Over at the Catholic Herald there is an piece by Damian Thompson about the status quaestionis of the Anglican Ordinariate in England established in the happier times of Benedict XVI.
What interests me in a special way is found toward the end of his essay. There are parallels in the wider Roman Church in the cases of parishes which readjust, return to the basics, and revitalize their liturgical worship with tradition: the bleeding stops, pews and collection baskets get fuller, the average age of Mass goers drops, etc.
Here’s Damian about a friend of mine Fr Tomlinson of the Ordinariate.
Ordinariate priest in England is determined enough, he can find a way of taking charge of a parish and offering a Divine Worship Sunday Mass.
When Fr Ed Tomlinson, former Vicar of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells, joined the Ordinariate he was sent to St Anselm’s, Pembury, Kent – an unlovely community hall with a chapel where the congregation sat on plastic chairs and knelt on linoleum.
Fr Ed – a rugby-obsessed married father of three with un-PC views on the evil of Islamism and the wimpishness of liberal bishops – decided this wasn’t good enough for God.
Five years on, on a tiny budget, he has acquired two altars, altar candles, pews, a lectern, a pulpit, Stations of the Cross, altar rails, vestments, chalices, icons, a reredos, an organ, a confessional and stalls. (Our pictures show stages in the transformation, which is not complete.)
As for the Divine Worship Mass, his cradle Catholic parishioners mostly love it. “It’s a fabulous liturgy and I’m passionate about it,” he says. Weekly attendance has risen to 130 while the average age of parishioners has dropped sharply thanks to an influx of children.
Now imagine that, in five years’ time, Fr Tomlinson’s success has been replicated in a handful of English parishes. The Oratorians have surprised everyone by exporting their worship – once considered impossibly exotic – to failing churches that mysteriously stop failing once they arrive. Each punches above its weight.
What is to stop Ordinariate priests from doing likewise? Only two things. Spanners thrown into the works by unfriendly bishops, and their own lack of confidence.
My unexpectedly upbeat conclusion, after taking a fresh look at an initiative I thought was dying, is that an Ordinariate Mark II can spring to life once its leaders see that these problems feed off each other.
Anti-Ordinariate bishops herd members of the ecclesial structure into remote “Mass centres” where they don’t want to be and won’t survive. It’s time our new fellow Catholics turned round and reminded their Lordships that they have no jurisdiction over them – and that, if the Church in England and Wales continues its deplorably mean policy of hanging on to every last parish building, then they will buy their own churches.
But first we have to sort out the money, say the permanently anxious old guard of the Ordinariate.
No. First, you need risk-taking local leaders with a mission that attracts donors.
Do I hear an “Amen!”?