Sunday, October 09, 2011

"Praise to the Holiest": On Newman's Day in DC, A Second Anglicanorum Swim

Even if it's Sunday -- and, to be rubricly rigid, most of us aren't in England -- today still marks the second feast of Blessed John Henry Newman on the 166th anniversary of the celebrated theologian and writer's reception from Anglicanism into the Catholic fold.

Ergo, a year since his beatification, we'd be remiss to not mark the day by reprising the words that, as no less than B16 put it, the Blessed scribe "placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven"....

* * *
Fittingly on this Newmanmas -- and, perhaps, not coincidentally -- this morning brought a further development toward the Stateside fulfillment of a seeming dream of today's saint: the Vatican-chartered jurisdiction for Anglican groups seeking corporate union with Rome.

At a Mass in the Crypt of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Vatican's American delegate for Anglicanorum coetibus, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, welcomed into full communion some 76 members of the former Episcopal parish of St Luke's in the Maryland suburb of Bladensburg, just outside the capital. Yet while some published reports have sought to relay that St Luke's is the first US parish to be received post-Anglicanorum, the DC group is more accurately seen as the nation's second community to complete its Tiber-swim in anticipation of a domestic Ordinariate.

As previously noted here, the first Anglicanorum group to enter on these shores were the 30-some members of North Texas' St Peter the Rock, who -- led by two former Episcopal priests and their families -- made their Profession of Faith, Confirmation and First Eucharist at a 25 September Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, another member of the three-prelate USCCB commission charged with implementing the 2009 Apostolic Constitution which created the groundbreaking Ordinariate setup. While groups nationwide have responded to the papal invitation and are set for reception over the coming months, the Lone Star State -- home to the nation's three oldest Anglican Use parishes -- has long been the nation's de facto center of Anglo-Catholicism, and is expected to boast a dominant chunk of the estimated 2,000 souls making the journey in the Ordinariate's first wave.

All that said, the Maryland parish is a relative rarity in that -- thanks to an unusual level of support from Washington's Episcopal bishop, John Bryson Chane -- St Luke's will be permitted to keep its church building and property. By contrast elsewhere, amid global Anglicanism's tumultuous splintering of traditional and progressive factions, the departure of numerous parishes (and even several dioceses) from the Episcopal church -- a path mostly trod toward new "continuing Anglican" entities -- has immersed the national denomination in a host of costly court fights to defend its ownership of assets from some departing groups' attempts to hold onto them.

Back to DC, here's a snip of Wuerl's homily at the Reception Mass (as prepared for delivery):
Your faith journey that brings you to the Lord’s Table and to the sacrament of confirmation began with baptism. It is for that reason that we began this Mass with the blessing and sprinkling of holy water to remind us of our baptism by which we were incorporated into Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Shortly you will be asked to renew your baptismal promises as a sign of your own faith. You will be asked to make a profession of faith and to claim as your own the faith of the Church, the faith that comes to us from the apostles.

When we come together in celebration, we are much more than a people of the Word — we are a people of the sacraments — especially the Eucharist. It is here that we encounter the living Christ. The Church comes to be and we are made one with her in the breaking of the bread — the celebration of the Eucharist. Here we encounter the living Christ, not as a figure of history but truly present.

Our emphasis on the Eucharist — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — resonates with the most profound and ancient intuition of the Christian faithful. “This is my Body; this is my Body” — “Do this in remembrance of me” — is constitutive of the Church and our communion with Jesus Christ. Nothing brings us into the intimate contact with the Lord Jesus as fully as does the Eucharistic Liturgy which is the source and summit of the Church’s experience of Christ.

In the midst of the Eucharistic Liturgy, we share a sign of peace and then at the conclusion of Mass we are dismissed at its end with the words “Go in peace.” We are meant to carry forth from the table of the Lord the grace and blessing we find there in a way that builds up the Body of Christ so that it is seen — it is placed on the lamp stand — the city built on the mountaintop.

Our challenge, then, is not only to rejoice in the gift of the Spirit, but do the works of the Spirit that manifest Christ to others in a way that we bring them to Christ.

Our celebration today is a realization that we are God’s family, God’s people, the beginning of his kingdom, his Church. And we rejoice in the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacraments of initiation. At the same time, we commit ourselves to live out that blessing in the full communion of the Church.
At today's rite, the cardinal's top aide on the national Anglicanorum project, Fr Scott Hurd -- himself a former Episcopal cleric -- served as sponsor for the entire group, and will reportedly lead the sacraments at St Luke's until the community's once and future priest, Mark Lewis, receives Catholic orders.

Shown above during his Confirmation by Wuerl, Lewis follows the two former Episcopal priests received last month in Fort Worth into the queue for the expedited national formation program for the Catholic priesthood that'll begin at Houston's St Mary's Seminary, likely not long after the Ordinariate is officially established by Rome.

The sizable prep-work for the clerics' course has been prepared under the supervision of Fr Jeffrey Steenson, who had been the Episcopal bishop of New Mexico's Rio Grande diocese before resigning in 2007 to join the Romish ranks. Now 58, Steenson was ordained for the archdiocese of Santa Fe in early 2009. Days after the following autumn's release of Anglicanorum coetibus, a second former Episcopal prelate -- the onetime Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida -- was ordained a Catholic priest for the diocese of St Petersburg.

Numbering 91 in all, a dozen members of the St Luke's community remain to be received at an unspecified later date. As previously noted, the parish's new status will be marked next weekend with a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Britain's founding Anglicanorum Ordinary, now Msgr Keith Newton, one of three Church of England prelates who were received and ordained at the launch of the UK's Ordinariate last January.

During his June briefing to the nation's bishops on the initiative's domestic progress (text/video), Wuerl indicated that the Stateside jurisdiction would be established by the Holy See this fall. Until the canonical erection of the Ordinariate, the pastoral care of groups making the journey and those already received falls to their respective Latin-church diocese.

The cardinal is scheduled to report again on the venture at next month's USCCB plenary in Baltimore.

PHOTO: Bill O'Leary/Washington Post