Thursday, May 22, 2008

Adventures in Scranton

It is always a joy to spend time with fellow converts from any protestant tradition, but naturally we feel a special connection with our fellow Anglican converts. When I read or hear their conversion stories I often think that an outside observer might conclude that we plagiarize each other, since our stories are so similar. But I think the more likely explanation is that we were simply led irresistibly to the same conclusion – that the fullness of the Christian faith is to be found in the Church that Christ established and entrusted to his Apostles, and that this Church, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “subsists in” the Catholic Church. Admittedly, it is a relief to be with people who understand exactly why we entered the Church, especially when many of our closest friends and family members still find our decision bewildering.

On Pentecost weekend my husband and I travelled to Scranton, Pennsylvania to visit a group of ex-Anglicans, members of the Anglican Use parish there. We had met the pastor, Fr. Eric Bergman, a couple of years ago, when he was still a “civilian,” having resigned his ordination in the Episcopal Church at the end of 2004. He came here to the Washington area in late 2006 or early 2007 to meet with a group of people who had expressed an interest in forming a parish in this area. We got to know some of the members of the Scranton parish on the Anglican Use Rome Pilgrimage last September. Anglican Use services in Scranton are conducted currently in an existing parish church, St. Anthony of Padua. The St. Thomas More Society is the organization under which the Pastoral Provision is promoted within the Diocese of Scranton.

Participating in the mass on Sunday, I was struck, as I have been before at Anglican Use masses, by the feeling of coming full circle. Rite I in the Anglican Use liturgy is very similar to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was used until I was in my late teens, so the feeling of having “come home” is often overwhelming. Now, however, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not subject to anyone’s individual judgment. It is a fact, supported by the weight of 2000 years of sacred tradition. Moreover, there is a reverent quality to the liturgy that I sometimes miss in the current English translation of the mass.

To cite one example: In the Novus Ordo mass the prayer after the Agnus Dei and just before the distribution of communion is said once only and rendered as follows:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

The Anglican Use version is said three times, and it is a straightforward translation of the prayer in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), admittedly in somewhat old fashioned English. As in the TLM, it is said three times – by the congregation:

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.
In addition the Anglican Use liturgy adds the Prayer of Humble Access (just after the Agnus Dei):

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

I have always loved that prayer, and it is such a privilege to recite it now as a Catholic. It takes on a whole new dimension in light of the Church’s clear teaching about the Real Presence – as do so many other things. It is a fitting reminder that we should always approach the altar with great humility and a well-examined conscience.

Those of you interested in learning more about Anglican Use may want to consider the upcoming annual Anglican Use Conference, to be held July 10-12 in San Antonio, Texas. To find out more visit their website at

1 comment:

Peter Mottola said...

I had the great privilege of attending Mass at this parish a couple of weeks ago, and I agree 100% with your comments. Wow. As a former Methodist I resonated with the remnants of Anglicanism that exist in that denomination, and certainly any Catholic could appreciate the reverence of the Liturgy. It was Corpus Christi, and boy howdy did Fr. Bergman give a good homily! (I'm waiting for it to be posted).

I hope to pass through Scranton again some time.