Traditional Catholicism — In English?
The Ordinariates of English Patrimony are growing. The parishes and communities therein are thriving, and people are starting to ask some serious questions about them. The following is a simple Q&A about it, which should clear up some of these questions…
Are the Ordinariates of English Patrimony really Catholic?
YES. They are 100% Catholic in every way. Every member of the Ordinariate is a real Roman Catholic in full unity with the Pope of Rome.
What is the English Patrimony?
The English Patrimony can be summarized as the traditions, liturgy, music and spirituality that comes to us from Medieval England, much of which was preserved within Anglicanism over the last five centuries. Rome has re-adopted this Patrimony back into the Catholic Church, as part of welcoming Anglicans who return to Catholicism, and as a gift to all Catholics in the whole Church.
What is an Ordinariate?
Ordinariates are diocesan-like structures that are made by the Pope for the purpose of providing pastoral oversight over certain Catholics who need special attention. For example, the largest Ordinariate is probably the Military Ordinariate for the United States Armed Services. This Ordinariate refers to itself as an “Archdiocese,” but technically, on paper, it is an Ordinariate. The Pope has also created Ordinariates for some Eastern Catholics as well. Likewise, the Pope created the Ordinariates of English Patrimony to accommodate Catholics who have an attachment to the English Patrimony. Each Ordinariate is a diocesan-like structure, with a bishop (or Monsignor priest) acting as the “Ordinary” who is in charge of it. These Ordinariates pertain to specific types of Catholics, not regional jurisdictions. For example, Catholics in the military fall under the pastoral and juridic oversight of the Military Ordinariate. This means if they need sacraments during their time of service in the military, they receive these sacraments from the Military Ordinariate. This solves a lot of logistical and legal problems within canon law when Catholics serve in the military, and are often stationed far from their home diocese and bishop where they grew up. In 2011-2012, Pope Benedict XVI created the Ordinariates of English Patrimony to accommodate those Catholics attached to the English Patrimony within the Catholic Church (former Anglicans, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc.). These Ordinariates allow such Catholics to erect their own communities and parishes that serve their needs, and receive both episcopal (bishop) and pastoral oversight that better understands their needs.
Are these Ordinariates of English Patrimony connected to Anglicanism?
No. These Ordinariates of English Patrimony are connected solely to the Catholic Church and the Pope of Rome. They are not part of Anglicanism in any way. It’s similar to how Eastern Catholic churches are no longer connected to Eastern Orthodoxy. Eastern Catholic jurisdictions were created for the Eastern Orthodox who returned to Rome, and likewise English Patrimony Ordinariates were created for Anglicans, Episcopalians and Methodists who returned to Rome. We’re all Catholic here.
Are the Ordinariates of English Patrimony traditional?
YES. They are traditionally Catholic, but the liturgy is said in English (Sacred English) not Latin. Many elements of traditional Catholicism can be found therein. However, it’s not a “Latin Mass in English” though. There is a difference in form. The Divine Worship Mass (as it is called) comes from the traditions of English Christianity, as developed under the Sarum Use originally during the Middle Ages when England was Catholic, and preserved in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer for the last five centuries. One will immediately notice elements of Divine Worship that seem similar to the Novus Order (regular mass), and other elements that seem similar to the Vetus Ordo (Traditional Latin Mass), and some elements that are found in neither the Novus nor Vetus orders, but are uniquely “English” in character. Basically, if you’re looking for a traditional form of Catholicism that doesn’t take much adjustment-time or “getting used to,” this might be the answer for you. Typically, the Divine Worship mass is always celebrated ad orientem or versus Dominum, meaning the priest faces the Lord with the people during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Communion is always received on the tongue while kneeling. If the Ordinariate parish or community has its own building, it will likely also have a traditional high altar and altar rail. Take a look at this sample video of a typical Divine Worship Mass, celebrated in Orlando, Florida by Bishop Steven J. Lopes.
What is Sacred English and how hard is it to learn?
If you’re Catholic, you’re probably already using it every time you go to a regular mass. Sacred English is the language used for the “Our Father” prayer during the Common English (Novus Ordo) mass. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” Most English-speaking Catholics use this same form of Sacred English when praying the “Our Father” privately, and the “Hail Mary,” and probably even the “Glory Be.” If you speak Common English, and you’re Catholic, chances are you’re already a natural at Sacred English. Most regular Catholics, who visit a Divine Worship Mass, tend to fit right in before the thing is over. It’s not really that hard at all. The only people who might struggle with it a bit, are those who don’t speak English as their native language. In comparison to the Traditional Latin Mass (Vetus Ordo), which is all in Latin, the Divine Worship mass is easy to learn and let’s you feel completely comfortable within a very short amount of time.
How large is this movement?
It’s not that large right now, at somewhere between 12,000 to 20,000 members worldwide, but it is growing, and it’s only going to get bigger. At the top of this Q&A is a Google Map (see above), that will allow you to see where these communities are throughout the world. You will notice two types of pins on this map. The blue pins with a cross indicate an established Ordinariate community with a resident priest and regular mass times. The red pins with a house indicate pre-Ordinariate prayer groups (some with occasional mass times) that are working toward full Ordinariate recognition and oversight. At the time of this writing, there are six such pre-Ordinariate groups in North America (which will surely multiply in time). These are located in Tampa Bay Florida, St. Louis Missouri, Denver Colorado, St. Paul Minnesota, West Hartford Connecticut, and Kitchener Ontario. It is possible to start a pre-Ordinariate group in your own location, if an established Ordinariate parish or community is not within reasonable driving distance. The details for how this is done can be found here.
How many Ordinariates are there?
Currently, there are only three, but they are quite large. The first one is in the UK, covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is called the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The second one is in North America and covers the US and Canada. This is called the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The third is in Oceania, covering everything from Australia and New Zealand to Japan. This is called the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
Can regular Catholics join these Ordinariate parishes and communities?
Yes. These groups are not limited to certain Catholics. Any Catholic may join one of them. One does not need to be an Ordinariate member. One does not need to have an Anglican or Methodist background. Any Catholic may fill out a membership application to join one of these parishes or communities. Any Catholic may fully participate in the parish life therein. Any Catholic may participate in the formation and growth of pre-Ordinariate groups.
What if I want to join an Ordinariate parish but not the Ordinariate itself. Is that possible?
Yes. In fact, it happens all the time. Most Ordinariate parishes and communities have mixed membership. By this I mean that within any given Ordinariate parish or community, you have some members who are part of the Ordinariate, and other members who are part of the local Diocese. This arrangement works just fine. We’re all Catholic here. It’s no problem.
Does joining an Ordinariate parish or community mean I can join the Ordinariate too?
Not necessarily: joining the Ordinariate itself has some strict requirements. In order to join the Ordinariate itself, you have to meet at least one of the following criteria…
- You must be a Catholic with an Anglican or Methodist background of some kind, or…
- You must join the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish or community, or…
- You must receive one of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation or first communion) through an Ordinariate parish or community, or…
- You must have a direct family member (mother, father, sibling, spouse or child) who is a member of one of the Ordinariates.
As mentioned above, one does not need to be a member of the Ordinariate itself to become a member of an Ordinariate parish or community. Ordinariate membership and parish/community membership are two completely different things. Regular diocesan Catholics become members of Ordinariate parishes and communities all the time. It’s quite normal.
Can non-Catholics join the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish?
YES, and it doesn’t matter what they were beforehand. Any non-Catholic who joins the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish or community, not only becomes a member of the Catholic Church, and the Ordinariate parish/community, but also becomes a member of the Ordinariate itself.
If I have an immediate family member who is not yet Catholic, and that family member joins the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish, would that make me and the rest of my family eligible to join the Ordinariate itself?
YES. If you’re Catholic, and you’re currently ineligible to join the Ordinariate, but you have an immediate family member (mother, father, sibling, spouse or child) who is not yet Catholic, and thinking of joining the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish/community, then once that that happens, you and the rest of your immediate family would be eligible to join the Ordinariate itself.
If I have a child who receives baptism or confirmation through an Ordinariate parish, would my child and I, and the rest of our immediate family, be eligible to join the Ordinariate itself?
Yes, but this is something that would need to be worked out between the Ordinariate priest and the local Diocesan bishop. This sort of thing happens all the time, but you need to use the proper channels and do it right. Just talk to the local Ordinariate priest and let him handle it.
How can I learn more about the English Patrimony?
A great way to immerse yourself in the English Patrimony is to get a copy of the St. Gregory’s Prayer Book, which is a practical application of the patrimonial prayers and devotions used in the Ordinariates. Everyone who attends an Ordinariate parish/community should own a copy or two. It literally has everything you need. The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book has been endorsed by all three Ordinariates and their Ordinaries. It bears a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from an Ordinariate bishop. It is used by Catholics throughout all three Ordinariates, as well as Catholics outside them. The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book is probably the best way to “get your feet wet” in the English Patrimony as approved by the Catholic Church.
You could additionally read the Anglicanorum Coetibus Blog for current information related to the Ordinariates and the Patrimony. The best way, however, to learn more about the English Patrimony is to experience it in an Ordinariate parish or community. If there isn’t one nearby, you can follow the YouTube channels of: Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Our Lady of the Atonement, and Orlando Music.
Is the English Patrimony really for me?
If you are Anglophone (meaning you speak English) as your native language, then yes, you have a linguistic connection to the English Patrimony. If you were born or raised in the Anglosphere (UK, US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand), then yes, you have a cultural connection to the English Patrimony. This is why Catholics say the “Our Father” in Sacred English. It’s because Rome recognized (long ago) that all the Anglophone (English-speaking) people have a common connection to the English Patrimony. There is much more to the English Patrimony than just these things, but if you are Anglophone (English speaking), and you grew up in the Anglosphere (UK, US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand), you definitely have a connection to the English Patrimony. If you’re looking for more traditional Catholic worship, but you’re not too deeply into Latin, then the English Patrimony is probably for you.
Yes, the English Patrimony is Traditional Catholicism in English. No, it’s not the same as the Traditional Latin Vetus Ordo Mass, but it’s not the same as the vernacular Novus Ordo Mass either. It is, very much, its own thing, and that’s good. This shows a distinctive heritage and patrimony of English-speaking (Anglophone) people, which Catholics have been robbed of for the last five centuries. This is why Pope Benedict XVI referred to the restoration of the English Patrimony within the Catholic Church as a “gift” to all Catholics everywhere. It shows not only the diversity of the Catholic Church worldwide, but also that she values the Anglophone people’s contribution to the Faith. My personal advice is to give it a try. Attend an Ordinariate parish or community if you can. If you can’t, spend some time reading about it and watching it on YouTube. Most Catholics who do get hooked rather quickly. There is something beautiful about the English Patrimony, which in many ways compliments the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) without being identical to it.