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Saint Charles Borromeo and Saint Thomas More, Saint Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, MD

Ss Charles Borromeo & Thomas More, St Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore

As a sign of her conformity to Christ in the midst of the world, the Church maintains her own calendar of feasts and fasts, which mark not only the principal commemorations of the life of Christ, her Lord, but also the lives of the saints, and the turning of the annual cycle of the year. This respects, of course, the cycle of nature; a fact seen in the timing of the Ember Days and Rogations. But the calendar of the Church’s feasts, the liturgical calendar, also provides something of superstructure that guide the Christian through the year, in accord with the life of Christ and his saints, as what we might topically describe as a liturgical “pathway of accompaniment” toward sanctification in the sacramental life of grace.

The dates of the feasts of the saints, and of the commemorations of the events of the life of Our Lord, are of real importance in the community of the Church and in her relationship with the world. We need only recall the mention of Saint Crispin’s Day in Act IV of Henry V to know how true this, at least historically, has been. The Church, ever true to the principle of the sanctification of the temporal, brings events into conformity with Christ by means of her liturgical calendar; a principal that is retained in particular way through the promulgation of church documents, particularly those of real significance in the life of the Church and her faithful, on specific dates in the liturgical year. An example of this is the recent revision of the declaration of marriage nullity process, by means of the Apostolic Letter motu proprio, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which was promulgated on 15 August 2015, made public on 8 September 2015, and is due to come into effect on 8 December 2015; all feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Similarly, in the life of the personal ordinariates certain days and liturgical feasts have been chosen, which we might conjecture emphasize aspects of the life  and mission of these new structures, and provide some spiritual, even supernatural, context from which to consider the importance of these events and gifts to the life of the Church.

Promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution.

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus was promulgated on 4 November 2009, the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo. Saint Charles was the Archbishop of Milan, an important See in Italy, and a place on the way between England and Rome for those brave men from Britain who, during the years of Protestant Reformation, travelled in secret to the continent for formation as priests. In Giovanni Pietro Giussano’s biography of the saint, we read that Borromeo welcomed many of those men as they travelled both to Rome for their studies and, again, on their way to certain martyrdom in England. Amongst the names that Giussano records we find Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion. In a letter to the Rector of the English College, Borromeo wrote, “I saw and willingly received those English who departed hence the other day, as their goodness deserved, and the cause for which they had undertaken their journey. If in future your Reverence shall send any other to me, be assured that I will take care to receive them with all charity, and that it will be most pleasing to me to have occasion to perform the duties of hospitality, so proper for a Bishops, toward the Catholics of that nation.”

Borromeo’s concern and respect for the British extended further still. He appointed the former Bishop of Saint Asaph, Thomas Goldwell, who had escaped from England in June 1559, as a suffragan bishop in Milan (incidentally, Goldwell ordained the composer Tomás Luis de Victoria to the priesthood), he appointed a Welshman, Owen Lewis, as his Vicar-General, and another Welshman, William Gifford, as his confessor and Canon Theologian. This, together with the significance of the distinctive liturgical traditions of the Rite of Milan—alluded to by Cardinal William Levada during a speech on the personal ordinariates in 2011—shows something of the importance of this date for the project of the personal ordinariates, and sets something of a context for what the ordinariates are called to be. Who, having made the journey from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church, can read those lines of Borromeo to the Rector of the Venerabile without recalling the welcome we ourselves have received?

Announcement of the Apostolic Constitution.

Even before the promulgation of Anglicanorum cœtibus, on 20 October 2009 the future document was announced at simultaneous press conferences in Rome and in London. This date is also of real significance, for since 2006 it has been the feast of Saint Paul of the Cross. Saint Paul was the Passionist Priest whose life inspired his fellow Passionist, Blessed Dominic Barberi, to work for the conversion of England, and eventually receive John Henry Newman into “the one true fold of the redeemer.” Saint Paul was also the inspiration for the Venerable Ignatius Spencer, an Anglican convert, priest, friend of Ambrose de Lisle (of “shivering at the gates” fame), and ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer, who was known for his desire to return England to the faith of the Catholic Church.

Saint Paul of the Cross was himself devoted to this same desire, a characteristic that remain a part of the Passionists, not least through the people we have just mentioned. For fifty years Saint Paul of the Cross prayed for the conversion of England, and in one of his letters he wrote, “I had a particular impulse to pray for the conversion of England, especially because I want the standard of the Holy Faith to be erected so that there will be an increase of devotion and reverence, of homage and love, with frequent acts of adoration for the Blessed Sacrament, the ineffable mystery of God’s most holy love, and so that his Holy Name may be glorified in a very special way.” Again, who can doubt that something of his prayer has been answered in the gift of the personal ordinariates, announced to the world on the day of his feast?

Dates of Promulgation for the Liturgical Provision.

With regard to the liturgical provision for the personal ordinariates, dates are similarly important. The Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium, or Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony, was promulgated by a Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on 22 June 2012, the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, as was the Ordo Exsequiarum, or Order of Funerals. These two saints of the English Reformation stand out as striking examples of holiness, of conscience and religious liberty, and of course as bold witnesses to the primacy and importance of the Petrine office. It is not difficult to see how these two men might rejoice at the reconciliation of the successors of those who, as a point of historical fact, stood against them during their own earthly life. The seeds planted by their martyrdom, and encouraged by their prayers, have truly produced much fruit.

The forthcoming Divine Worship missal shares in this heritage. It will enter into use in the communities of the personal ordinariates on the First Sunday of Advent 2015, the start of the new liturgical year, and was itself promulgated on 27 May 2015, the feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. This latter date is of real significance for reasons best explained by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former Chairman of the Interdiscasterial Commission Anglicanæ Traditiones, in his recent paper on Divine Worship and the Liturgical Vitality of the Church, published in Antiphon (Vol. 19, No. 2, 109-115) and delivered to the clergy and lay faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Westminster on 19 September 2015, a date which is itself significant as the day on which Pope Benedict XVI called the Bishops of England and Wales, and Scotland, to be generous in their implementation of Anglicanorum cœtibus, and to view it as “a prophetic gesture.”

As Archbishop Di Noia rightly pointed out in his presentation in Westminster, the significance of Divine Worship: The Missal cannot be overstated. It is, to use his words, “immensely important.” In his paper the archbishop says, “Just as it would be unthinkable to describe the Catholic Church without reference to its liturgical and sacramental life, so it would in some sense be for every ecclesial body. The manner in which an ecclesial community worships uniquely expresses its inner life.”

Archbishop Di Noia further relates the famous dialogue between Saint Augustine of Canterbury and Pope Saint Gregory the Great, recorded by the Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (I, 27). This discourse reveals Saint Augustine’s concern regarding the diversity of liturgical rites found in England, which “differ in the holy Roman Church and the Churches of Gaul.” In his reply, Pope Saint Gregory reassured Saint Augustine with these words which, again, echo through the text of Anglicanorum cœtibus: “If you have found customs, whether in the Roman, Gallican, or any other Churches that may be more acceptable to God, I wish you to make a careful selection of them, and teach the Church of the English, which is still young in the Faith, whatever you can profitably learn from the various Churches. For things should not be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Therefore select from each of the Churches whatever things are devout, religious, and right; and when you have arranged them into a unified rite, let the minds of the English grow accustomed to it.”

As Archbishop Di Noia states, “One can think that Saint Gregory plays with the word for ‘places’ here, meaning not only geographical places, but textual ‘places,’ or diverse formulæ and traditions of worship . . . This pastoral concern is the overarching content in which the inclusion of Anglican liturgical patrimony into Catholic worship should be seen.”


In other words, by aligning itself with Saint Augustine and his mission, through the date of its promulgation (incidentally, the most significant mission of a Bishop of Rome to the English-speaking peoples), Divine Worship: The Missal can again be identified as an essential element for the authentic life of the personal ordinariates. Just as the dates of the announcement and promulgation of Anglicanorum cœtibus reveal something of the significance of the mission entrusted to them, so the dates of the promulgation of the liturgical provision for the personal ordinariates show how, in the liturgical books approved by the Holy See for these communities, this is intended to form its life. May the prayers of these unwitting patrons keep us faithful to that task.