Archive for November, 2016



Over the last few years, I have begun a series of book manuscripts with the best of intentions. Several of these are re-writes or updates of old favorites such as Why I am an Anglo-Catholic, and others are entirely new.  With the exception of Prayer: A Field Guide which has been on the market for some years now and a just completed version of The Book of Occasional Offices, these all have languished unfinished despite my best intentions. (Or, at least some sort of intentions!)

I suppose that I could find endless reasons to keep procrastinating.  There is the usual stuff of the busy life: “I have a parish to look after.”  “I have chores to do.”  (Those who have seen the lawn at St. Swithun’s rectory will understand the absurdity of this latter one.) In my case, the excuses can be even more unusual, such as publisher of my last book disappointing me and my potential readers by having the audacity to to bankrupt the day of the announced release date.  I can only hope it was not my manuscript that pushed them over the edge!

So, I was staring at the directory containing these various gems in the rough and vowing to “get down to it.”  But, after a number of cups of coffee and several rounds of solitaire, nothing was happening on the old keyboard.  Along about the time I actually considered going to the gym to escape the writer’s block, a well-meaning friend send me an aphorism by St. Augustine of Hippo, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”   Quite convicting, that, in a real and very theological way.

So, I am looking at the catalogue and deciding which of these long delayed books to put out in serial form here on the blog.   Of course, there are dire warnings about sales of the finished product being impaired, the threat of stolen ideas and any number of reasons that would lead to further procrastination.  As Nina Amir notes in Blog Your Book, the process of writing a serial version of the manuscript forces one to get the job done.  Additional or new content can make the blogged version salable in print if that is the end game.  Here, the end game is to get some of this work finished at long last, but, if there is a royalty or two, they would be most welcome.

In any event, these works will be done under the auspices of the Bp. Charles C. Grafton Institute, a tax-exempt organization.  In the next several weeks, PayPal links will appear here and on a new Grafton site if people wish to support the work with deductible contributions.  In turn, the sums received can go to bringing out print versions of the books and to defray the expenses of the websites themselves or to support other programs such as continuing clergy education or traveling seminars for parishes.

So watch this space.  Please remember that the material is copyrighted and respect the author’s work, and we’ll see whether that copy of Blog Your Book was worth the price!

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A prayer today from the Carmina Gadelica, which is a treasure trove of ancient Christian hymns and prayers from throughout the British Isles.

JESU, Thou Son of Mary,

Have mercy upon us,


Jesu, Thou Son of Mary,

Make peace with us,


Oh, with us and for us

Where we shall longest be,


Be about the morning of our course,

Be about the closing of our life, 


Be at the dawning of our life,

And oh! at the dark’ning of our day,


Be for us and with us,

Merciful God of all,


Consecrate us

Condition and lot,

Thou King of kings,

Thou God of all,


Consecrate us

Rights and means,

Thou King of kings,

Thou God of all,


Consecrate us

Heart and body,

Thou King of kings,

Thou God of all,


Each heart and body,

Each day to Thyself,

Each night accordingly,

Thou King of kings,

Thou God of all,


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Shortly after coming to St. Alban’s nearly seven years ago, I built a small chapel in an unused classroom on the far side of the building.  Over the years it has been used as a penance chapel as it has our confessional, as well as a tabernacle for the Reserved Sacrament (Altar of Repose) during Holy Week.  Otherwise, it has gone largely unnoticed.

Several weeks ago, Fr. Seraphim came from St. Simeon’s skete in Kentucky to lead our pre-Advent retreat for the diocese here at St. Alban’s.  He brought to us the powerful teachings of the Remnant Rosary. Information about this teaching, which is at once a devotion, meditation and spiritual discipline, can be found on the pages of the  Nazareth House Apostolate, of which the skete is the physical part.  It is a must visit site, and I urge all who follow the like to carefully read all of the pages and then make a generous contribution to this extraordinary work of Christ.

Now, that I have gotten the advertisement past, I want to note that a number of the retreat participants already have adopted the Remnant Rosary into their spiritual practice.  It is not easy at first to do so, but nothing that really builds one up is.  Surely, the prayers of the beads are not hard to learn, but the difficulty comes in their convicting nature.  In this upcoming season of Advent, the enormity of the Incarnation is not easy to face if taken seriously, and the Remnant Rosary calls those who sincerely pray it squarely into the sheer power of the event and of the race that Jesus would run for us-a race that led up Calvary to the Cross and beyond the grave.

So it was, over these last two weeks, I sort of “fiddled about” with the beads that Fr. Seraphim had given me and the small booklet that accompanied them.  One can “breeze” through a regular Rosary in a way that can become quite wrote and perfunctory. (One should not, of course, but familiarity can result in laxity.)  However, the Remnant Rosary invites the person that prays it into a deeply personal entry in to the Holy Mysteries.  One is called to internalize the Mysteries and to “take in” Jesus in a way that is quite profound-Eucharistic in a very meaningful way.  It is that sort of intimacy, I believe many people are uncomfortable with even though Christ invites us into that level of relationship.  One need only to examine how many people receive the Sacrament in a perfunctory manner to get my point here. (Here, I invite you to think about the “receive and run” folks who don’t even wait for the Benediction to head for the parking lot.  If, however, this describes you, stop it!)

So, after Matins, I felt sufficiently prepared to take on and engage the Remnant Rosary, and, for some reason, was drawn to the little chapel for a first attempt.  If you already pray the Rosary, the Mysteries are familiar.  The depth of the meditations, though, are not.  Taken seriously, this combination of prayer and meditation moves one swiftly from chronos (actual time) to kairos, (God time), just as the Remnant Rosary book notes.  To borrow from Fr. Seraphim, “Ultimately [this] Rosary has no goal, only depth.  The mysteries are a shoreless ocean, we are a wave ant the Rosary is the current rooted in the depths….Here we ‘see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep’ (Ps. 107:24).”

As I prayed the Joyful Mysteries, I happened to glance at the icon of Supreme Humility and that sense of depth cane home with incredible force.  It is a sense that the shadow of the Cross hangs across the Christmas crib, and both bind Heaven and earth together in the life of Christ.  Advent heralds Good Friday which, in torn, anticipates the Resurrection, all bound up in the life of the Master expressed throughout in Supreme Humility.

This Advent, I would invite you either to “try out” Remnant Rosary or to pray the familiar Rosary with a new attention to its depth.  Include short meditations on each bead, rather than breeze through the devoting to rest satisfied in the fact that you simply have “gotten through” another set of Mysteries.  Personalize each bead, and take in the enormity of each event.  Any worry of time spent (which should not be a concern in prayer) will simply disappear when you let down your spiritual net into the depths for a draught.  And always keep before you the vision of the Supreme Humility that has redeemed the world.



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On the Sunday Next Before Advent, we began a new Sunday study I have tentatively called “Approaching the Incarnation.” Amid the incredible noise of the commercial “holiday season”, we do well to step back into the quiet of a darkened hillside and contemplate the enormity of the coming Feast of the Incarnation. As God breaks into the world, we should be humbled and brought to our knees by his very purpose in doing so.

In On the Incarnation, our main Advent study text, St. Athanasius succinctly gives us the real news of Advent: “The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him”  What a powerful thing to contemplate this Advent!  Our Lord came to put Himself at our disposal as the ones who need him most.

The saint goes on to say that the result is that,  “The Self-revealing of the Word is in every dimension – above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breadth, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God.”  Will we spend another Advent season oblivious to that total penetration of the world by the knowledge of God, and, instead, squander these weeks with the mundane, the banal or the material?

Truly, Advent is a time to understand that we have an Incarnate, living Jesus.  Truly, ours is a “…Savior [who] is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, …to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?”

So, today, in addition to the Angelus, let us offer a Prayer of Thanks for the Incarnation

Jesus, You came to earth from heaven to take on flesh and dwell among us. You became the supreme example of God in the flesh, pouring out Your grace upon grace. In Your humanness You were victorious in the raging battle against the spiritual forces of evil when faced with temptations and trials common to all people. We stand in glorious victory as we follow Your example and hold to Your unchanging truths. We come alongside those who are grieving loss and enduring heartache in the midst of this glorious season, for it is in keeping with the season of giving, that we give ourselves in faithful prayer toward these in grief. It is in the loving name of Jesus that we pray. Amen. 

Texts for St. Alban’s Advent Study: Main-On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius; Supplemental-Living Jesus, Luke Timothy Johnson.


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Our Wednesday Bible study has moved from First to Second Peter as we approach Advent.  Verses 5-11 of the first chapter form an interesting “ladder” describing growth in the spiritual life.

The text begins, of course, in verse 5 with faith to which we are to add virtue.  To virtue, we are to add knowledge.  In turn, St. Peter admonishes that we add temperance to knowledge, patience to temperance and Godliness to patience.

This progression allows the believer to break through to “brotherly kindness”, and, finally to charity.

Keeping to this pattern leads to growth, particularly in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, as knowledge enhanced by the cardinal virtues grows, we return to the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

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On Tuesday, November 8th, we will go to the polls in a national and local elections.  I have been repeatedly asked to address the question of the election and the candidates. Up  to today,  I have not done so from the pulpit, but have simply urged you to remember that one doesn’t take off one’s faith at the door of the polling place.  However, simply urging people to “vote their conscience” is neither helpful, nor very brave.  It is merely a lukewarm approach that, in the end, says nothing. After much prayer and thought on the matter, I feel that I must say something more to the parish given the matters at stake in the life of our nation this year.

In 2010, I began to rewrite an old and not well-known book The Kingdom of God and American Life.  One day, it may be completed, if not published. However, I would share with you a portion of a manuscript I pray will be helpful in this mean season.

Our politics for the past several years are a thing few of us in America can be proud of. While one may still cherish faith in American citizenship, the people have become weary of mere politics and “business as usual”. A quickened conscience among many has recognized that, even under democratic forms and methods, there have somehow arisen conditions that are palpably undemocratic, and is manifesting a push in some quarters toward the control of “human well-being”, or at least a particular notion of what may constitute human well-being.

Meanwhile, masses of our people are stirring in vague unrest and striving often aimlessly after they know not what—they know only that something is wrong and they are angry. On the other hand, many persons are only bewildered spectators.

We are wise to face the fact that the social question is ultimately a moral question. It is time to recognize that its solution lies not in biological analogies, not in the exaltation of the State at the expense of the individual, nor again in the destruction of government, but in that Gospel of the Kingdom of God which means the realization of certain ideals through the highest and fullest development of our Christian personality.  There are straightforward answers and approaches open to us.

As traditional Anglican Catholics, our movement was established with, and adheres to, the Affirmation of St. Louis. In 1977 an international congress of nearly 2000 Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people met in St. Louis, Missouri in response to actions taken by the Episcopal Church (USA), that represented a move away from the apostolic faith as understood within the Anglican tradition. The object of this Congress was to determine the actions necessary to establish an orthodox jurisdiction in which traditional Anglicanism would be maintained. Indeed, we are privileged to have as a member of St Alban’s Dr. Robert Strippy, one of the drafters of the Affirmation. The Anglican Catholic Church, along with other “continuing” Anglican bodies uphold and maintain the belief and practice set out in this important document.

Of particular importance in the upcoming election is Article III of the Affirmation setting forth Principles of Morality.  I, as a priest, can offer you nothing more succinct or useful than to reiterate the language of this section, albeit with some emphasis here and there.

First, “[t] he conscience, as the inherent knowledge of right and wrong, cannot stand alone as a sovereign arbiter of morals. Every Christian is obligated to form his conscience by the Divine Moral Law and the Mind of Christ as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and by the teaching and Tradition of the Church. We hold that when the Christian conscience is thus properly informed and ruled, it must affirm the following moral principles:

Accordingly, from the perspective of individual responsibility, “All people, individually and collectively, are responsible to their Creator for their acts, motives, thoughts and words, since ‘we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ . . .’” This is inescapable truth.

Next, we are to uphold the Sanctity of Human Life. As the Affirmation notes, “Every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and that the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.”  In this and all other regards, [a]All people are bound by the dictates of the Natural Law and by the revealed Will of God, insofar as they can discern them.” There can be no compromise.

These principles carry over into all aspects of family life, the family being the cornerstone of our community and nation.  There can be nothing clearer than the statement that, “The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God’s loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.” Again, there can be no compromise.

Do we fall short?  Of course we do. “We recognize that man, as inheritor of original sin, is ‘very far gone from original righteousness,’ and as a rebel against God’s authority is liable to His righteous judgment.”  We also recognize, though, “that God loves His children and particularly has shown it forth in the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that man cannot be saved by any effort of his own, but by the Grace of God, through repentance and acceptance of God’s forgiveness.”

Ultimately, it is the Christian’s abiding duty to be moral.  “We believe, therefore, it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian Morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.”

Beloved in Christ, nothing could be more straightforward than this.  Are economic issues of importance?  Of course they are.  However, for far too many years we have, as a nation, been led to focus on the aphorism, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  In fact, it is not.  Rather, “It is the morality.”  Without a good, decent and moral people, there can be no just political and economic system.

Personalities are personalities, and people come ant they go.  That is the nature of the human condition, private and civil.  They cannot, and must not be our guide. I can only urge you to examine the moral principles set forth in the Affirmation, to examine your hearts, and to pray.  We must ask an honest question of any candidate for political office and any political party. Do they stand for or against those principles? Let that be the end of inquiry.

I believe that there are singular and great destinies awaiting our country if, in the face of any and every doubt, difficulty and discouragement, our people return and remain true to the ideals and purposes of the Kingdom of God.

In Christ,

Canon Charles H. Nalls

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