04 June 2007

Back from Washington...

I’ve returned from the Anglican Use Conference which was held on the campus of Catholic University in Washington DC, and I really enjoyed it. Getting there was a nightmare (par for the course when it comes to air travel these days), but it was an especially miserable trip from San Antonio. Bad weather in Dallas meant that flights were cancelled, and although I was supposed to leave by 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, we didn’t get a flight out until 6:40 p.m. This meant the arrival in Washington was at midnight. Of course, the luggage didn’t make the flight, which wasn’t completely evident until after 1:00 a.m. It showed up on the 2:15 a.m. flight on Thursday morning. By the time I retrieved my things there seemed to be little point in going to bed. Deacon Orr and I were staying with some former parishioners, Bill and Kathy Noel, and so Bill and I decided to stay up all night and head off to their parish for some early morning adoration and the Mass at 6:30 a.m. This meant no sleep from 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday until almost midnight on Thursday.

Anyway, after Mass I managed a quick shower, some breakfast, and then we went into the city to visit a few places of interest before the conference. We saw the new World War II memorial (absolutely wonderful!) and St. Matthew’s Cathedral (beautiful!), among other things. By lunch time we were dripping wet from the humidity and the Mayfair Hotel looked awfully inviting, so we had lunch there. Fortified with food, and much cooler than when we arrived for lunch, we made our way to Catholic University.

The speakers were terrific. Fr. Peter Geldard, Catholic Chaplain at the University of Kent at Canterbury, gave a wonderful “you are there” talk about how the events unfolded in England which led to the conversion of hundreds of Anglican clergy to the Catholic faith, and who were subsequently ordained as Catholic priests (Fr. Geldard being one of them). He was a key player in all of this, and his account of the discussions which included such people as Cardinal Hume, Msgr. Graham Leonard (former Anglican Bishop of London), Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), and many others, made for a fascinating commentary.

Linda Poindexter, the wife of Admiral John Poindexter, spoke to us of her journey from Episcopal priestess to faithful Catholic laywoman. For me, the most interesting point she made was the “disturbing feeling” she had as she stood at the altar in her Episcopal church, leading the liturgy. “It just didn’t feel right,” she told us. After she spoke, I made the observation that perhaps it didn’t feel right to her because she, being a very obviously feminine lady, had brought that femininity to her work, as opposed to the raging feminists who are the usual participants in “priestly” work in the Episcopal Church. A real woman would feel uncomfortable in such a role, whereas those who are attempting to mimic masculine attributes are so maimed that they have lost the ability to feel discomfort about anything they do.

Fr. Charles Connor is always a winner when talking about the priesthood. His obvious love for priestly ministry came through in everything he had to say, especially when it came to the relationship between the priest and the parish. It’s always a joy to hear a priest who loves being a priest, and that certainly is the case with Fr. Connor.

I was utterly enthralled with Msgr. Bruce Harbert, the Executive Director of ICEL. I have to admit, I was unprepared for that. Before his talk I thought to myself, “Yuck, ICEL.” But what a brilliant man! If he had been the director in the early days of ICEL we would have a much different liturgical situation today, I’m convinced. His discussion of the real meaning of the term “liturgy,” and his examples of the small things which made for major theological misunderstandings was absolutely engrossing. I could have listened to him for hours, and I feel much more confident about the new translation which is to come.

On Friday evening we celebrated Evensong in the chapel at the Dominican House of Studies. This is an absolute gem of a chapel, complete with rood screen and lots of dark wood beautifully carved. As you can see from the picture above, it looks as tastefully Anglican as could be!

The final High Mass in the Crypt Chapel at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was, of course, the most fitting capstone to the conference. Hearing the venerable words of the Book of Divine Worship echoing through the archways in that holy place was a very inspiring experience.

We’re looking forward to hosting the Anglican Use Conference next year. This will be part of our twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, and it will be good to welcome the Ecclesiastical Delegate, Archbishop John Myers, to this parish where the Anglican Use first became a reality in the Church.