence of coincidences. Fr. Venuti just concelebrated with the pastor the divine liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic church I attended this morning. I met him and his wife and briefly talked with him afterwards, though I couldn't stay for very long. Good man.

That is indeed a remarkable coincidence. I had no idea that was happening, but I just told my wife about it, and she said he had mentioned before they left on this trip that he was excited about having that opportunity.

Grumpy, I wasn't saying that they would have any familiarity with Latin, nor would the English-speaking people have it. It would have to be a cooperative effort, it could be done slowly, and it would not favor one group of parishioners over the other. Could work, but I doubt anyone would try it.

Latin IS the official language of our part of the Church. In some sense, it belongs to all of us. If I really wanted to go to a Latin Mass, it would only take me an extra 20 minutes or so to get to one, so obviously it's not a big deal for me, but I'm just saying that if we had had this influx of Spanish-speaking Catholics in 1950, we wouldn't have had all this confusion at Mass.

Maclin, I could rant about the "ray=ray" business on several levels, but I won't.


The ray-ray person and her husband are cradle Catholics born about the time of Vatican II and she went to Catholic schools all the way through (not sure about him). Apparently they had zero exposure to Latin.

I just noticed that my comment above says "Certainly any Latin Mass would require a lot of Latin." !! I meant to to say something like "a lot of instruction in Latin."

I agree that something like that could work, and arguably ought to be done, but I also agree that it's extremely unlikely that anyone would try. Think about the resistance to the recent fairly minor changes to the English. I don't mean they were insignificant, btw, but in terms of actual changes to the wording they were pretty slight.

About twenty years ago I said something to a seminary professor, in passing, about Latin classes at the seminary.

"We don't have Latin classes!" he cried, in genuine horror at anbody thinking there might be such a thing.

At the same time, the Reformed Church in the Netherlands was insisting that pastors be able to read Calvin's Institutes in the original Latin ...

That "genuine horror" is pretty characteristic of a certain kind of Catholic, alas. A certain very numerous kind. Seems like Latin *has* to have some sort of revival, though. Whether it's in the liturgy or not, somebody has to be able to read all those documents correctly.

A little clarification on one point. As far as membership goes for the Ordinariate parishes: it is limited, but not solely to former Anglicans. It is directed towards former Anglicans, and, yes, non-former Anglicans who have entered through the Latin Rite may not join. But, anyone who converts through an Ordinariate parish, is allowed to do so and will be listed as an Anglican Use member.
So, the Holy Father's intention for the Ordinariate was two-fold:
1) to create a home specifically for former Anglicans, and 2) to use these former Anglicans to evangelize other "liturgical Protestants", ie- Lutherans, Methodists, etc.
Every Ordinariate priest holds bi-ritual faculties for both the Anglican Use and the typical Latin Rite. Therefore, anyone who converts and is confirmed via an Ordinariate priest can chose at that moment which rite to enter.

thank you Mr PITTS

Thanks, Andy. I didn't realize that non-Anglican Protestants could convert through an Ordinariate parish. And it's reflective of my personal obsession that I didn't even think about it. It comes from 30 years of commiserating with fellow Catholics, both cradle and convert, about the state of the liturgy. I think there are a lot of Catholics who were never Anglican who would be drawn to this liturgy. I was disappointed to learn that they can't switch rites, so to speak--I know the A.O. is not a rite, strictly speaking--they can't do something analogous to Latin Rite folks going Byzantine.

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