Martha Eischen: Anglican Patrimony or The Anglican Way

Martha Eischen writes at VirtueOnline:

At the recent presentation of Anglicanorum Coetibus to the USCCB in Washington, one of the bishops asked, ” just what is the Anglican Patrimony”. It was clear that it was not exactly clear to what the Holy Father was happily opening up the doors of the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly he felt, and I assuredly agree that the Anglican Way brings a special rich heritage of worship and hymnody that the Catholic Church wishes to embrace as it adds significantly to the expression of the Faith. As a former Anglican, who spent 71 of my 72 years as an Anglican, I would like to attempt to share the mystique and the character that an Anglican would readily claim as his or her heritage.

Before I make my humble attempt, I should like to make a disclaimer. First, this is not a theological position paper. Those qualified to make such a presentation as Anglicans have probably already done so. Likewise I shall make no attempt to bring specific historic events or persons which have contributed to the schism between Anglicans and Roman Catholics into my discussion. My attempt here is to give a view from the pew, as one born into a particular place in the vineyard, happily grazing, and rather certain of my affinities.

By way of introduction, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church on Advent Sunday, 2010, at the age of 71. It was a most blessed day, which was shared by some of my family, friends and my priest. I have been the beneficiary of great grace and blessing as I have journeyed in my new “home”. My parish is Our Lady of Lourdes, Philadelphia, PA. We are surrounded with so much of what I grew up with as a privileged Anglo-Catholic, that I hardly know that I am “across the Tiber.” I was raised in a devout Catholic family (Episcopal Church), one of six children. My parents lived their faith daily and raised us in it, as they lived it. Two of my father’s brothers were Episcopal priests, one a religious in the Order of St John the Evangelist, in London, England. To be fair, ours was not a normal upbringing. We were extraordinarily blessed. My father often said of his own roots, “The lot has fallen unto me in a fair ground; yea I have a good heritage.” Psalm 16:7. Ours was just that. We were raised, it would correctly be said, in the glory days of Anglo-Catholicism. I am an Associate of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, in Catonsville, MD, which order was received into the Catholic Church in 2009. For many years, I worshipped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA, and thus know Fr. Jeffrey Steenson very well.

Why did I “leave” my roots? The answer to that question may or may not be obvious. However, the disintegration of moral values plaguing our society, has become the “norm” in the Episcopal Church, for certain, but also widely around the Anglican Communion. The implosion simply spoke loudly to me regarding discipline and authority. That was a seed planted in my soul. Was there some reason why I was out of communion with the homeland of Mother Church, the See of Peter? I tossed the question around in my heart. The decision became simpler as I prayed. I moved on, bringing with me all that shaped my Christian identity, all that was given to me as my “goodly heritage.”

Perhaps this introduction in some small way qualifies me to presume to “answer” the good bishop’s question, “What is the Anglican Patrimony.” From the pew…….

Every culture rightly contributes its own unique and wonderful gifts to the rich splendor of Catholic worship from all peoples and nations. From Africans’ high pageantry to the breathless floral beauty of the East, they all express the “beauty of holiness”. So it is therefore, that from Britain, there arises a unique gift worthy of being counted in that beauty.

The answer to the question of Anglican Patrimony has more than one dimension. Some of it can be explained, some of it touched, some of it lived. But all of it is sensed. I give you my “sense” as a lay person, of the solemnity, wonder, solace and joy that surfaces in the best of environments when the word “Anglican” is used.

There are several broad categories to which one can point that most clearly contribute to the Anglican Patrimony. They are intertwined yet clearly identifiable. Alone they are not the whole story. And often they can be found in other corners of Christendom, especially Catholic Christendom. Yet together, they somehow bear the Anglican insignia.

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