Letter from Fr. Allen from the annual clergy assembly - October 25, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham and our Ordinariate Chancery in Houston, where I am attending the annual clergy assembly of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter. The days are full of meetings, but also well seasoned with fellowship and prayer. As our diocese spans the continent, it is good to have this opportunity to see our bishop (who sends his greetings!) and my brother priests in the Ordinariate. Yesterday we had a beautiful choral evensong, for which we were joined by Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the papal nuncio (the Pope's personal representative) to the United States - a great honor for us and a reminder that the Ordinariates continue to have notice and care at the highest levels of the universal Church.

I can report to you that we continue to grow numbers, in ministry, and in spiritual vibrancy - indeed, the growth we have seen at Corpus Christi in the last year is being experienced across the Ordinariate. While here, we are having "business" meetings (administrative policies, safe environment guidelines, etc) and also conferences facilitated by the St John Paul II Foundation on ministry to families. We are also eating a lot.

Good as it is to be here, I look forward to returning home to my family and to seeing all of you at Mass on Sunday. Please remember this Sunday is also our monthly Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - do come and pray with us.

Thursday, November 1st, is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation. Masses will be celebrated 8AM and 6PM.

Friday, November 2nd, is All Souls' Day, with Masses at 12PM and 6PM. Please see below for information about submitting names of loved ones to be remembered at these Masses. 

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen - October 11, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

Time flies! Here we are in the middle of October, though we are still dodging hurricanes and if autumn has arrived the humidity hasn't gotten the news. But November will soon be here and with it the great feasts of the Church Triumphant and Expectant. You will see notices for both All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day below. I remind you that All Saints' is a Holy Day of Obligation.

As a happy prelude to All Saints' Day and a reminder of the joy and comfort of the saints' intercession and companionship, this Sunday brings the canonization in Rome of six blesseds. They are:

  • Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), Supreme Pontiff;

  • Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, archbishop of San Salvador, martyr;

  • Francesco Spinelli, diocesan priest, founder of the Institute of the Sisters Adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament;

  • Vincenzo Romano, diocesan priest;

  • Maria Katharina Kasper, virgin, founder of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ;

  • Nazaria Ignacia de Santa Teresa de Jesús (née: Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa), founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church.

Get to know these dear saints!

All Souls', while not obligatory, is an important and sweet day as well, as we pray for the repose of our faithful departed loved ones. To submit names of loved ones to be remembered at All Souls' Day Masses, please do so on the form here. May God grant them rest!

God bless you,
Fr Allen

[Editor’s note: You can watch the canonizations of the six Blesseds live Sunday morning, 14 October 2018, starting at 3.30AM Eastern time on EWTN. An encore will air at 12.00 noon. This article details more ways to find live and encore broadcasts of the canonization Mass. ]

2018Oct14Canonization6Blesseds.jpg

Letter from Fr. Allen on the Leonine Prayers - September 27, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

In 1884, with turmoil in Italy leading to the loss of the Papal States (those portions of Italy over which the Pope had temporal/political sovereignty), Pope Leo XIII prescribed a set of prayers to be prayed after Mass by priest and people: three Hail Mary's; Hail, Holy Queen; and a collect (soon standardized as a prayer for "the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother, the Church"), to which was also soon added the prayer to St Michael the Archangel. These became known as the "Leonine Prayers." 

There was some adjustment over the years both in form and intention: Pope Pius X allowed for a three-fold invocation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Pope Pius XI asked that the prayers be particularly offered for the conversion of Russia and for the freedom of Catholics there to practice their faith. These prayers were said after every Mass until 1965, when they were suppressed in an instruction regarding the implementation of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Since the revelations of abuse this summer, many parishes and even some entire dioceses have returned to the use of these prayers. And beginning this Sunday, immediately after the dismissal at each Mass for both Corpus Christi and St Mary's, we will pray the Leonine prayers. Writing to the people of St. Mary's, Fr. West has said "We ask one another, 'What can we do?'  The first line of defense against sin and evil is prayer, our best sword and shield. All of us need to commit to praying frequently and fervently against the dark forces which seek the ruin of souls, families, marriages, schools, houses of worship, and any other noble pillar of human society."

And so we offer these prayers particularly for the protection of the Church and her ministers against the attacks of the enemy that have led to and exploit this time of grave scandal in the Church. While it is true that we must discern and enact those reforms necessary for the protection of our children and to promote the faithfulness of the Church's ministers, this is also and at root a spiritual battle which must be fought with spiritual weapons. The Leonine prayers are a strong and tested arrow in our quiver.

For just this reason, Pope St. John Paul II encouraged a more frequent use of these prayers, particularly the prayer to St Michael:

May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians, "Draw strength from the Lord and from his mighty power" (Eph 6.10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Rev. 12.7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St Michael throughout the Church. "St Michael the Archangel defend us in battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil." Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world. [24 April 1994]

There will be a card in the pew racks for you to use, and they are included [here]. We will pray the Leonine prayers at least through Advent in place of the Last Gospel (the Hail Mary's and Hail, Holy Queen also serve to commemorate the Incarnation which is the devotional heart of the Last Gospel).
 

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen - September 20, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

Well, my vocabulary has increased by one neologism: "hurrication." Last week when we were confidently informed that Hurricane Florence would be making an unwelcome and extended visit to the Lowcountry, Fr West and I decided to cancel all activities through the weekend, and my family and I skedaddled to Atlanta. I'm grateful for the time we had with family and old friends there, but I am sorry to have missed being with all of you at the Lord's Altar. In any case, this Sunday we will together give thanks for having been spared the storm's rain and winds, and also pray for our neighbors (quite near) who have suffered so terribly. [Here] you will see information for donating to relief of those impacted by Florence, and I encourage you prayerfully to consider making a gift.

After a week's weather-imposed delay, things are very suddenly getting very busy for us:

  • This Friday, 9/21, is Ember Friday in September, a day of abstinence for Ordinariate members. I encourage you to join me for a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in reparation for the sins of abuse in the Church and for the healing and wholeness of victims. The Holy Hour will be from 7 - 8.00PM.

  • Our Wednesday School program of family supper, class for adults, and catechesis of the Good Shepherd for children begins next week - Wednesday, 9/26; supper at 5.30PM; class at 6.00PM.

  • Next Sunday, 9/30, at 4.00PM will be our first Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament of the fall.

Finally, we are in need of nursery workers for Wednesday nights. These are paid positions; if you or anyone you know of might be interested, please email me.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen - September 6, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

I'm very much looking forward to the beginning of our Fall Christian formation program - "Wednesday School" - and hope you will consider participating if you have not in the past. We have a simple supper in the parish hall beginning at 5.30PM, our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for children and class for adults start at 6(-ish)PM, and we make sure everyone is on their way home by 7PM. Read here for more about our offerings.

Parents of children in Catechesis must register their children and also attend the Safe Environment workshop this coming Wednesday (9/12) at 5.30PM in the church. Please read more about the Safe Environment meeting here.

If you would like help by volunteering to provide one of our Wednesday evening meals or a portion thereof (let us not neglect dessert as is the habit of some!), please contact Judi.

We are also hoping to provide a nursery for children below Catechesis age. If you or someone you know would be interested in staffing the nursery, please let me know.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen announcing Day of Penance, Wednesday School

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

I had a wonderful weekend away with my son Henry at Alpine Camp, scene of many happy childhood memories for me. I missed being with you on Sunday, but you may appreciate knowing that I offered Mass at 4.45 in the morning because I forgot I was in the Central time zone!

Please give your attention to two items:



Wednesday School
The school year is back under way, and it is time for us to begin again with our Wednesday School programs. These will begin with our Safe Environment meeting for parents on Wednesday, September 12, at 5.30PM in the church. There will also be a program for children that night while parents have an opportunity to review the safe environment materials and talk briefly with me about the issues concerning the safety of our children in the Church. The children's program will not be a safe environment/"Teaching Touching Safety" program, but rather a quick and fun Catechesis of the Good Shepherd introduction with our director, Scarlett Crawford. Parents will be given the safe environment children's materials - when and how and in what terms to communicate this information to children is left to the discretion of parents who, after all, know their own children best. Having said that, the parents' meeting is mandatory in order to enroll children in our Catechesis program; if you are unable to attend on Wednesday, September 12, and would like your child(ren) to participate in Catechesis, please let me know so that we may arrange a make-up date. Our first classes, for children and adults, will be the following Wednesday, September 19th, with family supper at 5.30PM and class beginning at 6PM. Everyone goes home by 7PM. See more - including a link for registration - [here]!

A Day of Penance
Last week, we heard from Bishop Lopes regarding these latest terrible revelations of the scandal of abuse in the Church (scandal which has intensified even in the last week). Bishop Lopes invited us to offer the fall Ember Friday (September 21) as a day of penance for the renewal of the Church and healing of victims of abuse. To that end, I invite you to join me in a Holy Hour of prayer and penance in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament on that day, from 7 - 8PM.  (For understanding the Ember Days in general, see here.)

I have been asked why we ought to do penance for the sins of others - a good and fair question. Briefly:

  • Because the Church is, as St Paul teaches us, one Body, though it has many members. We are not all, of course, personally guilty of these crimes, but we all are, in a sense, implicated. St Francis began in just this way; he never intended to found a religious order, but rather to be a penitent, offering his own self-chosen poverty, with all of its hunger, want, and suffering, in reparation for the sins of all against God's love. So also we are doing penance for the sins of those deacons, priests, bishops, and others in the Church against children and the vulnerable.

  • Because penance intensifies our prayer. This is why fasting and prayer are so closely associated. By fasting we are, as it were, "putting our money where our mouth is" and demonstrating (and so also fostering) the urgency of our desire and the depth of our sorrow - going without, or voluntarily bearing some cross, in order to gain some good thing or end. As we hear from the prophet Joel at the beginning each Lent: "Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God; and cry to the Lord."

  • Finally, because it is what Jesus did for us, and "we are," as again St. Paul teaches, "ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." By this penance, we seek to make reparation not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others in the Church.

This Ember Friday falls on the Feast of St. Matthew, and so is not a day of mandatory abstinence, but I invite you to join me in fasting and abstaining from meat that day, and then join me in prayer before our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, that God may forgive our sins, heal his Church, and comfort and restore those who have been prayed upon.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

End of Summer Letter from Fr. Allen

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Somehow, and very much without my acquiescence, the summer is winding down and "fall" - busy with activity - is upon us again. But, at least for me, and I know for many of you as well, the summer itself has been busy with activity. But here we are - our children return to school on Monday and door is closed on summer. 

But of course, all those "school year" activities are themselves, I hope, fun and enriching. And in that regard, you will shortly receive notice of our "Wednesday School" offerings and calendar. But for now, please note that on Wednesday, September 12, we will have our "safe environment" workshops for both parents and children (you will receive more information about that well beforehand), and the adult class and children's catechesis will begin the following week, on September 19.

Having said that, and with that "safe environment" note still ringing, I can't help but turn once again to Jeremiah, the weeping prophet: "The harvest is past, the summer is over, and we are not saved." This melancholy summing up comes to mind with the abuse scandals that once again wrack the Church. This is just to let you know that I will be speaking about the latest revelations of abuse in the homily this Sunday. It will be entirely G-rated, and of course I want to shine the redeeming - and purifying - light of the Gospel on the entire matter. In the meantime, I hope that you will keep yourself informed and pray, pray, pray:

O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

We are going to the East -- a letter from Fr. Allen

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

The image [shown below] at the top of this week's newsletter (chosen not by me but by erstwhile parish clerk Connie M.) is from the 15th century Ranworth Antiphoner (an antiphoner is a book of Mass and Office chants for use by the choir). One thing we might notice right away is that the priest is celebrating the Mass ad orientem, or, "to the East." That is, he is standing on the same side of the altar and facing the same direction as the (presumed) congregation, as is our custom at Corpus Christi and is indeed normal throughout the Ordinariate (and is actually normative, though not normal, throughout the Church).

I bring this up because of today's saint: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross; or, as she more usually know, St. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was a Jew, a convert from Atheism, a professor of philosophy, and a Carmelite nun, murdered by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on 9 August 1942. Bishop Barron has a short but insightful reflection on her life and witness here, in the course of which he relates this story of her forced journey to Auschwitz:

'The sisters were held briefly in a camp in Holland and then were packed onto what amounted to a cattle car for the trip to Auschwitz. A former student of Edith’s reported an encounter with the nun when the train stopped briefly at a platform in Germany. After greeting her, Edith asked her to convey a message to the mother superior in Echt: “We are going to the East,” a sentence with both a literal and a spiritual meaning. She was undoubtedly trying to communicate information about their geographical destination, but “the East” is also mystical language for heaven and eternal life...'

"We are going to the East." The saint's statement reflects her firm belief, her "sure and certain hope" in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. This is precisely why in the churchyard at St. Mary's, with only two recently added exceptions, all 338 of the graves face east - that is, the direction of heaven and the returning Lord. Churches anciently were always build so that direction of prayer was toward the east. (St. Mary's is oddly oriented - meridianated? - to the south; I suppose this is due the exigencies of 18th century property availability.) I haven't done the research, but it's unlikely that St. Edith Stein ever attended Mass except facing literal east. For her, "going to the East" was going to the Lord.

Long ago, St. Augustine put it this way: 

"When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God."

This is why we celebrate Mass ad orientem (even if only figuratively). With Edith Stein and aided by her prayers, and with all the Church, "we are going to the East," and every Mass is another step in our journey to meet our Lord.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

P.S. Please remember that Wednesday, 15 August, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a holy day of obligation.

Update: Regarding the scandal involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick about which I have previously written to you, I recommend the following letters and articles:

 

 

Hell and its fruit: a summer meditation on watermelon, the real God, and community

 image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

We all have our private metrics by which we determine the rate at which Western Civilization is declining, civil society deracinating and withering, and the world generally going to hell in a hand basket. I know this because there are curmudgeons in our midst (to be carefully distinguished from gorillas in the mist) who keep me informed. For some, the slide down into a well deserved cultural oblivion can be measured by the number of grammatical errors in The Post and Courier, for others in the sartorial standards of "kids today," and for still others (and you know who you are) in the ratio of video screens to hymnals and prayer books in Episcopal parishes.

Though not so curmudgeonly as some, I, too, try to read the signs of the times, and there is one sign I pay particular attention to each summer and which, I regret to report, bodes ill for truth, justice, and my way. I refer to the price of watermelons: $5.99 apiece this week at the Piggly Wiggly. Who ever heard of a six dollar watermelon? Six dollars! And not only are these melons exorbitantly priced, they are defective. They are "seedless." Leaving aside the botanical perversity of a fruit without seeds (cf. Gn 1.11), one of the great pleasures of watermelon eating is spitting the seeds over the porch rail or, perhaps, at one's sister, with points awarded for distance and accuracy.

 image source: whataboutwatermelon.com 

image source: whataboutwatermelon.com 

And I'm afraid things are much worse than even a contrary-to-the-Divine-intent six dollar seedless watermelon would indicate. Because there, in a bin just next to the contrary-to-the-Divine-intent six dollar seedless watermelons, are, I kid you not, "personal watermelons," also without seeds. This is a small cultivar, about the size of an anemic cantaloupe, intended for consumption by one.

The personal watermelon is a signpost on the way to a particularly modern kind of hell - albeit, like Eve's apple, a delicious one.

Enabled by the incredible potencies of digital technology and urged on by marketing marksmen, we live in an age of ever-increasing personalization and, inevitably, privatization.   

This past spring, I happened to be driving late one afternoon down Calhoun Street past the MUSC bus stop. There must have been 25 or 30 people waiting on the bus, sitting along the low wall, and all of them – every single one of them – were hunched over, staring at the small screens of their smartphones, most with earphones. Here were people who worked in the same locale (if not actually together), who apparently lived in the same part of town, who at least had certain transportation needs or priorities in common, yet were not sharing stories, asking after one another's children, or making plans to get a beer together. They were 30 people together, but altogether alone, though their personal tastes – in music, in news, in reading – were being meticulously catered to through the magic of digital technology.

It is an isolating dynamic to which we middle class Americans, raised to be consumers, are particularly liable. In 2005, the sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist published Soul Searching: the Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press), in which they famously described the religion of young people (which they learn from their parents and in their churches) as "Moral Therapeutic Deism." They described this religion's god as,

"... primarily a divine Creator and Law giver. He designed the universe and establishes moral law and order. But this God is not Trinitarian; he did not speak through the Torah or the prophets of Israel, was never resurrected from the dead, and does not fill and transform people through his Spirit. This God is not demanding. He actually can't be, since his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist."

"A Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist" – in other words, a very personal and private Lord and Savior. There is, of course, a very important truth in the evangelical Protestant language of "personal Lord and Savior": I am a sinner, and I must repent, and I can and must because, it is true, Jesus loves me. But it is an easy slide into conceiving of a god who exists to serve me and my needs, to make me feel better about myself (absent any need for repentance), and who would not dare question, and wouldn't want me to question, the dictates of my own private judgment.

But the Gospel calls us out of ourselves and towards our neighbor. Jesus is the common Lord and Savior of all Christians, and we serve him together in his Church, which is his Bride – his one and only Bride, for, as it has been said, our Lord is no polygamist. He is calling us together into a new community of love, which is personal (real love always is) but not particularly private, because it is and must be shared. To prepare for that heaven, we must push back against the encroachments of our modern isolating hell. The place to begin, of course, is to share with our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood at Mass. And perhaps a good second step is to share with friends and neighbors a very large, public, and social watermelon, complete with seeds, on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon.

-- Fr. Patrick Allen

 image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

Fr. Allen addresses the Cardinal McCarrick scandal

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

In last Sunday's first reading, we heard the word of the Lord by the Prophet Jeremiah:

'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!' says the Lord.

These last weeks have seen new revelations of shepherds within the Church who destroy and scatter the sheep. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington D.C., has been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors and prohibited from exercising any public ministry. These accusations of abuse against minors have become the occasion, though, for the public airing of many more charges against the Cardinal - namely, that he was a sexual predator who used his position of power to coerce seminarians into sexual relationships, essentially purchasing their silence. It also turns out that two of his former dioceses paid settlements to men who accused the Cardinal of sexual harassment. But most distressing of all, it is now plain that many within the Church, including bishops, knew of McCarrick's proclivities but did nothing to stop him or prevent his rise through the ecclesiastical ranks. I myself have talked to priests who had heard these rumors decades ago when they themselves were seminarians. Journalists had verified these rumours but could get no one to go on record. When McCarrick was named Archbishop of Washington, a delegation of well-placed Catholics went to Rome to warn curial officials at the Vatican of McCarrick's abuse, and still no one acted. In short, everyone knew.

Here is a New York Times piece reporting on the accusations against McCarrick (warning: it is horrible to read). Here is a helpful analysis from the Catholic News Agency. I encourage you to read both.

As I say, it is distressing. It was painful for me as a Protestant contemplating conversion to the Catholic Church in 2002 when the abuse scandal here first exploded, and it is more painful now, as a Catholic and a priest, when it seems like 2002 all over again. But Jeremiah's invective against Israel's false shepherds reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. It also tells us that God will judge our false shepherds. So while rightly distressed, we do not despair. We must pray that God will do whatever, and to whomever, is necessary to purify the Church from this filth in our own time, and especially that he would strengthen our bishops, who are our chief shepherds and pastors, to act boldly and transparently. We must pray for that, but we must also demand it from the bishops.

I am sorry to have to write to you about these things, but it is important for the good of the Church that you know, understand, pray, and act. And yes, there are many wonderful things happening in the Church and, indeed, in our own midst, and so we may pray with Jeremiah (who was not always weeping): 

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Kyrie eleison.

God bless you,

Fr Allen

[Editor's note: in Fr. Allen's weekly letter to his parishioners on 9 Aug 2018, he referenced his letter from 26 Jul (above) and added the following.]

Update: Regarding the scandal involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick about which I have previously written you, I recommend the following letters and articles:

Fr. Allen on the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

This coming Wednesday, July 25th (the Feast of St James), will mark the 50th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitaewhich again confirmed the Church's perennial teaching concerning the vocation of marriage, including that sexual relations are ordered toward procreation, and so contraception is contrary to God's will and objectively sinful. Again, this is the Church's perennial teaching; it was not new or even a development of previous teaching when Humanae vitae was published. (Interestingly for us Catholics of Anglican background, that teaching had last received magisterial reaffirmation in Pope Pius XI's 1930 encyclical Casti connubii, issued in response to the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which had abandoned that perennial teaching with cascading consequences we know only too well.)

The prohibition of contraception marks the Church, like her Head whose Body she is, as a "sign of contradiction" in the modern world. Sexual pleasure and "freedom" is seen by most in our time as a - or even the - fundamental good to which all humans are entitled, to be had at one's whim and without any natural consequences, be emotional, relational, or biological (i.e., babies). But even among married Catholic couples striving to be faithful, and many others of good will as well, for whom sex is a unitive good and "mutual joy" within marriage, this teaching has proven difficult to receive and live out.

But its difficulty can be in no way a strike against its truth - indeed, why would we expect it to be? What is good in this fallen world is often difficult, and we would expect a good which sits so close to the center of our humanity - the love between husband and wife, the begetting and raising of children - to be obtained only with difficulty and, ultimately, when carried along by God's grace. But conformity with the truth is the only true freedom and always worth striving after. And the dire consequences, for individuals and our society, and especially for women and children, of living against the grain of God's truth are increasingly plain for all to see (cf. the articles by Mary Eberstadt linked below).

I often hear it said that, because they are unmarried, Catholic priests have no credibility when it comes to counseling married couple in this area. Well, that has always seemed silly to me. Chastity is chastity, and it seems obvious that those who are perpetually celibate might indeed have something to say to those who, for the sake of spacing children and cooperating with nature, might be only intermittently and briefly celibate. But, for what it's worth, I am a married Catholic priest, and happy to offer whatever counsel I may to Catholic couples who desire to order their sexual lives in accord with God's will, including of course the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe this difficult teaching of the Church is true and that it is a way to happiness and wholeness.

In the meantime, here are a couple resources to help those who want to understand the Church's teaching in this matter:

Again, I'm happy to talk (confidentially!) with any of you who wish to pursue this further, and to offer whatever pastoral and sacramental support I may as we all seek to live in to the beautiful truth of God's design for our bodies, for our families, for the Church.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: July 12, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

In the image [below], our Infant Lord, seated in the lap of our Lady, holds an orb surmounted with a cross. This is not, as has been suggested by one or two of our parishioners, the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch." Rather, it is properly known as a globus cruciger, which simply means "cross-bearing orb." From the middle ages, it has represented Christ's lordship over the orb of the world. Iconography in which Jesus is depicted holding the globus cruciger is called a Salvator mundi ("Savior of the World"). Last year an idiot (I use the term advisedly) paid $450 million dollars for a Salvator mundi that may, or may not, be the work of Leonardo DaVinci. In fact much of the argument among art historians centers on the orb in that picture, which some experts feel is not up to Leonardo's usual standard.

In any case, images of Christ as Salvator mundi depict an important truth, which we need always before our eyes, straining as we sometimes do to see God's kind providence in this dark and fallen world. Christ is Redeemer of the world and reigns over the world, and he is bringing all things to their perfect consummation. Christ is, as St Paul writes to the Ephesians, "head over all things for the Church" (Eph 1.22).

In other words: he's got the whole world in his hands.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

 Our Lady of the Atonement 

Our Lady of the Atonement 

Letter from Fr. Allen: July 5, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

As you will see, there are lots of ordination-related items in this week's newsletter. This past Friday, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul (6/29), Bishop Lopes ordained three priests for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (two of whom are establishing a revived form of religious life). Friday, 6 July, is the 27th anniversary of Fr West's priestly ordination, and this Saturday is the 5th anniversary of my own ordination as a Catholic priest. 

I serve on the "Vocations Team" for the Ordinariate, and it has been a great privilege and an encouragement to talk and pray with so many men seeking to discern God's call on their lives. We currently have five men in seminary (including of course our own Robb Lester), a dozen or so former Anglican clergy in formation, and a lovely backlog of applications and inquiries to work through. As of this month, the Ordinariate has a new Director of Vocations and Clergy Formation, Fr. Rick Kramer. Fr. Kramer's wife, Kathi, is also a former Episcopal priest who has embraced the Catholic faith, and she will be taking up a post as Assistant Director of Pastoral Formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

All of this ordination and vocations related news is simply the opportunity to ask you again to pray daily for vocations to the priesthood and religious life,  for our seminarians and those in formation for the priesthood, and for all bishops, priests, and deacons, "that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth [God's] true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer [his] holy Sacraments."
 

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 22, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

This Sunday the regular progression of Sundays after Trinity is interrupted by the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which takes precedence over the Sunday. In the Gospel we will hear again how John's father, Zechariah, who had lost the power of speech when he expressed his incredulity at the angel Gabriel's announcement that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son (for Elizabeth was "barren, and both were advanced in years"), regains his voice upon naming the child John, as Gabriel had instructed him. 

So, for nine months, Zechariah was silent. It was a punishment, of course, for his unbelief. A punishment, to be sure, but also a gift - at least I would think so. Certainly it would be frustrating not to be able to make yourself understood, your wishes known. But at the same time, that enforced silence must have given opportunity to reflect on the angel's visit, on the miracle (surely a miracle, and at least the great surprise) of his unborn child's conception, the visitation of his kinswoman Mary, bearing her own miracle Child, and then to give thanks, to turn his heart in praise to God, perhaps even to compose in his mind that great hymn of praise which came pouring out of him when his tongue was finally loosed: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the house of his servant David..."

Zechariah was granted (whether he wanted it or not) the gift of silence. But ordinarily for us, silence is a discipline we must undertake and develop: to let another speak and to attend to his or her words; not to respond to every internet provocation; to really think through a concern; and especially in prayer, not to fill the minutes with words but to be quiet and listen for God's still, small voice.

And of course, with Zechariah, after the silence comes praise. [Here] you may listen to a song my children and I love by Rain for Roots, a band that specializes in Bible story-songs for children (of all ages). It captures the building tension in Zechariah's heart as the day of John's birth approaches, and the wonderful release that comes when, in obedience, he names the child "John."

May God grant us, as he did Zechariah, the twin gifts of silence and song.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 15, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

How do we treat things that are precious? With care, of course. I recently read a fascinating (to me, anyway) book with the quirky title, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel, in which the author takes the reader, as it were, on trips to libraries across Europe and North America where he examines twelve of the most precious medieval manuscripts in existence, and relates those experiences to the reader, telling not only the history and significance of the manuscript (for instance, a Book of Gospels produced in Rome in the 6th century and which is almost certainly the same volume sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury, the great missionary to England), but also the actual process and more tactile sensations of handling the book - what the manuscript feels like, what it smells like, and so on. 

But of course these are rare, fragile books and may only be viewed under careful conditions. So de Hamel describes his encounter with the famous 8th century Book of Kells, Ireland's most precious cultural artifact, which resides in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The book was brought from its vault to a specially secured room. A humidifier had been brought in earlier in the day to make sure that the atmosphere was at the optimum condition for preservations of the vulnerable parchment. There was a special table, "prepared in advance with foam pads, a digital thermometer, and white gloves." But even the white gloves were not for de Hamel, who was to keep his hands to himself. Instead, the library's chief keeper of manuscripts carefully turned the pages "with the extreme tips of his fingers, usually from top and bottom simultaneously."

I know that medieval manuscripts are not likely so fascinating to you as to me. But what should be common to us all is the careful, thoughtful handling of a rare and precious things. No doubt we all have our own personal objects which we treat with comparable care: children may look, perhaps, but certainly not touch.

And if we are so about an object, a thing, how much more so must we be careful in handling, in touching, a person - not just with thought and care but also with, if I can put it this way, "charity aforethought." I thought of this last Sunday as I held little Westy Miller and conferred upon him the sacrament of Baptism - what a gift to hold in my arms this little child, so tiny, so vulnerable, but willed and intended and redeemed by God, infinitely precious.

All of which is to say each time we make our Holy Communion, we are receiving not just something, but Someone, our Divine Redeemer, and so it is important that we do so with thought, with care, with love.

Below you will see a short video which is helpful for thinking about this - not only in what the Church requires, but also how those objective requirements serve and enhance our own devotion in faithfully receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. So watch, and then at Mass "taste and see that the Lord is good."

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

P.S.  Several of you have asked about the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States not to hear the appeal in the dispute within (between?) the local Episcopal/Anglican diocese(s). I will indeed have a little something to say about that soon, but for now, please do pray for these brothers and sisters and Christ, for many of whom this is a very painful and uncertain time, and let us resolve again to be a community always of joyful and peaceful Catholics, whose life together is a sign of the unity Christ desires for his Church.

“How to Receive the Eucharist” from the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 7, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

I read some time ago that when Pope St John Paul made an apostolic journey to his native Poland, a Mass was planned for the parish in which he grew up, in the town of Wadowice. As Mass began, there was some confusion as the people and clergy realized the Pope was not in the procession! It turned out that as everyone moved forward down the aisle, John Paul took a hard left, and was to be seen in the small baptistry, where he knelt, embraced, and kissed the font where he on 20 June 1920 had died with Christ and been raised with him in the waters of Baptism.

This Sunday we will baptize our community's newest and youngest member, Logan West Miller. It will be an opportunity for all of us, even as we rejoice for Westy, to recall our own baptisms, and, as we are sprinkled with the baptismal water and the Asperges me is chanted, to give thanks (even if we may not embrace and kiss the fonts in which we were reborn) for the union with Christ effected there, and for the "glorious freedom of the children of God" which is ours.

I thank all of you who attended last Saturday's parish meeting. You will be hearing more soon about our discussions that day, and especially about next steps and opportunities to lend a hand as we move forward together in faith.

And thanks also for the lovely reception and your many generous gifts on the occasion of my fiftieth(!?) birthday! It was very much appreciated, and your friendship will help me ward off the ever-encroaching senescence and decrepitude!

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

 Pope Saint John Paul II at his baptismal font   image via  @ChurchinPoland

Pope Saint John Paul II at his baptismal font 

image via @ChurchinPoland

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 1, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

As you know - I hope! - this Sunday is our "Feast of Title," the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known as "Corpus Christi." Further, it will be the fifth anniversary of our community's foundation. It was on this great feast when our original band of pilgrims was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the hands of Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, our first ordinary. 

As I recall that day five years ago, I recall that I had some ideas, even some confident ideas, about how things would unfold for our community from there. I was wrong in every respect! Just last week at Mass we heard St James warn us against being too certain in our future plans: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain'; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that' (James 4.12-15).

Well, God's plans are better than ours! His plans are for our sanctification, for our maturity, for our salvation. And while we may not know God's plans, we may be sure that he does. As he said by his prophet Jeremiah to Israel in their exile: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29.11,12). 

None of that means that we are to be passive or not to make plans. Not at all. Rather, it frees us to be faithful and bold, knowing that God cares for us, watches over us, and will lead us finally home to himself. This Saturday's parish meeting is precisely about being faithful and bold as we speak and pray together about next steps for our community and even make practical, concrete plans so that we may grow and this project to preserve and nourish the Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church may be a means for many to discover the peace and joy of the Church's full communion. So please come! And if you cannot come, please pray!

And on Sunday afternoon, do not miss the Choral Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in celebration of our Fifth Anniversary! We will have a wonderful choir and the sacred music will be "Spoleto-worthy." A festive reception in the courtyard will follow. This will be the last of our monthly evensongs until September, so if you haven't yet attended, this your chance. Do come - and invite your friends!

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: May 24, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Last Sunday's Solemnity of Pentecost brought to a close the great feasts of our redemption - those mighty acts of God whereby we are redeemed. They are summed up starkly for us in the Great Litany: 

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation....By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit, Good Lord, deliver us. 

And with the mystery of our redemption in Christ laid before us, the Church invites us to meditate on that redemption in a smaller cycle of feasts beginning this Sunday with Trinity Sunday, then Corpus Christi (our Feast of Title!) next Sunday, and then the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart on the following Friday. Of this sequence of feasts, Pope Benedict once said,
 
Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And so I urge you to be in Mass and give yourself over to this annual pattern of devotion, that the Holy Spirit may lead you "further up and further in" to the joy and freedom of our salvation in Christ.

As you know, Corpus Christi is a special celebration for us, and also an occasion to think and pray together about God's call to us as a community. Please do participate in the parish meeting on Saturday, June 2nd, and also do not neglect to give thanks, pray, and adore at Evensong & Benediction on Sunday the 3rd (festive wine and cheese reception to follow!). Also, your RSVP for the parish meeting would be a big help in our planning.

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: May 18, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Come, Holy Ghost!

This Sunday we keep the great solemnity of Pentecost, or "Whitsunday" as it is commonly called in the English tradition. We remember that on this day God the Holy Ghost, filled and empowered the infant Apostolic Church to give witness to the good news of Jesus "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Pentecost has not been revoked! Still the Spirit fills, empowers, and guides the Church - you and me! - in the joyful work of the Gospel.

In the calendar of the Ordinariates the "octave" of Pentecost has been restored - the entire week, Sunday to Sunday, becomes one long and festive liturgical day. This octave, especially for a missionary enterprise like the Ordinariates, reminds us of the Spirit's continuing presence and power among us - again, precisely for the work of ministry. 

As we celebrate Whitsunday and as we approach the fifth anniversary of our community's founding on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (Sunday, June 3rd), I ask you to pray that we would have a renewed awareness of and reliance upon the Spirit's gifts to us, so that, like the Apostles on the morning of Pentecost, we too might give joyful and bold witness to the resurrection of Jesus, and that many might be added to our number of peaceful, happy Catholics.

To that end, and inseparably from it, I ask you - members and friends alike - to attend the parish meeting planned for Saturday, June 2nd, as we begin reasoning and praying together about the next steps in our community's life (which is to ask, where are we going? how may we give ourselves more fully to the Spirit's ministry of witness to Jesus?), and also to join with us for Evensong & Benediction in celebration our Fifth Anniversary on Corpus Christi, our "titular solemnity," on Sunday, June 3rd.

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: May 11, 2018

adoration-clipart-chalice.jpg

+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Each year on the seventh Sunday of Easter we hear a portion of what is commonly called the "High Priestly Prayer" of Jesus, from the 17th chapter of John. This is his prayer of Maundy Thursday, "the day before he suffered," in which he prays for himself, his apostles, and for all of us who would come to believe through the Apostles' witness. As to why this prayer is called "High Priestly" I plan to wax pedantic in Sunday's homily, but notice in the excerpt above that the Lord's prayer for his Apostolic Church is that "they may be one."

This unity the Lord wills for his Church is in a very special sense our mission in the Ordinariate. Our very existence is the gracious response of the Church to Anglican Christians whose holy desire was to return to the full communion of the Catholic Church. We are a living sign of the Catholic Church's ecumenical heart. And just so, we are here to invite and welcome "separated brethren" (of whose number most of us once were) into the joy and freedom of full communion.

As Bishop Lopes has said, “It’s an ecumenical sensitivity on the part of the Popes that has allowed this movement, recognising that the Holy Spirit has been truly working in this community outside of full communion, drawing them into the fullness of communion of the Church... I think it gives a very fine example to people who are paying attention outside of the Church (that) there’s a way to become Catholic where we can still maintain very key elements of our identity - 'I’m not simply swept away but celebrated and welcomed by the Church.'”

So let us join our prayer to that of Christ our High Priest, "that they all may be one." And having prayed, let us act. Invite a friend to Mass or Evensong! 

Finally, and in service to this mission given us by Christ, I have called a parish meeting for Saturday, June the 2nd, from 9.30AM till 12.30PM. The following Sunday will be the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, our feast of title and the fifth anniversary of the establishment of our community. And so the time is right for us to think and speak together about a vision for our parish community's future. Who are we now? And who, what, where is God calling us to be, and how do we get there from here? These are urgent questions for us, and we need (I require!) your input - members, friends, fellow travelers. There will be an email early next week which will give you more details and allow you to register for the meeting and reserve lunch.

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen