Finding a Catholic home

By  Christopher Mahon, Catholic Register Special
  • October 30, 2009
{mosimage}Coming from an Anglican family of church musicians, I was received into the Catholic Church just over five years ago on the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More. Some other members of my family have also converted, but not all of them. Until now, we have been aware that becoming Catholic meant relinquishing some of our cherished heritage. So the Apostolic Constitution announced by the Vatican is quite a gift for my family and an answer to literally years of prayer.

Two years ago, when news first spread of the request from the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) for union with the Holy See, it was apparent that TAC Primate John Hepworth was serious about his vision for “the end of the Reformation of the 16th century.” The Oct. 20 announcements in the Vatican and London bring that vision one great step closer to being fulfilled.

Pope Benedict XVI’s truly historic initiative has authorized the establishment of a universal system for Anglicans to join the Catholic Church without having to abandon legitimate religious traditions that are “precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith.”

What is essential to understand about this move is that it effectively appropriates to the Catholic Church the Anglican traditions that are held so dear to so many. Renowned for its beautiful use of a hieratic form of English in the liturgy and its cultivated musical life, the Anglican heritage is now able to find a home in a church that will neither betray the apostolic faith nor commit ritual suicide.

When I left the Anglican Communion over five years ago I had to leave behind the traditional prayers and the musical heritage that I had grown up with. Ever since then it has been difficult to endure what can only be called an unfortunate banality in the common liturgical form as it is currently used in most Roman Catholic churches. Sadly this difficulty has inhibited many other Anglicans from making a similar journey.

Thanks to the Pope’s pastoral generosity, many things may now slowly but steadily and fundamentally begin to change. With the establishment of Personal Ordinariates, the Catholic Church is acknowledging in the most official and definitive way possible that the Anglican patrimony is not only acceptable in the church but worthy to be preserved for future generations.

The impending influx of orthodox Christians with a vibrant liturgical and musical heritage is sure to strengthen the general cultural identity of the Catholic community. Over time, the inevitable comparison between whichever Anglo-Catholic liturgical forms are adopted by the new structure and the dominant “Ordinary Form” liturgy of the Roman rite will hopefully help improve many liturgical problems that are widespread in the Roman Catholic Church. In the short term, however, the option of attending Mass without having to endure mawkish music or liturgical innovations will be a blessing for many.

Along with this consolidation of believers in one church, Pope Benedict is also clarifying which elements of Catholic life are proper to Christian doctrine and which belong in the realm of cultural diversity. For the obvious reasons, the church requires that all of her members share one and the same faith. Unfortunately, the corresponding idea that there is legitimacy in cultural diversity in the church has been frequently abused or overlooked. Thankfully, the Pope has made it clear that unity is required but not uniformity.

What’s more, these Personal Ordinariates are not just a matter of internal church governance or culture; they will also prove to be a highly effective instrument of evangelism. They will facilitate the mass conversion of thousands of Anglicans around the world in a way that was only previously possible under John Paul II’s pastoral provision on a very limited scale in the United States.

Jesus prayed that believers may be one, just as He and the Father are one, so that the world may believe in Him. By enabling a great move towards unity, this act of the Pope will grant a greater coherence and clarity to the common witness of Christians in the world.

In the wake of an act that will strengthen Christian culture and faith and allow many Anglicans to overcome the legacy of the Reformation, perhaps it was appropriate that it was the archbishop of Canterbury, appearing last week alongside the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, who stated that this is not an act of proselytism but a response to Anglicans hoping to “find their future” within the Catholic Church.

(Christopher Mahon provides research and writing support to a government relations firm and is also a professional singer with a number of Toronto choirs.)

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