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Sunday 27 March 2011

The Broken Jar – Healing the Western Church

At the Canadian Ordinariate Conference in March, Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP was enormously helpful in his patient and scholarly explanation of how the Church in England, and by extension the Anglican Communion, experienced trauma – the “breaking of the jar” – in the 16th century Western schism of the Church.  Now the difficult and groundbreaking effort of mending the jar has begun with the inauguration of ordinariates for Anglicans who represent one shard of the broken vessel. 

The inauguration in January of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK signifies, Fr. Nichols said, bringing the Anglican shard together with the Recusant shard –  those who maintained communion with the Western or Latin Rite of the Church from the 16th through the 20th century.

In his presentations at the conference and just before the celebration of the first-ever Anglican Use Mass in Canada by Fr. Phillips of San Antonio, the esteemed Dominican scholar and godfather of the Anglican Ordinariates laid out a magisterial view of how the coming together of Latin and Anglo Catholics in the UK is a landmark event embodying the grace of God in the restoration of Catholicism – an eschatalogical sign and foreshadowing of the Parousia, when all will be restored and united in God.

Using the image of the end of time and the fulfillment which is embodied in the Parousia, Fr. Nichols evoked and expanded upon the theme of healing at this historic gathering of Anglicans and Catholics from Canada, the UK, US and Australia.  Hosted by Archbishop Collins of Toronto, the meeting allowed time for reflection upon the unfolding process for the erection of North American ordinariates. 

While acknowledging the many and various reasons for this call of God to Anglicans articulated by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Collins emphasized that Anglicanorum Coetibus is a response to requests made to the Holy See over the past 40 years by groups of Anglicans desiring to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church with essentials of their patrimony intact.  The groundbreaking Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, provides for just such a reception.  Aspects of the document were examined and the process laid out for individual reception of Anglicans within groups in Canada.

After careful instruction and examination of conscience, individuals will apply for reception as members of identifiable groups or parishes.  This process in Canada will continue in a material and programmatic way after May 31 when the initial number of groups and individuals has been determined. In the Fall, the first wave of groups will begin final preparation for reception.  Other groups and individuals will follow when they are ready.  It was emphasized that there is no “sell before date”, so the offer for entry into full communion will remain open indefinitely.  As one delegate put it, this constitution, the highest level of law in the Church, is for the ages.

Anglican deacons, priests and bishops will be individually assessed by the Holy See after submission of dossiers to determine what ministry they may be called to in the new ordinariates. Some married clergy may be ordained as deacons and some later as priests following their initial reception into ordinariates. Only celibate men will be considered for ordination as bishops in keeping with the universal practice of the Church in the East and West.

Fr. Nichols outlined the ecclesiology.  This representative group of Anglican Catholics coming back into full communion with the Latin (Roman) Church represents the totality of Anglicans and is a sign of restoration, healing and hope in the universal Church and so in the Kingdom of God. It is a healing for both parts of the Church and will stand as an encouragement to Lutherans and many other Christians who long to fulfill our Lord’s prayer “that they all may be one”.

Fr. Christopher Phillips, pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement, in his two presentations outlined how the Anglican Use parishes in the U.S. over the past 30 years, have shown that the Anglican patrimony once received into the Catholic Church finds its natural home and begins to flourish to the benefit of those coming into full communion and to the wider Catholic Church. The cross-pollination that is accomplished embellishes and strengthens the witness to Christ by the Church, even as it offers healing and so enlivens the wider society and culture.

This exciting new enterprise has been blessed in San Antonio and elsewhere with dynamic growth.  The Church of Our Lady of the Atonement (see website:   http://www.atonementonline.com/index.php?page=previous_postings&start=7 ) has grown exponentially, adding two schools to a parish which now contains hundreds of families.

Archbishop Collins concluded the conference, enthusiastically endorsing the development of a Canadian Ordinariate in close association with U.S. Anglican Use parishes as they move into the U.S. Ordinariate within the next year.  He described the gift that Anglican patrimony is to the wider Church and then laid out details for the first steps in implementation.  The three speakers then concluded the conference with a panel responding to questions.  The panel and the various presentations were recorded by Salt and Light TV and will be available from them soon.

In terms of the Anglican Church of Canada, two groups are hoping to be received into the Anglican Ordinariate upon its establishment by the CDF: the parish of St John the Evangelist, Calgary, and the first Toronto ordinariate group has just put up a website and will soon announce a location to begin meetings on Sunday afternoons.