Daily Archives: November 5, 2010

St Charles Borromeo on Parish Work

Speaking of S Clement’s… One of its former members, Br. Stephen, posted a great selection yesterday from the writings of St. Charles Borromeo whom we celebrated at mass last night. Again, I confess, I don’t know the writings of the Counter- and Post-Reformation Roman saints very well. What little time I have for study these days tends to go to the patristic and medieval saints who, happily, we have in common. In any case, these words deserve to be more broadly circulated:

Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.

If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.

My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean. In this way, all that you do becomes a work of love.

This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.

One of the enduring problems that I see in the Episcopal Church is this confusion about the role of the priest. Most parish expectations are not clear, diocesan expectations are not clear, and in the seminaries where I’ve been this topic seems to be assumed far more than discussed. As a result, most clergy come out thinking that they are a mash-up somewhere between non-profit CEO, social activist, witch doctor, and entertainer. Throw in “being missional” into the mix and you have a guaranteed recipe for confusion.

One of the most encouraging things I heard from M concerning our diocesan clergy conference was that our bishop emphasized the importance of clergy as people of prayer. Prayer is not something that clergy should do when they have time to fit it in around the tasks of ministry—rather, it is one of the fundamental tasks of ministry. Now all we need is for the bishop to post that prominently on the diocesan website to inform congregations and vestries and to remind the clergy…

On the Mt Calvary “Story”

Paul put up a link to a story from Venom Online in the thread below on Mt Calvary. I usually make a habit of not going there, and I do not link to it for two reasons: first, I find the material there to be deliberately inflammatory and mean-spirited (I know, it’s not alone in that, but that’s not a tone that I take or tolerate here); second, I find that the material there usually contains wild inaccuracies.

The story posted there on Mt Calvary and what happened there Sunday is no exception to this usual rule. There are inaccuracies in the piece and I feel compelled to say something about them. The impression one receives from the article is that my diocese—and my friends—are behaving in a high-handed fashion that serves only to reinforce all of the stereotypes held by those who read that site.

Here are the facts:

Father Parker celebrated a Sung Mass using Rite I of the BCP. I’m assuming the ceremonial was English Use as that is Fr. Parker’s custom. Not Anglo-Papalist, it’s true, but not sloppy anything-goes by a long mile.

In thinking about it, I realized that there are only four priests in the diocese that I can think of who I would trust to properly celebrate solemn high ceremonial: Fr. Parker is one, my priest is another, another friend is the third and was out of town, and the fourth is M. Too, all four would be objectionable to the departed congregation; the only one not in a same-sex relationship is M and—well—she’s a girl.

Of the men, Fr. Parker is the only one who has more than one priest at his parish—he has two assisting priests (contra the article)—and thus could be there and have coverage at his parish.

It was a small congregation, a dozen, of whom Fr. Parker brought precisely one, his server. In other words, it was a larger one than is typical for Mt Calvary’s early mass.

I’m unclear on the “unscheduled” bit. I know that Fr. Parker told Fr. Catania that a mass would be taking place at his church, the only remnant of truth here may be that there was not clarity on the time it was to occur.

In any case the article is correct that Fr. Parker’s mass started late; they did so as to not interrupt the 8 AM mass which ran late. Furthermore, they used the side chapel so as not to disturb preparations for the later high mass.

In short, it sounds to me like the diocese handled the situation appropriately. It would be one thing if they’d sent a liberal female priest to celebrate on the high altar (and I can think of some Episcopal diocesans who might have done just that…). Rather, they sent Fr. Parker, himself from a parish that does not receive women clergy at the altar, who truly understands the theological reservations of the departing congregation. A proper, dignified, prayer book mass was sung with as little disruption as possible. Is it the best of all possible worlds? No. But it assuredly could have been much worse as well.

St Clement’s Online

I received a note the other day from Paul Goings, frequent commenter, long-time friend of the blog, and one of the people I go to when I have questions on liturgy. There are now two blogs connected with events at St. Clement’s, Philly, the great bastion of Anglo-Papalism in the Episcopal Church.

The rector’s blog is www.reidandwrite.com and while liturgically traditionalist he takes a more liberal position on some of the questions of the day.

The other is the new S Clement’s Church Blog and so far has an assortment of passages from classic Anglo-Catholic authors and sermons from former rectors. I assume that it will follow a more Anglo-Papalist line on questions of the day.

I don’t know what will be in the offing there, but I’d love to see some discussions and descriptions of the usual liturgical goings-on. That is, what exactly does “Anglo-Papalist” look like there—both now and in former days—in terms of kalendars, schedules, ceremonial, etc.?