We are starved for mystery. We hunger for silence and beauty, and, as Catholics who have been force-fed guitar Masses and happy-clappy Masses and so forth, we often don’t know where to turn. There is the sacred mystery of the Extraordinary Form, and, while I highly recommend hearing the Tridentine Mass and reading the English translation of the prayers, the fact remains that, for most of us who don’t speak Latin, this holy Mass can seem a little too foreign. A little too other. Please hear me, I don’t mean to denigrate the Tridentine Mass, but I confess that it is not a form that I feel comfortable hearing every week.
Enter the Providence of God and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Wallsingham and Pope Francis. In case you have not heard, Pope Francis last week inserted a paragraph into canon that essentially serves to open the new “Anglican rite” to any baptized Catholic who has not received Confirmation. This is awesome!
I think it is awesome for the following reason, namely, it offers to sacred-starved American Catholics a liturgy that has beautiful sacred music, prayers rich in erudition, and beautiful vestments, and it is in English. If you have ever read John Seniors’ “Restoration of Christian Culture”, you will recall that he bemoans the fact that so many great books in English are non-Catholic or anti-Catholic; he avers that we simply must bear it as best we can because one can’t not read “Robinson Crusoe” or “Little Women”, but he wishes that there were a corpus of good English Catholic literature. I think of him, therefore, as I write about this new missionary mandate for the Anglican ordinariate, and I feel happy.
Here is an English Catholic Mass that retains the mystery and beauty and silence that we have generally lost in English-speaking Roman Catholicism. Amazing! You know, Pope John Paul II wrote the following in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”, and I think of it today: “The more positive [analysis of all the divisions in Christianity] is inspired by trust in the One who is capable of bringing forth good even from evil, from human weakness. Could it not be that these divisions have also been a path continually leading the Church to discover the untold wealth contained in Christ’s Gospel and in the redemption accomplished by Christ? Perhaps all this wealth would not have come to light otherwise…” (p. 153) Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Father surmised that, perhaps, Our Lord allowed all the divisions within Christianity in order to make more full and more deep the richness of Catholic doctrine. Could it be that Our Lord allowed the schism between the Church and English Anglicanism in order to one day bless the Church through England? Like this.
If you’ve ever seen “A Man for All Seasons” you will recall the scene in which the Catholic bishops assemble and, to a man, excepting St. John Fisher, repudiate their allegiance to the Holy Father. Who would have ever imagined that, Our Lord, in His perfect mercy, would bring about the very opposite, and, in so doing, bless the entire English-speaking Church? Blessed be His Holy Name. Check out this video of the epic Catechism-signing.