What is the Ordinariate’s Distinctiveness in the UK? (a personal view)

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!

David Murphy

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10 Responses to What is the Ordinariate’s Distinctiveness in the UK? (a personal view)

  1. EPMS says:

    A person who moves away from Slovenia, let’s say, and becomes a citizen of Australia will nonetheless retain many aspects of his Slovenian patrimony. He may embrace this. He may wish to gather with other Slovenian expats, perhaps regularly, and share the commonality, especially of a familiar language. But then the years will pass and a new generation will come along, and being Slovenian will be a pretty marginal part of their existence, because in fact they aren’t really Slovenian any more, they are Australians. What remains–a special Christmas menu, a Marija Sestak pinup–is a superficial remnant, especially once the language, the living soul of the culture, is gone. How will this differ from the Ordinariate experience?

    • It is not about nostalgia, EPMS, nor necessarily about gathering with people who share the same patrimony. The Mission of the Ordinariate is continually to bring Anglican elements into the Catholic Church and to represent prophetically the goal of ecumenism with the Anglican Church, the (re)establishment of full communion with the Catholic Church.

      Recently when I was in England I visited the C of E church near my parents’ home which I occasionally attended with my mother several years ago. I was able to chat with the curate and a lady from the PCC. I told them that I am now in the Ordinariate and explained to them our function of bringing Anglican patrimony into the Catholic Church. I described, for example, how Evensong is now a Catholic liturgy, being celebrated weekly in maybe 50 churches worldwide. The Prayer of Humble Access is being said in Catholic Churches across the world every day. That is just a small example of what the Ordinariate is about.

      David Murphy

  2. Scott says:

    I think that the OOLW could use the Novus Ordo in a distinctive way:
    1). Ad Orientem
    2). Preparation Prayers said by priest and congregation.
    3). Traditional Offertory prayers said by the celebrant as a private devotion. I’ve heard this is allowed as a private devotion, but I’m no expert.
    4). Roman Canon used at all Ordinariate masses.
    5). Receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue.
    6). Minor Propers used at all masses. Could be sung using the English Gradual, Burgess.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Scott,

      You wrote: I think that the OOLW could use the Novus Ordo in a distinctive way:
      1). Ad Orientem
      2). Preparation Prayers said by priest and congregation.
      3). Traditional Offertory prayers said by the celebrant as a private devotion. I’ve heard this is allowed as a private devotion, but I’m no expert.
      4). Roman Canon used at all Ordinariate masses.
      5). Receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue.
      6). Minor Propers used at all masses. Could be sung using the English Gradual, Burgess.

      Most of what you suggest is permitted. However, it is NEVER permissible to combine a private devotion with a liturgical service. A private devotion may precede or follow a liturgical service in the same place, but not be joined to it in any way.

      That said, the bottom line here is that many of the ordinariate congregations in the United Kingdom were using the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, in its fullness, as Anglicans, so the ordinary form of the Roman Rite IS their patrimony. That fact needs to be respected. If pastors deem it appropriate to introduce elements more distinctly associated with Anglican liturgy, they need to introduce those elements gradually and with appropriate preparation and formation of the faithful.

      BTW, there is no such thing as a “Novus Ordo” mass because there is NO liturgical order of worship that bears that title. The commissions that prepared the current orders of worship used the Latin term novus ordo (literally, “new order” — but note lower case) to distinguish their work from the Tridentine form then in use, but it never gained official stature and thus most certainly is not properly capitalized as a proper noun. The term “Novus Ordo” in reference to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite seems to come from Traditionalists, who use it derisively, but it has no official stature.

      Norm.

    • Brian Palmer says:

      I too favor an AO liturgy in contemporary English. Just as I favor the option of using English in the 1962 Tridentine Mass for non-Ordinariate parishes. As NO parishes are free to use as much Latin as the pastor and people wish.

      I thought the recent changes to the “Book of Divine Worship” for the AO liturgy made provision for the Roman offertory prayers as an option. I would hope the practice of the celebrant presiding from his throne-like chair would be terminated.

      As for taking communion on the tongue, only Anglo Catholic parishes here in the U.S. seem to have communicants take the host on the tongue. By far, the majority of communicants, of parishes in the Episcopal Church, as in most Roman NO liturgies, stand or kneel at the rail and receive the host in the hand.

      Imposing communion on the tongue as the ONLY option for most AO membeers and non-AO Catholics today is a definite non-starter.

      • Just a couple of comments:

        – You make a very interesting suggestion, regarding the Extraordinary Form in the vernacular.
        – The Book of Divine Worship has in fact not been revised but a completely new liturgy has been drawn up, to be known as “Divine Worship” aka the “Ordinariate Use”.
        – Yes indeed the Divine Worship Ordo Missae does provide for the Ordinary Form’s Offertory prayers as an option (but in traditional English).
        – Leading the Liturgy of the Word from the sedilia is also foreseen as an option – to distinguish this from the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which begins at the Offertory and belongs properly at the altar.
        – The usual practice for receiving Holy Communion in the Church of England has traditionally been: kneeling and on a throne made by the hands. The hands are then lifted to the mouth – the fingers do not touch the host. This is, in my humble view, to be preferred (for the Ordinariate Use) to the strictly Roman form of reception on the tongue, which is in any case neither aesthetic nor hygienic.

        David Murphy

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Brian,

        You wrote: As NO parishes are free to use as much Latin as the pastor and people wish.

        There is no such thing as an “NO” parish in the Catholic Church.

        You wrote: As for taking communion on the tongue, only Anglo Catholic parishes here in the U.S. seem to have communicants take the host on the tongue. By far, the majority of communicants, of parishes in the Episcopal Church, as in most Roman NO liturgies, stand or kneel at the rail and receive the host in the hand.

        In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, option to receive the host on the tongue rests with each communicant where communion in the hand is authorized. But as David correctly points out, there is a serious hygienic problem with this practice. It is nearly impossible for a minister of communion to place the host on the communicant’s tongue without his or her fingers making incidental contact with the communicant’s tongue. This incidental contact inevitably spreads bacteria, and potentially diseases, from the mouth of one communicant to the next.

        Incidentally, this hygienic problem does not exist with a shared chalice because wine has sufficient content of alcohol to kill bacteria.

        Norm.

  3. T Graham says:

    Even though I am from one of the groups that celebrate the Ordinariate rite, I think it is a pity that there isn’t some specified flexibility in the rite e.g. whether one says Humble Access, and also a decent modern version for use as well as the traditional language version, as the language seems to be putting some people off. Otherwise I am afraid that absorption is inevitable: uniformity of theology and praxis will follow uniformity of rite in the second generation.

    • If you look at the full Ordo Missae for the Ordinariate Use you will actually find that there is in fact quite a lot of flexibility in the rite, making it possible to celebrate in a variety of ways, for example with a Book of Common Prayer emphasis or an English Missal emphasis. Then there is a Dialogue Mass variant which is very similar to the Ordinary Form. The only thing which does not exist is a modern language version and it seems to be very clear that Rome is not willing to allow such a version, at least at the moment.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      T Graham,

      You wrote: Even though I am from one of the groups that celebrate the Ordinariate rite, I think it is a pity that there isn’t some specified flexibility in the rite e.g. whether one says Humble Access, and also a decent modern version for use as well as the traditional language version, as the language seems to be putting some people off.

      I am also disappointed in the lack of a version of the Anglican liturgy in contemporary English.

      You wrote: Otherwise I am afraid that absorption is inevitable: uniformity of theology and praxis will follow uniformity of rite in the second generation.

      That is not inevitable. Bonds of community are often very strong. Here in the States, we saw a LOT of resistance to closure of so-called “national parishes” erected for immigrants of various nationalities during the waves of immigration of a century ago. The people had assimilated into American culture, to be sure, but they still preserved the festivals of their ethnic saints and the bonds that formed them into true communities. A century later, the communities wanted to preserve their cultural identities even in situations where there were Roman Catholic parishes (geographical but de facto Irish, French national, and Italian national) on three of the four corners of one intersection, with a fourth Roman Catholic parish (Portuguese national) at the next intersection, just a few hundred feet away.

      Norm.

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