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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Anglo-Catholics Down the Rabbit Hole

If you are Catholic and are unfamiliar with me or this blog, please know that I love Catholics and, if a reader were to peek in my closet, he or she would probably find one.  (No, I don't have the neighbor locked in my closet; I'm referring to myself here.) It's just that we have, for many years, been distinctly Anglo-Catholic and have a great love for the sublime beauty of Anglican liturgy, patrimony, and tradition.  Please do not misconstrue anything I write here as being "anti-Catholic" or lacking in respect for Roman Catholicism.  It's just me trying to insert some humor into a difficult life transition.

If you are Catholic and are familiar with me or this blog, then deal with it.  You know I love you guys. Smiles.)

Simone Martini [Public domain]

My tiny corner of the internet has been quiet for quite a while, I suppose.  You may remember that our family has, along with our parish, been experiencing some rough seas following the departure  of our diocese some years ago from the Episcopal Church.  Much of that was resolved recently, only to be followed by a final crashing wave that was quite unexpected, and caused us to finally own up to the fact that Anglicanism (even through our heavily Tractarian lens) will always be, at its heart, intrinsically Protestant, and we--well--just aren't.

Question: So--What now then?

<insert the melodic chirping of Anglo-Catholic crickets here>

Answer: We're not sure yet.

At any rate, in the midst of our indecision, and feeling quite like motherless children, we donned our church attire--veils and all, because we are whom we are-- and headed to the local Roman Catholic church.

Well, this did not happen.  [Remember that disclaimer? :P ]

Here then, are our reactions:

1) We now know where all of the babies, toddlers, and young men under age 80 are.  You Catholics have them.  All of them.  (Seriously, there are no Anglicans, other than us, under age 80.)  I am now fully aware that the Catholic church may be my only possible route to grandchildren.  (If you don't hear from me within 48 hours, please send the authorities -- because it will mean that my daughter has read this and has locked me in the closet with the neighbor.)

By Wilfredor (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
2) The Novus Ordo mass is not the Kumbaya session that I had anticipated.  It was actually quite lovely. I felt no compulsion whatsoever to break out the smores. The two masses (Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic) are essentially identical, although there are parts of the language of the Anglican mass that I felt a twinge of aching for. Let's face it, the English do English exquisitely well.

3)  "Consubstantial with?"  I like the theological depth. I'm just wondering how many of the people in the pews really get it.

4) I loved--seriously loved-- the fact that the announcements were held until the end.  I'm not sure if this is widely held Catholic practice, or just typical of this particular parish, but it added so much to the fluidity of the mass. I have always felt that the association of the announcements with the passing of the peace sort of bisects the Anglican mass into two separate liturgies by stopping the mass short -- engaging in a quick garden party -- and then pressing "play" again on the mass. I did not feel this at all today in this Catholic mass. It was far more fluid.

5)The music was different from what we are used to, but Anglicanism is known for its music and pageantry, so I was sort of expecting that.

6) I wasn't expecting the general confession at the beginning.  I had always assumed that we (Anglicans) had sort of created that, since private confession -- while available to us -- is not required of us.

7) Standing to receive communion -- I do not love this idea.  At all.  I'm not saying it is wrong.  In fact, if memory serves, it is the more ancient practice.  I'm just saying that I do not love it.  At all.
[No we did not partake.  Please do not panic.  :) ]

8) We were in the back, but counted quite a few cups on the altar.  I'm guessing this means that communion was received in both kinds?  Could you hear my sigh of relief across the country?

By Ajuntament de Sant Vicenç de Montalt
 (Ajuntament de Sant Vicenç de Montalt)
 [GFDL ( 

9)  There was no incense, but I suppose I could get over that, other than on High Holy Days.  At the Easter Vigil, all bets are off.

9)  We still bowed when the processional cross passed.  All three of us.  "When in Rome" only goes so far, and some habits are too strong to be broken.  :)

10)  I was impressed by the general attire of the congregation.  Somehow, I expected folks to be dressed more casually, but they weren't for the most part.  There were suits and ties and dresses.  We, in all of our Anglo-Catholic stuffiness, loved that.  

11)  I have always loved the fact that the gospel is read from the center of the aisle in Anglican churches.  I think there is something beautiful and meaningful about the words of Christ being delivered in the midst of the people--just as they were by our Lord himself. I did miss that.

12)Babies!  And children!  And teenagers!  And young adults!  Did I mention that?  Seriously, you have no idea what a difference this is.  We actually couldn't hear parts of the homily because of the young children.  It was so awesome!--You have no idea.  Although--I was reminded what it is like to feel the pain of infertility at church, being surrounded by all those families.

13) After a couple of decades of driving two hours round trip to church, we left twenty minutes before the start of the mass today.  Five minutes in the car, that was it.  That was almost as welcome as the babies and the prospect of grandchildren.  (Okay, she's really going to lock me in the closet now.)

14) This church was beautiful.  Parting with our resplendent church building is excruciating, especially knowing that under the (newly court established) ownership of the Episcopal Church her fate is not at all certain.  Our local Catholic Church is lovely though; we were pleased.

15)  Mostly, it just wasn't really very different at all.  ...Okay, I missed things like this:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, 
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our 
hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may 
perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; 
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

...but other than the language of the mass, it wasn't all that different.  I'm not intending to minimize the theological differences between the Catholic Church's doctrinal solidity and the latitude that the Anglican Communion allows its more Protestant-leaning members -- but for a family that lies on the very Anglo-Catholic end of Anglicanism's Catholic-to-Protestant-continuum, it was pretty much a normal Sunday, other than not receiving communion, which...
...well, let's just say it's gonna be a tough week.  Please pray for us.

Pax Christi dear ones,
I pray you are well and resting in the Peace of Christ,

By the way: For those of you who are caught of guard by the notion that we are not Roman Catholic, ("What the heck?!")  <Smiles>


  1. I love this post. And I think they should have incense, probably on at least Christmas and Easter, and likely on All Saint's Day and the Feast of the Assumption and other random big feast days too! Even the very informal guitar strumming parish we used to at it at least on those days!

    #7 I'm not a fan of either. I have seen people at the OF kneel to receive (on of our friends does). But I'm not brave enough to be the only one to do it either!

    Oh how I wish you guys were near us. I'm amazed when I go to confession because there are soooooo many young men there. It's like the Church is the place to be on Saturday night. I am amazed.

    1. Wait Cam! No incense even on Easter, All Saints, and Christmas?! Seriously? Just kill me now. :)
      There is an EF an hour away....

    2. Oh wait...I just read the rest of your comment. Forgive my momentary panic. haha. Now I get it. :D

    3. Okay, now I've read your last sentences. Please send one this way. I fear my beautiful daughter is destined to become a cat lady. There are just no decent young men these days. I'm convinced of it. How much would it cost to UPS a guy from Michigan to California? Hmmm....

    4. LOL! Now she's really going to lock you in the closet! There have to be a ton if you drive her out to Santa Paula too with Saint Thomas there. And would that be a day trip?

      I'm still so surprised when I see them all here. I'm taking it as a good sign for the parish we've been attending lately!

    5. Haha- Yes, Santa Paula is about two hours away. Do you think they'd notice if a swept in and stole a 19 or 20-something year old male?
      I guess I have to leave it to her though. :P

  2. Interesting and good reading. Full disclosure, this is coming from a high-church Anglican who's NOT Anglo-Catholic (39 Articles, all the way!) . . .
    1) if you're ever in SoCal, come visit our church plant - we have all the kids and young adults! :) seriously . . . I'm pretty sure at least half our congregation is under 30.
    2) "the English do English exquisitely well" <-- this was the first prompt for my conversion to Anglicanism over a decade ago. I came to an Anglican church, and read the prayers, and thought: "these are the words I've been trying to say to God my whole life long."
    3) In turn, I sometimes wonder how many Anglicans have read and loved the 39 Articles.
    4) I'm pretty sure that the Anglican liturgy IS officially cut in half. I know the first part is called "the Liturgy of the Word", but I can't for the life of me remember what the second half is called. But, yeah, there's the Scripture half and then the Eucharist half: food both ways. :)
    . . . . skipping a bunch . . . though I'm totally with you on 11 . . .
    13) not having a long drive to church is such a blessing. Oh man.

    Anyway, I think you're right: the form is very similar. (Though if we were picking just on form, I would pick Anglican.) But the theological differences are real and deep. And I say that as someone who's prayed and thought through them a lot, because there have certainly been times in this Anglican/Episcopalian upheaval when I have *wished*, so hard, that I could become Catholic. But at the end, I realized that I couldn't, because I really, truly disagreed with parts of Roman Catholic theology. I'd be a bad Catholic. Which is no way to do it.

    I can't answer for you though, of course, but you have my prayers as you and your family discern where the Lord is leading you. Lots of love to you in the process - it's hard to feel church-homeless.

  3. Now that I've had a chance to really read this entry, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

    Oh Michelle, how wonderful that you were able to experience a Roman Catholic Mass! And what wonderful things you had to say about it! My heart is full to bursting that God gifted you all such a wonderful experience.

    All of your commentary is spot on. Just as Cam mentioned, the whole kneeling to receive would be a bonus. We're all agreed, I think (as is the Holy Father given his recent statements on reception while kneeling).

    The Gospel from the center aisle makes sense. In some churches, there are two separate pulpits (well, a pulpit and a lecturn). The pulpit is reserved strictly for the gospel / homily and are much more ornate (and higher-level) than the lecturn to highlight the importance of the Gospel message. Would that be a nice compromise for you? Because churches like that do exist! :)

    As for all the "chalices" on the altar, were some of them possibly ciboria? Forgive me if you are aware of the differences (I don't know what your vessels are called), but ciboria are basically chalice-like cups the ministers use to hold the Consecrated Hosts during Communion. You might've had Eucharist under both species (we did, today, too!), but it might've just been the ciboria that looked like chalices from the back of the church.


    You guys are in my prayers. The situation you're in cannot possibly be fun. No doubt God is using this experience for something incredibly special, though. {Hugs again}

  4. I am delighted for you Michelle! Somehow it just feels like Our Lady has a surprise in store for you. Check out the EF Mass and see if that might be an easier experience. Wish you were closer to Costa Mesa, the Norbertines offer a beautiful EF on Sundays at 12:30. But in the meantime, check out the Mass at Tahachapi? They just might offer an EF there. Sending prayers. BTW...we have loads of young men at our parish...
    if you ever come this far south-just sayin' ;)

  5. As someone who has "shopped around" a bit, I say you should perhaps try an Orthodox church as well! I have heard from several sources that Anglo-Catholic theology is actually more similar to Orthodox theology (especially in soteriology?) than to Roman Catholic, although I'm not sure exactly how/why.

  6. What is very interesting is your description of the Catholic mass you attended sounds very similar to the low-Anglican service I attend here in Canada. I guess it shows how the different churches have evolved between Canada and the USA

  7. Michelle, I meant to write a comment to this post when you first wrote it, but it slipped my mind. I actually thought of you and this post over the weekend, and wanted to just drop you a line that I'm praying for you. :) I'm so glad that I discovered you and your blog!


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