In North America and Australia an Ordinariate community will be immediately recognisable through their liturgy. Even where a community is sharing a church building with a diocesan parish, it will hold its distinctive Ordinariate Use liturgy at fixed times, and the form of the liturgy will be one of the criteria on the basis of which people choose to take part in this particular service. Most Anglicans contemplating joining the Ordinariate will be familiar with a similar liturgy and immediately feel at home.
As most of you will know, this is not the case in the United Kingdom. Although there are several Ordinariate groups who use only the Ordinariate Use, this is by far not the majority. In cases where those groups who used the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite as Anglicans have experimented with the Ordinariate Use, they have found that a number of their group members have voted with their feet and started to go to Mass in a diocesan parish. The Ordinariate Use may be part of what distinguishes the Ordinariate and the liturgy may be particularly suited to special occasions like an Ordinariate pilgrimage or festival, the titular solemnity or another major feast day, but most groups feel more comfortable with the Ordinary Form as their regular Mass liturgy on weekdays and most Sundays. So one can fairly say that the Ordo Missae is therefore not the main distinctive feature of the Ordinariate in Britain.
This makes sharing with a diocesan parish comparatively easy but this sharing will often lead to an intermingling and is potentially life-threatening for the Ordinariate. And this is even more so where the pastor of the Ordinariate group is also the parish administrator of the diocesan church. Most of these parishes have prospered enormously from the infusion of new life which the Ordinariate has brought to their parish community, to their liturgy, etc. but what is the difference between these parishes and those where a former Anglican priest took charge in the 1990’s, often bringing with him a large number of members of his former Anglican parish? Basically very little.
Even those communities which have made a special effort to foster their distinctive Anglican charisma are finding that people, especially the cradle Catholics, are now asking why the two groups need to remain distinct. Any earlier inhibitions have now disappeared, the “native” parish community has accepted, completely incorporated and now identify themselves with the changes brought by the former Anglicans. The development which one can expect within the next, say, twenty years is that there will no longer be a distinct Ordinariate group here, the parish will have become a Catholic parish like all others, perhaps with a couple of idiosyncracies, most of which will diminish and maybe die with a change of parish priest.
Where, in such a situation, is the prophetic ecumenical sign that Pope Benedict XVI intended the Ordinariate to be? The clergy and people of the Ordinariate have admittedly brought some treasures from Anglicanism with them and shared them with the Catholic faithful but in the course of time these will have been “watered down” and will no longer be clearly recognisable as Anglican.
Rather than the Catholic Church opening herself to embrace a variety of expressions of the Christian faith, she will have swallowed everybody up into one uniform Catholic soup just as she did with the thousands of converts from Anglicanism in the past. This might indeed be to the liking of many bishops.
Anf if in, let’s say, five years’ time the Ordinariate priest is posted to another ailing parish to help to revive it, how many of his original Ordinariate group will accompany him, even if the second parish is local? Probably only a handful of people who have understood the Ordinariate’s mission and are committed to it. There will most likely not be enough to carry out a second-generation “church-planting” initiative.
The scenario would be very different for a personal parish of the Ordinariate – and we shouldn’t forget that these were intended as the norm. And a personal parish does not necessarily mean a building of their own from Day One. It can mean sharing facilities with a diocesan parish but maintaining a distinct separate identity, with two different priests! The name-giving can be important here, and this is something which we can profitably learn from the Americans. In the UK the groups tend to be known, for example, as “Bridlington Ordinariate Mission at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Little Bridlington”, if indeed they have a separate name at all. In the States and Canada a much more sensible practice has been adopted: the Ordinariate community has its own patron saint, and our fictitious group might be known as: “St. Anselm of Canterbury Catholic Church, a Parish of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, meeting at St. Paul’s, Little Bridlington”. That is a very different proposition!
The next step would probably be to try to find a distinct place of worship – somewhere where there is no other parish. This might be a convent chapel, a school chapel, even a private chapel (perhaps in a stately home or even, as in Irvine, California, a law firm!)
But wherever this personal parish or quasi-parish meets, as full a parish programme as possible should be introduced from the outset, including:
- daily Mass
- Morning and Evening Prayer in church
- regular Evensongs and other special celebrations, like Lessons and Carols (these might be held at a larger venue – on a one-off basis – with significant advertising in advance)
- Sunday School
- Adult Catechesis
- Catechetical preparation for the Sacraments
- a choir with regular choir practice
- prayer groups
- bible groups
- youth groups
- women’s groups
- a branch of the Walsingham Association
- coffee after Mass
- social events
- community outreach
- etc., etc.
Buying or building one’s own church is obviously an end goal (many redundant churches are indeed available for approx. £100,000), but most fledgling groups will not be in a position to raise that kind of money or maintain a building for quite a few years (Torbay – or should I say “Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Cuthbert Mayne, Chelston” – is leading the way here, and we should support them all we can).
Revitalising diocesan parishes, “church-planting” can and perhaps should continue to be one of the missions of the Ordinariate. One might consider appointing priests as parish administrator for a limited period (maybe five to seven years), calling on lay people to volunteer for a clearly-defined and shorter period to assist in building up this parish, keeping contact with and ultimately returning to their Ordinariate home. (Only where a parish is dedicated to the Ordinariate in perpetuity, as seems to be the case with Most Precious Blood in Borough, do I believe one should contemplate integrating the Ordinariate group into the parish.)
Now imperatively we need to start to find some coherent answers to our question: “What is the Ordinariate’s distinctiveness?”
This is where the new revamped trans-national, movement-wide “Anglican Use Society” has an important role to play and I should like to encourage as many people as possible in Britain and Europe to support the AUS: clergy, religious. lay members of the Ordinariate, friends of the Ordinariate, our Anglican friends. Hopefully at the next AUS board meeting a clear decision will be taken to internationalise the Society and of course the board itself, and first steps will be taken to redefine the AUS’s mission.
But even before the Anglican Use Society and the Ordinariates can develop a comprehensive definition of the Anglican patrimony and the distinctiveness of the Ordinariates and their mission , we have already begun to do many, if not most, of the things listed above, which are already greatly influenced by our Anglican heritage, be they the beauty of holiness, good music, the Daily Office, intensive study of the bible, fellowship, catechesis, outreach or evangelisation.
I recently asked an Ordinariate priest who is working mostly in a diocesan setting first of all if he would consider incardination into the diocese and secondly if there is a difference between him and those priests mentioned above who entered the Church from Anglicanism in the 1990’s and became diocesan priests. His answer to the first question was a decisive “No” and he explained this with his response to the second question.
As an Ordinariate priest people expect you to be different, distinctive, they know that you will have a particular charism, a specific spiritualityand this is what they treasure in you and hope you will share with them. Very much in the same way as they would expect a Franciscan priest to exude Franciscan spirituality, to preach and emulate the life of the Poverello.
The diocesan priest who is a former Anglican will also have an Anglican feel about him but he will be expected to become more and more mainstream Catholic, his edges will be sanded off, his Anglicanness will only rarely be regarded as a treasure. By some he might even be seen as a square peg in a round hole, an anomaly.
What is that particular charism of the Ordinariate priest? What is Ordinariate spirituality? I do not have a final answer to this question, but some of the important elements are:
- the missing centuries – giving back to the Church in England and Wales its English heritage, bridging the gap
- England’s Nazareth – promoting a typically English Marian spirituality centred around Our Lady of Walsingham
- Holy Scripture – encouraging a deeper knowledge of and love for the Bible
- Anglo-Catholic spirituality – teaching and embodying, for example, the spiritual treasures of the Oxford Movement: such as the mysticism of Keble, the theology of Newman and his influence on the Second Vatican Council
- unity in diversity – striving for true receptive ecumenism where the faith history of every person is valued, and for a breadth of expression of Catholicity
- the beauty of holiness – living and furthering a spirit-filled liturgy, a foretaste of the Heavenly Jerusalem
- music, poetry and art – expressing the beauty of holiness in human creativity and celebrating it
- a married priesthood – exemplifying the priestly family as a valuable contribution to the faith community
and this is only part of it!