21 February 2007

Ash Wednesday

On this Ash Wednesday when we are put in mind of our own mortality and the transitory nature of our days, I am put in mind of those things upon which we labour so as to leave a legacy. We can think of philanthropists who give their money to good causes as well as philanthropists who give their money to Dr. Mengele's abusive and murderous step-children. Legacies are left whether we make sure our name is on a monument or not, and just off in the wings is Ozymandias warning us about such things.

Scripture tells us to lay up treasures in heaven where nothing can destroy them. And those treasures all flow from our love of Jesus and knowing that what we do to one another we have also done to him. There are many traditions in the Church showing us how our worship adorns the place the Lord has gone on to prepare for us. And many a soul knows the benefits of interceding for souls who have left this life and remain on a journey of cleansing until they see Jesus face to face that is, the souls in Purgatory. We are always being moved to the furthest edge of care for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, oh yes, and our enemies too, and even souls we have never met.

This reminds me of the Anglican spiritual legacy. It would be very easy to forget it all and just become a "regular" Latin rite Catholic. However, there are elements of that legacy that led me here to the Catholic Church, and they continue to speak with a Catholic voice for those of Anglican heritage who have entered the Catholic Church. As one born from the Anglican legacy into the Catholic Church, I can no more turn my back on it than to turn my back on my own family. Of course, the Church never intends this sort of categorical rejection and denunciation of one's previous denomination, and Holy Mother Church has made ample provision for such traditions to be judged, vetted, and then employed within the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, the truth is that there are many in the Roman rite who do not wish it to be so. They would rather see things Anglican die a permanent death because of its Englishness and because of the Catholic martyrs of England and Wales.

I find that this feeling against all things Anglican is very understandable but also dangerously misguided. It is through the prayers of the same Martyrs that Anglicans are coming home to the Church. As Cardinal Newman once noted, the Anglican Church was never entirely de-Catholicised. Many of the most beautiful prayers and hymns in the world have their origin in the Anglican Church -- but only because the Anglican authors and translators turned to the ancient traditions of the Church, the ancient texts, and looking toward Constantinople found a new appreciation for their Latin Sarum legacy.

Some regard Anglo-Catholicism as merely an invention of something that had never existed before. They fail to see the operation of the Holy Ghost in the organic development of the Anglo-Catholic traditions from a once lost but reclaimed heritage. And while this Catholic Renewal in the Anglican Communion may reference Cardinal Newman or the great John Mason Neale, it is first and foremost a motion of grace and a movement of the Holy Spirit himself. Through the many years since the Oxford Movement many generations of Anglicans grew up as I did believing themselves to be Catholic and intending to live a Catholic life. Again, one must look at the organic development of these things and then watch whilst praising God for His work in bringing the Catholic elements of this Anglican spiritual legacy back into the Catholic Church through the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II in 1980.

Now I find myself occupied with efforts to carry forward this Catholic-minded Anglican spiritual legacy of prayer, music, art, and theological reflexion within the Roman Catholic Church. All of my little anglo-Catholic prayer manuals still speak truly of the Catholic life of the faithful. They contain treasures from Heaven which when employed become part of that treasury of good things we store up in heaven where nothing corrupts or destroys it. I know that many a former Anglican and Episcopalian feel betrayed by their denomination, by its continual and ongoing corruption, but no feeling gives us permission to disown the beautiful things the Holy Spirit did in that denomination for the greater glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the building up of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

This Lent I will be posting prayers and litanies from various books, wee bookies, and manuals that I pray may be useful to you, gentle Reader, and will outline more clearly just what I have in mind in trying to preserve this Anglican legacy -- Anglican heritage and tradition -- where it is in accord with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.