Sunday Thanksgiving

For the past several months I’ve been attending what was, until recently, a Continuing Anglican parish right here in the neighborhood. It goes by the name of the theological mystery which most entrances me: Incarnation Catholic Church. It now belongs to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. What that is is explained here. The parish’s history began (as best I recall) as a breakaway group from St. Michael’s Episcopal, also in the neighborhood, right up the street, in fact, instigated by Father Bruce Medaris, former U.S. Army general officer and an acquaintance of my grandfather dating from World War II. Father Medaris gave the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral, she being a lifelong Episcopalian. (My grandfather was an atheist). Medaris had been greatly bothered by recent theological trends in his church, and thus established the Church of the Incarnation, which billed itself at the time as part of the Anglican Catholic Church. It was clearly in schism from Episcopalianism and, I presume, from the Church of England, if such a phenomenon can be said to exist in that communion. Though I don’t know if Medaris himself became Catholic, the difficulties he was having are probably explained well in this Christendom Review article by Arthur Dasher, also a former priest of the Episcopal Church. Dasher (who attended the Church of the Incarnation) did become Catholic, but last I heard had not been ordained a priest. I regret to say that I’ve lost touch with him, but will try to remedy that.

In any case, the Church of the Incarnation eventually became Incarnation Catholic Church, presumably for the very reasons explained by Mr. Dasher. The building Father Medaris raised claims to be “the first church building in North America that had never been other than a Continuing Anglican church.” The church itself is small, its membership supposedly “growing,” with a large social hall and a school for pre-school and pre-K children called St. Vincent’s Academy. The pastor is Father William P. “Doc” Holiday, a former marine, a career police officer, and eventually police chaplain. I believe he was ordained a Catholic priest a couple of years ago, and is clearly still “eaten up with the zeal of Thine house.” He’s not the greatest of preachers, but his enthusiasm becomes yours. Catholic theology is a treasure chest he can’t dig to the bottom of. He seems to know all the stories in the Old Testament. He addresses sin squarely. “You say you committed adultery out of love? Yes, you did. Love of self.” He’s a man’s man, and therefore a woman’s man as well. (Nothing salacious intended, for those of you with dirty minds.) When my wife praised his homily one Sunday, he thanked her for “not snoring.” During the liturgy over which he presides, there is no cowardly acquiescence to gender-neutral language (“who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven”). The fact-facing “many” is not changed to “all.” Most of the Eucharistic prayers are offered facing the altar. I get to hear a lot “thees” and “thous” and “thines” and other formulations thought lost forever: “being of one substance with the Father,” and “the remission of sins.” Congregants take communion at the altar rail, kneeling, and under both species. Some of the women wear veils (as did my Episcopalian grandmother) and some do not. At the sign of peace there is no disruptive handshaking or hugfest. People do their glad-handing after Mass. The Mass always begins with a Hail Mary and the first lines from John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…,” and always ends with the “defend us in battle” prayer to Michael the Archangel. And, perhaps most importantly, the Blessed Sacrament, its candle always lit, of course, resides between Masses in a receptacle behind the altar, directly beneath the crucifix.

So I like this little place, and will pray that its reputed growth is real and continues apace, and will support it with as much of my substance as my stingy self can bear to part with.


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4 Responses to Sunday Thanksgiving

  1. Thomas D says:

    Bill,

    I especially like this description, “He’s not the greatest of preachers, but his enthusiasm becomes yours.” There are many good priests who could be thus described!

    Odd phenomenon: At my pretty-regular Catholic church, the celebrant of Mass will routinely omit the men from the line of the creed where it appears: “for us, and for our salvation.” And just as routinely, every woman within earshot of me will re-insert it!

    Altar rails: Do you know there’s an Anglican church in Boston, still, I believe, in precarious union with the Episcopal Church, that uses an altar rail? I attended a liturgy there last August & was simultaneously dumbfounded and exhilarated!

    And yes, the St Michael prayer. Why the heck did we ever stop doing this as a church? And in 1967, of all years to stop? (Two years prior to my birth, for the record, so I have no memory of ever hearing it appended to the celebration of Mass. Sometimes, in fact often, daily Mass at my parish is followed by recitation of the Rosary, and the Rosary folks say the St Michael prayer after the five mysteries & the Salve).

    Thank you for a fascinating glimpse into what I, too, hope is now or soon becomes a thriving parish!

  2. William Luse says:

    I forgot to mention that he sprinkles the liturgy with doses of Latin, sometimes more sometimes less, but what occasions it I do not know. The St. Michael prayer is of course optional. But it’s a good prayer. It’s the last thing he says after the Mass is completed, before closing the door on the vestry adjacent the sanctuary. He is attended during mass by a single male acolyte. There are two young men and an older man who alternate this duty. There are no Eucharistic ministers. Sometimes one of the acolytes will recite the first reading; sometimes the priest does all the readings himself. The communion rail is something I grew up with. During a large service, it can take an hour and a half to complete rather than the hour we’re now accustomed to.

  3. Lydia says:

    It sounds like you and I are hearing almost the same liturgy every week. My St. Patrick’s, however, is not in communion with Rome, which is obviously a big difference. It is ACC, as Incarnation used to be. But the liturgy is very similar, because the Ordinariate was established initially for those of precisely the Anglican background that uses the old Anglican liturgy. It is such a very beautiful liturgy.

    And I bet you’re appreciating the hymns, too. I remember one time I asked you if they still sang anything with “men” in it in the modern Roman Catholic churches, and you said something like, “No, they’ve more or less cut us men out of the hymns.” But at an Ordinariate church, I would bet they use a good hymnal.

  4. William Luse says:

    There has been no singing at the Saturday evening mass I usually attend. But they do have an organist and choir (a small one I presume) for the Sunday morning masses. I need to get my rear end up earlier to attend one of those.

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