A Short Introduction to Corpus Christi & the Ordinariate

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Here is a brief note Fr Allen wrote for the people of St Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church, our "host parish," explaining what the Ordinariate is, who are people are, and a little of what to expect at an Ordinariate Mass.

Dear friends -

This week daily Mass is restored to St Mary’s for the first time in a couple of years - wonderful news, indeed! Holy Mass will be celebrated Monday through Thursday at 8AM, and on first Fridays at noon, when Mass will be followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with Benediction given at 1PM.

As a further note, you should know that Mass on Monday and Tuesday will be celebrated according to the “Ordinary Form” — that is, the “normal” form of Mass you are used to. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Mass will be celebrated according to “Divine Worship” — that is, the form of Mass provided for the Personal Ordinariates created for those communities of former Anglicans/Episcopalians (and others!) who have come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Which gives me the opportunity to say something briefly about the Ordinariate and Corpus Christi Catholic Community and our partnership with St Mary’s and the Diocese of Charleston.

Pope Benedict XVI laid the groundwork for the Ordinariates (there are also Ordinariates in England and in Australia) with the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (“Groups of Anglicans”) in 2009 in response to requests going back decades from Anglican/Episcopalian clergy and faithful who shared the Catholic faith and wished to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Ordinariates are equivalent to a normal diocese, except they are “personal” — bound by particular relationships and conditions — rather than geographic. We have a bishop, the Most Reverend Steven J. Lopes, and a Cathedral, the beautiful Our Lady of Walsingham, in Houston, Texas (high and dry after Harvey, thank you for asking!). At present, we have 43 parishes and communities scattered across the United States and Canada, and 67 priests. Pope Francis has confirmed and extended this work.

Further, the Vatican has provided  liturgical forms (collectively known as Divine Worship) that are fully Catholic but incorporate elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony (mainly, of course, from The Book of Common Prayer). This is a great gift to those of us who were formed in that tradition — it is as if the Holy Father not only welcomed us into the gracious home that is the Catholic Church, but also built on a room so that we could bring some of our familiar and beloved furniture with us.

So, I am a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, and Corpus Christi is an Ordinariate community. As I think most of you know, I was a priest of the Episcopal Church for 12 years before I entered the Catholic Church and was ordained a Catholic priest right here at St Mary’s. Most, but not all, of the people of our community are former Anglicans/Episcopalians, though some are “cradle Catholics” attracted to our form of the liturgy or the life of our community or, perhaps, dragged along by a spouse! And this is important to note: we are fully Catholic! We are fully Catholic, but we bring with us all that the Church has discerned is good and true and beautiful in the Anglican tradition, and the particular spiritual habits and dispositions formed in us by that tradition. But, even had the Ordinariates never been created, we had to become Catholic, because, as we promised when we were received into the Church, “[We] believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” So, the Ordinariate communities are not “half-way houses” between the Catholic Church and Protestantism, though they are intended to be places of invitation and warm welcome to all our brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to full communion with the Church. Any Catholic, and only a Catholic, properly disposed, may receive Holy Communion and meet his or her Sunday and Holy Day obligations at an Ordinariate Mass.

You will immediately recognize the Ordinariate Mass as the one Catholic Mass, but it will, at first, be just different enough to really confuse you! Texts and translations of the ordinary parts of the Mass are slightly different, rendered in a more poetic, “sacral” kind of English — so, it is “And with thy spirit,” rather than “your spirit,” and “Glory be to God on high,” rather than “Glory to God in the highest.” And there are also old Anglican prayers that will be new to you. As an example, I particularly love the “Collect for Purity” prayed at the beginning of Mass, and which comes from the old Sarum Missal, the form of Mass most common in England prior to the 16th century Reformation:

“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

But perhaps the most immediately noticeable, and even strange, difference is that an Ordinariate Mass is normatively prayed ad orientem - that is, with the priest standing on the same side of the altar and facing the same direction (“East” toward the coming Lord) as the people. This of course is how Mass was celebrated anciently and for long centuries, and is still in many “normal” parishes. You can read a helpful set of Ordinariate “FAQ’s” here, and more about our liturgy and spirituality here.

All of these things and more, as Pope Benedict said in Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Church gives to us as “a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.” And we hope you will share this treasure with us, just as we are so grateful to share with you in the treasure that is St. Mary’s!

Corpus Christi’s goal in this partnership with St Mary’s is to grow and flourish so that we may, in God’s good time, acquire a home of our own, for the work of the Gospel and the building up of the Church here in Charleston, and to do so in a way that works also for the benefit of St Mary’s — a mutually enriching, mutually beneficial partnership in the Gospel, and a particular sign and instrument of the unity Christ wills for his Church (Jn 17.21). To this end, Bishop Guglielmone (in close cooperation with Bishop Lopes) has appointed me Parochial Vicar for St Mary’s to assist Fr West in ministry.

That is a little of how I and Corpus Christi come to be here and just what it is we are up to. We are grateful for your support and hospitality, and hope that our presence and prayer will give you cause for gratitude as well. And I especially hope you will mention to your Anglican and Episcopal friends that all that is best in their tradition has a true and abiding home in the Catholic Church!

Faithfully,

Fr. Allen