Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Collect for All Saints' Day from the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer

O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly loved thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The English and Welsh Martyrs , Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Tyburn Tree

It was 15 years ago this week when after enduring a sleepless, 16 hour bumpy flight from Manila via Hong Kong to Heathrow, I checked in a budget hotel near Victoria Station, London. Hungry and a bit disorientated so early in the morning, I asked the hotel concierge where the horrors! nearest McDonald's was. The woman at the desk told me in a somewhat Cockney accent to walk along Victoria Street and on my right at the corner of the piazza, is a Mc Donalds. Well the piazza did not just reveal a McDonald's but the magnificent brick pile called Westminster Cathedral. So I went for a peek through the cathedral doors.

I was just in time for the 7:00 AM Mass. And I reckoned it would be quite rude to leave so I attended the service. The saints that were being commemorated were the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, for it was their October 25 feast day. The officiating priest was Fr Alan Hopes, who I found out in Wikipedia became a bishop and now will likely be the first Bishop of the Anglican Ordinariate in England. Bishop Hopes was an Anglican priest who joined the Catholic Church in 1992, just as the Church of England authorized the ordination of women as priests.

That morning Mass was memorable since it was my first Latin Mass! Fr Hopes sang the Latin parts of the Novus Ordo Mass in a way that your soul will be lifted up to heaven and there was the excellent choir to sing too. There were a handful of worshipers at that early hour. Some were from Africa, North America,Latin America, Asia, two Filipinos who if I remember were sailors on shore leave and some Australians. London is such a cosmopolitan city that a Catholic service is made really Catholic since worshipers come from all over the world.

Even if  What I remember about Fr Hopes' homily is the fact that the 40 Martyrs came from all walks of life. There were the unlettered, the womenfolk, the priests, nuns, brothers and all sorts of religious, tradesmen like Nicholas Owen, the short man who made the priestholes, men of letters like Robert Southwell, and of course the nobility. The most famous of these martyrs is Edmund Campion, who probably was the most eloquent of them all. Campion was offered all honours and even a bishopric by the Queen herself, if he would just attend Anglican services. Though Campion was able to Brag, the rest lived their lives as ordinarily as possible until God brought them to the spot where they have to make that choice! The complete list of all the English and Welsh Reformation martyrs are here.

My favourite  among the English and Welsh martyrs aside from Thomas More, Edmund Campion and John Fisher is none but Margaret Clitherow, the Pearl of York. Her home has become a site of pilgrimage in the Shambles at York.

Fr Hopes mentioned the "Tyburn Tree" which at first I thought was a tree planted to commemorate the martyrs. The next day I took the bus and stepped off at Marble Arch, walked to Tyburn and there was the "tree" which to my horror is not the one with leafy branches but the gallows by which the martrys were killed. Nearby is the Tyburn Convent which commemorates the site.

Not only Catholic and Protestant martyrs died here. (Protestants died too for their convictions) All sorts of criminals and political prisoners did. Tyburn thus has many meanings for us.

The English and Welsh martrys were ordinary men and women. Some of them had wealth and privilege, learning and eloquence, and many had none of those. But God brought them to the spot (right at the foot of the Tree, where the Queen's agents were authorized to set them free if they conformed to the Anglican settlement) where they had to choose following Him in exchange for their lives. It was and still is not an easy choice to make. Today we are unlikely to be brought to Tyburn and we can't choose to go to Tyburn but  God may bring us there.

Most likely we will be brought to smaller and unpretentious Tyburn Trees where we are not asked to give our lives but our positions, career opportunities, job and financial securities and possibilities for advancement in society if not for accumulation of wealth. The only thing to do  is to look  the other way. But this means too to conform to the ways of the world, as they say. And doing that is easy. What then would be our choice?

The martyrs were able to make their choice not on their power or wit alone but by God's grace. We pray for that grace. Not all the English Catholics were given the choice, many lived faithful lives and died peacefully. But still they  had that grace.

The first Filipino saints were laymen who lived during the same historical period of the English Reformation. St Lorenzo Ruiz was brought to a Japanese version of the Tree (which the Japanese probably copied from the Europeans) and Blessed Pedro Calungson was cut down by a machete. They could have escaped but made that Choice!

We are not going to ask the intercession of the 40 Martyrs, St Lorenzo Ruiz and Bld Pedro Calungsod for God to bring us to make that choice, but to give as grace so we can live our lives as better Christians. And just for that reason, we have to close the book of the Reformation. The Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church venerates the memory of these English and Welsh Martyrs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

TEC parish votes to join the Catholic Church as an Anglican Use parish

The Mt Calvary parish in Baltimore, Maryland, USA recently voted to leave the Episcopal Church in the United States. The story is here. Mt Calvary is a parish founded in 1842 and has been staunchly Anglo-Catholic. Now begins the difficult part of their journey. The parish has to settle property issues with the Episcopal Church. We hope that this will be amicable. We pray to God that the Mt Calvary parish and the local Episcopal diocese comes into an agreement. The Episcopalians thanking and waving Godspeed and the Catholics receiving them with open arms.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When did Christianity arrive in the Philippines?

Ren Aguila and I had an interesting discussion on early Christianity in Asia. And naturally this led to some talk on when the first Christians arrived in the Philippines.

Conventional history says that the first Christians came with Magellan in 1521. Here we can't contest for there was Antonio Pigafetta to record all of that in a journal which became a book. It is the first rather accurate (and thus modern) depiction of a voyage to Asia. The earlier works like the one of Marco Polo may be viewed as fantastic. Sceptics say that Marco Polo went to China. mentioned the use of paper money and yet did not even mention the Great Wall (and even dumplings they say)! Pigafetta's journal's mention the Easter Sunday Mass (March 31) celebrated in the Philippines. This "first Mass" (which is the first act of Christian worship in the Philippines) is a bone of contention. Where exactly in the Philippines was the first Mass celebrated?

Pigafetta records an island called "Mazaua" as the site. The problem is that  there is an island in Leyte called "Limasawa" and a place near Butuan as "Masaua". Pigafetta mentions a port with many boats. Today's Limasawa has no anchorage and definitely is not a busy port. Butuan has been proven by archeologists as an ancient trading port (the oldest balanghai boats were dug up there). But Butuan is not an island at all. However it could have been in 1521 since it sits on a river delta.

I won't delve much into this controversy that has the Philippine National Historical Institute in a bind. But there are other places in the Philippines that claim as the site of the first act of Christian worship. The most famous of this is Bolinao, Pangasinan. This northern Luzon town famous for its "bagoong", powdery white sand beaches and  as the site of the University of the Philippines marine laboratory, claims to be as the site of the first Mass in the Philippines. In front of the Spanish colonial Church of St James is a marker documenting this event.

Bolinao townspeople claim that Blessed Odorico of Pordenone landed in Bolinao, Pangasinan and celebrated the Mass in 1324, one hundred ninety seven years before Magellan's priest celebrated his in Mazaua. Odorico is claimed to have baptized the natives and made converts.  The marker in the church plaza was donated by citizens of Pordenone, Italy.

There is no doubt that Odorico went to China, India, perhaps Tibet and Southeast Asia as a missionary. There is documentation to prove this This missionary effort happened during the last period of Eastern Christian flowering in Asia. There is a lot of research that now proves that the Nestorian Church had an extensive presence in China and India.

However, there is no definite proof the Odorico landed in the Philippines. Of course the word "Philippines" had never been coined then! But the historical accounts say that Odorico visited a place called "Thalamasin" somewhere in Southeast Asia. The name "Pangasinan" refers to the widespread activity of making salt, thus the province is literally "the land of Salt". However it is claimed that the creation myth of the Ilocanos of Luzon, "Angalo ken Aran"(put into writing by Godofredo Reyes) mentions "Thalamasin" as a place name in what is now Pangasinan!

Is Thalamasin Pangasinan? The historians will have to dig out the documentation. This is where the Episcopal presence in the Philippines intersects with these controversies. The Episcopalian lay missionary Dr William Henry Scott,  (1921-1993) fondly known as "Scotty" is considered as the authority on pre-colonial Philippine history and the history of the Cordilleras. Scott spent most of his time in Sagada and taught for a time at the University of the Philippines. Scott did his PhD at the University of Santo Tomas where he was supervised by another eminent Filipino historian, Fr Horacio de la Costa. Scott's dissertation demolished the historicity of the Code of Kalantiaw establishing that it is not precolonial but dates back to 1914. He also concluded that there is no evidence that a Datu Kalatiaw ever existed. In his study of the Maragtas, he concluded that while Bornean datus may have arrived in Panay, the account preserved  the memory of an actual event as an oral history.

Scott's "Discovery of the Igorots" remains as the definitive work on Cordillera history but Scott's essays on Igorot religion and belief as this culture meets Christianity is important reading for any missionary. I like what he writes in "Worship in Igorot Life"

"The practice of religion as a literal way of life is precisely what any Christian body must attain if it is to be a Christian community at all., and such a Christian way of life should flow from the Christian faith and not vice versa".... "Therefore however imperative it may appear to modify the pagan's daily conduct out of allegiance to Christian charity or dogma, the stones with which to build a new way of life dare not be confused with food for a children hungering after the Living Bread"

There is still much to learn about the first time Christianity was planted in the Philippines. It is not a far out idea that the first Mass may have been Eastern Christian rather than Roman Catholic. Nestorians or Malabar Christians may have wandered onto Pangasinan's white beaches for the islands were trading with Asia. We have archeological evidence that there were Hindu and Buddhist missions in the precolonial Philippines. We have written accounts of Islamic missionaries. So it is not far fetched if there were Eastern Christians. But like Scott would challenge historians, find the documentation first.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pray for us!

The Anglican Use Chapter in the Philippines will very soon meet with the local Catholic ordinary to work out the details of organizational, pastoral, ecumenical and liturgical matters. We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers. We also ask you to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all  the saints who are the "crowning glory" of the English and Filipino churches, for our intentions

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A last Homily as an Anglican

Father Giles Pinnock preached his last homily as an Anglican. He will be received with his wife and kids in the Catholic Church in a few weeks.

Father Pinnock hits the nail on the head. When we finally make that decision to complete the Catholic faith in the Church that in all essence is Catholic, we bring only ourselves and prayer. In Fr Pinnock's case, it is the Morning and Evening prayers in the Book of Common Prayer.

While it may be good to bring the parish building and its furnishing with him, those are really non-essentials.

May all the saints who have made the same move, pray for Father Pinnock and his family.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Bishop of Fulham gets on the Pope's boat.

The Anglican Bishop of Fulham, The Rt Rev.John Broadhurst has said that he will join the English Ordinariate by the end of the year. You can read more about his decision here.

He says that he will remain chair of FiF UK since it isn't an "Anglican organisation" Perhaps he meant "Church of England"? The adjective "Anglican" today goes beyond the Anglican communion. One can be Anglican and yet be a Roman Catholic!

With the Ordinariates, I believe that the word "Anglo-Catholic" won't be appropriate enough to describe  Catholics like Bp Broadhurst. It is quite awkward to  call them Roman Anglican Catholics or even Anglican Roman Catholics! The best way to call them is simply this

Anglicans in communion with Rome or  The Anglican Church in communion with Rome.

We take the precedence of Russian Christians who are in communion with the Pope. They call themselves officially as

The Russian Orthodox Church in communion with Rome

Some Roman Catholics may be dismayed that the word :"Catholic" isn't in the official name. But the whole essence of being Catholic is  being with Rome and under the pastoral care of her Bishop.

The word "Catholic" like "Anglican" goes beyond the Roman Catholic Church. But really being Catholic means being under the pastoral care of the Pope.

So all under his care are equally Catholic whatever liturgical expressions, spirituality are used to express this one Faith.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Singapore

Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church is next door to the hotel I stayed on Queen Street. I never needed any wake up call since the Angelus bells served as my Holy Alarm clock. It is a 10 minute stroll from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. The church served and still serves the Chinese community although now Catholics from many countries, visitors and residents are ministered to. Filipinos working nearby form a significant congregation who attend the church,While the Catholic cathedral lays claim to be the Mother Church of the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, Sts Peter and Paul, built in 1869 can also lay claim as the Mother parish for all the Catholic parishes of Singapore. All the Catholic churches trace their origin from this small neo-Gothic church.

Whenever I am in Singapore, I make it a point to say a prayer at this church before attending to my business in the city. In the evening I make it a point to say a prayer too before hitting the sack at the hotel. I almost always make it for the Rosary. And the last time, I had a chat with a Franciscan friar about what else.... The Anglican ordinariates!

Sts Peter and Paul, the Catholic Cathedral and the Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator lie in Singapore's Museum district. The Armenian church is the oldest Christian place of worship in the city as it was built in 1835. The Armenian presence in Singapore is small but the community was able to build a splendid church which still remains a consecrated space even if services are held rather infrequently.

The museum district hosts the art museum (the former St Joseph's Boys School), the CHIJMES convent (now a complex of restaurants, bars and shops) and the Singapore Management University.

Visitors to Singapore may say a prayer at these churches which served and still serve as outposts of Christian missionary work in Southeast Asia. Today the Catholic and Anglican dioceses still live to their calling as missionaries. It is a good idea to start the day at prayer before attending to business matters or shopping. In the early evening before we hit the party circuit at Clarke Quay, it may be a good idea to drop by the Anglican Cathedral for evening prayer or quiet time.

St Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore

St Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore is the seat of the Bishop of Singapore, the Primate of the Anglican Province of Southeast Asia. The neo-Gothic church was inspired by the ruined Netley Abbey in England.  Built in 1842 by Indian convicts, the cathedral is a landmark in the middle of Singapore's business district. There is a worship service for Filipino residents of the city-state every Sunday. The church has stones from Canterbury in its fabric, thereby showing its communion with St Augustine's see.

The gifts of Anglican spirituality

So much has been discussed in blogs about what the Anglican patrimony will bring (or for a better word "restore") to the Catholic Church. We list 1) Evensong, 2) The Book of Common Prayer made Catholic, 3) A choir tradition, 4) A monastic take a parish life among others. While attending Evening Prayer at Singapore's Anglican Cathedral of St Andrew last week, I among the pews and embroidered kneeling cushions, reflected on the what kind of spirituality Anglicanism will restore in Roman Catholicism. Anglicanism in Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia (except the Philippines) is more evangelical and low church and true to its evangelical orientation, refuses to ordain women.  The Singapore cathedral is the seat of the Primate for Southeast Asia, who is at present Dr John Chew. The Anglican cathedral regularly holds worship services for the Filipino community.

In the 500 years or so after Henry VIII's break with Rome, the Roman and Anglican Churches have faced crises to its existence . Rome had to reform in Trent to face the continental Calvinist challenges while Canterbury had to settle with Elizabeth I's  via media to deal with Puritanism and a resurgent Roman Catholicism. While Elizabeth I was broadly Protestant, she was also broadly Catholic. And her Book of Common Prayer became a norm for Anglicanism and its expansion. In the 21st century the Roman and Anglican Communions are also facing the challenges of a more secular global society. Anglicanism is agonizing in its response faced with tensions from a sociological approach and an approach consistent with Biblical teaching while Roman Catholicism will stand by Apostolic teaching but is still finding a way to engage in a constructive manner in a church which is as polarized as the Anglicans are.

What then can Anglican spirituality contribute in this tension filled atmosphere? Not a few "freethinkers" have predicted the demise of the Church (Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant).

One of the major graces of Anglicanism is that its spirituality is very interior, sacramental and incarnational. It nourishes a liturgical piety which the focus of  is the Book of Common Prayer which was held up as the standard of the Anglican divines and mystics, a favourite of mine is John Donne. The BCP is not just a Mass book, a novena or a Bible, but a prayer book that families have kept throughout the generations. Their copy of the BCP may battered as it is brought from home to church. The BCP is used in the baptistry, during the wedding rites, in the dining room, to the bedroom for prayers at bedside, the sickbed for prayers of healing and to the final commendation at the graveyard. The BCP and its "Cranmerian" language to Anglicans was in a sense like the Tridentine Mass to Roman Catholics until the Vatican II liturgical reforms resulted in a vernacular Mass. An Archbishop of Canterbury even said that if anyone attends a BCP service in any part of the world, it proclaims the Catholicity of the faith. Right from the start Anglican spirituality was impelled to a Catholic unity and John Donne's mysticism was witness to that future reality. That reality is now with us, if we accept the added graces of the Holy Spirit.

And that spirituality prizes moderation. This is I believe is interior too in the spirituality of Pope Benedict XVI. He is not Anglican but I daresay he is the most Anglican of the Popes. Moderation is a leaven in a society that is pulled apart by polarization and its medium is a return to the older liturgical forms. This I believe is Anglicanism's grace to the Catholic Church.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anglican Ordinariate "viral infections" increase!

Check out all the petitions to join the United States Anglican Ordinariate now that the Vatican has appointed a delegate to deal with these. The congregations come from the whole breadth of the Anglican spectrum.

Deo gratias!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The culture wars have finally reached the Philippines

Tourist guide Carlos Celdran's heckling protest stunt (protesting the Catholic Church stance on the Reproductive health (RH) bill) during an ecumenical prayer service at the Manila Cathedral brought home the fact that the secularist culture vs Catholic culture wars has finally come to the Philippines. Mr Celdran, who is a member of a group of freethinkers and is a most sought heritage tour guide in Manila, shouted to the bishops to stop "getting involved in politics".  He raised a sign with the name "Damaso". Padre Damaso is a fictional friar in Dr Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" and has become a culture icon of what is  most despised and hypocritical in Catholic clergy.

Observers noted that Celdran was dressed up like Dr Rizal himself. It appears that was done for more propaganda impact. The ecumenical service was attended by Protestant clergy too as it was to celebrate efforts between the churches to distribute millions of bibles for indigent families. When Celdran disrupted the service, a Protestant bishop was at the lectern delivering his address.

Celdran was immediately removed from the cathedral by police officers, arrested on orders of the Mayor, handcuffed and was placed in custody in the nearby Ermita police station. He was booked on the basis of an archaic provision in the Penal Code, which penalizes "acts offending religious feelings".

Many lawyers have told me that this is the first time they know of  anyone being charged of violating this provision. In fact religious ministers of certain sects bash each other's doctrines in prayer rallies and no one has been arrested for doing so.

Celdran should have been thrown out of the Cathedral and onto Plaza Roma on his butt and that should have been it. Celdran deserves that.  But the Manila Cathedral dean pressed on with filing charges.  Celdran doesn't deserve to gain media mileage when photos of him in Dr Rizal's trademark suit and bowler's hat inside a jail cell is found everywhere!

Unfortunately some in the Catholic hierarchy were simply unprepared to deal with such issues. Some bishops threatened civil disobedience if the RH bill is passed. The bishops conference president Bishop Nereo Odchimar even mentioned the "e" word (excommunication) in an interview with a blurb whose "balanced and fearless" views is open to question!  Odchimar speculated on the canonical grounds by which President Benigno Aquino III could be excommunicated if he insists in promoting the bill. This is downright silly and irresponsible. This has been flashed in the international press and even in international Catholic news websites. It has made the Philippine church a laughingstock the world over.

This of course fanned the latent anti-clericalism in Filipino society especially in the elite and intellectual class. The CBCP has released a statement that it never considered excommunicating the President. Gee! The CBCP should seriously consider putting a gag order on its president! If it can't do that, Catholics should ask the Pope to do so. The damage to the credibility of the Catholic bishops has been severe!

The Philippine bishops have still a lot to learn in dealing with secularism. They can take a good cue from Pope Benedict XVI, who never appeared to be condemning of secularism as long as it respects faith (this was grudgingly accepted even by the Protest the Pope people in England). The Church has to dialogue with secularists of every stripe.  A siege mentality will make a fool of the Church hierarchy. The bishops have to listen to the laity and here catechism is somewhat lacking. Instead of talking about excommunicating anyone, the Church should aggressively promote its pro life stance in catechesis of the young.

In this tale, it's 1 for the secularists and 0 for the Catholic traditionalists.