Tuesday, December 13, 2022

My first visit to an Anglican Use ordinariate church

I've been to the Anglican Use ordinariate Mass three times and like it very much. This is my account of my first visit, in May 2021.

Already went to my own church this weekend but because I was free this morning I did something I've been meaning to. For the first time I went to an ordinariate Mass, at St. John the Baptist, Bridgeport, Pa., their sole (how Orthodox), High/Solemn Mass (ditto). Thumbs up. I was born Anglican, though not Catholic Anglican, better known as Anglo-Catholic — many such weren't, but Catholic Anglicanism formed me when I was young, in my teens and 20s — among other things, long-gone All Saints, Orange, N.J. hooked me. Then many years later, Catholic Anglicanism, at an Anglo-Papalist church, was my spiritual and social center again in my 40s during the 2000s or nought(ie)s, my highway back to the Catholic Church. Why I am not Novus Ordo.

Nomenclature note: Anglo-Catholic always meant making a claim for Anglicanism, at least what the speaker or writer thought was Anglicanism, against both Rome and extreme Protestantism. Sacramental, ceremonial, episcopal, but not papal. Anglo-Papalism was different: they really wanted union with Rome, what people outside of Catholic Anglicanism thought it was; really the opposite of it? They used to have Mass in Latin. Since with the ordinariate, some Roman Catholics are also Anglo-Catholics, I use a more recent term, Catholic Anglican, to describe today's version of the original thing, Anglicans — Church of England, Episcopal, ACNA, G3/Continuing Churches, etc. — who insist that their churches have a Catholic character despite the "Reformation" and started emulating the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century.

Mass at St. John's is not exactly the traditional Latin Mass (TLM) but close. Same ethos. A mix of conservative thou-and-thee Rite I from the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, like 1662 and American 1928 — Anglican English, and the Novus Ordo in English as reformed by Pope Benedict. Three readings following the modern three-year Sunday cycle (one year works better: people learn them). It uses the Roman Canon said aloud in English, the Novus Ordo version but in Anglican English. Gregorian chant in English and the Healey Willan I grew up with, that is, real liturgical music, with a few fine Anglican hymns from the old Episcopal hymnal. Today, not a word of Latin; that's okay. Communion in the hand and from the chalice, done the right way, as an option, before adopting covid precautions. Wonderful, long, thoughtful sermon from Fr. Ousley, the rector: the best of Protestantism but not Protestant; simple Christianity for your walk with the Lord. As you can see from the look and feel of the service, we in Catholic Anglicanism didn't want to be Protestant even when technically we were. This was my second time meeting Fr. O in 35 years. He is retiring this year. Another former Episcopal priest, a Fr. Cantrell, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, is coming on board.

A charming smallish church, very Anglican that way, but a good-sized congregation, considering.

My first time at Anglo-Catholic worship in person in 11 years. Moving. I said all the Book of Common Prayer text for the congregation by heart. Anglican English is my religious English and how the language does Christianity. At home I read its psalms. It was some Episcopalians' big no to the '60s revolution just like Latin was for some Catholics.

St. John's is the remnants of the Episcopal parishes of St. James the Less, where Fr. O came from, and Good Shepherd, Rosemont, which I visited from 1985 until 2010 — the Episcopalians liberalized all my old local Catholic Anglican stomping grounds; after all, they own the buildings. Plus, here, some good conservative born Romans, discovering the Christian tradition of the English language after centuries of separation and loving it. Outside of churches such as this, the only English most Catholics care about is the only English they have prayed in for generations, the prayers of the rosary, why the missal and even the most liberal parish reverts to "Our Father, who art in heaven," etc. Anyway, of course I love it — an Irish-American woman whose family are big in the Legion of Mary and her likewise born-Roman husband go here, praying the Anglican prayers I grew up with. Who'd have thought? With God all things really are possible.

As this is Rogation Sunday there was a procession around the church grounds, as it is not a territorial parish with borders to "beat." I think this was my first Rogation procession! Chanting the Litany from the Book of Common Prayer, which I first heard in Kansas City's Episcopal cathedral when I was 12. "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." I went to coffee hour (another Anglican and Protestant institution — but my old TLM church did/does it too, as does my Byzantine Catholic church!) and met or got reacquainted with some wonderful people, some of whom I hadn't seen in two decades. Ended up closing down the place for the day.

Bridgeport is a gritty little formerly industrial town that used to have five lively Catholic communities, the Irish territorial parish, three national (officially ethnic) parishes, and a Ukrainian Catholic one. St. John's used to be the Italian national parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, built in the 1920s and finished after the war in the 1940s. I like to think this church still honors them, and other Italians such as my significant other and her family, and the Anglican Use Catholics there now. The stained-glass window memorial dedications are all Italian. But I will say that the tasteful, elegant art on the walls is better than the plaster statues that were all over the place in its Mount Carmel years. Alas, the Slovak parish church and school have been torn down; went to a festival there about 15 years ago. Amazingly, the Irish territorial parish church was closed and folded into the Polish parish, Sacred Heart, Swedesburg, which is no longer Polish, as were the other Roman Rite churches, because Sacred Heart's property was in better shape. A lot of older locals resented having their church buildings taken away — understandable for Our Lady of Mount Carmel as its building was in good shape, which is why the ordinariate has it — and have lapsed. At least Sacred Heart got to keep its name. In many such mergers, the name of the surviving church building is changed so people don't feel like winners or losers. Sacred Heart at least used to have the TLM.

By the way, in town I recommend Bridgeport Pizza, a hole in the wall with no advertising but owned by a man from Italy who makes excellent food. Come on over and make a new friend. Tell him John and Jeff sent you.

The Catholic Anglican thing of dressing up Cranmer's prose in the beliefs and ceremonial of the TLM works because while Cranmer was a Protestant, he wasn't a modern; he believed the creed. He retained Catholicism's 16th-century Godward worldview. By the way, I like his collects. He wrote new ones because he didn't like some of the Catholic ones, on saints' merits and asking their prayers, but the new content is more than fine; they're sermonettes on the Christian life in good, renowned prose.

Communication: clarity and saying what you mean. Yes, say "ANGLICAN" when describing these places but make it known they're not Anglican churches. "Anglican Use," no longer an official term, works. "The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter" doesn't communicate; it obfuscates, NOT telling Joe and Siobhan Inquirer or Bob and Bootsie Convert why they might want to try Mass here rather than go to St. Novus. It doesn't mean anything to the reader.

1 comment:

  1. You have a very unique writing style. If one of your posts showed up on a different site without attribution I could identify it as yours in a heartbeat. I enjoy your unique perspectives, even when I disagree, and I'm glad to see you blogging again.


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