Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessed Thomas Becket, pray for us

On Monday we had our diocesan college Mass and Christmas party, hosted by the UTA Canterbury House. Special thanks to Fr Chad Nusbaum for saying Mass and to Fr Chuck Hough for a wonderful sermon on the saint of the day, Archbishop Thomas Becket of Canterbury. Thank you also to Honor Mary for the delicious goodies.

O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your Church: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chastity rings

This English girl was banned from wearing her chastity ring in school. She is a fan of the Jonas Brothers, who have helped popularize the jewelry. The reported reason for the prohibition was that it did not comply with the dress code, and that the ring "would be extremely dangerous in PE, technology or science lessons." Extremely dangerous? Perhaps telling is that the head of school, who made that statement, does not wear a wedding band (another kind of chastity ring) herself. Then she would realize that even if it does not comply with the dress code, it is not extremely dangerous.

You can read the article here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gaudete Sunday

Here are some photos, courtesy of Brian Pickard.

And (since people kept asking) no, I did not make the vestments, just the altar frontal.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How altar bread is made

Here is an interesting little "how it's done" video from the Cavanagh Co., maker of the majority of the altar bread used in churches throughout the United States.

Monday, December 08, 2008

National Patronal Festival

In 1792, John Carroll, the bishop of Baltimore and America's first Roman Catholic bishop, consecrated the newly-created United States under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of The Immaculate Conception. In 1847, Pope Pius IX formalized Carroll's acclamation, proclaiming the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States.

Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan, the fourth rector of the Catholic University of America proposed the construction of a national shrine to commemorate the Immaculate Conception in the country's capital. Bishop Shahan took his appeal to Pope Pius X on August 15, 1913. In January 1914, Shahan published the first issue of Salve Regina, a newsletter meant to stir enthusiasm for his project. He wrote that the shrine would be a "monument of love and gratitude, a great hymn in stone as perfect as the art of man can make it and as holy as the intentions of its builders could wish it to be.

By 1919, architectural drawings were chosen by Shahan and McKenna for the construction of the national shrine by the Boston firm of Maginnis & Walsh. At first a traditional Gothic architectural style was considered. Bishop Shahan wanted his shrine to be bold and glorious and opted instead for a Byzantine-Romanesque design. It is the largest Catholic church in the United States, the eighth largest religious structure in the world, and the tallest building in Washington, D.C.. An estimated one million pilgrims from around the country and the world visit the basilica each year.

The crypt has displayed the Papal Tiara of Pope Paul VI since 1968. In 1990, Pope John Paul II named the national shrine as the U.S.'s 36th minor basilica. In August 2006, work was completed on a mosaic covering the Redemption Dome in the Upper Church. This is the first new work to be done in many years and was part of the original architectural plans. Following its completion in the summer of 2007, the Incarnation Dome was blessed on November 17, 2007. Future plans include finishing the intended mosaic for the largest of the domes, the Trinity Dome. A small chapel on the crypt level was recently completed honoring Our Lady of La Vang (Vietnam).
[Source: Wikipedia]

In tomorrow's lessons, the Anglican Breviary gives this very useful explanation of the origin of the teaching that Mary was conceived immaculately:

The belief that special gifts of grace were bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, whereby she was preserved in sinlessness all her life long, is a most ancient tradition in Catholic theology. Almost with­out exception the early Fathers of the Church agreed upon this matter. In­deed, so widespread was this belief, alike in East and West, that most theologians have held it as of Catho­lic consent; and in the present, it is generally accepted among those who call themselves Catholics or Ortho­dox. Certain it is, in any event, that some fundamental truths of our re­ligion demand the ascription to our Lady of a special privilege of grace.

For it is clear from the sacred Scripture, as well as from the experience of all holy souls, that first, God calls whom he will; and second, that he doth fit for his work them that re­spond to his call. Such as respond wholeheartedly to God are the elect souls upon whom he bestoweth all the gifts, natural and supernatural, necessary to accomplish what he would have done. From this truth the liturgical usage developed of ap­plying to our Lady, and other Saints, what we read of the valiant woman Esther; to wit, that the King first chose her, along with many other maidens, and then, because of the response she made, preferred her to special favour in his sight.

There can be no greater or more perilous voca­tion than that which was given her whom the Church delighteth to call the Mother of God; and with such a vocation was certainly joined, in all justice, gifts of nature and of grace greater and more indescribable than have come to any other child of Adam. And in this connection, it is to be noted that spiritual privileges always center in freeing the soul from sin and endowing it with God's grace.

Western theology, unlike that of the East, was for a long time occupied with a consideration of grace and sin. This served to direct the attention of the Church's teachers to the traditional belief in the sinlessness of our Lady, and led to a special examination of the same. Despite certain difficulties which became manifest when the attempt was first made to state this belief in conform­ity with the rest of Catholic doctrine, greater difficulties were found in the denial of it. For example: Sinfulness, either actual or original, is usu­ally held to constitute a state of some sort of malice toward God, and Catholics were unable to believe that the Blessed Virgin was ever in a state of malice toward her Son, either be­fore or after he was conceived in her womb.

As the Fathers had said, our Lady conceived the Son of God in her heart before she conceived him in her breast; he was the Spouse of her soul before he became the Son of her body. And the Church had long expressed at least an implicit belief in such a privilege by appropriating to our Lady the words of the Song of Songs: My undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, [that is of the Church] she is the choice one of her that bare her.

Since original sin is a condition of imperfection wherefrom, except there be an intervention of God's grace, every kind of hatefulness to­ward God may grow up in the soul, it seemed necessary to believe that the Blessed Virgin received an inter­vention of God's grace such as this. But the question then arose, When did this intervention take place? At her nativity or at her conception? Did God work by partial measure or by whole? Was Mary freed by grace, not only from actual sin, but even from sin in its original source?

Such freedom from sin could of course ex­ist only in virtue of a special privi­lege. So it began to be urged that our Lady from the first moment of her conception was freed, by a spe­cial privilege of grace, from the sin which all other of mankind doth in­herit from the fall. Thus it came about that the wide-spread and an­cient belief in the sinlessness of the Virgin Mother led men to deduce that her freedom from actual sin was the result of her deliverance from original sin at the time of the creation of her soul.

For as to us sinners Baptism is given, to free us from orig­inal sin by sacramental grace; to her, who lived before Baptism was insti­tuted, said the theologians, was given prevenient grace, to set her entirely free from all sin; and this special privilege of grace, since it was to fit her for that awesome vocation which we call the Virgin-Motherhood, was co-extensive with the creation of her soul by God, inasmuch as it was for this purpose that God created her.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lessons and Carols

Tonight, we had an absolutely lovely service of Advent Lessons and Carols at St Alban's Episcopal Church in Arlington. The musicians and choristers did such a good job. As always, St Nicholas made an appearance.

The food was delightful. Thank you to everyone who brought such delicious items.

It was nice to see many families, children, and some visitors there tonight.

I always appreciate an opportunity to wear my quire habit.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Happy feast of Sant Niklaus

Almighty God, in thy love thou gavest thy servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we beseech thee, that thy Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more information about Saint Nicholas and ideas for celebrating his feast, visit the St Nicholas Center. Nicholas of Myra, pray for us.

St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. As priest and bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life and ministry. His concern for children and others in need or danger expressed a love for God which points toward Jesus, the source of true caring and compassion. Embracing St. Nicholas customs can help recover the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus.

Understanding St. Nicholas as the original and true holiday gift-giver also helps shift focus to giving rather than getting, compassion rather than consumption, need rather than greed. This can help restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.

St. Nicholas is beloved throughout the world and continues to be revered in Christian tradition, especially as protector and patron of children in the West and as Wonderworker in the East. The St. Nicholas Center aims to bring Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians together in common purpose—to help people understand and appreciate the original St. Nicholas, the only real Santa Claus.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent I at Holy Cross, Dallas

Today I was the supply priest at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dallas. The Rector, Fr Will Brown was visiting family in Virginia for Thanksgiving weekend. His church blog is here. It was good to be with the people there, who were delightful (as was the liturgy). I like the church, which though it was built in an economical 1960s style, is very monastic in its layout and has great acoustics for singing.

The Ring

I finally found a picture of the ring! Archbishop Michael Ramsey visited Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1966 and was received in the Sistine chapel, the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times formally to visit the Vatican. The evening before leaving for London, the Pope took off his own episcopal ring, presented to him by the people of Milan, and gave it to Ramsey, who wore it until the day he died. The ring is now kept at Lambeth Palace and is still worn when Archbishops visit the Vatican.

Above, Pope Paul shows Archbishop Ramsey around St Peter's Square. Below, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reflects on his own 2006 visit with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

From the Common Declaration of Arhbishop Runcie and Pope John Paul II in 1989:
"We also urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that certain yet imperfect communion we already share. This communion already shared is grounded in faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, our common baptism into Christ, our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds; the Chalcedonian definition and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many centuries. This communion should be cherished and guarded as we seek to grow into the fuller communion Christ wills. Even in the years of our separation we have been able to recognize gifts of the Spirit in each other. The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts."

From the Common Declaration of Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI:
"Mindful of our forty years of dialogue, and of the witness of the holy men and women common to our traditions, including Mary the Theotókos, Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury, we pledge ourselves to more fervent prayer and a more dedicated endeavour to welcome and live by that truth into which the Spirit of the Lord wishes to lead his disciples (cf. Jn 16:13). Confident of the apostolic hope “that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion”(cf. Phil 1:6), we believe that if we can together be God’s instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us."

Thursday, November 27, 2008


"Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made."

"We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory."

The Very Rev'd Rick Lobs (above), Sometime Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Luke in Orlando gave a wonderful sermon last night at the Thanksgiving Mass at St Vincent's. He also performed two baptisms (both of friends or family, I believe).

I have been reflecting this week on what a wonderful year it has been and how thankful to God I am for his many blessings. My wife and I keep saying to each other, "It sure has been a great year!" And so it has.

God has blessed me with the best wife in the whole world. I often reflect on how lucky I am that our paths happened to cross. If events had not unfolded just as they did, we never would have met. I cannot help but see the hand of God in it all.

My ministry has been a blessing to me as well as the clergy and people of our diocese, especially our wonderful bishop. It has been very saddening that some individuals have left our church this November. I miss them, and I wish they did not feel they have to shun our doors on Sunday mornings. However, the door is always open to them to return and they will always be welcomed home. But if they cannot worship with us, I wish them well as they build a new parish family. Many wondered what St Alban's might be like that Sunday after realignment. Far from our numbers being down, our attendance rose by 60 people. Way to go, St Alban's!

Family has been a great blessing to me. The best was getting to add a little one to our home. I love my daughter Madeline; she is the best thing to ever happen to me.

We have also been blessed by two courses offered at our church, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course and Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage course.

Lastly, we have been so blessed to live where we live--to have a nice, safe home; to have all our needs met; and to live in a country that is free and prosperous. For these and all God's many blessings, my heart is truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wisdom from Fr Tony Clavier

One of the more formidable problems such a church will face is a continued obsession with the church they have left. I call it the Lot’s Wife Syndrome. If the preoccupation of this group remains what it perceives to be the ills within TEC, if bitterness and the wounds of divorce remain active in the body, inevitably it will dwindle and be consumed in its own rancor.

If however it sets its sights on evangelism, on living into its Anglican heritage in a positive way, if it in public admits its own faults and failings in charity and compassion, walks the extra mile and seeks to cooperate with those it has left where conscience permits, it may become a body raised up by God.

Read the whole thing here.

Fr Kirk's "The way we live now"

Fr Geoffrey Kirk offers this penetrating analysis of the American Anglican scene from across the pond:

It is strange that Americans, with the glaring example of the Civil War in their own history, were not more circumspect about the consequences of democratic self-determination. Its ultimate result is secession. For who is to determine (except arbitrarily) at what level or in what forum finality resides? Is it the Union, or the States? Is it the National Church or the dioceses or the parishes? And since a democratic vote is merely the aggregation of individual consciences, what place does the individual have in this economy?

In recent times The Episcopal Church has placed a high value on individual autonomy, allowing, for example, the continuance in office of plainly heretical bishops from Pike to Spong. More recently the case of Dr Ann Redding has highlighted this issue. Redding claimed to be 'following Jesus' into Islam. Now her bishop, Geralyn Wolf, is disciplining her for 'abandonment of communion' (the very accusation against those who have left TEC for the Southern Cone).

I have to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for Redding. Her only offence is to fail to take the creeds literally. 'We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the 'only begotten son of God'. That's how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal.' If this is an offence, then it is a very Episcopalian offence. And Bishop Wolf is being inexcusably picky.

In short, it is a strange Church which can tolerate Jack Spong, eject Ann Redding and depose Bob Duncan - in the same breath and for the same reasons. It is a very strange and wholly inconsistent Church which will not extend its tolerance of individuals to dioceses or parishes; and which acknowledges the plenary self-determination of its General Convention, but will not allow the secession of its constituent diocesan Conventions.

What is happening in The Episcopal Church is the gradual unfolding of the implications of Provincial Autonomy. What is remarkable is that no one seems to have noticed the fact. And can it happen here?

Click here to read his entire essay.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Contending for the Faith

I took time out from my vacation to go to the 26th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, held last Friday and Saturday at St Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford. Here are some pictures I took, along with some of my favorite excerpts from the bishop's convention address.

This past year has been a tense and at times contentious period in the life of our diocese. Every one of our congregations has engaged the controversies that are before us, some more than others. Most of our churches have hosted forums and conducted study groups on why we are doing what we are doing. Differences of opinion remain in our church family, but we cannot avoid the decision that is before us. Some can no longer remain within the structures of The Episcopal Church, and others cannot bring themselves to leave TEC, even though they may disagree with the direction it is headed. Some have encouraged us to stay and fight as the faithful remnant in TEC, to work for reform from within. I can only reply by quoting the saying that “the definition of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results.” The time has come to choose a new path and direction, to secure a spiritual future for our children and our grand-children.

Today we shall make the decision in the only way we can – by the constitutional, legislative process of this Diocesan Convention, which is the only body that can speak with authority on behalf of all the congregations of this Diocese. No Vestry can override or disregard what is decided here today. Once the vote is cast, we have decided what we will do as a Diocese. If some must separate from the Diocese as a result, then so be it. But let the parting of the ways be as between friends in Christ, without rancor or ill will, without trying to punish or force one another to do what we cannot do.

I have chosen “Contending for the Faith” as the theme of this year’s Convention, for it speaks to the heart of the matter that is before us. It comes from the Epistle of Jude, a letter written to warn the faithful against false teachers who had made their way into the church of the first century. Though we are not told much about the content of their teaching, we are told that they were immoral and covetous men, who rejected authority and created divisions in the Church of God. St. Jude urges his readers to “contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3) and to stand firm against false teaching and immorality. And so we shall at this Convention, for the controversies that surround us have to do with standing for the truth of the Gospel.

I am certain that in the months ahead, leaders of TEC will move to depose not only me, but every deacon and priest here present who votes for realignment at this Convention. Sad to say, some of you here in this Convention hall will cooperate with and facilitate those plans. It is my belief that such a course of action is not only unreasonable and uncharitable, but violates our ecclesiological understanding of what the Anglican Communion claims to be. If we are a worldwide Communion of Provinces who share a common faith, practice and ministry, then it does not make sense to depose clergy who move from one Province to another. No one is abandoning the Communion of the Church by realigning with another Province. The far better way to proceed would be for TEC to accept the fact that a realignment has occurred, to recognize the transfer of this Diocese to another Province of the Anglican Communion, and to wish us well in the name of the Lord. There is something deeply disturbing about a Church that would prefer to litigate and depose rather than to negotiate a peaceful, amicable separation among brothers and sisters in Christ who can no longer walk together. I call upon the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and her colleagues to halt the litigation, to stop the depositions, and to cease the intimidation of traditional believers. Instead, let us pursue a mediated settlement, a negotiated agreement that provides for a fair and equitable solution for all parties, and let us resist taking punitive actions against our opponents. Christians are called to work out our differences with one another, not sue one another in secular courts.

I call upon those who dissent from the decision we make today as a Diocese to remain as faithful worshipping members in your local congregation. If we could welcome diversity and still worship with those who disagree with us before this Convention, then surely we can continue to do so after this Convention. Your church family will still be there for you tomorrow and next Sunday and the Sunday after that. I urge you to remain fully active in your church home, where you have been nurtured and fed, where you are still wanted and loved. I urge you to resist the appeals to go off and find alternative meeting places so that you might worship separately from the rest of your parish family in the weeks ahead. Regardless of the decision of this Convention, there is no reason why we cannot continue to worship together in the future just as we have in the past. Let us strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, in every congregation of this Diocese, where there is room for everyone.

You can read the whole speech here, or view it below.

It was such a blessing to have Bishop Godfrey of Peru with us at the convention, who brought greetings from his clergy and people.

As was shown in the convention video, the front lines of both mission and humanitarian work are their everyday concern.

David Weaver of St Alban's, Arlington gave the report of the Constitution and Canons Committee. It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces from our parish, including our former rector, Fr Mark Cannaday.

There were also many young clergy and young families present. Thank you to everyone who gave my wife and daughter (pictured below) a warm welcome.

Wow, that's cold!

The record-breaking lows were among the latest feats of ultracold physics, the laboratory study of matter at temperatures so mind-bogglingly frigid that atoms and even light itself behave in highly unusual ways. Electrical resistance in some elements disappears below about minus 440°F, a phenomenon called superconductivity. At even lower temperatures, some liquefied gases become "superfluids" capable of oozing through walls solid enough to hold any other sort of liquid; they even seem to defy gravity as they creep up, over and out of their containers.

I've been fascinated by this article, "The Coldest Place in the Universe." You can read the whole thing here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thanks be to God

My daughter, Madeline Grace Matkin was born on the 8th of November, 2008. At birth, she was 19.5 inches long and weighed 9 lbs, 1.5 oz. She has blond hair and blue eyes, and her parents are very happy.

For more pictures, go to her blog.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All Saints' episcopal visitation

The sacrament of Confirmation (sometimes called chrismation) is vital to the perfecting and strengthening of the Christian walk and has always been historically connected with Baptism. While they continued to be administered together in the Byzantine East, Confirmation came to be delayed in the Latin West until the baptized had reached the age of reason and was ready to take on the duties of Christian living.

Confirmation is the sacramental strengthening of the baptismal vows and graces for adult life and service upon making a mature commitment to the Christian faith.

The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit are poured out upon the baptized—the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, piety, and the fear of the Lord. At times, other signs of Christian maturity may accompany the sacrament, as when St Paul once laid hands on some newly baptized believers, “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

The power to administer confirmation belongs to the apostolic ministry, and now to the bishops as the successors to the apostles. In one case, when the deacon Philip had baptized some new believers and was not able to confirm them himself, they sent for the apostles, “Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17).

(Thanks to the Steve Altman for the pictures above.)