"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Pope's meeting last week with Anglican leaders

Here is an excerpt from The Church Times' report on Pope Benedict's recent meeting with several Anglican leaders.

'Dr Williams spoke with the Pope in German for a minute, during which they said they would pray for each other. Dr Williams and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O' Connor said that they hoped that the new Pope would visit England, although no date was set, a spokesman for Dr Williams said.

Dr Williams presented the Pope with a pectoral cross. He introduced his wife, Jane, as a theologian; the Primate of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, who chairs the Inter Anglican Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations; and the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali. A spokesman for Dr Williams said that he expected that there would be 'a fuller meeting' with the Pope at a later date.

Dr Nazir-Ali said on Tuesday that the Pope had met the Anglican delegation immediately after the Orthodox. 'His first priority is relationships with the Orthodox, and the second is with the Anglicans.' The Pope had spent about 15 minutes with the Anglicans. 'He was very friendly towards us,' Dr Nazir-Ali reported.

Dr Nazir-Ali said that the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) had been mentioned. He believed that there would now be a further meeting of the Commission, 'which we could call ARCIC III', and which would meet next year to decide what it wanted to discuss."

A Prayer of St. Augustine

"My knowledge and my ignorance are in Thy sight; where Thou hast opened to me, receive me as I enter; where Thou hast closed, open to me as I knock. May I remember Thee, understand Thee, love Thee. Increase these things in me, until Thou renewest me wholly. I know it is written, "In the multitude of speech, thou shalt not escape sin." But O that I might speak only in preaching Thy word, and in praising Thee! Not only should I so flee from sin, but I should earn good desert, however much I so spake. For a man blessed of Thee would not enjoin a sin upon his own true son in the faith, to whom he wrote, "Preach the word: be instant in season and out of season." Are we to say that he has not spoken much, who was not silent about Thy word, O Lord, not only in season, but out of season? But therefore it was not much, because it was only what was necessary. Set me free, O God, from that multitude of speech which I suffer inwardly in my soul, wretched as it is in Thy sight, and flying for refuge to Thy mercy; for I am not silent in thoughts, even when silent in words. And if, indeed, I thought of nothing save what pleased Thee, certainly I would not ask Thee to set me free from such multitude of speech. But many are my thoughts, such as Thou knowest, "thoughts of man, since they are vain." Grant to me not to consent to them; and if ever they delight me, nevertheless to condemn them, and not to dwell in them, as though I slumbered. Nor let them so prevail in me, as that anything in my acts should proceed from them; but at least let my opinions, let my conscience, be safe from them, under Thy protection. When the wise man spake of Thee in his book, which is now called by the special name of Ecclesiasticus, "We speak," he said, "much, and yet come short; and in sum of words, He is all." When, therefore, we shall have come to Thee, these very many things that we speak, and yet come short, will cease; and Thou, as One, wilt remain "all in all." And we shall say one thing without end, in praising Thee in One, ourselves also made one in Thee. O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Thine, may they acknowledge who are Thine; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by Thee and by those who are Thine. Amen." -- From Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity XV.51

In the image abvoe, Andrea del Sarto's "Disputation over the Trinity" of 1517, St. Augustine leads SS. Laurence, Thomas Aquinas, and Francis in a discussion of Trinitarian theology while SS. Sebastian and Mary Magdalene listen. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bishop Swing of California on the Network

Bishop Swing of California (i.e., San Francisco and its region) has posted this very negative comment on the Anglican Communion Network on his diocesan website. It is well worth a read by those of us who support the ACN. He thinks very poorly of the effort.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Growth of American Eastern Orthodoxy

Canon Harmon calls our attention to this interesting piece on the growth of Eastern Orthodoxy in the U.S. The percentage of the Eastern clergy who are now converts is staggering.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Archbishop Williams meets Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI today at the Vatican. The archbishop presented Pope Benedict with a Canterbury cross of silver, gold, and amethyst. Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The new bell tower at St. Vincent's now has a roof! The plywood shell is almost complete now. Surely the brick work will begin soon! Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Superb words from Pope Benedict XVI

Below is a selection from Pope Benedict's first address to the College of Cardinals, which was given following his first Mass as Pope yesterday. I find this statement very encouraging. Restoring "the full and visible unity" of the Church is to be his "primary commitment." The full text may be found here .

"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.

Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that "purification of memory," which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all."

Windsor Action Covenant

Canon Harmon has now posted the "Windsor Action Covenant" adopted by the Anglican Communion Network at its annual meeting this week (which was hosted by my home parish, St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford, Texas). The Action Covenant may be found here . It details the actions the ACN is asking faithful American Anglican laity and clergy to undertake in light of recent developments in ECUSA.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bishops Request Meeting with Canterbury

"Approximately one-fifth of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan bishops have requested an emergency meeting for late May in London with Archbishop Rowan Williams. In a second letter written to Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, the bishops ask for creation of a bi-partisan commission to see if it is possible to address 'the question of our ability to walk together with one another and in a wider Communion.'” Read the full story here . My own bishop, along with all the other bishops in Texas, are among the signatories to the request.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

God bless Pope Benedict

May God bless the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI, and may his service hasten the day when all those who confess Christ's holy Name will be one, even as the Son and the Father are one. Amen. Posted by Hello

Monday, April 18, 2005

George Will in the Washington Post

A note about this post: My posting it was not meant as an unqualified endorsement of the ideas expressed therein. In fact, my own opinions are closer to those of M.B. Hwang's excellent responses than those of Mr. Will on several of the points at issue. I simply thought it might stimulate interesting discussion.

Suicide by Secularism?
By George F. Will
Sunday, April 17, 2005
The astonishing pilgrimage of Europeans to Vatican City for the most attended funeral in history obscured a stark fact confronting the conclave that tomorrow begins selecting the next pope: Vatican City is 109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.

Poles, especially, traveled to Rome to honor John Paul II. But what was said of Georges Clemenceau -- that he had one illusion, France, and one disillusion, mankind, including the French -- might with some exaggeration be said of John Paul II and Poland. He was vexed by the zeal with which Poles, liberated from the asceticism inflicted by communism, embraced consumerism, materialism and hedonism. From Catholic Ireland to Catholic Spain to Poland, the most Catholic nation, the trends of contraception, divorce and abortion are moving against Catholic teaching.

The challenge confronting the church can be expressed in one word: modernity. The church preaches that freedom is life lived in conformity to God's will as manifested in revelation and interpreted by the church. Modernity teaches that freedom is the sovereignty of the individual's will -- personal volition that is spontaneous, unconditioned, inviolable and self-legitimizing.
John Paul II's mastery of the presentational aspect of the papacy -- a mastery dependent on two modern technologies, television and jet aircraft -- may cause the conclave to seek a candidate with similar skills. But the substance of what he presented did not amount to accommodation with the culture of modernity.

In America, a market-driven society, there is a religion market in which the most successful competitors for congregations are churches with clear doctrinal and strict moral positions. For these churches, the "crisis of Christianity" is congestion in their parking lots.

Christianity is a varied and complex structure -- theological and institutional -- erected on a foundation of biblical prophecies and reports of the activities of Jesus. For two millennia these prophecies and reports have been, to say no more, subject to various interpretations. Hence the search, from the earliest days of Christianity, for sources of authoritative interpretation. That search produced great councils -- Nicaea, Trent -- and the post-Reformation papacy. When the conclave begins, a European epoch may begin to end.

It took 455 years to pry the papacy out of Italian hands. Now, after 26 years of a pope from Eastern Europe, the church that is withering in Europe is flourishing in the Southern Hemisphere, where materialism and consumerism are less powerful but people passionately desire the affluence that drives materialism and consumerism.

Europe itself is withering. On the day of John Paul II's funeral, the European Union's statistics agency reported that the decline of birthrates means that within five years deaths will exceed births in the European Union. By 2013 Italy's population will begin to decline; the next year Germany's will begin to drop. After 2010 Europe's population growth will be entirely from immigration. By 2025 not even immigration will prevent declining fertility from accelerating what one historian calls the largest "sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century."

In his new book "The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God," George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II, argues that Europe's "demographic suicide" will cause its welfare states to buckle and is creating a "vacuum into which Islamic immigrants are flowing." Since 1970 the 20 million legal Islamic immigrants equal the combined populations of Ireland, Denmark and Belgium.

"What," Weigel asks, "is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?" His diagnosis is that Europe's deepening anemia is a consequence of living on what he considers the thin gruel of secular humanism that excludes transcendent reference points for cultural and political life. Such reference points are, he thinks, prerequisites for freedom understood as "the capacity to choose wisely and act well as a matter of habit."

Perhaps. But Weigel also argues that Europe's crisis of civilizational morale was catalyzed by World War I. So Europe's retreat from religion may reflect a reasonable weariness and wariness born of four centuries of religious wars and convulsions wrought by the political religions of fascism and communism.

Weigel doubts it is possible to "sustain a democratic political community absent the transcendent moral reference points for ordering public life that Christianity offers the political community." Absent a reconversion of the continent, Europeans, who -- like many Americans -- find the injection of transcendence into politics frightening, are going to find out whether Weigel is right.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Betting on the Next Pope

Just for fun, you might enjoy checking the present odds on many of the top contenders for the throne of St. Peter. You can find one firm's picks at this site . Cardinal Ratzinger is the present front runner at 3-1. Personally, I think his odds are much longer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Bell Tower, April 12th

The new bell tower at St. Vincent's is coming along nicely. For the last few weeks they have been adding a plywood skin to the metal frame. Hopefully, they will begin the brick work soon. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 10th

This sermon was preached at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church, Bedford, Texas. The text is the "road to Emmaus" story in Luke 24.

We know that most of the followers of Jesus were still in hiding that Sunday morning. Their leader had been executed only two days earlier, and for known associates of a convicted blasphemer and rebel against the state, there was much to fear from the Jewish and Roman authorities. It was wise for them to keep their heads down. But two of His disciples were on the road, walking toward the village of Emmaus. Perhaps Cleopas and his friend just couldn’t take being cooped up any longer. Maybe they thought it was smarter to make a run for it than to sit still waiting for a bunch of thugs to break down the door and drag them off. Or maybe what had happened earlier that Sunday morning had just been too much for them to take.

In the last three days they had seen their hopes dashed in the cruelest and most comprehensive way possible. Jesus, a prophet mighty in word and deed, was supposed to restore God’s kingdom in Israel. The Romans would be booted out, the religious leadership reformed, and a just government created to replace the Roman lackeys now running the show. But that dream had come crashing down on Friday afternoon. Jesus had been killed before the revolution had even begun. Pontius Pilate still gloated over the Temple of God from the Antonia fortress. The High Priest was still little more than a Roman stooge. And the Twelve, who were supposed to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, were cowering behind locked doors. The dream was dead, and it had been buried in a borrowed tomb.

Then there were the bizarre events of Sunday morning. A group of Jesus’ female followers had gone to tend to their master’s corpse but returned reporting that His body was gone. Any sensible person would have concluded it was a grave robbery. But these women claimed to have seen a vision of angels, who told them Jesus was actually alive. Some men with calmer heads and better sense checked out the tomb, but they had seen nothing—just an empty vault and discarded grave clothes. How could it have been otherwise? Nothing is more final than death. The fantasies of a few hysterical women were no match for reality. The state-sponsored murder of Jesus was a fact. He was gone. It was all over. And it was time to leave.

When I first became a Christian fifteen years ago, I must admit that I found the Easter stories in the Gospels deeply puzzling. I had no problem believing that Jesus had risen from the dead. My conversion experience had thoroughly convinced me that Jesus Christ is truly alive today. What troubled me was why Christ’s disciples had not expected His resurrection. Jesus had expressly told his inner circle three times that He would rise again on the third day after His crucifixion. Why had they doubted Him? These same disciples had seen Christ raise three other people from the dead. After Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, and Lazarus, shouldn’t the disciples have been standing at the tomb on Sunday morning eagerly awaiting the Resurrection? If I had been there, I would have pulled an all-nighter, ready to burst into songs of praise as soon as the stone starting rolling away. Or so I thought in 1990.

But that was before I watched my oldest sister, Sandy, waste away and die of cancer. It was my first real encounter with death—the first death that really wounded me in the heart. After that, death was no longer an abstract concept for me. Like Martha of Bethany, I had an “intellectual understanding” that my sister would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” But as I stood at Sandy’s graveside death was certainly not an intellectual construct. Death was an incontrovertible fact—very real and utterly final. I could now relate to those broken-hearted disciples drearily trudging toward Emmaus. I understood why the apostles were hiding that Easter morning instead of exulting, and why a tearful Mary Magdalene had implored the “gardener” for the broken body of her Master. They had seen their Lord tortured to within an inch of His life and nailed to a cross. They heard His gut-wrenching cry as He breathed His last. They saw the blood and water flow from the spear wound in His side and felt the cold and stiffness of His limbs as they wrapped Him in a shroud. The death of Jesus was a cold, hard fact—as cold and hard as the stone of His tomb.

That Sunday, as they made their way to Emmaus, the hearts and minds of Cleopas and his friend were enthralled by death. The entire experience of the human race, from the Fall in the Garden of Eden until that very morning, had taught them death’s power was invincible and its dominion total. Even if Christ, as he walked by their side, was aglow with resurrection power and the light of glory was beaming from His precious wounds, these disciples could not have seen it. Cleopas and his friend didn’t recognize Christ in the stranger who walked with them because their eyes were still blinded by the darkness of the tomb. Their hearts were still bound too tightly by Christ’s burial shroud for them to behold His triumph.

Yet Christ opened these disciples’ eyes as surely as He had opened those of Bartimeus, and He unbound their grave wrappings as certainly as he had those of Lazarus. How did Christ release Cleopas and his friend from their slavery? He showed them how to recognize the light of the Resurrection piercing through the darkness of sin and death. Or more precisely, they learned how to see Christ as He truly was--the Incarnate Word of God, “in whom was Life, and that Life was the Light of men.” Christ had been destined from the foundation of the world for precisely this: to trample down death by His own death, and to proclaim release for death’s captives through His glorious resurrection. Christ’s ultimate victory over death runs through the pages of the Old Testament like a silver providential thread. From Jonah in the belly of the whale to the Passover Lamb, from the brazen serpent in the Wilderness to Ezekiel’s valley of the dry bones, from the 22nd Psalm to the Servant Song of Isaiah, God told His people that one day the grave would lose its terror. Now that day of liberation had come. Christ’s empty tomb meant the universe had changed.

Our Lord, the Word of God made flesh, first began to free the hearts of His disciples by means of the written Word of God. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Christ laid open the Good News of redemption and everlasting life which is built into the DNA of the Old Testament. The hearts of these disciples began to burn within their chests as the icy grip of death melted away. Cleopas and his companion were being primed, through an inspired encounter with Holy Scripture, to meet their risen Lord face to face. And by God’s grace, you and I may meet our Savior in the same way here today—and every day. St. Luke tells us that throughout the forty days the risen Christ appeared to his disciples, “He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” The wisdom our risen Lord conveyed to the apostolic age has been passed down to us through Sacred Tradition for almost 2000 years. When the world looks at a Bible, it sees paper and ink. But when you and I read the Holy Book in the midst of the great cloud of witnesses, the light of the Resurrection radiates from every page. In the hands of Christ’s Body, the Church, these are the words of eternal life.

God our Savior has given us the Scriptures that we might draw near to Him, but there is much more to come. That first Easter, when Christ was at table with those two disciples, “He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.” It is in the breaking of the bread that the one whom Scripture has brought near becomes fully manifest. In the Holy Eucharist Christ is really present with us in His fullness—Christ’s Body and Soul and Spirit, His Humanity and His Divinity. When our Reverend Fathers hold up the Lamb of God for us to adore a few minutes from now, the Spirit empowers you and I to recognize our risen Lord in the broken host as surely as Cleopas did. And just as Christ disappeared from the disciples’ sight when the bread was broken on that first Easter Sunday, so He will disappear from our sight this morning. But Christ isn’t leaving us. He is becoming a part of us! You and I will soon have His resurrection life pumping through our veins.

Death has no share in the One who is Life itself, but you and I do. As we are infused by the Blessed Sacrament with Christ’s perfected human nature, death loses its grasp on us. This is the revolution Christ truly accomplished. When Father Moore fractures the host in a few moments, the gates of Hades will quake. One drop of that consecrated wine has enough genuine Life in it to empty every grave on this planet. And Christ longs to share that Life with us. From the instant our Savior rose from the grave, the vaunted power of death became an illusion. The kingdom of Hades now teeters on the brink of annihilation. Every time you and I share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with another person, every time we baptize another baby into Christ’s Body, the Church, we kick another brick out of its crumbling wall. In Christ is Life, and that Life is the light of men. O Sleepers, awake!! O Death, where is thy sting?!? Alleluia, Christ is risen! … Amen.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Godspeed John Paul of Rome. May he and all the faithful departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace + and may light perpetual shine upon them. Amen. Posted by Hello

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