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, September 18, 2011

The American Ordinariate is almost upon us

The American Ordinariate which is supposed to be erected by the fall of this year seems to be almost upon us, The Ordinariate which is expected to be named in honor of the Blessed Virgin's title of Our Lady of the Atonement will probably include all of the Pastoral Provision Anglican Use parishes. For those unfamiliar with the Pastoral Provision, this is an ecclesial structure that allowed former lay and clergy of the Episcopal Church in the USA to join the Catholic Church as groups and retain aspects of their Anglican/Episcopal liturgical expressions. These expressions were deemed "proper" to the Anglican tradition and gave these groups a distinct Anglican identity within the wider Latin Rite church in the USA. Pope John Paul II gave his approval to the provision in 1980.

The Provision became a sensation in the early 1980s for it made possible for former Episcopal priests who are married to be ordained as Catholic priests and be dispensed from the obligation of remaining celibate. In short the Provision took advantage of a dispensation from clerical celibacy that really wasn't new. The Popes have allowed married ministers of Protestant churches to be ordained and remain married. While a majority of former Episcopal clergy who were ordained were married, a minority were unmarried and they had to take the obligation of remaining celibate.  A distinct liturgy and a Mass book called the Book of Divine Worship was authorized very soon after in 1983. The BDW incorporated and retained much from the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer (1979 and 1928) while including the Eucharistic canon of the Roman Missal. Most noticeably, the BDW removed Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's Eucharistic canon which denied the Catholic belief on Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The BDW was not free from criticisms from the Anglican and Roman Catholic sides.

The Pastoral Provision scheme resembles and differs from the Ordinariate in major ways. First like in the Ordinariate, the Pastoral Provisions parishes are "personal" parishes. However unlike in the Ordinariate, these parishes are under the jurisdiction of their Latin Rite ordinary and not under the Ordinariate's ordinary. If a new parish is to be erected, the Latin Rite bishop must give his assent. In the USA some bishops did not give their assent for Anglican Use parishes while some did. Most of the 7 Anglican Use parishes are in Texas. These parishes are one of the most vibrant in the American Catholic Church.

The Pastoral Provision really is centered on how Episcopal priests can be made Catholic priests. There was really no structure in place whether new ordinands to the priesthood from Anglican Use communities (all will be expected to be celibate) will continue to celebrate the sacraments in the Anglican Use. Lately even Lutheran ministers have taken advantage of the provision.

When the American Ordinariate is erected, if the Anglican Use parishes do join, they will be transferred from the jurisdiction of their Latin Rite bishops to the Ordinary. So far after Anglicanorum coetibus was promulgated, other US Episcopal/Anglican groups have made known their intention to join the Ordinariate. Since there is no Ordinariate yet, they are undergoing their catechetical formation under their respective Latin rite bishops.

Unlike in England, American Anglo-Catholics have a wider spectrum and diversity of acceptance of Catholic doctrine as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Also there is no Established Anglican Church in the USA. Aside from the Episcopal Church, there are a lot continuing Anglican Churches some of which have a Catholic orientation and some are more Evangelical.  This has made the establishment of the American Ordinariate require a lot of time. And because of this diversity, it is expected that fewer groups will join the American Ordinariate than the case in England.

Widely tipped to be the first American Ordinary is one of the first priests ordained under the Pastoral Provision, Father Christopher Phillips. Fr Phillips has had wide experience in advancing and conserving the Anglican tradition in Catholicism and dealing with the Vatican bureaucracy. His efforts have been lauded by by the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and its senior clergy led by the Ordinary, the Rt Rev. Msgr Keith Newton.

The establishment of the American Ordinariate will demonstrate that Anglicanism in the Catholic Church is really Catholic and not just limited to one country, like England. This Ordinariate will also likely have an ecumenical charism. Also Anglican Use in the Philippines  will be connected to this Ordinariate. It is foreseen that we in the Philippines by reasons of history will draw prayer support and affection from this Ordinariate, while we remain obedient to our Filipino diocesan bishops until a Filipino Ordinariate is erected when God at last wills it.

As a side note, if the American Ordinariate is named after Our Lady of Atonement, it then becomes linked under this title to the Catholic Diocese of Baguio in the Cordilleras whose patron and Cathedral is named under that title. This is significant for the Anglo Catholic presence in the Philippines was first planted by the Episcopal Church in this region 100 years ago. Is this a sign of things to come?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Manifesto for Holy Cross Day

An Appeal to the Philippine Nation
We are Christians of various backgrounds and traditions. We are bound by a common confession in God who is one and triune, and who has loved us so much that in Christ God has destroyed death and made possible the redemption of this world. Through the Spirit which has been given to us, we have the courage to profess this love to all men and women.
Today is a date special to many Christians. It honors the Cross, which is the sign by which Christ conquered death, defeated sin, and challenged the powers of this world. This sign of powerlessness was so powerful that it has transformed the world.
Even the things we hold dear were started by people of faith, especially those who affirmed faith in the Cross of Christ: democracy, freedom, the rule of law. The achievements of our civilization were achievements of those who also found comfort, peace, and above all, freedom in that redeeming Cross.
In our time, however, this whole story is being challenged by those who believe that our nation should, in its public life, not be founded on any form of religious belief. They further assert that the Christian faith, whatever its manifestations, has been harmful to us as a nation. To suggest that it should be disregarded because of the tragic legacies of colonialism neglects the way by which the Cross of Christ has so transformed our nation that we are now witnessing to it even in nations where Christianity seems to be in decline.
We confess that we have not been truly faithful to this Cross of Christ. We have neglected its power to transform our nation and thus surrendered our future to the forces which threaten to undermine faith in God.
This is the same Cross which Paul the Apostle spoke about more than two millennia ago, when he wrote to the believers in Corinth:

Jews look for signs but Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:23-31)
These are words of hope for our struggling nation. Our hope is not in renouncing God as the center of our lives and our world. Our hope is in God, who loves us so much that we cannot help but return this love.
Regardless of where we disagree on the little things, we hold fast to this common confession.
Against those who say that God has no place in public life, we say that God is ultimately the Lord of all, even our politics.
Against those who say that faith ought to have no role in how our economy and our society works, we say that Christ redeemed even our economic and social structures.
Against those who say that we must alone rely upon science and technology without the guiding hand of faith-based ethics, we affirm that by the Cross, all our human endeavors will be judged.
But most of all, we affirm that all is not lost.
We appeal to Filipinos of faith, especially in God and in Jesus Christ, whether here in the country or abroad, to work for a society where there is space for the spiritual.
We appeal to our brothers and sisters who do not share our faith to join us in this endeavor, for this will only make possible the freedom of belief that you seek.
We appeal to our churches to set aside animosity and hatred and to work together to create a new and transformed society shaped by the Cross of Christ, where all are truly equal, truly free, and truly human.
Finally, we appeal to those who have lost faith in Christ and in God. We pray that you will discover once again how God has loved you first and that you will find that only in Christ can you truly think free.
May God’s Name be glorified. May the Cross of Christ triumph in our nation and in the world.

14 September 2011
Holy Cross Day
Renato Paolo V. Aguila
writer/researcher, Philippine Bible Society
Romel Bagares
Elder, Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines
Benjamin Vallejo Jr.
Associate Professor, UP Diliman
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo
Pastor, Norzagaray Christian Church

Monday, September 5, 2011

September, The Holy Virgin, Cardinal Newman and 9/11

The Church marks the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8. Thus September is also "Mary's month" in the Philippines.

Filipinos are people who look forward to birthdays of all sorts. Not just for the party and the cakes but to mark the coming of a better year for the celebrant. I have had 44 birthday cakes in my life and have blown 44 or more candles off my cakes!

Although I was born in March, this September I mark another "birthday". This is when God gave me a second chance at living.

On September 5, 2001 I was diagnosed with a bad case of dengue fever which progressed from bad to the worst. So I was rushed to hospital, the Episcopalian run St Luke's where the doctors realized my prognosis was bad. Being a scientist, I asked the doctors "if I will make it". Well they had to tell me what they thought.

I had to prepare for death, as long as I was conscious. A dying man may have regrets and likewise I had too. I haven't done much good or anything at all!

On September 9, I called for a priest. No priest came but one of my ex students who was a Jesuit scholastic/seminarian (he has since been ordained as a priest) came in quite unexpectedly in soutane and the nurses thought I was to kick the bucket. He was a Chinese from the mainland and he asked me to pray to the first saint that came to my mind. And that was no other than John Henry Newman. Newman wasn't beatified then. The seminarian asked Newman's intercession to heal me.  The next day I was going into shock. An Anglican priest came in and gave me Extreme Unction (I can't remember his name!) A little later the Roman Catholic hospital chaplain came in and gave me a reproduction of the Virgin of Piat's picture.  The Catholic priest came from the Cagayan region where the Virgin of Piat is venerated by the people.

On September 10, my situation went from bad to worse. I now know the feeling when life ebbs and for all we have done on this earth matters not. What matters is the love and mercy of God. The Blessed Virgin Mary does pray for us at the hour of our death, when that comes and when God finally allows it to happen! But suddenly something strange did happen to me. The next day (Sept 11), I was up and about, walking along the wards and hungry! The doctors were amazed! The disease ran its course.

But the amazement faded when I saw on the hospital TV that two skyscrapers New York were destroyed in a terrorist plot when two aircraft were deliberately crashed on the WTC. I thought it was some B movie on cable, but it was for real. The doctors were no longer glued to my case but to the terrorist attack.

And so if they ask me what I was doing when the Twin Towers collapsed, I can only say that God brought me back to life when that happened.

When I was well enough once more, I emailed the Oratorian Fathers in London about Cardinal Newman's intercession and how a seminarian prayed for that intercession. I got a response from them and they told me that they will have my testimony as part of the positio for Newman.

Did a miracle happen to me? The scientist in me would say "No" since there are people who do survive the worst prognosis for dengue. And it just happened that one of them was me! That is the limit of what Science can say in this affair. However I can say that Cardinal Newman brought my prayers to God and that is what really matters. There is no such thing as "it just happens to be" to God. God wills what happens. As for the Virgin of Piat, she has rescued the Itawes people from drowning in the 16th century, healed the sick at death's door and she continues to do so. God wills that the Blessed Virgin Mary works these miracles for His glory.

And on a September day, the 19th last year. Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

An Anglican in Japan joins the Catholic Church

I'm a sucker for conversion stories. I'm always interested in why one person changes churches or religions. I find that my knowledge and my thinking are greatly improved by looking at and reading about the area that divide beliefs, worldviews, and paradigms. Different beliefs and denominations can have very different ways of looking at the world, and reading about those that change often clarify the differences.

Russell Stutler is one person who has gone on such a journey. He writes:
I live in Tokyo. I was born in Japan to an American father and Japanese mother, and was raised in Ohio.

In 1987 I was sent to Japan by a small missionary board (sort of a renegade organization comprised of evangelical Episcopalians). I was their only missionary assigned to Japan, and my task was to find a place to live, learn Japanese, and find a way to serve God here.

On August 14, 2011, I joined the Catholic Church. I had previously been a member of the Anglican Church and was a non-denominational evangelical Protestant before that. I'm still thoroughly evangelical, and always will be. Why did I do such a crazy thing? I wrote an explanation for those who are curious.
That explanation is here. It is a detailed intellectual exploration of the issues and that appeals to me. While lengthy for a blog post, it is not overly long and is broken into different sections.  To give you a fair idea of all the various sections would require much too much space, but here is an excerpt from one:
But can I trust them?

When I first took a serious look at the Catholic Church I had the major obstacles that all Protestants have, such as the pope, Mary and the saints, and I began my investigation like any Protestant would, by looking for evidence in the Bible. Then I turned to the early Church Fathers, church history, and also a big fat book called The Catechism of the Catholic Church to see what the Catholic Church actually taught about these issues. Even as I came up with enough evidence to overcome some difficulties, other issues popped up that I needed confront. I suspected that even more issues might surface later on, and the quest could go on forever if my goal was to pursue every difficult teaching to a satisfactory conclusion.

My problem was I was going about it the wrong way because I had missed the main issue which was whether or not the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is trustworthy. I wouldn't have to prove every doctrine that I came across if I could just trust the Church and accept that it has been guided all along by the Holy Spirit...
If you are like me and like such stories or if you are interested in an intellectual and Bible-based summary of a key Catholic-versus-Protestant issues, read the whole thing.