Anglican Parish Moves Closer to Catholicism

Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in East Mt. Airy hosted a truly groundbreaking event on Sunday, May 20.

The event, accompanied by a Mass, marked the formal introduction of the Anglican Catholic parish of St. Michael the Archangel, which worships at Holy Cross, into the Roman Catholic communion. St. Michael’s is the first Anglican parish in Greater Philadelphia to be received into the U.S. Ordinariate and one of the first nationwide.

The Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a non-geographical structure established by Pope Benedict to provide Anglicans with distinctive liturgical elements of their church while moving them to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church of St. Michael the Archangel began as the Episcopal Church of St. James the Less in East Falls, which was founded in 1846.

The congregation of St. James the Less left its historic property in East Falls in 2006 and has not had its own church since then. The congregation had disaffiliated itself from the Episcopal Church in 1999 and had become a member of the Anglican Church in America.

The local Episcopal diocese sued for the property in 2001 and subsequently won the case.

The Rev. David Ousley, its rector since 1983, is one of 60 Anglican priests preparing to be ordained as Catholic priests, starting in June of this year. He was ordained a Catholic transitional deacon at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Saturday, May 12. The parish and all its members had already been accepted into the Catholic Church on April 2.

Explaining his decision and that of his parish to leave the Episcopal Church, Ousley said, “The root issue was authority of Scripture, as understood within the tradition.”

While individual dioceses and the Episcopal Church as a whole were moving in the direction of following the spirit of the times, Ousley and his fellow parishioners at St. James the Less were not willing to do so. Upon disaffiliating from the Episcopal Church, the parish joined the more traditional Anglican Church in America.

When asked why he and the parish decided to join the newly established Anglican Ordinariate, Ousley said the move to reconvene with the Catholic Church seemed like the right thing to do, “The catholicity of the church is important to us, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to be assured of the catholicity of any of the Anglican church bodies in the United States,” he said. “We were afraid of ending up with the externals of the faith but losing the substance.

“Then Pope Benedict’s offer and his stated desire to preserve the Anglican patrimony moved us to consider whether the schism, which began in the 16th century between the Church of England and Rome, was any longer defensible.

In other words, have the Reformation issues been substantially resolved? These factors all moved us to reconsider the things that divided us from the Roman Church, and to consider the opportunity that the Holy Father put before us. This entailed study and lengthy discussions, which eventually led us to where we are now.”

Ousley explained that while St. Michael the Archangel Church is located within the geographical boundaries of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it is not actually within its hierarchical structure and has its own Ordinary, Monsignor Steenson.

He has all the powers of a typical Catholic bishop, but he heads a diocese constituted of all those formerly Episcopal parishes and priests who are now full members of the Catholic Church, rather than a geographical territory typical of a Catholic diocese.

In his sermon at Sunday’s Mass, Steenson recalled that he and Ousley had been friends since 1983 and that they and many traditionalist Episcopalians had suffered many wounds during the intervening years. But now, he affirmed, was the time for joy in celebrating their entrance into full communion with the See of St. Peter.

“The parish [of St. Michael the Archangel] has, I would say, a sense of joyful anticipation,” Ousley said. “This is a time of many changes, but we are looking forward to what God will do with us in the days ahead, rather than backward to what we have lost. The parish is in one way 165 years old. Yet we are also new. This is a new start for us, which is exciting and more than a little daunting.”




The (Ordinariate) Portal Mag: June 2012

The Portal in the service of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for the month of June (2012) is out.

Read it by download (pdf.) here.

Read it online here.

Page 12 has a rather nice article with Fr Robert Mercer.

And Her Majesty is looking really good on the cover…




Church of the Holy Sepulchre Comes Alive at Night in Jerusalem

In the Huffington Post:

Jerusalem –  After the last tourists leave the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City at nightfall, a little-known but centuries-old tradition unfolds at one of Christianity’s holiest sites.

Clerics from the three largest denominations represented in the church – Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic – gather each night for special prayers reserved for the men who take care of the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Starting at midnight, clerics and monks sing and pray for hours, their chants echoing through the cavernous chambers of the Holy Sepulcher’s darkest rooms.

“The door of the church is closed, no pilgrims, no tourists, it’s very quiet,” said Father Isidoros Fakitsas, the superior of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the church. “It’s amazing to feel the liturgy with no people, only the monks.”

Isidoros said he has attended the services for 21 years.

The preparations require a rigid routine. Before the first prayers of the new day, the Christian shrine needs to be cleaned, and maintenance work has to be done.

The clerics sweep the floors, replace oil lamps and clean candle holders, after thousands of pilgrims visited throughout the previous day. Occasionally a small number of devoted pilgrims help them with the cleanup and are permitted to stay and pray inside the church all night.

The early morning mass is a tradition associated with monastic life, said Father Eugenio Alliata, professor of Christian Archaeology at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. “Mostly monks and religious people want to pray not only all the day, but also all the night, or part of the day or part of the night. It is part of the desire to pray without ceasing because prayers to God must be given all the time, day and night,” Alliata said.

Father Fergus Clarke, the guardian for the Franciscan community inside the Holy Sepulcher, said the night prayers require a certain amount of personal sacrifice, but also bring greater spiritual fulfillment. “That’s a wonderful vocation … to be able to do something like that, to know that while people are sleeping, others are praying,” he said.

The night liturgies inside the Holy Sepulcher are regulated by a consolidated tradition: The Greek-Orthodox start to celebrate mass inside Jesus’ Tomb at 12:30 a.m., before handing over to the Armenians and then the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox liturgy at the tomb is the longest, lasting for about three and a half hours; the Armenians then take over for an hour and a half and the Franciscans for another half hour.

The night service is subject to some variations. On the feast of Saint Matthias on the morning of May 14, for example, Catholics lead a procession to Jesus’ tomb during the Greek Orthodox liturgy.

Sounds collided with one another that night. The celestial voices of Armenian priests rose from their wing of the Church as the sound of a Franciscan pipe organ came from the opposite direction.

Competing for attention is nothing new in the ancient church. The three main denominations that share the church jealously guard their turf, and an air of mistrust lingers as each group makes sure no one else crosses into their space.

While the Tomb of Jesus and the main passages of the Holy Sepulcher are considered common spaces, the three main religious communities each own a part of the church: The Chapel of Saint Helen, near the place where Jesus’ cross is said to have been found, belongs to the Armenians; the Greek-Orthodox Church has ownership over the largest part of the church, including the Altar of the Calvary, where Jesus’s cross was raised; the Franciscans own the Chapel of the Crucifixion where Jesus was crucified, along with the northern part of the Church, where according to tradition Jesus appeared to his mother.

The church was first built by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325, at the site where the tomb of Jesus was believed to have been found.

Constantine’s structure was destroyed in 1009 by Muslim Caliph al-Hakim. A 12th century restoration by the Crusaders gave the Holy Sepulcher its current appearance.

Life inside the Holy Sepulcher is regulated by a complex maze of norms that are often subject to different interpretations, said Father Samuel Aghoyan, the Armenian Superior of the Holy Sepulcher. At times, tensions have even spilled over into violence, with monks pushing and punching each other.

“We keep almost awake at night here to see that things are done properly, on time, that no one will trespass the other’s right by doing things that he’s not supposed to do,” said Father Samuel.  “So we have to be careful and watch what we do or what they do.”