Sunday Night Journal — September 2, 2012
My Word (A Letter to the Editor)
I'm afraid this isn't going to be of great interest to most people. It's something I've been wanting to do for several months, but couldn't find time for, so I decided to devote to it the time I would ordinarily have spent working on the SNJ. The local paper (the Mobile Press-Register) has a feature called "Your Word" which is a sort of step up from a normal letter to the editor: it can run up to 600 words, and is published as a separate item on the editorial page. I am submitting the following 592 words as a candidate for that feature. It may well be too late for them to want to publish it, having been sparked by a story published three months ago. But it was going to bother me until I wrote it. Better late than never.
Back in June the Register ran a story by Roy Hoffman about Fr. Matthew Venuti, the newly-ordained Catholic priest who is the pastor of a group of Catholics affiliated with the somewhat awkwardly-named Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. As a member of that group, I was happy to see the story. I was, however, a little disappointed that it was focused on the fact that Fr. Venuti is married. Moreover, an exchange of letters over the next few weeks dealt almost entirely with arguments for and against the admission of married men to the Catholic priesthood in general. That is, obviously, an important question. But I want to point out that it’s not what the Ordinariate is about.
The Ordinariate was created by Pope Benedict in 2009, and is intended primarily for Christians of the Anglican tradition who wish to be in full communion with Rome. It allows these Christians to worship as Catholics in a mode to which they are deeply attached: the liturgy based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Anglicanism in this country is of course represented most prominently by the Episcopal Church, and it has a rich and beautiful liturgy
I grew up in the Methodist Church, which is an offshoot of Anglicanism, and much of the language in its worship is drawn from the Book of Common Prayer. After throwing over Christianity in general as an adolescent, I found myself being drawn back to it as an adult, and joined the Episcopal Church. I was surprised and pleased to hear in the Episcopal liturgy the source of many of the things I remembered fondly from the Methodist Church. Over the next few years, however, I began to feel called to the Catholic Church, and was received into the Church in 1981.
But I always missed the Anglican liturgy. Indeed, I pined for it. It is a regrettable but unfortunate fact of history that when Rome decided, after Vatican II, to translate the liturgy into English, the language simply was no longer as rich and powerful as it had been in the 1500s. And the Catholic Church did not have the tradition of congregational singing that had developed in the Protestant churches, so music in Catholic worship has often been pretty thin stuff (though Mobile’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a striking exception, and the situation in general has improved).
This may seem only a matter of aesthetics, and it is, but not only: beauty is important. Worship should touch the heart as well as the mind, and for many people there is nothing that brings the two together more effectively than the English of the Book of Common Prayer and the hymns and chants which are part of the Anglican and indeed general Protestant tradition.
The local “chapter,” so to speak, of the Ordinariate is the Society of St. Gregory the Great, named after the pope who decreed that the Catholic Church in England should be free to worship in a manner suited to its culture. We have Mass—yes, a fully valid Catholic Mass—at St. Mary of the Visitation parish, at the corner of Old Shell and Lafayette on Sundays at 4:30, preceded by Evening Prayer at 4. We are as yet a tiny group, but we feel that we have something good that we want to share. We invite anyone who’s interested to join us: Catholics who are former Anglicans, Anglicans who have wondered about becoming Catholic, and Catholics who are simply curious about the liturgy we love so much.
I hope they do publish it. I think it achieves just what you would want it to.
Posted by: Janet | 09/03/2012 at 03:38 PM
Thanks. I'll let you know.
Posted by: Mac | 09/03/2012 at 10:26 PM
Very good, Mac. I am sure there must be some people who are curious about the Ordinariate, but do not know where to find it. I hope the paper publishes your piece.
There is a "chapter" of the Ordinariate in my city too, but so far as I know it is still tottering into a standing position. There is a group, and they have been meeting, but I don't believe they have parish space yet, nor do they hold regular services. I would like to attend once it starts, but for various reasons I don't think our family will officially join.
Posted by: Craig | 09/04/2012 at 09:57 AM
Thanks. Considering how much bigger your city is than mine (I think), maybe it's good progress that our group is more or less standing, barely--we do have a regular place for Mass (at one of the two most beautiful churches in the archdiocese), and regular services. I think I'm safe in assuming that your local group would be very happy to see you.
Posted by: Mac | 09/04/2012 at 01:32 PM