Thursday, February 16, 2012

Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter Receives First Ordinary

Msgr. Steenson with Deacons James Barnett and John Denson of OLW
As reported in many other places (see below for links) the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, TX was the site of last Sunday's Installation Mass for the new Ordinary for the US, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson.  And what an occasion it was!  I told someone that participated with me in a 2007 Anglican Use Society pilgrimage to Rome that I hadn't seen that many bishops, cardinals, priests, deacons and seminarians all in the same place since Rome.  The procession alone took nearly 20 minutes.  I've seen estimates numbering the crowd at upwards of 1,000 people; it appeared nearly full to me, and the capacity is 1,800.  When I arrived with my hosts at 2:00 p.m., an hour before the 3:00 ceremony, already there must have been 200 people waiting in the narthex to go in.  The task of organizing all of this  fell to Master of Ceremonies Fr. Michael Earthman of St. Mary's Seminary, and it is a great tribute to him that it all came off without a hitch, at least nothing that was apparent to me, and I was sitting very near the front.

The music was led by the "Ordinariate Festival Chorus" and members of several local choirs, including the parish choir of Our Lady of Walsingham (OLW), the AU parish in Houston that is now the principle church of the Ordinariate, and they demonstrated magnificently the integral link between music and liturgy that is such a hallmark of the Anglican patrimony.  It seemed to me a fitting combination of selection from Anglican musical patrimony--"Christ is Made the Sure Foundation," and selections from Tallis (O sacrum convivium), Herbert Howells, Byrd (the Kyrie and Agnus Dei from his Mass for Five Voices); two hymns whose text is by perhaps the most famous Anglican convert of them all, Blessed J.H. Newman ("Firmly I Believe and Truly," and "Praise to the Holiest in the Height"); and several others that fall squarely within the Catholic musical tradition--Paletrina's Tu es Petrus and that perennial Catholic favorite, an English rendition of the Te Deum, "Holy God We Praise Thy Name."

Cardinal Wuerl
The installation itself occurred at the end of the Introductory Rite.  His Eminence Daniel, Cardinal DeNardo, welcomed everyone to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and introduced Cardinal Wuerl, who read the official decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formally installing Msgr. Steenson as the Ordinary and honoring him with the title, "Protonotary Apostolic," which entitles him to be addressed as "monsignor."  Msgr. Steenson then donned his mitre and a crozier (a gift of the men currently in formation to be priests of the Ordinariate) and greeted the congregation, starting with his wife, Debra, and son, Eric.  (Cardinal Wuerl had earlier thanked Debra for her willingness to "share" her husband with us.)  As a rule I don't like applause at Mass, but it seemed fitting under the circumstances, especially since the bishops and cardinals were doing so with enthusiasm.  The Pastoral Provision priests also initiated a brief standing ovation.

We then proceeded to the Liturgy of the Word, followed by the Eucharist, celebrated by the new ordinary himself and concelebrated by the Pastoral Provision priests present, including the vicar general of the Ordinariate, Washington, DC's own Fr. Scott Hurd, who lives in my own diocese (Arlington).

Msgr. Steenson celebrates Mass with Pastoral Provision priests
(l. to r.) Fr. Dwight Longanecker, Fr. Bruce Noble (behind Msgr. S.), Fr. Bruce Ramsey,
Fr. Allen Hawkins, Fr. Eric Bergman and Fr. Scott Hurd, Vicar General
(Cardinal DiNardo kneeling in background; Fr. Michael Earthman to Msgr. Steenson's right)
But first a word or two about the homily, the text of which is posted on the US Ordinariate website:  He began with the words from Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  He went on to speak about the Gospel reading, Mt. 16:13-19, in which Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom.  Whatever one's understanding of the identity of "this rock," ultimately it is what Christ will do (future tense--"I will build," "I will give," etc.) that matters.  Drawing on writings of the early Church Fathers, he reminded us that unity among all Christians has always been at the heart of what the Church is all about.  In other words, as Msgr. Steenson has said in his recent public statements, this enterprise is not just about preserving the outward elements of the Anglican patrimony--the liturgy, music and that "sense of the sacred" they are meant to convey (as valuable a gift as it all is).  It is about evangelization, about saving souls.  "The Church exists," he said, "to bring souls to Christ." He quoted the new chancellor of the
Ordinariate, Dr. Margaret Chalmers, who put it this way: "Our patrimony is people." He also offered as a fitting illustration of this project Bernini's sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.  Over the chair is a stained-glass window with a dove in the center, representing the Holy Spirit.  His point, of course, is that the Ordinariate is primarily a work of the Holy Spirit who is, in the words of Anglicanorum coetibus, "the principal of the unity of the faithful."

On Saturday, Feb. 11, the day before the Installation Mass, I was able to sit in on the lecture at St. Mary's Seminary for the former Anglican priests in formation to become priests of the Ordinariate.  The presenter was Dr. Jeremy Wilkins, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Thomas (the seminary of which is St. Mary's).  He referred to a section of the Catechism which had been assigned.  He didn't say which section, but I gather from the lecture that it was Part I, Section 1 (26-184), about the relationship between "I Believe" and "We Believe," that is, the nature of faith, of belief in God.  In addition to the seminarians present--about 10 of them--some 50 others joined in remotely via video conferencing, and one participant who phoned in from Afghanistan!

Fr. Paul Lockey, Jason Catania and Msgr. Steenson
at final Q&A on Saturday
This weekend certainly confirmed what I already knew--that the Ordinariate is in good hands, and that it's future priests are receiving solid seminary formation.  We are truly blessed to have such a shepherd as Msgr. Steenson at the helm (or perhaps I should say, as the pilot-in-command, since he is a pilot--and has used an airplane analogy to describe the Ordinariate).  Besides possessing (in spades!) the intellectual gifts necessary for the job, most importantly he is also an outstanding pastor.  That is, he is genuinely interested in people, and he seems to live out St. Paul's exhortation in Romans (12:10) "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love...." (KJV).  And the seminarians themselves are as fine a group of men as I can imagine.  It is truly an exciting time to be a Catholic--especially a reconciled-Anglican Catholic.

Other links -
Houston Chronicle
The Daily Vine (Galveston-Houston diocesan website)
Whispers in the Loggia
National Catholic Register (re. Ordinariate priestly formation)


Matthew M said...

Thanks Heidi, a very good first post. Hope more is coming as you settle back in at home. I understand they videoed the Installation and I'm hoping they make it available on DVD. A good way to start having an income for the Ordinariate! I already made the suggestion to the Ordinariate Secretary and she thought it was a good idea.
I wonder how many of this first group of seminarians are from TEC and from TAC? So much excitement.

Christopher McC. said...

Thank you for your post about the installation Mass for Monsignor Steenson. As a Saint Thomas More Society member I was given "tid bits" about this Mass by Father Bergman and Jerry McGreevey. You beautifully filled in the "blanks". And you are right, we are very blessed indeed to be living witnesses to this extraordinary time in Catholic history. God bless Pope Benedict XVI.
Christopher McC.