Adventures in Anglo-catholicism, Chapter 2.

In Chapter 1, I attempted to lay a foundation of the history of the Shrine in order to show how my first visit to Walsingham was primarily a insight into the human divisions history has wrought in our supernatural revelation. All parties at Walsingham recognise these supernatural truths of Annunciation, Incarnation, Revelation, bitter death and sacrifice, then Resurrection. These truths are born out by the long history of pilgrimage, prayer and miracle which are an indelible part of the Walsingham story.

Despite our common acknowledgement of these divine realities, our shared kerygma, koinonia, and even didache, Walsingham is physically, very divided. For a Catholic like me, the immediate question this experience begs in a place like Walsingham, is why?

My overwhelming sense was of the Mother of God holding all her squabbling children together. Perhaps you might think I should have been concentrating on my prayers, but I could not help thinking of Matthew 5: 22-24 which is a passage of Scripture which resonates with me very deeply and personally, and which I reflect on often. As the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus states:
...every division among the baptised in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, “such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature.” Unitatis Redintegratio n. 1.
With respect to the Orthodox, although their position might be that all that was undertaken at Walsingham was at the prompting of the Mother-of-God  and thus represents perhaps one of the last flowerings of the Anglo-Saxon Church, which was to their mode of thought, still Orthodox. After this it was "overwhelmed and altered" by the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. I would echo Blessed John Paul II's teaching regarding the Orthodox in that the vision of the full communion to be sought is that of unity in legitimate diversity (See Ut Unum Sint n. 54).

Some Eastern Churches: The Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, Ukrainian Catholics and Greek Catholic Church, are in full communion with Rome. There are other Eastern Churches, i.e. the Orthodox, which are separated, yet Apostolic Churches; that is, they trace their foundation to an Apostle. The Council of Nicaea confirmed ancient traditions when it laid down the primacies of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch and defined them as the hinges of the universal communio. The warrant of these Sees lies in the Petrine principle, as does the basis of Rome's apostolic responsibility to be the norm of unity. So the exchange of anathemas with the Orthodox was between two Apostolic Sees, thus the Orthodox Church retains its Apostolic foundation, though it is in schism. However, the Church in England is a different thing altogether, because it was “born” of the Roman See; it fell under the 'apostle-ship' of Rome and broke away. Thus when the English Church broke away from the authority of Rome, it did not have any independent Apostolic foundation. The Anglican Church cannot call itself apostolic, therefore their orders are 'null and void'. I do not say this in any attempt to denigrate Anglican beliefs; but theology is a science and a powerful tool we can use to reason the truth of something. Despite the sincerity of those in Anglican orders, there is a memetic dimension to the communion which makes me more than a little uncomfortable.

When I arrived in Walsingham, it was about 9pm. I parked the car and Fr. Jeff and I went to our Guest House and dropped our bags off before heading straight for the Anglican Shrine. What was not Catholic about this Shrine? I could see nothing. Whilst explaining about the Living Rosary prayers introduced by the Guardians of the Anglican Shrine in 1962, Fr. Jeff pointed out the relatively recent addition of the Lumen Gentium altar. Come again?? That's right, the Lumen Gentium altar. On Christmas Day 2002 the Shrine altered its pattern of the Rosary at Shrine Prayers. This was in response to Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which introduced the Luminous Mysteries in October 2002. I just couldn't figure out why they would do that. Surely, by remaining separate from the See of Peter, one is making a point of difference. My struggle is best framed in that for the life of me, I cannot figure out what the point of difference these Anglo-catholics are asserting!
Lindsay Urwin

After some prayers, we were hungry and sought out a local hostelry which might provide suitable vittals for our sustenance. We were fortunate enough to bump into Lindsay Urwin, who is the Anglican bishop Administrator of the Anglican Shrine. What a wonderful fellow! We were welcomed so warmly and with such cordiality. Lindsay sat with Jeff and I and chatted honestly and freely about the Shrine and about the Ordinariate, for which he expressed great affection and interest. In the model I have come to recognise denotes true intelligence, he sought my personal insight into what can only be described as the plight of Anglo-catholics. I tried to explain how confusing it is from a Catholic perspective looking from the outside in and he did his best to help me with my limited understanding.

Anglo-catholics consider that they have taught and held the Catholic faith in England for some 181 years, since John Keble preached his Assize Sermon on "national apostasy" which effectively launched the Oxford Movement on 14 July 1833. They are, in many instances, "more Roman than Rome" to quote the old Ultramontanist adage, and it could be said that they have been looking to Rome for recognition of their orthodoxy. A small, increasingly isolated band of faithful men and women whose great mistake was perhaps to settle for toleration rather than to pursue conversion, to accept an honoured place in a broad and accommodating church. Today there is little doubt that they are no longer honoured and are no longer to be tolerated. The sanctuary lamps are going out throughout the Church of England. Father Hope Patten fought for the Catholic Faith in Walsingham without compromise. 

Today it appears that they are clinging to the wreckage of a once glorious past whilst that heritage degenerates into Protestantism in fancy dress. They know that Liberal Protestantism is a dead end. As the irredentist Administrator once said, “Protestantism is a staging post on the road to atheism.” That will not bring men and women to Christ. That will not further Christ’s cause of unity. Unity is a greater prize, the mercy of God is a higher aspiration than the present concerns with episcopal power and a partial and contentious understanding of justice. The state has already surrendered to that liberalism in religion that John Henry Newman identified, “the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another … It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as true … all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste, not an objective fact … it is the right of each individual to make it say what strokes his fancy.” The Church of England is on the same track.

The goal of the Oxford Movement is the conversion of England to the Catholic Faith, yet it seems to be losing ground on every side, trapped and surrounded by a sea of relativism and capitulation to the whims of modern secular thinking. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, did recognise the individuality and the faithfulness of the Anglo-catholic tradition and after some discussion, prepared a life boat for them in Anglicanorum coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution which allows groups of Anglo-catholics to enter into full communion with the See of Peter, and thus fulfill the goal of the Oxford movement and Our Lady of Walsingham to convert England to the Catholic faith she once so fiercely held and taught. And yet it seems that this life boat, which constituted all that was so longed for by Anglo-catholics is somehow not the right colour, or the wrong shape, or suffers from some other problem. From their insular perspective, those who did not accept the Pope's invitation to fulfill Christ's prayer to be one judge the Bark of Peter to be not quite what they wanted it to be. What are they holding on to?

Some say it is about liturgy, a desire for perfection on the altar. They got Benedict XVI's uniquely western, academic, perspective and his vast comprehension of liturgical significance. But now they are confused by Pope Francis, who in reality represents 67% of the world in that he speaks for the poor. Pope Francis articulates the reality we can perceive in the navel gazing epitomised by self-indulgent liturgical navel-gazing of ACTA supremo Tony Castle and faux liturgy expert Fr. Michael Butler in their recent attacks on the New Translation of the Roman Rite. The reality of BBC Essex addressing this issue was that not one single person got in touch to express a view, despite the fact that Tony Castle assured listeners that the New Translation was causing open revolt in Catholic Churches up and down the land. The reality is that people are starving and there is as much a need for the Gospel to be preached and real social change to be achieved today as ever there was. Real people aren't interested in minor changes in translation.

The Catholic Church's source and summit is the Eucharist. Mass provides us with a glimpse of Heaven and it is hugely important in terms of an expression of Christian unity and worship: Mass is what defines us as Catholics. But people are starving; the Church is as much about muck and bullets as it is about smells and bells. My Parish priest is renowned for his superb liturgy and draws in people from London and even Suffolk to come to Mass, but he ministers to the sick, he hears confession, he visits the dying. He is Christ to his parishioners. He is out there fighting the good fight and showing people what it means to be a Catholic and to treat others with the dignity they each deserve as they represent the imago Dei.

The Nave at St. Mary's and All Saints at Little Walsingham

Perhaps this was best expressed on my Walsingham pilgrimage by a tour of the gorgeous pre-Reformation Anglican church buildings in the area. In Little Walsingham itself, Fr. Jeff took me to visit St. Mary and all the Saints where I was able to say a prayer at the grave of Hope Pattern himself. It was the Catholics who first revived the Shrine of Walsingham. Miss Charlotte Boyd, an Anglican convert to Catholicism, restored the Slipper Chapel as a site of Catholic devotion In 1897, when the first public pilgrimage to Walsingham took place in which Fr. Wrigglesworth, Parish Priest of Kings Lynn, together with Fr. Phillip Fletcher, founder of the guild of Our Lady of Ransom, and Prior Ford of Downside took part on August 20th. Regular pilgrimages recommenced there in 1934, 400 years after the national apostasy. However, in 1922 the Anglican Hope Patten, Vicar of Walsingham, set up in the Parish Church a new image of the Virgin and child, copied from the seal of the medieval Priors of Walsingham he had discovered in the British Museum. He placed this image in the Parish church and from the first night that the statue was placed there, people gathered around it to pray, asking Mary to join her powerful prayer with theirs. By 1931 the numbers coming to visit had grown to such an extent that the church couldn't cope and the new Shrine was conceived and began to be constructed.

Following the fire of 1961 the east window was redesigned and executed by John Hayward for the reconsecration of the church on 8th August 1964. The window is full of imagery reflecting the history of the church
TRACERY: the three persons of the trinity are represented as follows: “Symbols of the Passion” for God the Son, “Creating Hands” for God the Father and “God’s Grace” for the Holy Spirit.
MIDDLE SECTION : reflects that the Church is dedicated to “All Saints”. It specifically honours those who have altars in the shrine & church. In the central panel the representation of Our Lady with Christ is taken from the medieval Seal of the Walsingham Priory whilst across the three central panels are the words from the seal :   “Virgo Pia Genetrix Sit Nobis”, which translate as “Tender Virgin be our mother.”
BOTTOM SECTION : tells the story of the Shrine of Our Lady which was refounded in 1931 by the Vicar of Walsingham, Father Alfred Hope Patten.
The Left hand panel shows a procession of English Kings who made a  pilgrimage to Walsingham – starting with Richard the Lionheart and finishing with Henry VIII holding a flaming Holy House in his hands. The latter reflects the fact that despite Henry VIII’s pilgrimage to Walsingham he allowed the Shrine and other centres to be destroyed with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  
In the next panel Lady Richelde  (who had a vision of the Anunciation which inspired her to build a replica of the Holy House in Walsingham) is pictured kneeling beside Edward the Confessor. They are facing the central panel which depicts the Anunciation itself.
Right of the central panel we see the new shrine emerging from flaming ruins, old Father Patten can be seen kneeling at the entrance. The far right panel shows St Mary, as both patron and protrectress,  holding the restored church in her arms after the 1961 fire which rages at her feet.

Today, Ship of Fools reports Sunday Mass gathers 150-200 worshipers for Mass, most of whom are pilgrims as opposed to villagers. I think the Ordinariate had hoped the Anglican Church, having gained the church buildings from the Reformation, would be gracious about their conversion and gift them to the communities they had belonged to as had happened in Canada for example. The Church of England decided it would rather hold on to the buildings redundant, or sell them off for other uses than give them to the people who worshiped there. The legacy then is that as Anglicanism continues to decay and fracture, the growing Catholic community stuffs itself into little tin sheds and buildings that resemble concrete bunkers or airport luggage halls to witness the timeless sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The thing is, the Mass is the Mass is the Mass, and the authenticity of the Sacraments continues to draw worshippers.

Could it be that those who refuse to board the life boat of Anglicanorum Ceotibus don't want to abandon their beautiful old church buildings for more modern surroundings? Is this what the Catholic faith is all about then?

Beautiful 13th century chancel at St. Nicholas, Blakeney.
The beautiful church at Blakeney seems even sadder, half museum, half anachronism, tawdry elements of modernism look out of place amongst the noble ancient raiments and stained glass extolling the virtue of this saint or martyr seems in stark contrast to the Protestant erosion that has left this congregation compromised due to a fashion prescribed by the General Synod

St. Nicholas, Blakeney, where dogs are welcomed with water, but the holy water stoup is empty.
The Holy House itself screams of these tensions, as bishop Lindsay explained to me how they brought pieces of Catholic churches from all over England which had been destroyed in the Reformation and added them to the fabric and structure:

The Anglican Shrine's replica of the Holy House of Richeldis
These bits of Catholic history screamed to me as I visited the Shrine. Could any placement be more appropriate than this one, the Stabat Mater sitting atop the broken masonry of a pre-Reformation church. Does this image not sum up to you all the pain of England? All the pain of the Reformation and the divisions we still suffer today?

By contrast, I heard more from Fr. Jeff about his own journey of faith. Without being grandiose, one can easily draw parallels with that of & Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.

The Oxford Movement Newman was involved in was organised in protest at the theological liberalism and Erastianism of the Anglican Settlement. It soon assumed a wider agenda, and became involved in a reassertion of the essentially Catholic identity of the Church of England. These Anglo-Catholics depicted the English Church as a via media between what was styalised as the excesses of Romanism, and the relative poverty of Protestantism. Newman saw a clear distinction between episcopal and prophetic tradition, recognising the importance of Bishops, indeed, that is how he understood Apostolic succession. Indeed, Newman considered the core of Christian tradition consisted of truths formally sealed and ‘committed and received from from Bishop to Bishop’.

He was impelled toward Roman Catholicism through the elements of the true faith retained in his community, which he loved and strove to renew and authenticate. His work to authenticate his position by studying the history of the early Church disclosed striking analogies which warned of the legitimacy of via media. For example, he had to recognise the Semi-Arians, who tried to find a via media between Arianism and Nicene orthodoxy were wrong. In the same way he found that the moderate Monophysites were unable to find a compromise between the heresy of Eutyches and the orthodoxy of Leo I, accepted by the Council of Chalcedon. cf. Dulles, A., John Henry Newman (London: Continuum, 2005), p. 6.

Ultimately, he converted after writing an essay on the development of doctrine, in which he answered his own objections to Roman doctrines, recognising that they were all organic and logical developments from the tradition of the early Church.

Similarly, Fr. Jeff's own story is one that proves that personal holiness and orthodoxy drive you forward in humility, following the lamb wherever he leads. Formed by the ardent catholic faith at Walsingham he gave up a successful and lucrative business career to become a priest in the Church of England. He studied and pursued orthodoxy with single-minded devotion to Christ, and this led him ever forward, ever home to Rome. Even after the capitulation he had already made to Christ by giving up his material wealth, he was asked to leap into the unknown once once by leaving behind the security and pleasant surroundings of his parish and vicarage in Hockley and leading his people home. How stunningly his journey makes real the words of Lumen Gentium n. 8, which is, providentially, also quoted by Anglicanorum Coetibus:
This single Church of Christ, which we profess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside her visible confines. Since these are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.
The Anglo-catholic movement may want to hang on to their churches, they may think Pope Francis is dodgy, they may think that the Catholic Church has dodgy liturgy, they may even consider that they are Catholic already and they don't need the Roman nod of assent. But whatever of these reasons they use, the truth is they are doing themselves, us, and the Church at large a great dis-service by maintaining their unilateral stance. Their position is increasingly insular and blinkered as they become increasingly concerned with their own internal affairs and pay less and less attention to how the rest of Christendom views their isolation. The fact of the matter is that there are many, good, faithful, talented, preachers and teachers in the Anglo-catholic movement that we need to unite with us to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If they joined with us they would find how like any family, we have disagreements and struggles, but at least we are all one in the Bark of Peter. Our courage is manifest in our humility and over-riding desire to be united in Christ, to follow where the Lamb leads us.

Prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham

O blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon us, our parish, our country, our homes, and our families, and upon all who greatly hope and trust in your prayers, (especially...) By you it was that Jesus, our Savior and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we all may be made worthy to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home. Amen.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.


  1. I think I'm with you in wanting very much to "get" Anglo-Catholics but never quite making it. They have a heroic witness to the poor, and what seems to be as full an understanding of Eucharistic worship as it is possible to have, but they also seem, especially after the establishment of the Ordinariate, a bit like "Hanare Kirishitan", the Japanese Catholics who had somehow managed to keep the faith but who, when after centuries they were allowed to regain the fullness of Catholic Communion, decided to stick with what they had.

    Wanting things on their own terms will eventually lead them to Protestantism, but they will be following a lot of today's Roman Catholics rather than leading them. They really deserve our prayers.

    1. Thanks Ttony, excellent comment as always.

  2. Can't believe that we packed all this into a day and a half (ish) !

    1. Yes, lots and lots to digest and think about. Thank you so much for your time and friendship.

  3. Read the post in full. I appreciated the very incisive thoughtful reflection. Though your comments on why Anglo Catholic clergy are still in with the protestant Church isn't as completely (in some cases) as you say it is. There still remains some of us at the coalface in a particular vineyard because Our Lord has called us in to it, genuinely. I can assure you staying (for me) is not about settling for the compromise. It's about a prayerful waiting for a no compromise call . . . of which your article adds and aids.
    Kind regards
    James McCluskey
    St Luke's Church

    1. Thank you for reading & taking the time to comment James. I hope you will forgive my ignorance and understand that my perspective is that of a Cradle-Catholic. I am particularly interested in your comment that you are waiting for "a no compromise call"...What do you feel you would need to compromise in joining the Ordinariate as it is?

    2. Walsingham, where Our Lady appeared in Britain, has turned into a clash of cultures, a real symbol of the culture wars. I visited this dear town four times in the past three years and love the history and mysticism of the place. But, until the Anglicans move back into the one, true, holy and apostolic Church, what is seen there is rather schizophrenic--Protestants taking more and more control of a Catholic site. As Pope Leo XIII said, and I paraphrase, when England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England. This does not mean the Disneyland Walsingham based on heretical ideas, but the real Walsingham, Catholic Walsingham.

      What disturbed me the most in the past visits were the blatant acceptance of women priests, same-sex couples holding hands in the main street, and a general lack of understanding that the ways of humans are not necessarily God's ways. Until the Anglican Church realizes that voting in man-made laws which contradict Revelation is truly setting up the Kingdom of Man rather than the Kingdom of God, Walsingham will reflect the grief of Mary, Mother of Sorrows, more than the simple, beautiful truth of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

      God will not be mocked.

      What you call "tensions", I call murder, sacrilege and blasphemy. Remember, the visators at Fountains and elsewhere took the Body of Christ, and had their horses stomp on Him. Have we lost the sense of justice and righteousness concerning the horrible evils of the persecution of Catholics in England, Wales and Scotland to pretend these things never happened? We, as a Church, deserve an an apology. We have a list of holy martyrs from the destruction of the churches and abbeys during the Protestant Revolt in Great Britain. Too long have Catholics denied the hatred of the papacy, the Eucharist, apostolic succession and the moving into more immoral positions which we have seen happening in the Anglican Church.

      The Anglicans pretended to be Catholics, convincing themselves that they were undoing years of accretions and additions in the Holy Mass. Of course, there would be no Anglican Church if one king had not wanted a woman he canonically could not have. To cover up the sordid playacting of the earliest formation of the Anglican Church is, simply, to deny history.

    3. I have discussed this very topic with several Anglo-Catholics in the past. One compromise that was frequently mentioned is having to be ordained by the Catholic Church. The idea that they were not validly ordained previously is too hard to reconcile.

      I don't know if this is the case for James.

    4. Petrus—in terms of ordination, I think you could be near the mark. There is lots of effort expended to suggest that individuals were ordained by Bishops who had "the Dutch touch" and similar claims to Apostolic Succession. This actually misunderstands what Apostolic Succession is.

      Was it Cardinal Hume who suggested that what was actually taking place was an inking in of what was already there in pencil?

  4. These two articles have made very good reading on this second Sunday in Lent, and thank you. I offer my own reflections.

    I first went to Walsingham in 1985 after I was baptised in the Anglo Catholic parish church of the Holy Trinity, Stroud Green. It was the great Anglican pilgrimage that took place at Whitsuntide. I was astonished by the Catholicism of England expressed in the pilgrimage and in the Mass in the priory ruins. I was soon on the road to religious vocation and found myself eventually in the Anglican Franciscans, filled with faith and focused on the intention of a lifetime of service.

    The rest was the story of the wrecking of the Church of England in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I left for Rome in confusion and exhaustion in 1992. The real problem for me now - perfectly illustrated by the silencing of traditional voices - is to see the same rot infecting the Catholic Church. The same diabolical alliance of liberals, modernists, gays and feminists is now poised to inflict their intellectually and spiritually impoverished worldy vision upon the great Tradition of Mother Church. I cannot bear to watch it happen all over again, and I have resigned myself to the worst possible outcome. In the end, I think the remaining monks and hermits of the Church will be the only hope for Traditional continuity. It is a replay of the 4th century.


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