By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — It felt like a beautiful trip back in time. Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop James Johnston, Jr., celebrated Mass for Our Lady of Hope Ordinariate Community at Our Lady of Sorrows Church Dec. 4. The liturgy was reminiscent of the High Mass as celebrated in England 500 years ago, before King Henry VIII’s disagreement with Pope Clement VII over his divorcing Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn resulted in the separation of the English Church from Roman Catholicism, and Henry’s declaration of himself as head of the Church of England — the English Reformation.
In the aftermath of Vatican II, many raised in the Anglican tradition began requesting reunion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Personal Ordinariate, created in 2012 by the Vatican at the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, is the equivalent of a diocese for those nurtured in the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition who have or wish to return to full communion with the Catholic Church. There are three Personal Ordinariates: Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom, Our Lady of the Southern Cross – Australia, and the Chair of St. Peter in the U.S. and Canada. Our Lady of Hope community is one of 42 parishes and communities in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The Cathedral Church of the Personal Ordinariate of St. Peter is Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas. For the last year, the Ordinariate has been under the leadership of Bishop Steven Lopes.
Members of the Ordinariate are fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage in the Liturgy of the Mass, their hospitality and the ministries of their Catholic parishes and communities. The Liturgy features Anglican worship traditions, including 16th century language — the more intimate Thee and Thou — but conforms to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. The Missal used is Divine Worship: The Missal, and is described as the “liturgy that unites the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world, praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English.”
In his homily, Bishop Johnston expressed his gratitude to the Our Lady of Hope community, the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and to Father Timothy Perkins, vicar general of the Ordinariate, who had traveled from Houston to concelebrate the Mass with Bishop Johnston. Also concelebrating was Father Randolph Sly, Parochial Administrator of Our Lady of Hope, Parochial Vicar of St. Therese parish in Parkville and, as of Jan. 1, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. They were assisted by Scott McKellar, who will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in May 2017, Ed Wills, who will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate at the same time and Virgil Burke.
The readings for the Second Sunday of Advent were about hope, the bishop said. “Without hope,” he explained, “life is without purpose and loses its meaning.”
He used the town of Flagstaff, Maine, as an example. The town was abandoned and dismantled in 1950 to permit a hydroelectric dam to be constructed on the Dead River to enlarge a lake, which involved flooding the town. In the months before the flooding, residents allowed the town to become “ragged and dilapidated.” In an interview a resident was questioned about the shabbiness. He replied that when the future holds no hope, the present holds no power.
“The readings for this Sunday of Advent,” Bishop Johnston continued, “are about hope, the source of our hope and the power that hope brings into our lives in the present.”
In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied that God would return, when it looked impossible for Israel. “God would re-emerge like a shoot from a stump,” Bishop Johnston said. Hope was also in the Gospel reading. Although it might not seem so at first, “When John the Baptist proclaimed, ‘Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ he was stirring hope. It’s like going to your doctor; after he runs some tests and gives you a physical, you sit on the exam table waiting for him to come and give you the report. He comes in and says ‘I’ve got some good news and bad news. The good news is there’s a cure; the bad news is you’ve got a disease.’ In order to appreciate the good news, we also have to hear the bad news. When St. John the Baptist was saying, ‘Repent,’ he was also saying ‘You’re sick. You have the disease of sin.’ But then he adds the good news: ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand. There’s a cure for what ails you. There’s good news, there’s mercy, there’s forgiveness.’ … But mercy makes no sense whatsoever unless we first see our sin and our need for repentance. Unless we first see that we have the disease. … We have to preach repentance for mercy to make sense. If we don’t preach repentance, the good news doesn’t make as much sense. You and I have to hear both, like the doctor delivering good and bad news. The cure won’t make any sense if we don’t know we have the disease. Both are necessary to realize the joy that comes from the hope that Jesus brings.
“Jesus doesn’t make much sense as a savior unless we know first that we need salvation! That is the message of John the Baptist, it’s the message of the Church, it’s the message that Jesus sent the Church in the world to proclaim, to prepare his way.” He commented that “We have to, time and again in our lives, hear the message for ourselves. We have to hear for ourselves; we have to let it sink in — I have a disease.”
He reminded the congregation that “we all have the disease, a disease that we inherited, sin. But God sent us the cure. His name’s Jesus Christ. This is the truth we live by … this is our hope. He is our hope. This is what we are sent to share with a world that is ailing.”
The Order of the Liturgy differs slightly from what most Catholics are accustomed to. Following the Intercessions after the Homily, is the Penitential Rite and then the Comfortable Words. This, from the Anglican tradition: “Hear what comfortable words our Savior Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.” A selection of Scripture follows intended to encourage and strengthen the congregation.
The Prayer of Humble Access, which dates to 1549, is comparable to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof … .”
At a reception after the Mass in the parish hall, Father Perkins answered questions from both members of the Ordinariate and others.
“The Liturgy brings back memories of the Latin Mass’ high liturgical experience,” Father Perkins said.
The Anglican Use form of the Liturgy was begun in the 1980s under Pope St. John Paul II. In Kansas City, Father Ernie Davis was the first former Episcopalian priest ordained in this diocese as a Catholic priest. The small group of former Anglicans he gathered together, worshiped at St. Therese Little Flower parish.
The decree on Ecumenism called Unitatis Redintegratio was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Nov. 21, 1964. The seed of the desire for Christian unity, however, was planted long before then. Pope John XXIII had paved the way for his successor to issue Unitatis Redintegratio in 1960, by establishing the “Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.” Seventy years earlier, in his encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae (1894), Pope Leo XIII sought to address ecumenism by invoking the “return to unity” theme.
“It was a long standing effort aimed at reunion,” Father Perkins said. “The Ordinariate was Pope Benedict XVI’s response to the pleas from former Anglicans to ‘come home.’”
The language and phrasing of some of the familiar prayers during the Liturgy of the Mass may sound strange at first, and there are several that Catholics who haven’t been exposed to Anglican traditions have never heard, including the Comfortable Words following the Penitential Rite.
But, as Father Perkins explained, prayers like these help to reawaken the mystery, grandeur and beauty of the ancient Catholic liturgy.
All Catholics are welcome to attend 9:15 a.m. Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Hope at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 2552 Gillham Road in Kansas City. To learn more visit www.ordinariate.net.