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Saint John the Evangelist, Calgary

Saint John the Evangelist, Calgary

At the invitation of Father Lee Kenyon, I have just returned from a most remarkable and wonderful Holy Week at Saint John the Evangelist in Calgary, a church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. The parish was received into the Church in December 2011 with around 65 persons, and they have received the same number again since then, and attracted a large number of 20-35 year young adult Catholics from the area. Regular Mass attendance is now well over 100. The parish celebrates exclusively according to Divine Worship, the liturgy prepared for the ordinariates, and has a daily celebration of the Mass and the public recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer according to these rites. This includes Mattins sung to plainchant twice a week with homeschooled children who have begun to meet together in the parish to form a cooperative and to form the beginnings of a choir school.

The music at Saint John’s is supported by an amateur parish choir. The English Hymnal and the Canadian equivalent, The Book of Common Praise, supplement the complete propers sung in English to settings from Wantage and the English Gradual. The Ordinary of the Mass is sung to settings by Merbecke and Healey Willan, with great confidence and gusto by all. A good pipe organ assists with this, together with the singing of many the parts of the Mass as prescribed for a said or sung celebration.

The Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday

The Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday

The three altars in the parish are all eastward facing. Traditional vestments are used, and the ceremonial is simple and dignified. The church building itself is an Edwardian brick construction with a very simple but attractive wooden interior. It has been augmented and adorned since a High Church incumbent in the 1970s, and especially in the past five or so years.

For Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Day, we celebrated with three sacred ministers, the traditional ceremonial prescribed by Ritual Notes (and supplemented where necessary by Fortescue and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal), and following much of the reformed Holy Week ritual in complete accordance with the rites provided in the Book of Divine Worship. The ceremonial was simple and unfussy, dignified, and extremely edifying for the faithful, who expressed a great love for these services which, more than any other, have remained the same since their Anglican days.

Elevation of the Chalice on Easter Sunday

Elevation of the Chalice on Easter Sunday

Seeing these central liturgies of the Church year celebrated according to the distinctive rites for the ordinariates and pastoral provision communities, was a great privilege. They not only offered fitting worship to God, but did so whilst genuinely engaging the lay faithful in the celebration of these sacred rites in a true sense of active participation, and without any compromise to the integrity of the Anglican liturgical tradition, now preserved within the Catholic Church through the ordinariates.

It becomes more and more clear to me that the future of the ordinariate project rests in fidelity to these liturgical traditions and rites that are now codified and promulgated forms of Catholic worship. This is surely the working-out of God’s plan for these communities. Cardinal Müller said recently, “the celebration according to the approved Divine Worship texts is both essential to the formation of the identity of the Ordinariate as well as being a tool for evangelisation”. I could not agree more.