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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Home! part 1

The first installment of the lecture given by Dr Benjamin Vallejo Jr to the Catholic students ministry of the University of the Philippines, January 25, 2012, Delaney Hall, UP Diliman. 


Who are the Anglicans?

I always believed that Anglicans do not convert to become Catholics. They just come home. After all the word “Anglican” means “of England” and could also be used to describe the Catholic faith as practiced by the English, especially before the Reformation. But then the Reformation happened.

Father Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk nailed his 95 theses on the west door of Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517, a date so important in Church history which the Protestant Churches celebrate as Reformation Day. The theses are nothing but academic points of debate on certain church practices that Fr Luther found unacceptable. It is true that the Medieval Roman Church has abused its power to care for souls. Fr Luther objected the “sale of indulgences” simply because another priest Johann Tetzel made the whole idea of praying for the souls in Purgatory a business transaction. The Church needed the money to finish constructing St Peter’s Basilica.

If one day if you have the chance to visit Rome,  I bet that you will marvel at the priceless expression of the Catholic faith in St Peter’s especially in art but was St Peter’s worth the Reformation that made it possible?
Perhaps all Christians whether they be Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or Anglican may have asked the question. St Peter’s is both a sign of our division and our unity as Christians. St Peter’s Basilica can both repel us with its ostentation and the cost of dividing the church but still unite us since all of this was made for God’s glory. But still we are drawn to St Peter’s and to  most of all to St Peter. St Peter is probably the wimpiest of the Apostles, yet even if he denied the Lord and was hesitant to lead, the Lord selected him and gave him a great responsibility. He was already old when he was crucified like Jesus but upside down exactly on the place where St Peter's Basilica stands today. Jesus foretold of this and even in his weakness Peter accepted the commission.  And for that the great church is built on Peter's grave.

The Church is built on Peter since he received that important commission from Christ which you can read or better yet hear in the Gospels at Mass. What we recall of that commission is the "Keys" and that Hell won't prevail over the Church. But the Reformation made it more difficult to see that truth since there was a Holy Catholic Church but she was run by sinners and the holy alike. But most of the time, it was the sinners who were on top.  But it is Faith that allows us to see beyond the shadows and darkness, thanks to the witness of the Saints, whose vocation was really authentic reformation. For that truth many Catholics gave their lives and for me the most notable would be Thomas More and Cardinal John Fisher, who gave their lives when the Reformation came to England. Many followed Peter to martyrdom. Thus England has been blessed by the witness of hundreds of martrys some of which are known only to God. Of these we know probably at most 80, forty of which have been canonized as the "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales". 

King Henry VIII in 1536 since he had no male heir would do anything to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine who gave him only a daughter. For this he in a series of acts of parliament, separated the Church in England from the Catholic Church and made himself the “Supreme Head of the Church” in England. This is a new title for the Pope never had considered himself as the “Supreme Head” which is a title only for Christ. The Pope as we all know, even today is the Bishop of Rome (his most important title) and with it “Vicar of Christ”, which means only that he only acts in the name of Christ. King Henry appropriated a title which is not by the law of God, his. For this More and Fisher lost their heads and became Catholic saints. 

The Ecclesia Anglicana or the Church of England was created by the King’s wish. It considered itself as a continuation of  the Catholic Church but reformed by doing away with the perceived abuses of the Pope. The doctrine of the Catholic Church was held and Henry did not tolerate the Lutheran doctrine (much earlier the Pope granted his the title Fidei Defensor).  But the Reformed doctrine was influential among the aristocracy who benefitted from Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries. The English people resisted the Reformation for at least three generations that by the time of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, a religious settlement had to be made since the people had shed much blood in matters of religion.  Mary I, Elizabeth’s elder half sister brought the English back to the Roman obedience but it was not to last. The Reformation had made its impact. The Church of England will have the Queen as “Supreme Governor”, a title roughly equivalent to the Pope’s title as “Vicar of Christ”.  Elizabeth’s title was granted by Parliament while the Pope was by Christ through St Peter’s. And as a result of the religious settlement Anglican belief would be defined in such a way that it is possible for it to be understood in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant sense.  The result is a large degree of ambiguity. This is so evident in the Anglican belief in the Eucharist which I shall touch on later.

After King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, the Roman Church had to meet the challenges of the Reformation in the Council of Trent which successfully reformed the Church in what historians would rather inaccurately call the Counter Reformation. The Anglican Church will go on its separate way and developing its own distinct liturgies and spirituality. Yet in this separate way, many elements of Catholic Church belief and practice were preserved. The Anglican Church preserved the ministries of the bishop, priest and deacons but the Eucharist was said in English and no longer in Latin. Anglican clergy can be married while Roman Catholic clergy can’t. The Roman Catholic Church insisted on Latin until after the Second Vatican Council when the Mass could be celebrated in the vernacular languages. Thus in a way the Catholic Church followed the Anglican reforms in liturgy, although 500 years late.

With England becoming a world power in the 17th to the early 20th centuries, she planted Anglican Churches in her colonies including what became the United States. These churches eventually became independent of the Church of England headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. They became the Anglican Communion since they are in communion with Canterbury. In the United States, the Anglican Church is called the Episcopal Church since this church had its first bishop consecrated by the Scottish Episcopal Church (which is not under the Church of England).  When the Philippines became under the Americans in 1898, The Episcopal Church sent its missionaries to the Philippines and later on the Anglican/Episcopal church in our country became the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP). The ECP is notable in our church history since right from the start in 1902, she refused to convert Roman Catholics instead focused her missionary efforts on non-Christians. The first Episcopal Bishop of the Philippines the Rt Rev Charles Henry Brent would not “build an altar over another”. Of all the non- Catholic (Protestant) missionaries in the Philippines, only Bishop Brent recognized that Roman Catholics were Christians too!

But with so much in common even if we are separated, it would be inevitable that many Anglicans would feel an affinity for the Church of Rome. Thus in the five centuries of separation, Anglican theologians would take great care in differentiating what they believed in from Protestantism while maintaining their difference from Roman Catholicism. They believed they are the middle way or in Latin “Via Media”.  Fundamental aspects of Protestant (Puritan) practice were suppressed as well as Roman Catholic devotions like those to the Virgin Mary. The Anglican Church is the church of the English state and any excessive emphasis on Protestantism (Puritan) or Catholicism was considered a threat to the state. Elizabeth I famously said she “won’t look into men’s souls” which meant that one can hold Roman Catholic or Puritan beliefs as long as one keeps this private.  If not Elizabeth I considered these grounds for treason.  Many martyrs both on the Roman Catholic and Puritan side lost their heads for their conscience since they rejected the idea that they should live their faith in private.

Of course the Via Media won’t hold as John Henry Newman realized. The Rev Dr Newman, perhaps the most renowned 19th century Anglican theologian or Divine as the English would say it, was one of the founders of the Oxford Movement in the  mid 19th century which sought to restore the Catholic element in the Anglican Church.  The Oxford Movement restored to the Church of England the Devotion to the Blessed Virgin especially in her title of Our Lady of Walsingham. It also restored a more sacramental way of celebrating the liturgy.  Thus many Anglicans today have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.  While this led many Anglicans to believe in many things Catholics believe in, but even so Newman in his studies and prayerful reflection realized that the idea of a Church of England would make no sense unless it is united with the Church of Rome, where she came from.  [It was a Pope, St Gregory the Great, who sent St Augustine to Canterbury to preach the Gospel to the English].  Newman also rejected the idea that the state should have anything to do with Christian doctrine. Newman became a Catholic, was ordained to the Catholic priesthood and became a Cardinal. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010. It was not only Newman who came home but many Anglican clergy and laypeople, some very famous, some are celebrities but most are ordinary men, women and children. And they are still coming home as of this minute. They reached the same conclusion as Newman did more than 150 years earlier.

And most of them don’t consider themselves converts but just people who came home!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Grace that Drops from Above

This week of Christian Unity, on January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul,  at 6 PM at the UP Parish, I am asked by the Catholic Chaplain of the students of the University of the Philippines, Fr Mike Ty to talk about where I came from in my pilgrimage.

This is an act of God's grace which comes to me from above. Almost exactly a year before we said the First Anglican Use Evening Prayer in the same Roman Catholic Church.

I am so busy with mundane things of the world, that sometimes I can't move on my continuing pilgrimage but I recall a poem of George Herbert, the Anglican Mystic and priest

The Temple (1633)


"O come! for thou dost know the way:
Or if to me thou wilt not move,
Remove me, where I need not say,
                                       Drop from above."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The American Ordinariate's teething pains

The US Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter is not even 15 days old and yet it appears that some problems have began to manifest themselves. This involves how the Anglican Use parishes established through Blessed Pope John Paul II's 1980 Pastoral Provision will transition from being under their local diocesan to the Ordinariate. The presence of these Anglican Use parishes and groups makes the US Ordinariate much different from the English one. In England, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham did not bring whole parishes from the Church of England but "groups of Anglicans" or in Latin Anglicanorum coetibus! Thus the Ordinary, the Rt Rev Monsignor Keith Newton need not worry about translating parishes from one ecclesial jurisdiction to another and getting the approval of the bishops. All the Ordinariate groups start from all at the same starting line. They don't have their own buildings save for one or two groups and most will have to share existing Roman Catholic church buildings with Roman parishes until they are financially capable of having their own. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was gracious and generous enough to offer church sharing arrangements with the departing Anglicans but the Anglican and English Roman Catholic hierarchies did not find this acceptable. Perhaps it is for the better. The English Ordinariate will be served well by becoming self financing as early as possible.

Money is the biggest problem of the English Ordinariate. There is a need to find stipends for the priests a majority of them married and with families. Many of the priests are supported by English dioceses since they do extra work for them. Some priests were received having long retired from the Church of England and they lost their pensions and the Ordinariate just like any Catholic diocese will have to provide for them. The English Ordinariate does not have its own cathedral since the Msgr Newton and the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols believe the Ordinariate does not have the means to maintain one at present.

In contrast the American Ordinariate has a cathedral from day one. This is the Church of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston TX, which is one of the more successful Anglican Use parishes in the US with a growing congregation. The other successful Anglican Use parish is the Our Lady of  the Atonement Church which has a growing congregation too and is financially viable that it runs its own parochial school. Some of the Anglican Use parishes (around 5 or 6) own their church buildings, some are Anglican Use groups which may have their own priests and some comprising of laypeople and ministered by a Roman Rite priest. One Anglican Use group is a former Episcopal religious order, the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Maryland. One Anglican Use group is a Cathedral Parish of the Traditional Anglican Communion which is in the process of joining the Ordinariate. Some groups are using existing Catholic parish buildings or are renting or are in the process of building their own.

Whatever the stage of development of these groups or parishes are in, they attract a significant number of cradle Roman Catholics,  with not a few lapsed Catholics who are attracted to Anglican spirituality. And this has become a sticky problem when the groups or parishes transition to the Ordinariate. Anglicanorum coetibus makes it clear that the Apostolic Constitution is meant for those who were or are Anglican and they have to make their desire in writing if they wish to become part of the Ordinariate.

Existing Anglican Use parishes have to apply as a corporate body to join the Ordinariate and the oldest and if not the most successful, the Atonement parish has applied but permission has not been received. This has generated a lot of exchanges in the Anglican Use yahoo group which I believe is an example of impatience on the part of Anglican Use people. People have speculated that there is a difficulty since a majority of the parish are cradle Roman Catholic! This lead its curate the Rev Fr Christopher Phillips to respond with

"Yes, we certainly have a large number of people from non-Anglican backgrounds
who attend OLA; however, when the total number of families is considered, that
number is far from overwhelming. A fact which seems to be forgotten is that our
parish has been in existence for more than a generation. A very large number of
our young families are people who actually grew up in the parish. Are they
"cradle Catholics"? Yes, but they are "cradle Anglican Use Catholics." Also,
there many families in which one of the spouses was Episcopalian, and a
spiritual home has been able to be found in which the former Episcopalian is
very happy, along with the whole family. We have a steady stream of people being
prepared to be received into full communion -- in fact, our inquirers' classes
are offered throughout the year, with a new series beginning as soon as the
previous one is finished, and these classes always have an excellent enrollment.
Many who complete the classes are incoming Anglicans; others are from other
protestant denominations, but who have found a home in the Catholic Church
through our parish. Over these past few weeks I have received four new families
into the Catholic Church, and I have several others who are nearly ready.

Yes, there are Catholics in the parish who have no Anglican or protestant
background in either spouse, and who are here only because they were searching
for a more formal and dignified celebration of the Mass -- and they are all
welcome. I am happy to have them in our parish family. But they are not the
overwhelming majority, by any means."

The Atonement parish I believe is a preview of the future Roman Catholic Church with the Anglican Communion restored in and with her. This future is being created in our own seeing! Of course the Ordinariate will attract cradle Catholics. Will the Ordinariate refuse them complete association? I hope not for that will be a pastoral disaster! Also there will be non Catholics and even non believers who will ask to be baptized in the Ordinariate and so their children will be cradle Anglican Roman Catholics.

The pastoral situation on the ground is that there are a number of cradle Roman Catholics who have an Anglican parent or even grandparents and they received the Catholic faith through their prayer life and witness. Are they not cradle Anglicans too?

This is so true in the Philippines on both the Episcopal Church and Roman Catholic Church sides. There are Episcopalians who worship in Roman Catholic parishes and there are Catholics who worship in Episcopal parishes. None of them would wish to formally convert and this is a pastoral issue that has to be approached with good sense, charity and sensitivity. The Episcopal National Cathedral of St Mary and St John reports that many Roman Catholics support the cathedral's ministry especially to the poor. Many Episcopalians support Catholic ministries to the poor and especially on environmental issues.

And exactly here we find the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines. We will be linked in some ways with the American Ordinariate for historical reasons but we will be within our Roman Catholic dioceses.

As the Catholic Bishop of Cubao, the Most Rev Honesto Ongtioco told the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines "We cannot stop the Holy Spirit in these matters!"

The American Ordinary, Fr Jeffrey Steenson has huge task ahead of him. Also we have to pray also for the Rt Rev Msgr Keith Newton of the English Ordinariate. The two ordinaries are the few men in the vineyard whose crop is ready for the harvest.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for the ordinaries and us. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

AU Philippines meets with the Roman Catholic bishop of Cubao

L to R, Fr Raymond Aree, Bp Ongtioco, Fr Joe Frary, me and Bruce Hall
After quite some time of getting all our schedules right, the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines finally met with the the Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco DD, the bishop of Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines. Bishop Ongtioco earlier gave permission for the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines to hold evening prayer meetings at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman under Fr Raymond Arre. We updated the bishop on the slowly growing membership of AU Philippines and the great help that social media has been in giving AU Philippines stronger legs.

We also told the bishop on how Bruce, Fr Frary and I unexpectedly came together. It is probably of God since it is quite a long shot to for all of us to come together. But it did happen. After all how many Anglican Use Catholics are in the Philippines?

Fr Frary told the bishop that with the fragmentation of the Anglican Communion, it makes good pastoral sense to spread the Anglican "virus" to the wider Church, not only in the Roman Church but to other churches as well. This is especially in the West where Fr Frary noted that the near collapse of Christian heritage and culture is not solely attributable to secularism but to something else, perhaps more sinister.

We also discussed at great length what the Ordinariates are and how this will change the way Roman Catholics as a church, a more Catholic Church than it was in the past, a church that will bring all people (Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, non-believers etc and of course lapsed Catholics) who wish to do so, be part of her once more.

To all of these Bishop Ongtioco said "We can't prevent the Holy Spirit in doing these things!" He also said he was very glad that there is an Anglican Use Society in the Philippines. Bishop Ongtioco struck me as a down to earth bishop, with wit and humor and good cheer as well as great pastoral sense. It is no wonder the diocese has made strides in catechesis and strengthening its parishes.

The bishop supports our plan to have quarterly evening prayer meetings with the next one scheduled for Mar 21. The bishop also required us to use the Book of Divine Worship since it is a Vatican approved liturgy.

We also made it clear that the identity of the Society is Roman Catholic. As Bruce emphatically said "We are Anglicans in communion with the Pope in Rome"

After merienda "morning snack" we toured the Romanesque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I haven't been to this church in years and I was awestruck by the artwork by the diocese's artists. It as if we entered the gate of heaven (medieval cathedrals gave that impression) with that starry vault of the nave. The cathedral's stained glass windows are not yet complete. But once they are, this church will reflect how the 21st century Catholic Church has recovered what was lost without  being dated! Anglican traditions definitely will help the wider Church do the same.

Cubao Cathedral's nave

The Immaculate Conception window

St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila

soon to be canonized Blessed Pedro Calungsod

The Four Evangelists at the transept.
Truly the Diocese of Cubao is "the light on top of a hill"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Please pray for us.

The Most Rev Honesto Ongtioco DD, Roman Catholic bishop of Cubao will host a meeting for the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines on the feast of the Black Nazarene, January 9 so we can plan our future directions. Please pray for the meeting's success.

Our Lady under the titles of Walsingham and Piat, pray for us!
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!
Saint Lorenzo de Manila and Blessed Pedro Calungsod, lay catechists and martrys, pray for us!
Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Elizabeth Seton, pray for us!
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!
Blessed Pope John XXIII, pray for us!
Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The American Ordinariate is established, Rev Dr Steenson is the first Ordinary

On January 1, 2012, the Holy Father established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter in the United States. The Ordinariate is for Anglicans/Episcopalians wishing to be part of the Catholic Church while retaining distinctive aspects of their liturgy and tradition.

The Pope named the Rev Dr Jeffrey Steenson, former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande as the first Ordinary. Rev Dr Steenson is a noted scholar of the early Church Fathers, served the Episcopal Church for 25 years as a priest and 3 as bishop. In 2007 he was received in the Catholic Church and was ordained as a priest under the Pastoral Provision in 2008. Dr Steenson is married with three grown children.

Rev Dr Jeffrey Steenson
The formation of Anglican congregations wishing to enter the Catholic Church is a prime focus of the Ordinariate. Already several Episcopal parishes have signified their intention to join the Ordinariate. It is expected that the several Anglican Use parishes (which are under the local Latin Rite bishop) will join as well. The Principal Church or cathedral of the Ordinariate is an Anglican Use parish, Our Lady of Walsingham, in Houston, Texas. Answers to uestions on what the Ordinariate is and who can be part of it are found here.

The name of the Ordinariate is very significant and it reflects on how close to the Pope's heart is Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion.