WASHINGTON — When Susan White converted to the Catholic faith 25 years ago, she made the painful choice to leave behind the Anglican devotions, prayers and traditions that had formed her Christian life up until that point.
“I kept some of them privately and quietly,” she told the Register. “I would say the ‘Prayer of Humble Access’ under my breath before receiving Communion.”
White said that, for many Anglicans — also called Episcopalians in the U.S. — even the thought of crossing the Tiber and exile from these traditions “can be very painful.”
But on the First Sunday of Advent, that all changes. The Anglican patrimony will become permanently fixed in the life of the Catholic Church, when Catholics who belong to the personal ordinariates established by Benedict XVI in 2009 celebrate their new liturgy: an approved Roman missal assembled from the best of the ordinary Roman rite and Anglican liturgical texts dating as far back as 1549.
White said this new, permanent missal is a “gesture of love” from Rome for Catholics from the Anglican tradition — the Thames’ Anglican water now forever mingles with the Roman Tiber. It sends a signal they “want all our separated brethren to come home.”
“Now, what Rome has said is, ‘We want you to bring your treasures with you,’” she said. “It is tremendously moving.”
“This is really a Roman liturgy, just in an Anglican [liturgical] tradition and in a missal approved by Rome,” said White’s pastor, Father Mark Lewis of St. Luke’s ordinariate parish, which worships at Immaculate Conception Church in Washington. “It represents the good things of Anglicanism that held Catholic truth, and developed Catholic-minded men and women throughout the centuries, even though they may have been separated from Rome.”
Any Catholic can attend this new Roman rite in the Anglican tradition and fulfill his or her Sunday Mass obligation. All Catholics can participate in the ordinariate community life even if they are not formal members and attend Masses. Formal membership in the ordinariate is possible for Catholics who have an Anglican heritage — Anglican, Episcopalian, Methodist or African Methodist Episcopal — or who are baptized or confirmed in the ordinariate or who have family members baptized or confirmed in the ordinariate.
Father Lewis told the Register that the Divine Worship missal sends a powerful signal to Anglicans that they can become Catholics and keep their Anglican patrimony, which is now permanently grounded in the Catholic Church.
“With this missal, it gives us stability. We’re going to be here — this is forever,” he said. The stability of the liturgy will not only help his parish evangelize, but also provide a bridge for Anglicans that have taken a wait-and-see posture toward joining the Church.
Father Lewis said the approved variation of the Roman rite also sends a powerful message to the entire Church that the faithful in the ordinariate are “solid Catholics, faithful to the magisterium and the teachings of the Church” and are here to stay.
Enrichment for the Whole Church
Accompanying the missal is a decree from Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, declaring that, by Pope Francis’s authority, the congregation “now approves this missal as a legitimate [part] of the Roman rite.” The cardinal explains that the new missal reflects the customs and traditions of “the Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony that have developed over the course of 500 years and are in accord with the Catholic faith.”
The prefect stated the missal proceeds from the Holy Father’s desire to “heal wounds of division in the Body of Christ.” For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI approved in 2009 the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which created personal ordinariates “for Anglicans wishing to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.”
Father Timothy Perkins, director of worship for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter — which covers North America — and pastor of the Catholic Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, Texas, told the Register that Catholics of Anglican heritage, and Catholics who worship according to the ordinary or extraordinary uses, will recognize familiar elements and patterns of the Mass.
“This is recognizably the Roman rite, with an Anglican accent,” he said.
The Mass begins with the In nomine: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” — or “of the Holy Ghost,” depending on the community’s local custom. Father Perkins said Divine Worship: The Missal allows ordinariate congregations to choose either option in the liturgy.
Catholics who are former Anglicans will recognize beloved prayers in the Mass: the recitation of the Decalogue, the “Comfortable Words” and the “Prayer of Humble Access” recited before Communion.
All Latin-rite Catholics will recognize the Roman canon on Sunday, but hear it prayed in the “elevated language” that harkens back to Shakespeare’s time.
For instance, instead of responding “and with your spirit,” the congregation says “and with thy spirit.” The people’s response during the Offertory, “It is right and just,” is rendered in the Divine Worship missal as, “It is meet and right so to do.” The phrase “the living and the dead” appears throughout the liturgy as “the quick and the dead.”
Catholics used to the extraordinary form of the Roman Missal, also known as the Tridentine Mass, will recognize such elements in the liturgy as the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Asperges me, and the Last Gospel.
In addition, the ordinariate priest typically prays ad orientem (facing the altar with the people), and communicants receive under both forms, while kneeling.
“It is very clear we are grounded in the heritage of the ages in communion with the entire Church universal,” Father Perkins said.
Captivated by Beauty
Divine Worship also restores to the Roman rite a certain accent of English Christianity lost since the Church of England split from the Catholic Church in 1534.
Liturgical practices known to “Merry Olde England” before the Reformation, when Catholics there prayed the Sarum use of the Roman rite, are now recovered, said Andrew Jordan, a physics professor at the University of Rochester who belongs to St. Alban’s Fellowship in Rochester, N.Y. Jordan, who is helping his ordinariate community get ready for their first Mass with the new missal, pointed to the “Votive Mass of the Five Wounds” as an example.
“This was very popular in medieval England — and seemed to have been lost to Western Christianity — but it is right here as an option for a votive Mass,” he said.
There are also a series of Masses dedicated to the Virgin Mary drawn from that pre-Reformation era, when England was known as “Our Lady’s Dowry” because its devotion to the Blessed Mother was so strong.
“It’s a Catholic missal in every sense,” Jordan said, adding that former Anglicans now can experience a far richer English patrimony than they ever had in the Anglican Communion.
“In terms of evangelization, two of the most powerful things are truth and beauty,” he said. “I think people who experience this missal will see truth and beauty and be drawn to God.”
Further Riches for the Church
Father Perkins noted that Benedict XVI envisioned that the ordinariates would enrich other Catholics around them.
The new missal also allows Latin-rite priests who do not belong to the ordinariate to concelebrate with an ordinariate priest. They can also obtain permission to celebrate this form of the Mass for a community of Catholics of Anglican heritage that lacks a regular ordinariate priest.
The Anglican tradition also includes morning and evening communal prayer — known as “Matins” and “Evensong” — from the Divine Office. At a number of Catholic parishes, this coincides with Eucharistic adoration. The next step for the ordinariates will be working with Rome to produce an authoritative Divine Office in the Anglican tradition.
“I want to say to all the faithful: Take an opportunity, if you can, to visit with us, give us your encouragement and join with us in this beautiful expression of our Catholic worship,” Father Perkins said. “We want to welcome all our brothers and sisters and share with them this great gift.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.