Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register. He covered Pope Francis’s historic visit to the United States in 2015, and to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 2014. He has reported on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis, including from Jordan and Lebanon on an Egan Fellowship from Catholic Relief Services. Before coming on board the Register in 2013, he was a freelance writer, reporting for Catholic media outlets as the Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a graduate of the National Journalism Center and earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College, where he co-founded the student newspaper, The Rambler, and served as its editor. He comes originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
What is the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church? As part of the 10th anniversary celebration of Benedict XVI’s historic decree Anglicanorum Coetibus, which established three new Catholic dioceses for the Anglican tradition called “Personal Ordinariates,” a new Toronto conference aims to explore that theme.
The Anglicanorum Coetibus Society is sponsoring the Conference on the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada, Nov. 15-16, which includes a special reception by Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The conference’s sessions on the Anglican patrimony and the Catholic Church will take place at St. Michael’s choir school, while three solemn choral liturgies (a Solemn Mass and Te Deum, Choral Matins, and Evensong and Benediction) will take place at the Toronto Catholic archdiocese’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.
The Register spoke with Christopher Mahon, one of the organizers, about the upcoming conference, the Ordinariate, and the importance of the Anglican patrimony to the Catholic Church and its mission to spread the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
So we’re marking 10 years of Anglicanorum Coetibus this year. What has this integration of the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church meant to you personally?
I think that’s the key question. Because ultimately what we’re talking about is the salvation of souls and bringing souls individually, and their families and their communities, into the Catholic Church.
And when the Catholic Church through the acts of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI integrated the Anglican tradition into its panoply of cultures, it did two things: it added a jewel to its crown of diverse traditions, while simultaneously removing an obstacle for people to enter the Catholic Church. So, in my own case, I became Catholic years before the Ordinariate was created. I knew of the Anglican Use in the States, which was not permitted in Canada at the time, which to me was a great injustice. But when I became Catholic and when my parents became Catholic few years before me, we did so with the hope that one day this Anglican Use liturgy that we had heard of in the States would be allowed to spread to Canada, so that we could worship as Catholics using the beautiful tradition that we’d grown up in, that we had been formed in, and in turn had given form to our Christian culture and our faith. And so, the creation of the Ordinariate itself was not essential to my own reception in the Catholic Church, although the Anglican patrimonial liturgy was. However, it has encouraged other members of my family to come into the Catholic Church since then.
So it’s been of tremendous importance to me personally, for two reasons: one, because it has encouraged other members of my Anglican family and community to come into the Catholic Church and rejoin us therein; but also because it has restored to me personally and for those of us who had come in previously, our Anglican tradition and Anglican culture, especially at a time when the wider Latin Church is undergoing a bit of a crisis of identity and has undergone tremendous liturgical change over the last couple of generations. For us to see that our own traditions, which we cherish so much, have been deemed worthy and something that adds to the beauty and the holiness of the Church, has been very touching to us and has strengthened our sense of home in the Catholic Church.
You’re a member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society. Can you tell us about the upcoming conference on Anglican Traditions in the Catholic Church that’s going to be held in Toronto this Nov. 15-16.
This conference’s specific particular occasion is the 10th anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus, to give thanks to God for this great gift that he’s given us and to the Church. But also to continue the society’s 16-year-old mission now to promote the Anglican tradition within the Catholic Church; to promote a strengthened sense of common identity amongst all the communities of the Ordinariate; and to celebrate both our Catholic faith and our Anglican heritage and our Anglican way of being Catholic.
And I’ll go a little bit further. It also has just a simple purpose of giving us a chance to come together and to worship together, attend liturgy together, to sing together, to give thanks together, to celebrate together, and to socialize together and to learn about each other and our common tradition, and to have fun together.
So who will be coming to the conference this year?
A lot of people from Toronto, simply because that’s the host city, but also people from other cities. There are going to be some people from the States coming. Our celebrant is coming from Victoria, British Columbia — Father [Lee] Kenyon, who was formerly the Dean of Canada in the Ordinariate. We have speakers like David Warren, who was a well-known writer here in Canada who’s a former Anglican as well. Father Derek Cross of the Oratory. Father Jack Barker is going to be giving us his remarks. He is the author of the Early History of the Anglican Use and was “a pioneer of the Pastoral Provision” as Bishop Lopes has said. He was influential in the talks to bring about the Pastoral Provision back in the late 1970s. And Bishop Lopes is going to be our first speaker of the conference. He’s going to be joining us as well.
Most attendees will be Catholic, but we’re also hoping to have some Anglicans and others of different traditions as well who are interested in learning about the Anglican patrimony.
What are some of the discussions about the Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church that will be presented by the speakers?
Well, one of the one of the talks is going to be about the impact of the Anglican tradition on the mainstream culture of the Anglosphere of the English-speaking countries. And how, by baptizing that tradition (in the sense of bringing it fully within the Catholic Church), the Catholic Church is now able to make full use of that cultural legacy in evangelizing our culture [in North America].
Another speaker will be speaking about Cardinal Newman and his impact on Anglican history and on Anglican conversions to the Catholic Church. Another speaker will be speaking on the history of the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church and what needs the Ordinariate has met, what gap is filled if you will, and where we go from here. And Bishop Lopes will be speaking about the 10th anniversary, and about other subjects to be revealed.
From your point of view, what are the milestones of the past 10 years for the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church?
Well, first and foremost, the reception of individuals and families into the Catholic Church and communities on a parish level, all across the English-speaking world. And second of all, the establishment of Catholic parish churches, many of which are sort of embryonic in their stage of development, but which nevertheless are Catholic parish churches and a development out of the Anglican tradition and those two things both took time; a dramatic expansion of the number of priests in the Catholic church who are of the Anglican tradition, [most of whom] who are married, who come from a different background from most diocesan priests and offer a new fresh perspective, if you will. And that took time as well.
And there’s the establishment of the Ordinariate as diocesan entities, as churches in their own right, all three of them. And then simply there’s the developing life of each community in each Ordinariate as we learn to be Catholic in this tradition which is fairly old, but which is in a new setting, if you will, in the Catholic Church, and is finding its newfound home to be one that give it confidence, and allows it to be more outward looking, and go out and evangelize as Catholics of the Anglican tradition.
How important would you say is having its own form of the Roman Missal to the Ordinariate? What does that say about the Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church?
Well, having our own missal reflects the fullness of the Anglican patrimony in a fully Catholic expression, which is essential to the Ordinariate. The church does many things, but nothing that the Church does is more important than celebrating the Mass. And so having our own missal is of fundamental importance to our ecclesial and cultural distinctiveness.
Catholic laymen were always able to pray the prayers of the Anglican tradition that are found in Evensong or Matins, or in various Anglican customs. But celebrating the sacraments, according to an Anglican form of liturgy, is something that cannot be done without the blessing of the Church, without the authorization of the Church. And so to have a missal, by which we can celebrate an Anglican patrimonial form of the Mass, the highest and most important and holiest prayer of the Church, gives us our ecclesial identity.
And so, it’s the most serious thing that the Church could have done to say that the beautiful distinctiveness of the Anglican tradition is something that is good and true and beautiful, and therefore has a place in the Catholic Church. So the missal was of fundamental importance to that.
What are the challenges and opportunities that you see ahead for the Ordinariate and sharing this gift of the Anglican tradition, which Benedict XVI called a treasure to be shared with the whole Catholic Church.
It’s a great opportunity, because it opens up new avenues for the Church to evangelize. It adds new elements to the Church’s wide array of diverse rites, customs, traditions and cultures. It in a sense gives the broader Anglican world a new lodestar, a new rooted rootedness, a new integrity, which it now can’t escape reference to. You know, from now on, the Anglican community can’t escape the fact the Catholic Church has created an ecclesial home for them and for their culture and for their communities. It’s like a big, historic, wide-open door that in a sense will forever mark the Anglican community. Until now, Anglo-Catholics had a choice between staying true to their cultural patrimony, or in becoming Catholic also becoming a member of a culturally distinctive community that was not their own. And in Cardinal Newman’s case and in other people’s cases, that meant loss of friends, it meant change of customs and things like that. But that’s no longer the case. So that’s a huge opportunity for the Ordinariate to live out.
The challenge, of course, is the same as that facing any other [particular] church of any tradition. But it is still in the early phases. You know, we’re still very, very young as a church. The Ordinariates were created less than 10 years ago, even if they were created juridically, in potentiality, 10 years ago. They now have to grow. They now have to evangelize. They now have to worship the way every other church does. And it’ll be interesting to see how our perspective shifts subtly as we come to realize that the Ordinariates are not just about receiving converts from another Christian tradition into the Catholic Church. That is one of the biggest features that marks the first generation Ordinariate; but generations down the road the vast majority of the Ordinariate membership will not be converts, it will be cradle Catholics who are born into the Anglican tradition. And so, our challenge and our opportunity is in that sense the same as every other Catholic church of any tradition, and it is to be holy, it is to evangelize souls, and it is to worship God in the beauty of holiness.
So how do you see the Anglican tradition enriching Catholic discipleship of Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of his Gospel?
It’s of particular importance to Western society to see that Catholicism — Catholic means “universal” — is universal in that it extends to other cultures. It is not easy to see how something that is unicultural is universal. And so by having another Western expression of that universal faith, it allows Western man, if you will, to more easily see how Catholicism is indeed universal and hence true. So it’s important in that sense, but it’s also important in that Anglican experience, the Anglican tragedy of schism and all the other problems that go along with that over 500 years, have been saved in a sense. And the beautiful things of that experience have been gathered up and are now established firmly in the Catholic Church. And so, seeing the beauty of that tradition, seeing how that tradition has been baptized in a sense and perfected in the Catholic Church, which of course, the Church is in the process of doing historically now, will be an encouragement to people’s faith. And as a result, it can only help to Christianize our culture.
This interview has been edited for length.
Visit the AC Society here to learn more about the upcoming Conference on the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church.
For more information about the Ordinariate read the Register’s coverage:
- Ordinariates Mark 10-Year Jubilee of Anglican Tradition With Catholic Unity
- Ordinariates Mark 10 Years of Anglican Traditions and Catholic Communion
- Passion to Evangelize Drives New Ordinariate Catholic Communities
- English-Catholic Ordinariate Sees New Opportunities for Grace and Growth
- Catholic Belief in Eucharist Helped by Fellowship, Beauty of Worship, says Ordinariate Bishop
- St. Gregory’s Prayer Book: A Primer for Holiness From the English Patrimony
- Our Lady’s Dowry: New Ordinariate Missal Makes Advent History
- Historic Day for Catholics of Anglican Heritage as Pope Francis Names First Ordinariate Bishop
- Bishop Steven Lopes on Ordinariate’s Missal and Gift of English Catholic Patrimony
- Pope Francis Issues New Norms for Personal Ordinariates