John J. Myers, the Archbishop of Newark and Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, addressed the Anglican Use Conference in San Antonio on July 11. Describing his “awestruck” reaction to his first Anglican Use liturgy, he spoke of the efforts underway to expand the Anglican Use and the Pastoral Provision to “continuing Anglican communities.”
Controversies within the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have encouraged Episcopalian bishops, clergy, and laity to seek reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. Last September Jeffrey Steenson, the Episcopal Bishop of Rio Grande, New Mexico, resigned his office to become a Catholic.
Archbishop Myers in his lecture noted that modern ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans had been inaugurated during the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury on March 23, 1966. Dialogue since that event has been “quite promising at times” and he said that it continues “because the Catholic Church believes that the Anglican Communion holds a special place in relationship to her.”
“Even though the relationship and dialogue seem strained at times we are obliged to continue to pray and work for unity, to ‘press toward the mark,’ so that the prayer of our Blessed Lord may be realized that all who profess faith in Him may be one,” he continued.
Until that unity is achieved, he said, the Pastoral Provision “serves somehow to close the gap.”
The Pastoral Provision, Archbishop Myers explained, is a means by which individuals from the Episcopal Church can be reconciled with the Catholic Church. It provides to Episcopalians who reconcile with Rome the option to worship in a manner familiar to them, “which many practiced from childhood and which has nourished their faith in Jesus Christ.”
For non-Episcopalians, he said, the Anglican Use provides the worship-enabling beauty of Anglican liturgical action, music, architecture and art. It has even helped Catholics whose practice of the faith lapsed because of liturgical abuses in the implementation of the Novus Ordo reform of the Mass after the Second Vatican Council.
Describing his own experience of the Anglican Use, Archbishop Myers said: “I was awestruck when I first experienced the Anglican Use liturgy at the English College in Rome during a pilgrimage last September. Its beauty was incarnated in the devotion manifested in the exquisite celebration of the Eucharist. I was humbled by the devotion of the faithful and I am encouraged by the fervor of the chapel and parishes that employ the Anglican Use liturgy here in the United States.”
“The Holy See, through the work of the Pastoral Provision, recognizes that there is a legitimate historical patrimony of the Anglican Communion,” he said, citing a sixth-century letter that Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury which encouraged the pioneering evangelist of England to use the best customs of all the Churches in teaching the Catholic Church in England.
Archbishop Myers suggested that those who have benefited from the Pastoral Provision over its 28 years of existence should remember that it was granted “for an indefinite period of time” and presumes obedience to the Holy See.
“Catholic faithful who worship according to the Anglican Use must never see themselves as different from other Catholics or somehow privileged among other Christian Communions,” the bishop exhorted. “We are Catholics together, obedient to the Holy Father, to those bishops in communion with him and ever faithful to Magisterial teaching.”
Concerning the growth of the Anglican Use and the Pastoral Provision, Archbishop Myers said:
“We are working on expanding the mandate of the Pastoral Provision to include those clergy and faithful of ‘continuing Anglican communities.’ We are striving to increase awareness of our apostolate to Anglican Christians who desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. We have experienced the wonder of several Episcopal bishops entering into full communion with the Catholic Church and we continue to receive requests from priests and laity about the Pastoral Provision.”
Addressing those who have entered the Catholic Church from the Anglican Communion, Myers acknowledged the difficulties they have faced:
“I know that some of you experienced difficulty and anxiety at the time you made the decision to leave what was so dear to you when you felt the Lord calling you to come to the Catholic Church. In some regard your journey has been heroic. The Church is enriched by your struggles for our Lord.”
He noted that John Henry Cardinal Newman, a prominent nineteenth-century convert from Anglicanism who is being considered for beatification, also underwent such struggles. Bishop Myers then recited the entirety of Newman’s poem “Lead, Kindly Light,” whose first line reads “Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,/Lead Thou me on!”
Archbishop Myers closed his address with a prayer for Christian unity, saying “I ask your prayers as I continue to serve you and together may we assist in some small way, those from the Anglican Communion who seek reconciliation with the See of Peter. May the Light, which is Christ, enable those who are lost in the dark to see through the struggles and challenges of our time. May they know that only Christ can bring them ‘holy rest and peace at last’.”