Ordination of Michael Halsall to Transitional Deacon

I've had a really busy old week this week. On Wednesday night, I was most pleased to attend the Ordination of a good friend to the Diaconate for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Bishop Alan Williams attended St. John Fisher in Southend along with Mgsr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate. The atmosphere around Bishop Alan is so different to that surrounding the previous incumbent. The more I see of Bishop Alan, the more I like him. It is a man at ease in his own skin and so naturally mixes with people. Thank God for him! Mgsr Keith is also very easy to talk to and very personable. He is also someone I seem to bump into in all the best places (see here for further details).

St. John Fisher
Michael is just approaching the viva for his PhD, the thesis for which centres around an examination of the neo-platonic philosophical influences behind Tolkein's writings. He is currently head of RE at the outstanding Grammar School, Westcliff High School for Boys. He was an Anglican Minister and this is what allows him to now go forward for Priestly Ordination. I am really excited about his ordination, there's no doubt that he is a real asset to the work of Evangelisation in our Deanery and a really good teacher of the Gospel!

Bishop Alan Williams Presides at the Ordination Mass
The Church looked stunning for this Mass, Father Jeff Woolnough, Parish Priest at St. Peter's Eastwood worked really hard to ensure the liturgy was celebrated with proper beauty and reverence. Although St. John Fisher is a modern building, the interior has a pleasant layout conducive to worship, with a clear demarcation of the Sanctuary, central Tabernacle and a large and beautiful Cross. It also has a beautiful Lady Chapel, where Mass is celebrated at 7:30pm on Monday nights.

St. John Fisher, Lady Chapel
It will be interesting to see how the Ordinariate Mission in Southend develops. They have already garnered a reputation for sound catechesis and beautiful liturgy. Michael has done wonderful work in the Grammar School, starting a Tolkein Club, for example. There is, no doubt, still a huge vacuum in the Anglican Communion left as the Church structure continues to dissolve into relativism. For those who remain Anglican, how much erosion can they take before they cease to feel any affinity with an official line which is Christian in name only? One wonders how many have left, disillusioned with liberalisation, and wander, homeless in the deanery? As it becomes further established, the Ordinariate will obviously appeal to these people as it offers authentic English Catholicism faithful to the traditions that made England Mary's dowry. In addition, it also offers unity with the Pope and communion with the Universal Church which is no small thing in itself. This union means that one feels at home wherever you are throughout the globe, welcomed by Catholics who share a common creed and ethos. The beautiful liturgy and the good catechesis will, no doubt, reap a bountiful harvest among those seeking God also, and even lapsed Catholics, or those disaffected with the bland, dumbing down our faith has suffered in some quarters may be lured back by this Mission.

A lot of people still seem confused about what the Ordinariate is and I think this is probably as much to do with a poor understanding of what the Catholic Church is as a lack of information about what the Ordinariate is.

The Catholic Church is by no means simply “the western church of the Latin rite”; rather, it’s a network of dozens of churches, all unified by their association with the Pope, who acts as a physical point of unity for the Church. The simplest working definition of a Catholic is a Christian who is in communion with the Bishop of Rome

This is important because the Bishop of Rome; the Pope, is the successor of St. Peter, on whom Christ built his Church (Matthew 16:18). Christian Tradition has, from the beginning, identified right worship (orthodoxy) with the authority handed down through the successors of St. Peter. We call this Apostolic Succession.

The Roman Catholic Church makes a distinction between full and partial communion. Where full communion exists, there is but one church. Partial communion, on the other hand, exists where some elements of Christian faith are held in common, but complete unity on essentials is lacking. (St. Augustine taught: "In essentials; unity, in non-essentials; liberty, in all things; charity.") For instance, the Roman Catholic Church sees itself as in partial communion with Protestants, and in much closer, but still incomplete, communion with the Orthodox churches. You can read much more detail on degrees of communion here.

The particular Churches that form the Catholic Church are each seen, not as a separate body that has entered into practical arrangements concerning its relations with the others, but as the embodiment in a particular region or culture of the one Catholic Church.

The 1992 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion expressed this idea as:

The universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches. It is not the result of the communion of the Churches, but, in its essential mystery, it is a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church.
This applies both to the local particular churches, such as dioceses or eparchies, in the Catholic Church and to the "sui iuris" (autonomous) churches within it.

You might well be surprised to find that the list of autonomous Catholic churches in full communion with the Holy See is rather extensive:

  • Of Alexandrian liturgical tradition:
  • Coptic Catholic Church
  • Eritrean Catholic Church
  • Ethiopian Catholic Church
  • Of Antiochian liturgical tradition:
  • Maronite Church
  • Syrian Catholic Church
  • Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
  • Of Armenian liturgical tradition:
  • Armenian Catholic Church
  • Of Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition:
  • Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church
  • Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
  • Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church
  • Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro
  • Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
  • Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
  • Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
  • Macedonian Greek Catholic Church
  • Melkite Greek Catholic Church
  • Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic
  • Russian Byzantine Catholic Church
  • Ruthenian Catholic Church
  • Slovak Greek Catholic Church
  • Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
  • Of Chaldean or East Syrian tradition:
  • Chaldean Catholic Church
  • Syro-Malabar Church
  • Of Western liturgical tradition:
  • Latin Church
All these churches are in full communion. Full communion is seen as an essential condition for sharing together in the Eucharist, apart from exceptional circumstances, in line with the 2nd century practice witnessed to by Justin Martyr, who, in his First Apology, wrote:
"No one is allowed to partake (of the Eucharist) but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined." 
"Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church."
Canon 908 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. CCEO canon 702

As the fruits of the forty-year trend of no Catechesis and dumbed-down liturgy take hold and we see fewer and fewer vocations, our diocese have the option of reaching out to structures such as the Ordinariate and religious orders to operate parishes, or to close them down. We are blessed in our deanery to have so many Ordinariate priests who know and love the faith. We are truly blessed that so many brave Anglo-Catholics made the transition to full communion. They enrich our communities adding faith, life and colour. I think they may well provide just the inject we require to reinvigorate and renew our community, which in many ways has become tired and exhausted, bled of colour, passion and vibrancy through the post-Vatican II malaise.


  1. A good post on the Ordinariate. I would add that what the Ordinariate can offer is the vision that the priest is not the chaplain to the gathered community. Yes, he is their pastor, but the RC priest can be the priest to all who live in the parish. This is a insight we bring from Anglicanism. Catholics are not treading on the toes of the Anglican vicar. There are so many untouched souls out there.incidentally, I am training with Micheal, although he is a second year awaiting ordination and I am a new bow squirt!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Pope Francis: we planned it all before the conclave

Pope Francis: Dismantling Marriage

Establishing a New Object of Worship