Quo vadis?

Whither goest thou?” – or in modern English – Where are you going? It is a question we have to ask of ourselves. We can be interested in all sorts of things, but where is it going? What does it all mean? This is something I thought of when I was getting enthusiastic about a Sarum gathering and a small association to organise it and keep it on the rails.

Humanly, there seems to be little hope for any kind of religion that isn’t tied to competing ideologies and social manipulation. I make one exception: monastic life which can only be an option for an extremely small elite of men and women of total commitment. People other than monks don’t seem to be able to live in communities, at least not for very long. Family life very quickly becomes dominated by consumerism, materialism and all the banalities of life. I have no easy or simple answers, simply that I cannot bear the thought of our way of life going down the endless spiral to dystopia and totalitarianism, a new Dark Age.

Discussing liturgical rites can hardly be the panacea for such a vast picture, but there is some meaning – perhaps like my tiny boat with its red sails on the sea without another boat within fifty miles. The sea is indifferent. Whether we live or die, it makes no difference. We are not indifferent to the sea, and we experience it. It is just the same with the Leviathan of society that is way past “evangelising” and our own experience of people trying to live out some spiritual idea. Even the vast organisation of the Roman Catholic Church can no longer address post-modernity. At the level of individuals and small groups, we can, by living another life discreetly and intimately.

What do we do? Shake our fists at Leviathan? We might as well curse the wind and sea as they tear the sails to shreds and drive what is left of the ship onto the rocks. I sometimes see this attitude in blogs. Christ responded to everything with unconditional love, even when he went through the money-changers’ stalls like a cyclone. Love is something we have to learn. It doesn’t take away our capacity to be angry or to react in a manly way, but it does make it possible for us to keep our souls. I went through agony in 2011 and 2012 as my canonical situation as a priest collapsed, both from the point of view of The Illusion and those who remained in the TAC. Reading old articles reminds me of these questions.

Since those days, I have been accepted into the clergy of the Anglican Catholic Church’s English diocese and my situation has become stable. The Mission of the Church has always been vital to my vocation as a priest. A priest without a bishop can function in “extraordinary” circumstances, but it is abnormal. It is the minimum. Many priests have no parish ministry, but all are aware of this essential relationship with the Church. One has to beware of this healthy instinct, because it can induce a priest to want to become “his own bishop” – and we see how far it goes in certain cases.

Where are we going? It is always the same question. I am a priest of a conservative Church body, but at the same time, we have learned many lessons from the recent history of Continuing Anglicanism. I have already mentioned that the Episcopate of the ACC seems to have reformed itself to the extent of having achieved stability and credibility. I don’t know about others, but I no longer see the drama of Christianity in terms of liberalism and conservatism. Whilst I have absolutely no sympathy for the vacuous platitudes of most “establishment” bishops and the gay lobby, I feel quite alienated by the gung-ho attitude of some conservatives with their “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“.

Our answer has to be something other than constantly moaning about the mores of the modern world, about the “great apostasy” and so forth. We have other things to do.

There is something I have already hinted when discussing the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement of a hundred years ago. Benedict XVI once said something about a small Church of the future, something that is very badly understood as almost a form of Jansenism or Gnosticism. One thing is sure, that the “industrial” Church is finished. We are always grieved to see churches demolished, but it seems inevitable given the absolute apathy of people in their regard – until they read in the local newspaper that their local church is to be knocked down. It cruelly seems a part of the trajectory of history.

The Arts and Crafts movement proposed a simple and human-scaled way of going about things, whether designing furniture, building houses or in a philosophical way. Simplifying the liturgy and the clothes clerics wear may seem to be going along with the “progressive” and secularising agenda. A Sarum Mass I celebrate on my own is inevitably simpler than our High Mass at seminary back in the early 1990’s. Necessity prunes many things away. Even if I was given the use of my village church, I could not afford to maintain it. These are the realities.

There are many paradoxes these days. One is Father Guy Gilbert, the well-known longhair prêtre chez les loubards. A few years ago, he met Pope Benedict XVI and lamented the disappearance of Latin in the liturgy. There is a very genuine spirituality about this priest and a vision one doesn’t find in the bureaucrats. See also his official site if you read French. Many of the saints are to be admired but not imitated. Perhaps Fr Gilbert has more insight about the situation of Christianity today than many conservatives! He is every bit the Goliard of our days.

It is in this spirit that I would like to promote the use of medieval liturgies from before the Church’s “industrial revolution” of the late sixteenth century and onwards. Materially, we can only expect to achieve very little, like the Pre-Raphaelites and Distributists in their own time. Christianity has never been renowned for worldly success. When it does, it is at the price of fidelity.

My message is hardly a new one, but I press on. It is my calling as a priest with a ministry of the word. My blog is my parish! Now, we need to take it a step further and get a few like-minded souls together for a few days.

For the rest – à la grâce du Bon Dieu!

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3 Responses to Quo vadis?

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Dear Father Anthony,
    Your saying “A priest without a bishop can function in ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, but it is abnormal” made me wonder if there are any (online) sources you might recommend on (the history of) hermit priests and missionary priests.

    • I can only suggest you do searches on Google. Hermits are usually monks belonging to a community. Exceptionally, they can be joined to a diocese and be officially recognised as such. Missionary priests are also religious, members of societies of apostolic life or on loan from their diocese through schemes like Fidei Donum. Your question about the history of all that is too vast to give precise answers. Enter the combinations of words in Google and see what you get.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Dear Father Anthony,

        Thank you! (I thought that if there should happen to have been a classic ‘survey’ of one or the other, you would be the person to know; so, ‘spadework’ it is!)

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