My thanks to Fr. Bartus for inviting me to contribute to the Anglican Patrimony blog. Before I jump into the blogging fray, courtesy dictates that I share a brief introduction.
I had the honor of being the first priest ordained for the Personal Ordinate of the Chair of Saint Peter (CSP from here on out) on June 2nd, 2012, by Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, Alabama. I am the administrator of The Society of St. Gregory, the Ordinariate group for Mobile and Dothan, Alabama.
While I may have been the first priest ordained for CSP, at 31 years of age, my experience is dwarfed by that of most of my brother priests. However, as a converted atheist, I like to think I have a unique perspective on the Ordinariates. I was brought up in an agnostic and atheist household in a suburb of Boston. My extended family and a large number of my neighbors are Irish and Italian Catholics descended from the great immigrant wave of the turn of the 20th century. The other strand of my family was descended from the Colonial British who have been in the Boston area for near 400 years.
In my teenage and college years I was an ardent atheist of the Christopher Hitchens type. Like Hitchens I was fascinated with Christianity and religion, but saw it as a disease that mankind could not shake, and a clear fallacy that could not stand up to reason. Of course, college taught me that I might in fact not be the smartest human of all time, and might actually be full of myself, which are both necessary parts of militant atheism. I took a few religion classes in college to improve by Bible debunking and came out the other end a believer. The Bible does strange things like that.
After a year or two adrift as a believer in Jesus Christ with no home, I landed on my feet in Anglicanism. As an Anglophile and history buff, The Episcopal Church appealed to me. Here was a church connected to my ancestral homeland, connected to its past, Eucharistic and most definitely not what had left my Boston neighbors so bored. After I took on several lay ministries my parish decided to present me to the Bishop for consideration for the priesthood. After forms, hoops and innumerable committee meetings I was sent off to Virginia Theological Seminary in the Northern Virginia/DC area.
In DC I was formed amongst the dying embers of the once proud Anglo Catholic movement. I was trained at a “shrine parish.” I learned to pray the office from the 1928 BCP and learned all the ins and outs of Solemn High Mass from the Anglican Missal. Texts by Cranmer, choreography by Fortescue and music by Tallis - an exquisite taste of the Anglo Catholic heyday that clashed with the Enriching our Worship/Rite III environment of my seminary.
Like many an Anglo Catholic before me I discovered that the English Reformers were off on almost all theological topics and Rome always made the better argument. Still, I felt a loyalty to Anglicanism and soldiered on despite being labeled a “papist” more than a few times. Ordination followed graduation in 2010 and my first assignment brought me to Alabama. As an Episcopal cleric, I found the Anglo Catholic theology I tried to maintain fell apart when the rubber met the road. The once noble idea of being a separated Catholic protecting our Anglican Heritage didn’t work after the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus.
Like so many before me, I saw that the call to Catholicity raised by Keeble, Pusey and Newman leads to Rome, and for those who took a little longer to get there due to our concern over preserving the true jewels in Anglicanism, the Ordinariate was the answer. So I put my clericals in the closet and became a layman in The Church and awaited the unfolding of the Ordinariate here in the US. Mother Church called me to the priesthood, and here I am, tasked with saving souls with the special assignment to employ the Anglican Patrimony towards that goal.
In addition to leading The Society of Saint Gregory I am also the assistant at a local Latin Rite Parish. Some days its Miles Coverdale’s translation of the Roman Canon ad orientem, other days it is Prayer IV from the Roman Missal versus populum. You may find me in a fiddleback and biretta, or a buy-three-get-one-free chasuble from the Autom catalog. To some this might be an unbearable dichotomy, but it does not bother me much. I’m much too happy to be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Church Catholic validly and licitly in communion with the See of Peter and over a billion people who hold the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I’m in communion with the Church of Graham Leonard, Cardinal Newman, Sir Thomas Moore, John Duns Scotus, Anselm, Bede and Alban. God is good. I look forward to a life time of using the Anglican Patrimony as one of many tools at my disposal to preach Jesus Christ crucified, dead and risen.