Anglican Patrimony and St. Charles Borromeo

In his blog “Peregrinations” Fr. John Hodgins has quoted the following extracts from an article by Fr. James Bradley of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, currently studying Canon Law in Washington, D.C.:

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus was promulgated on 4 November 2009, the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo. Saint Charles was the Archbishop of Milan, an important See in Italy, and a place on the way between England and Rome for those brave men from Britain who, during the years of Protestant Reformation, travelled in secret to the continent for formation as priests.

In Giovanni Pietro Giussano’s biography of the saint, we read that Borromeo welcomed many of those men as they travelled both to Rome for their studies and, again, on their way to certain martyrdom in England. Amongst the names that Giussano records we find Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion. In a letter to the Rector of the English College, Borromeo wrote, “I saw and willingly received those English who departed hence the other day, as their goodness deserved, and the cause for which they had undertaken their journey. If in future your Reverence shall send any other to me, be assured that I will take care to receive them with all charity, and that it will be most pleasing to me to have occasion to perform the duties of hospitality, so proper for a Bishops, toward the Catholics of that nation.”

Borromeo’s concern and respect for the British extended further still. He appointed the former Bishop of Saint Asaph, Thomas Goldwell, who had escaped from England in June 1559, as a suffragan bishop in Milan (incidentally, Goldwell ordained the composer Tomás Luis de Victoria to the priesthood), he appointed a Welshman, Owen Lewis, as his Vicar-General, and another Welshman, William Gifford, as his confessor and Canon Theologian. This, together with the significance of the distinctive liturgical traditions of the Rite of Milan—alluded to by Cardinal William Levada during a speech on the personal ordinariates in 2011—shows something of the importance of this date for the project of the personal ordinariates, and sets something of a context for what the ordinariates are called to be. Who, having made the journey from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church, can read those lines of Borromeo to the Rector of the Venerabile without recalling the welcome we ourselves have received?

The forthcoming Divine Worship missal shares in this heritage. It will enter into use in the communities of the personal ordinariates on the First Sunday of Advent 2015, the start of the new liturgical year, and was itself promulgated on 27 May 2015, the feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. This latter date is of real significance for reasons best explained by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former Chairman of the Interdiscasterial Commission Anglicanæ Traditiones, in his recent paper on Divine Worship and the Liturgical Vitality of the Church, published in Antiphon (Vol. 19, No. 2, 109-115) and delivered to the clergy and lay faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Westminster on 19 September 2015, a date which is itself significant as the day on which Pope Benedict XVI called the Bishops of England and Wales, and Scotland, to be generous in their implementation of Anglicanorum cœtibus, and to view it as “a prophetic gesture.”

As Archbishop Di Noia rightly pointed out in his presentation in Westminster (click here to locate and listen to the audio file), the significance of Divine Worship: The Missal cannot be overstated. It is, to use his words, “immensely important.” In his paper the archbishop says, “Just as it would be unthinkable to describe the Catholic Church without reference to its liturgical and sacramental life, so it would in some sense be for every ecclesial body. The manner in which an ecclesial community worships uniquely expresses its inner life.”

Archbishop Di Noia further relates the famous dialogue between Saint Augustine of Canterbury and Pope Saint Gregory the Great, recorded by the Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (I, 27). This discourse reveals Saint Augustine’s concern regarding the diversity of liturgical rites found in England, which “differ in the holy Roman Church and the Churches of Gaul.” In his reply, Pope Saint Gregory reassured Saint Augustine with these words which, again, echo through the text of Anglicanorum cœtibus: “If you have found customs, whether in the Roman, Gallican, or any other Churches that may be more acceptable to God, I wish you to make a careful selection of them, and teach the Church of the English, which is still young in the Faith, whatever you can profitably learn from the various Churches. For things should not be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Therefore select from each of the Churches whatever things are devout, religious, and right; and when you have arranged them into a unified rite, let the minds of the English grow accustomed to it.”

As Archbishop Di Noia states, “One can think that Saint Gregory plays with the word for ‘places’ here, meaning not only geographical places, but textual ‘places,’ or diverse formulæ and traditions of worship . . . This pastoral concern is the overarching content in which the inclusion of Anglican liturgical patrimony into Catholic worship should be seen.”

In other words, by aligning itself with Saint Augustine and his mission, through the date of its promulgation (incidentally, the most significant mission of a Bishop of Rome to the English-speaking peoples), Divine Worship: The Missal can again be identified as an essential element for the authentic life of the personal ordinariates. Just as the dates of the announcement and promulgation of Anglicanorum cœtibus reveal something of the significance of the mission entrusted to them, so the dates of the promulgation of the liturgical provision for the personal ordinariates show how, in the liturgical books approved by the Holy See for these communities, this is intended to form its life. May the prayers of these unwitting patrons keep us faithful to that task.

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