|The Little Portion - A Former Franciscan Retreat Centre|
Now Serves as Saint George Catholic Church
It is with great pleasure that I announce to my readers the establishment of a new Catholic Church in Republic, Missouri. Nestled deep within the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, a new kind of Catholic Church is making its debut to the area. Saint George Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. It is currently meeting at the old Franciscan Retreat Centre on the south side of the City of Republic.
What does that mean?
This is a jurisdiction under the pope and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), established by former Anglicans who have now become Roman Catholics. Back in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI established an apostolic constitution called Anglicanorum Coetibus (meaning "Groups of Anglicans") which would create ordinariates (diocesan-like structures) allowing these converts to have their own jurisdiction under Vatican supervision. These ordinariates would overlap regular dioceses, applying specifically to persons and parishes that are part of it. It's sort of like a religious order, which any Catholic can participate in, and in which regular laypeople can become members along with clergy. More information about ordinariates can be found on this Wiki article here.
Saint George, being an ordinariate parish, uses a slightly different liturgy than what one might find in a regular diocesan Catholic Church. The liturgy is called Divine Worship, and it's a Vatican approved version of Anglican liturgy. Basically, the form and structure of the mass is very similar to a regular Catholic mass. What's different is the language. Divine Worship uses traditional English, such as "thee" and "thou," instead of modern vernacular English. I've written an extensive explanation of traditional English, which you can read here. It's really quite beautiful, and it adds a new dimension to Catholic liturgy not seen before. Some Catholics might call this type of liturgy more traditional. Others might call it more modern. We like to think we've brought together the best of both worlds. If, however, one truly wanted to put a name on this form of liturgy, the best would probably be "Anglican Patrimony." That's because while it is most certainly Catholic, it also has an unmistakably English (Anglican) flair to it. There is, of course, a very good reason for this. Divine Worship was created for the ordinariates, which in turn were created primarily for former Anglicans who became Catholics.
So what's wrong with the Roman liturgy? Why do Anglicans want to bring their own?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Roman liturgy. In fact, Roman liturgy is quite beautiful, as is the Roman Patrimony. However, part of the ecumenical vision of Vatican II was the reunification of Christians under the pope, and that means acknowledging that former Protestants have something of value to offer to the Catholic Church.
This isn't the first time this has happened.
For example, Eastern Catholic churches have been reunited with Rome for centuries. In contrast to the Eastern Orthodox, these Eastern Catholic churches returned to the pope after having been separated for centuries. They include such Christians as: Byzantines, Armenian, Chaldean, Melkite, Syriac, just to name a handful. (The Maronite Catholic Church is an Eastern church that never separated from Rome in the first place.) Each and every one of these churches is under the pope and the Vatican. They are all fully Catholic, and can receive communion in any Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, Roman Catholics can receive communion in any one of these Eastern Catholic churches as well. This is what real unity looks like. Unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity is when you bring different people together under one common faith (the Catechism), and one common authority (the pope). That's unity. On the other hand, uniformity is when everybody looks the same, and does everything the same way, with no variation between them. When we think of uniformity, a good image to conjure is that of the army. In the army, everybody wears the same uniform, marches the same, salutes the same, and follows the exact same protocols. That's uniformity. Uniformity works great for the military, but that's no way to run a religion. The Catholic Church is a unity not a uniformity, and it's important to understand the difference. If you want to learn more about the Eastern Catholic churches, you can read this Wiki article about them here. Below is a wonderful introduction video to Eastern Catholicism...
The Second Vatican Council envisioned some kind of a similar setup for former Protestants within the Catholic Church. Herein, so long as Protestant converts adhered to the same Catholic faith taught in the Catechism, and were willing to submit to the same Roman Code of Canon Law that all Roman Catholics must submit to, they could presumably bring with them some of their Protestant customs and traditions, provided they were fully compatible with Catholicism. In other words, there are some Protestant customs and traditions that Protestants hold in common with the Catholic Church, but may have been forgotten in the Catholic Church since the days of the Reformation. These customs and traditions could then be revived in the Catholic Church, under new jurisdictions created for former Protestants. The whole idea is very similar to the Eastern Catholic churches, but instead of having entirely different rites, these jurisdictions and traditions exist as subsidiary (commonly called a "use") to the Roman Rite. So for example; Anglicans have very elaborate customs and traditions, many of which have much in common to Catholicism. Under an ordinariate structure, created by Rome, former Anglicans could bring many of those customs and traditions (including an entire liturgy) into the Catholic Church. The parishes they create would have a very Anglican look and feel to them, but they would be entirely Roman Catholic.
Again, the purpose of this is not to add some novel innovation to Catholicism. Rather, it is to revive something that was lost in Catholicism after the 16th century Reformation. Prior to the 16th century, for example, English Catholicism (Anglo Catholicism) had a very unique look and feel to it. It even had its own Vatican approved liturgy called the Sarum Use. All of this was lost when King Henry VIII stole English Catholicism by breaking with Rome in AD 1534. Anglicans preserved much of this throughout the centuries, but it was lost to mainstream Catholicism. So in a way, the Catholic Church is just welcoming back what is rightfully hers to begin with.
So is this just for former Anglicans?
No, as a matter of fact, many Catholics enjoy the traditional English look and feel of the Divine Worship liturgy. Regular diocesan Catholics are free to attend mass at St. George, meet their Sunday obligation, and get more involved if they like. The English style of liturgy is attractive not only to former Anglicans, but to other Protestants as well. At Saint George, we even have some former Baptists who are members. This is likely because we all share traditional English as a common cultural heritage. Most people are familiar with the traditional English of the King James Bible, Shakespeare and classical English poetry.
Is it hard to understand? Well, maybe you should be the judge of that for yourself. Below is a short excerpt from Divine Worship: The Missal...
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy Spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.
Priest and People together:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts:
heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the Highest.
Now was that hard to understand? If English is your native language, and you have at least a small familiarity with traditional English literature, you shouldn't have any problem with it. This is traditional English liturgy.
Some have the mistaken impression that Divine Worship is really nothing more than a traditional English translation of the old Latin mass (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite). That is not the case. It does have some points in common with the old Latin mass, but it is in no way a mirror image. Likewise, Divine Worship has some things in common with the new vernacular mass (Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite), but again, it is not a mirror image. Sprinkled throughout the whole liturgy are prayers and traditions particular just to English heritage. That is Divine Worship.
The following is a video example of an entire Divine Worship mass, celebrated recently at Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas. The pastor, Father Christopher Phillips, is a personal friend of mine, and wrote the foreword to my book Catholicism for Protestants...
These videos will explain in greater detail...
Saint George is under the parochial administration of Fr. Chori Seraiah, who is a convert from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church. He was formerly an Anglican priest, but is now a Roman Catholic priest. He is married and has five children. Many people are unaware that the Catholic Church does allow some married men to become priests. It is rare in the western Roman Rite, but it does happen under special circumstances. Fr. Seraiah, being an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, was given special permission by Pope Benedict XVI to be ordained as a Catholic priest. Such is the case with all married priests in the ordinariates. In the Eastern churches (mentioned above) this sort of thing is much more common. About half of Catholic priests in the Eastern rites are married. The other half are celibate. However, in the western Roman Church, priestly celibacy remains the norm for the time being.
Fr. Seraiah maintains a regular blog, attached to Saint George, called Beware Yon Dragons. He offers fascinating insight which I encourage you to bookmark and read regularly.
The ordinariates work as missionary partners with local dioceses. While they are a separate jurisdiction, they work in mutual cooperation not competition. The local Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau has been extremely helpful, generous and accommodating to Saint George Catholic Church. One could not ask for better charity and fraternity.
The primary purpose of Saint George is missionary. Our goal is to introduce Catholicism to the Republic, Missouri area with the hope of making converts therein. As I said above, the Anglican Patrimony has an appeal to many Protestants; not just Anglicans, but also Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals and other Christians. We also serve as a place where Roman Catholics of Anglican heritage can reclaim that heritage, and still remain fully within the Catholic Church. This is something that is long overdue. We also seek to help lapsed Catholics, or those who have not been to mass in a while, to become reacquainted with the Catholic Church, and perhaps consider coming back home. Lastly, we serve as an outpost for regular practising Catholics in the Republic area, who would like to occasionally attend a Sunday mass nearby, or make a regular visit to the Blessed Sacrament for prayer and adoration. So if you happen to live anywhere in, or near, the City of Republic, or if you're just passing through, feel free to stop by and visit Saint George Catholic Church.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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