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2 memorials today – Hildegard of Bingen, declared a Doctor of the Church by that retrograde, Pope Benedict XVI, and St. Robert Bellarmine.

First, B16 on the latter:

In his book De gemitu columbae — the lament of the dove — in which the dove represents the Church, is a forceful appeal to all the clergy and faithful to undertake a personal and concrete reform of their own life in accordance with the teachings of Scripture and of the saints, among whom he mentions in particular St Gregory Nazianzus, St John Crysostom, St Jerome and St Augustine, as well as the great founders of religious orders, such as St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis.

Bellarmine teaches with great clarity and with the example of his own life that there can be no true reform of the Church unless there is first our own personal reform and the conversion of our own heart.

Bellarmine found in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius recommendations for communicating the profound beauty of the mysteries of faith, even to the simplest of people. He wrote: “If you have wisdom, may you understand that you have been created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation. This is your goal, this is the centre of your soul, this the treasure of your heart. Therefore consider as truly good for you what leads you to your goal, and truly evil what causes you to miss it. The wise person must not seek felicitous or adverse events, wealth or poverty, health or sickness, honours or offences, life or death. They are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are evil and to be avoided if they hinder it” (De ascensione mentis in Deum, grad. 1).

These are obviously not words that have gone out of fashion but words on which we should meditate at length today, to direct our journey on this earth. They remind us that the aim of our life is the Lord, God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, in whom he continues to call us and to promise us communion with him. They remind us of the importance of trusting in the Lord, of expending ourselves in a life faithful to the Gospel, of accepting and illuminating every circumstance and every action of our life with faith and with prayer, ever reaching for union with him. Many thanks.

Three substantive talks from him on Hildegard.  First, two in his series of General Audiences focused on great figures of the Church:

9/1/2010:

During the years when she was superior of the Monastery of St Disibodenberg, Hildegard began to dictate the mystical visions that she had been receiving for some time to the monk Volmar, her spiritual director, and to Richardis di Strade, her secretary, a sister of whom she was very fond. As always happens in the life of true mystics, Hildegard too wanted to put herself under the authority of wise people to discern the origin of her visions, fearing that they were the product of illusions and did not come from God. She thus turned to a person who was most highly esteemed in the Church in those times: St Bernard of Clairvaux, of whom I have already spoken in several Catecheses. He calmed and encouraged Hildegard. However, in 1147 she received a further, very important approval. Pope Eugene iii, who was presiding at a Synod in Trier, read a text dictated by Hildegard presented to him by Archbishop Henry of Mainz. The Pope authorized the mystic to "hildegard of bingen"write down her visions and to speak in public. From that moment Hildegard’s spiritual prestige continued to grow so that her contemporaries called her the “Teutonic prophetess”. This, dear friends, is the seal of an authentic experience of the Holy Spirit, the source of every charism: the person endowed with supernatural gifts never boasts of them, never flaunts them and, above all, shows complete obedience to the ecclesial authority. Every gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit, is in fact intended for the edification of the Church and the Church, through her Pastors, recognizes its authenticity.

I shall speak again next Wednesday about this great woman, this “prophetess” who also speaks with great timeliness to us today, with her courageous ability to discern the signs of the times, her love for creation, her medicine, her poetry, her music, which today has been reconstructed, her love for Christ and for his Church which was suffering in that period too, wounded also in that time by the sins of both priests and lay people, and far better loved as the Body of Christ. Thus St Hildegard speaks to us; we shall speak of her again next Wednesday. Thank you for your attention.

And, as promised….9/8/2010:

Today I would like to take up and continue my Reflection on St Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the Middle Ages who was distinguished for her spiritual wisdom and the holiness of her life. Hildegard’s mystical visions resemble those of the Old Testament prophets: expressing herself in the cultural and religious categories of her time, she interpreted the Sacred Scriptures in the light of God, applying them to the various circumstances of life. Thus all those who heard her felt the need to live a consistent and committed Christian lifestyle. In a letter to St Bernard the mystic from the Rhineland confesses: “The vision fascinates my whole being: I do not see with the eyes of the body but it appears to me in the spirit of the mysteries…. I recognize the deep meaning of what is expounded on in the Psalter, in the Gospels and in other books, which have been shown to me in the vision. This vision burns like a flame in my breast and in my soul and teaches me to understand the text profoundly” (Epistolarium pars prima I-XC: CCCM 91).

Hildegard’s mystical visions have a rich theological content. They refer to the principal events of salvation history, and use a language for the most part poetic and symbolic. For example, in her best known work entitled Scivias, that is, “You know the ways” she sums up in 35 visions the events of the history of salvation from the creation of the world to the end of time. With the characteristic traits of feminine sensitivity, Hildegard develops at the very heart of her work the theme of the mysterious marriage between God and humanity that is brought about in the Incarnation. On the tree of the Cross take place the nuptials of the Son of God with the Church, his Bride, filled with grace and the ability to give new children to God, in the love of the Holy Spirit (cf. Visio tertia: PL 197, 453c).

From these brief references we already see that theology too can receive a special contribution from women because they are able to talk about God and the mysteries of faith using their own particular intelligence and sensitivity. I therefore encourage all those who carry out this service to do it with a profound ecclesial spirit, nourishing their own reflection with prayer and looking to the great riches, not yet fully explored, of the medieval mystic tradition, especially that represented by luminous models such as Hildegard of Bingen.

Finallly, from his proclamation of her as a Doctor of the Church, in 2012:

Hildegard’s eminent doctrine echoes the teaching of the Apostles, the Fathers and writings of her own day, while it finds a constant point of reference in the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastic liturgy and the interiorization of sacred Scripture are central to her thought which, focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation, is expressed in a profound unity of style and inner content that runs through all her writings.

The teaching of the holy Benedictine nun stands as a beacon for homo viator. Her message appears extraordinarily timely in today’s world, which is especially sensitive to the values that she proposed and lived. For example, we think of Hildegard’s charismatic and speculative capacity, which offers a lively incentive to theological research; her reflection on the mystery of Christ, considered in its beauty; the dialogue of the Church and theology with culture, science and contemporary art; the ideal of the consecrated life as a possibility for human fulfilment; her appreciation of the liturgy as a celebration of life; her understanding of the reform of the Church, not as an empty change of structure but as conversion of heart; her sensitivity to nature, whose laws are to be safeguarded and not violated.

For these reasons the attribution of the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to Hildegard of Bingen has great significance for today’s world and an extraordinary importance for women. In Hildegard are expressed the most noble values of womanhood: hence the presence of women in the Church and in society is also illumined by her presence, both from the perspective of scientific research and that of pastoral activity. Her ability to speak to those who were far from the faith and from the Church make Hildegard a credible witness of the new evangelization.

And if you are in a listening mood, this BBC radio edition of In Our Time focusing on Hildegard is worth your time.

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So…yes, I’ve written some of those, too.

(Previous entries in this series:  books for adult formation and RCIA here; books for children here, devotionals and other parish materials here.)

First up, the Prove it series.

This series had its beginning ages ago – 1999 or so – when I hadn’t written any books, but had been column-writing (for the Florida Catholic , then CNS, then OSV) for many years.  So I was known to OSV.  They had commissioned an apologetics book for teens from another author who had, indeed, delivered, but it wasn’t what they wanted at all. (I never saw that original manuscript, so I can’t comment on that).  So yes, they knew me, they knew I was a Catholic high school teacher and knew that my CNS columns were for youth.  So they asked me to take a shot at it, and I gladly agreed – finally able to put down into print the material I had been teaching anyway.

(For you see, at the time, apologetics simply was not a part of any Catholic high school theology curriculum.  Things have changed since then, but in 1999, we were still at the tail end of Pretty Bad. So you had to supplement – substantially.)

And there you have it:

You can find links to all the books at the OSV site here. 

Prove It: God

I Don’t Believe in God Because….

amy welborn
  • …No One Can Prove He Exists
  • …Science Shows That the Universe Exists Without a God
  • …People Could Have Just Made the Stuff in the Bible up
  • …It’s So Difficult to Find Him
  • …People Have So Many Different Ideas About Him
  • …There are So Many Hypocrites in Churches
  • …People Do Such Horrible Things in the Name of Religion
  • …It’s What I Believe and I Don’t Need Anyone Else to Tell Me What to Believe!
  • …I Want to Be Free to Be Myself
  • …I Don’t Need Him
  • …Innocent People Suffer

Prove It: Churchamy welborn

  1. What Church Do You Go To?
  2. Why Isn’t Your Church a ‘Bible Only’ Church?
  3. Why Don’t You Read the Bible Literally?
  4. Why Aren’t Some of Your Beliefs in the Bible?
  5. Why Doesn’t Your Church Let You Interpret Scripture?
  6. Why Has Your Church Added Books to the Bible?
  7. Why Were You Baptized as a Baby?
  8. Why Aren’t You Saved?
  9. Why Does Your Church Say You’re Saved by Works, Not by Faith?
  10. Why Do You Pray to Saints?
  11. Why Do You Honor Mary So Much?
  12. Why Does Your Church Have Statues?
  13. Why Do you Believe That the Pope is Infallible?
  14. Why Do You Confess to a Priest?
  15. Why Do You Call Priests, “Father?”
  16. Why Do You Believe In Purgatory?

Prove It: Jesus

amy welbornI’ve Always Wondered….

  1. …Is What the Gospels Say About Jesus True?
  2. …What Are the Basic Facts About Jesus?
  3. …What Did Jesus Really Teach?
  4. …Did Jesus Really Perform Miracles?
  5. …Why Was Jesus Executed?
  6. …Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
  7. …When Is Jesus Going to Come Again?
  8. …Was Jesus Really God?
  9. …How Could Jesus Be Both God and Human?
  10. …Why Did Jesus Come at All, and What Does It Mean for Me Today?

Excerpt from Prove It: Jesus

Prove It; Prayer

amy welbornSection 1 I Don’t Pray Because….
  1. …God’s In My Heart All the Time
  2. …God Already Knows Everything I Feel: I Don’t Have to Tell Him
  3. …God’s In Control: My Prayer Doesn’t Influence Him

Section II I Want to Pray, But It’s Difficult Because…

  1. …I’m Too Busy
  2. …I Don’t Know Where to Start
  3. …Meditation is Weird
  4. …I Can’t Concentrate
  5. …The Bible is Too Hard to Read
  6. …Memorized Prayers Are Meaningless
  7. …I don’t Know Whether It’s God I’m Hearing, or Just Me
Epilogue: Prayer and the Rest of Your Life

Excerpt from Prove It: Prayer.

Prove It: You

The final book in the series isn’t apologetics, but a guide to discipleship. How can a teen live joyfully and amy welbornfaithfully? What does it mean to do that? What’s right and what’s wrong? What’s my life for?

  • Who Am I
  • Sure, I Want to Be a Good Person, But…How?
  • What’s Jesus Got To Do With It?
  • It Was Only a Little Lie. So?
  • I’ve Got All The Time In The World…Don’t I?
  • Love Who? Everyone? Really?
  • It’s My Body. All Mine.
  • How Far Can I Go?
  • Whose Life Is Worth Living?
  • It’s A Big World With Too Many Problems.  Can’t I Just Live My Life?
  • “Be Not Afraid”

I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world . Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers. – Pope Benedict XVI, homily, World Youth Day, Cologne, Germany, 8/21/2005


Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life was written for young adults. In it, I’m trying to help young adults see how the needs and desires and yearnings they experience are answered in Christ, and that Christ amy welbornis found in His Church. I wrote it after, in the space of a week, visiting my two young adult sons and then spending time at the enormous Christian Booksellers’ Association trade show, then pondering the myriad of resources and energies that evangelical Christians dedicate to young adults and comparing that to what Catholic resources and support are out there.

***crickets***

So I wrote this book. “Good” has a double meaning. It means a life that’s experienced as good – as joyful and peace-filled. It also means a life that is, well, good , as in virtuous. The latter leading to the former, of course. It’s also a shout-out to Augustine, of De Beata Vita fame. And a few other things.

You can read the introduction here.

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— 1 —

Add this to scenes I never expected to happen in my life:

Me saying to my HOMESCHOOLED son: “Hurry up and finish your work so we can go buy the MOUSE for your SNAKE to EAT.”

Just in case you’re around 30 years old and think that you know where life is going….

Speaking of learning and link-ups, Melanie Bettinelli is beginning one entitled “Guilt-Free Learning Notes” which I’ll be participating in – starting this Saturday. Should be fun.

— 2 —

So Sunday we went to Whole Foods after Mass.  We were just getting milk and my lime sparkling water so Joseph stayed in the car and Michael and I ran in.

At one point, an older man walked down our aisle with his cart. I looked at him, he glanced at me, I nodded because in that instant I recognized him, without knowing why or how and the nod just happened. He nodded back.  Courteous-like, the way we do down here.  We moved on.

But it bugged me.  I don’t latch on to random people, imagining that I know them.  If my subconscious is joggled, it’s for real.  I I just couldn’t identify him, though.  I definitely felt that I *knew* him in some sense.  I went through the checklist of my rather limited local circles. Church(es)? No. School(s)? No.  Neighborhood(s)?  I don’t think so…but maybe….

And then it hit me.

He looked exactly like the actor who plays the Senator in that fantastic show Rectify. 

I mean – didn’t look like him.  Looked to be him.

Could it be?  I mean, I knew that one of the Rectify actors lives in the area – Clayne Crawford, who plays Teddy, Jr, but..this guy? I didn’t even know his name. As the seconds past, the less sure I was.

So we checked out, we went to the car, and I sat behind the wheel. I got the Ipad from Joseph and looked up the Senator.

And this article came up: “Vegas, Gray’s Anatomy star Michael O’Neill moves back to Alabama.”

In fact, the man whose character went on a murderous rampage in a memorable “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale is a family man, an actor and an Alabama native who recently moved back to the area.

Originally from Montgomery, the Auburn grad moved back to Alabama in November of last year to be closer to his father, who has since died. He also wanted to give his three teenage children a taste of his home.

More recently, some of you might recognize him from this summer’s CBS show, Extant. 

Yup. That was him. Amazing. So..what to do now? Go be a fangirl, not only of him, but mostly of Rectify?

Damn straight!

The boys were, of course, mortified and declined to go back in.  I casually strolled up and down the aisles of Whole Foods, not at all in a stalkerish fashion, no not me,  and there he was – chatting with  couple of other women.  I waited until they were finished, and approached.  He was so very nice, asking my name, expressing both surprise and gratitude that I watched Rectify. We talked about the pleasures of a well-done program committed to be realistic about the contemporary South, I mentioned the appeal of the spiritual themes, and just thanked him for his work. Very gracious fellow!

(And no…I didn’t ask for a photo…)

— 3 —

My 9-year old is taking a boxing class with other homeschooled boys. He loves it.  I don’t know what it is about the coach/teacher who runs the class and the gym, but he has a gift for motivating.  The kid is wiped out by the end of the hour (a 9-year old? Taking shower in the middle of the day? Get out....) but also totally pumped and positive. It’s like magic.

— 4 —

I reread Waugh’s Handful of Dust this week, just because I was not in the mood for Collins’ intricacies. I’ll get back in that groove this weekend.  Boy I had forgotten how dark that book is.  You know, people always rag on Miss O’Connor for being “dark” and grotesque, but honestly – read Wise Blood next to the early Waugh, and you can see what real darkness – that is without even a glimmer of grace – is.  Precise, knowing and hilarious, yes…but ever so depressing.

— 5 —

Speaking of British things, do you know what I’ve never watched?  You guessed. Downton Abbey.  I don’t know why I’ve never been interested.  I think my deep loyalty to Upstairs, Downstairs has closed my mind to what I perceive as an uppity usurper.

And speaking of those old Masterpiece Theater series, what were your favorites? As a teen I gobbled them up, especially – in addition to U/D:

I, Claudius

The Pallisers 

Shoulder to Shoulder.

My parents were devotees, as I recall, of The Forsythe Saga and The First Churchills, but I was too young to care when they were into them and I only remember thinking that they looked beyond boring..  But I adored Derek Jacobi (Claudius), was captivated by the unwilling,but ultimately loving marriage of the Pallisers and probably a little in love with Donal McCann who played Phineas Finn.

Shoulder to Shoulder was a 6-part dramatization of the woman’s suffrage movement in Britain, and was a huge influence on me.  I think it helped situate my thinking about feminism in a historical context, giving my young self a sort of freedom from the secular feminist cant of the 70’s.  It’s a very powerful series and, oddly enough, is one of the few such series never released in recorded format.  Can’t find it anywhere.

— 6 —

My daughter, who lives and works in Bavaria, has taken a short trip to Verona and environs this week.  You can see some of her pics from Verona here, and catch what she saw yesterday – 9/11 - in Venice yesterday here.  

Us? Well, we went to Oak Mountain! Go, us!

"amy welborn"

That was actually a nice day – after the first half of the week full of lessons and classes (Because no socialization!) , we could finally get out after the hated cursive and not-quite-hated math was done.  A good hike, then a turn around Aldridge Gardens and then the library.  All the time with the steady soundtrack of detailed descriptions of Lord of the Rings Lego sets….

— 7 —

I’ve continued my slow march through my books…..for adults (including RCIA)  here...for kids here…devotional and parish materials here.  Still to come, materials for teens and the four books Ann Engelhart and I have done together.

(And remember…today’s the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary...so how about that free Mary book?)

St. Francis’ feastday is coming soon!  Time to talk about Adventures in Assisi!

"amy welborn"

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, of course, tomorrow, August 15.  

I have a few Mary-related resources – one free – that you might be interested in. 

First, is my book Mary and the Christian Life, published by Word Among Us Press, but now out of print.  I have a pdf copy of the book available for free download at this page.

"amy welborn"

It’s a .pdf file.  You can also read it at Scribd, here. 

(Also available at Scribd are my book Come Meet Jesus, about Pope Benedict XVI, and Michael’s The Power of the Cross.) 

There’s also a rosary book – a small, hardbound volume on Praying the Rosary, published by OSV.  

You can read an excerpt here:

As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.

"amy welborn"

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I kept wanting to write about the television series Rectify last year, but I never did, did I? I meant to because I found the program fascinating, beautiful, and spiritually suggestive in a way that is absolutely unique to television – indeed American pop culture.

The program is about Daniel Holden a man released from 19 years on death row. He had been convicted for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, but finally released because of issues with DNA evidence.

The show’s first season had only six episodes, each covering a day or so in Daniel’s first week of freedom.  It’s a meticulous rectifyexamination of his reintroduction to life outside, his family’s reintroduction to him, as well as the small town that still holds him guilty (as he well might be – we don’t know at this point.)

The tone is a combination of meditative and the grotesque – and since it’s set in a small Georgia town and has spiritual undertones, we are obliged to term that grotesque “Flannery O’Connor-esque” aren’t we?  But it’s valid here.  And be warned – there are rough points, unpleasant to watch, but they always have a point.

Spirituality is taken very seriously – conversations happen, questions are raised, and differences explored. It’s refreshing.

Last night, the show returned, this time for a ten-episode run. I don’t think I’d recommend starting fresh with this season.  Even I, who’d watched the previous season twice through, was a little confused at some points and regretted not re-watching at least the last episode of season one.   But…let’s go on:

The episode picks up where the last ended: Daniel had visited the grave of the girl he was convicted of killing, and while there, was beaten almost to death.  We find him now in the hospital in an induced coma, his mother and his sister at his side.  The episode moves between the present moment and the reactions of Daniel’s family and the townspeople to his beating and the dreams deep within Daniel’s damaged self, all of which reflect his prison time – the dehumanizing moments and the life-giving ones.

Matt Seitz has a piece on Vulture today that calls Rectify “truly Christian art.”   This is startling, coming from a website and magazine that normally has no interest in religion except the sneering kind, but the piece is good and true and the description of the show isn’t even intended ironically:

Rectify is a straightforwardly spiritually minded drama in which Southerners weave talk of the presence or absence of God into everyday conversation, along with allusions to prayer and doubt, heaven and hell, sin and redemption. Daniel’s deeply devout sister-in-law, Tawney Talbot (Adelaide Clemens), has casual conversations about God, sin, and afterlife with Daniel, and much pricklier ones with his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who isn’t too big on the whole “God has a plan” thing, given all that’s happened to Daniel and their extended family. Tawney knows her husband Ted Talbot Jr. (Clayne Crawford) is growing apart from her because “we don’t pray together anymore.” This is a world that a lot of Americans live in, and yet you rarely see it depicted on TV. Here it’s portrayed without hype, and with zero condescension. 

Old and New Testament imagery are built right into the story. The first season consisted of six episodes that unfolded over six consecutive days. The season ended with Young’s character, the former death row inmate and autodidact Daniel Holden, comatose after being attacked by vigilantes; somehow McKinnon has turned “He is risen” upside down (“He has fallen”) and fused it with “On the seventh day, He rested.” Add that to all the different variations of death/birth already depicted on the series (Daniel was reborn intellectually through his studies in prison, reborn again upon his release, and then reborn yet again when evangelicals baptized him; his presence in town forces many citizens to grapple with un-Christlike revenge fantasies) and you’ve got more Christ imagery than you’d think any TV show could handle. Somehow Rectify handles it. It’s all part of the texture. It’s there if you want to latch onto it, and if you don’t, no biggie. 

Well, I would disagree with that last point – given the centrality of these themes and images, if you don’t want to “latch onto it,” you’ll miss quite a bit – going back to O’Connor – if you don’t understand that her stories are about grace and our resistance to it, then yes, it’s a biggie.

Last’s nights conversation between the devout Tawney and the doubter Amantha (and yes, she is as annoying as her name – I sometimes wonder if McKinnon gave the character this irritating name that isn’t quite right to subtly guide our reaction to her character) brings out the best of Rectify’s treatment of spiritual matters – and a weakness.

In the waiting room, Tawney tearfully wonders how God could have let this happen – she fully believes in Daniel’s innocence and seems puzzled as to why the rest of the world doesn’t agree.  My quibble with this particular articulation of theodicy is that I really don’t think any devout Christian would ask that question – “How could God let this happen” about that incident – thugs beating up a guy they thought was guilty of a terrible crime.  She might ask different questions – why can’t we see the good in others? Why do we judge? How can help others reconcile?  But I think Tawney, given her understanding of her faith, wouldn’t be tempted to blame God for the actions of others in this case.

BUT – here’s the good part.  And it was only a few words, but it expressed so much.  Amantha is the free spirit, of course, with undefined spiritual views.  We might assume she’s an atheist or at the very least agnostic.  Tawney turns to her.

“Do you believe in God, Amantha?”

Amantha stumbles over her words, waves her off, shakes her head – and perhaps we think she is going to say straight out “no” – but instead she says in aggravated resignation, “Well, I believe in evil, so…..”

And off she goes, wondering.

How very interesting. Suggestive. Who else said something like that?

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing the universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

 

 

 

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Catching up….

A few weeks ago, during one of our now-periodic visits to Charleston, I took the opportunity to worship with the Corpus Christi Community at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church downtown.  

It’s part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter – the former Anglicans now in union with Rome. 

What a revelation.

Long-time readers know that I have always had a keen interest in the authentic, traditional diversity of Catholicism, most vividly expressed in its religious orders with their varied charisms and in the different rites of the Church.  We don’t have an Anglican Use parish here in Birmingham, but for a mid-sized Southern city, it’s sort of amazing what we do have: a parish at which the Extraordinary Form is regularly celebrated and supported without controversy (and not the only one in the diocese of Birmingham, either – take that New York City!); Maronite Rite and Melkite. At least once a year, the Catholic school that my boys attended would celebrate a Maronite Rite Liturgy.

(Perhaps you’re wondering about that?  Well, there are a lot of Lebanese and Greeks in the South, and they’ve been here since the late 19th and early 20th centuries – folks who came to work for railroads and other industries. Birmingham’s food culture has a strong Middle Eastern and Greek streak running through it, and it’s earned.)

Anyway. 

I had been wanting to attend the Anglican Use (not Rite!) liturgy there in Charleston since my son and daughter-in-law moved there, and finally got my chance.

Sorry I don’t have better photos.  I wish I had the courage to take something besides surreptitious photos at Mass…but maybe I don’t, either.

Here’s my confession:

Long-time readers know that for a while, I followed the Episcopal/Anglican Wars fairly closely. I did, that is, until the acronyms spun out of control and I couldn’t muster the energy to untangle them yet again.  I was grateful for the establishment of the Ordinariate, but I confess (here we go) that  did think sometimes…um…really?  Why can’t they just become Roman and suffer lame liturgy with the rest of us? SACRIFICE, people!  If it’s true….you’ll jump no matter what, right?

Yes, I understand that there was more to it, and these conversions were fraught with complexity, tension, pain and joy.  But I admit, I really didn’t get the liturgy thing.  To my superficial eye, it was mostly about psalmody and Vespers. (Although I admit, I have followed Atonement Parish in San Antonio for years and long thought that if I were to ever move just for the sake of my children going to a particular school…it would be Atonement Academy….)

So…sorry?

If you have the opportunity, I’d encourage you to worship with an Anglican Use community.  Here’s what struck me about the liturgy:

(Note:  I should have written this post immediately after attending…it was a month ago, and I can’t be as specific as I would like.)

"amy welborn"

  • The differences between this and the Roman Rite Mass were clear.  I’m sure you can find discussions and comparisons online, perhaps even contentious ones.  The structure is, of course, the same, but the differences are intriguing and expressive of a more explicit sense of humility as well as greater formality than your typical, contemporary Roman Rite Mass.
  • I suppose to the superficial observer, the use of ad orientem is worth remarking on, but to me at this point, it’s not really. Except I just did. Well, then. The very next Mass I attended in Charleston, at a Roman Rite parish, was celebrated ad orientem and it is not a big deal to me at all..except for the fact that I wish it would be reinstated now, everywhere that it’s possible.  (Also…this is an old discussion for me.  I’ve run several blog posts on it over the years, including those in which we talked about Lutheran, Anglican and Eastern Christian use of ad orientem. Do an image search for “Lutheran altar” and see how many of them are slam up against the back wall….)
  • What struck me most about the Anglican Use liturgy was the same thing that struck me about Eastern Rite liturgies – not the external postures so much as the internal posture of humility which it assumes and fosters.  The emphasis is on supplication and humility.  You don’t pray “have mercy on us” a zillion times as you do in an Eastern liturgy, but you do say it – or something like it – a lot more than you do in the Roman Rite.
  • You will say a lot more of everything in the Anglican Use liturgy.  The post-Vatican II Roman Rite is quite stripped down and streamlined, that being, of course, one of the intentions of those who constructed it.  There is a verbal richness about the Anglican Use that I found comforting and akin to a richly adorned physical space.

 

So, it was a great experience, and I finally get it.”  I get the reluctance to leave it behind – it preserves much – not just in the Mass itself, but in the other traditions that the Anglican Use brings with it – that were lost in the Roman Rite after the Second Vatican Council.

It was great to see Fr. Patrick Allen again that day – I had met him before at the Cathedral last fall, and he’d brought his children to my book-signing in Charleston in December.  And added bonus?  I finally got to meet Dawn Eden!  As it happens, she was giving a talk in Charleston that very day and was at Mass.  It was a delight to finally meet!

 

 

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This is a repeat post, with some additions….so forgive…

Here are some of our resources that you might find helpful:

  • Reconciled to Goda daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Update:    There are several used volumes of The Power of the Cross on Amazon, very reasonably priced.  

  • I have some contributions in this year’s Living Faith Lenten devotional. 
  • Also free:A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love, published by Creative Communications for the Parish.

     

    "Amy Welborn"No Greater Love is no longer in print, but I’ve been receiving inquiries about it, so since it’s out of print, and I hold the rights, the publisher has agreed that it would be fine for me to distribute it as I wish.  So, if you’d like to download it, make copies for your teens or group, feel free.

    You can download the pdf file by clicking here.  It’s not in a booklet form – just 9 pages, basically.  But perhaps you can use it.

Also, thinking ahead to First Communion, Confirmation, Graduation, Mother’s Day, Easter Vigil…..here are some books for sale. 

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