Those of you who have experienced an Anglican Use mass know what I mean when I say, as I did in an earlier post on the conference, that it is a little foretaste of heaven.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to participate in such a mass, try this: Imagine the best of "high church" worship--"smells and bells," if you will. Add in the assurance of orthodoxy from the pulpit with respect to both scripture and sacred tradition. Season generously with Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony and a large portion of traditional Anglican hymnody.
The former protestants among you who , like me, are part of a regular Roman Rite congregation, will appreciate this: Most of the congregation sang--and sang every verse of every hymn. There was no mad dash out the door behind the crucifer, either. (Mind you, the congregation of my parish are doing better in this regard, thanks to the leadership of our pastor and music director.)
Among the things that struck me as particularly noteworthy (My apologies in advance for descriptive gaffes. I don't know enough to be an official liturgy geek, but I do know what I like. Corrections are welcome.):
1. We chanted the traditional English translation of the Lord's Prayer in the same chant mode as the traditional Pater noster (click here for a Quick Time audio version; the Pater noster follows after a brief introduction). In addition, the AU liturgy adds the closing sentences ("For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen"). A version of this is included in the Roman Rite liturgy after the prayer, as a response. I still occasionally slip up and continue with this right after "and deliver us from evil." It's a good way to play Spot the Adult Convert.
2. Those of us who sing in our parish choirs were offered a generous invitation to participate with the Our Lady of the Atonement (OLoA) adult choir for several of the services during the weekend. I was honored to add my voice to the alto section for the Solemn Pontifical Mass on Friday, July 11, and I particularly enjoyed singing the Maurice Duruflé arrangement of Ubi Caritas. I have sung it before in an Episcopal church choir, and I am eager to do so again in my current Catholic parish.
3. My husband and I stayed until Sunday, when we attended the 11:00 mass. I had read on Fr. Phillips' blog but had forgotten that Sunday (July 13) was the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Atonement. That is, it was the Sunday nearest to the feast day of the patroness of the parish, so we were privileged once again to participate in a very beautiful high mass, complete with the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament (when the priest holds up the monstrance and blesses the congregation). During the Benediction we sang an English translation of "O SalutarisHostia," to the usual tune, and an English translation of "Tantum Ergo," to the tune of "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" (Westminster Abbey).
II. Atonement Academy
The school connected to the parish, Atonement Academy (see their website here) was most
impressive. Since that's where the conference activities, other than worship, took place, we got to see many of the common rooms, including the beautiful library, pictured on the right (a photo from the school website). The circulation desk--to the right in the photo--became a makeshift bar on Thursday and Friday nights. Established on August 15, 1994, 11 years to the day after the parish was founded, with 66 children in Grades K-3, now has some 500 students, Grades K-12. Their very excellent Upper School Honors Choir were in Rome last September at the same time as the Anglican Use Pilgrimage, and they led us in worship at several of the services. Fr. Phillips noted that the school has been a means of evangelizing many of the families of the students. The children are excited about their faith, and they in turn encourage their parents to get serious about regular attendance at mass and confession.
He offered one especially moving mental picture: Imagine several hundred children reciting the Prayer of Humble Access at morning mass every day.
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 our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.One more thing. Pictured on the seal of Atonement Academy is a mother pelican, the "soft self-wounding Pelican, whose breast weeps Balm for wounded man," in the words of the 17th century hymn by Richard Crashaw, based on the hymn by St. Thomas Acquinas, Adore te devote. The mother pelican is said to pluck pieces of her own flesh from her breast to feed her chicks in times of drought. Used as a symbol of self-sacrificial love from ancient times, the pelican was adopted as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice on the cross from the early days of the Church. To the left is a picture of Fr. Allan Hawkins standing next to the school banner. Fr. Hawkins is pastor of St. Mary the Virgin, the AU parish in Arlington, TX, near Dallas.
III. One Man's Story
Speaking of Fr. Hawkins: He was charged with the task of instructing us about "How to establish an Anglican Use Society Chapter in your city." Instead, he turned over the podium to a young man who is currently in the midst of the PP process and thus has had recent, hands-on experience of this. His name is Oliver Vietor (pictured at right--from Fr. Phillips' blog), and his journey to the Catholic Church began in 2003 when he was an assistant rector at a church near Charlottesville, VA. (My husband and I used to live in Charlottesville, so we found that we had friends in common with him.) To make a long story short, he now lives in Phoenix, AZ, and was received into the Catholic Church in December of 2007 with his wife and five children and approximately 13 other people who hope to start an AU parish there. He mentioned that he first learned about the Pastoral Provision on the web. That's where my husband and I first learned of it, too.
It has been a long, slow process for him, but he seems to have the perseverance that is evidently necessary to do this. He offered an interesting observation about the notion of "the perseverance of the saints." He said that it is not merely clinging desperately to the tale end of faith; it is the act of laying down one's life willingly, sometimes on a daily basis.
IV. Odds & Ends
A trip to San Antonio would not be complete, of course, without a visit to the Alamo--and to the Riverwalk. That's where we headed on Saturday after the final mass marking the end of the conference. At left is a photo of the Riverwalk, and below is a photo of my husband and me at a restaurant called Casa Rio. It was touristy, but the food was quite good. As it turned out, I had been to Casa Rio before when I was in town for a conference in August of 1999.
We visited the Alamo, too, after viewing the I-Max film, "Alamo-The Price of Freedom" in the Rivercenter Mall next door. It was entertaining, and refreshingly NOT politically correct. The exhibits in the Alamo itself are equally un-PC and very informative. That's probably not accidental, since the Daughters of the Republic of Texas are in charge of the historic site. Here's their website.
One more thing and I promise I'll stop. The photo at right was taken from our car of an enormous road sign marking "Cornerstone Church," which is located almost across the highway from our hotel, a few miles east of OLoA Church. It is difficult to see the name of the pastor in the photo. His name is John C. Hagee, and he was much in the news in recent months, particularly in connection with his endorsement of John McCain for president. Mr. Hagee is well known for his support of Israel through his organization, Christians United for Israel. He is also known for his somewhat controversial--though not particularly unique (for a protestant fundamentalist pastor)--views on the Catholic Church. We passed by this sign every day we were in San Antonio on the way to and from the AU Conference, and I had to smile at the irony.