Archive for the ‘Contemporary Issues’ Category

Young Grafton

(Reprinted for the most part from the Focus blog)

It may be self-serving of me to say so, but I think that parish priests are some of the hardest working members of the Church. The typical parish priest works every weekend and holiday, often lives in the same building as their office, and only gets one day off a week, not to mention they’re being asked to care for more souls and take on more responsibilities and roles than ever before.  Within the “Continuing Church”, parish priests most often work at below a subsistence level, having to take on outside work or to rely on their wife’s income to sustain their ministry.

Focus.com asked a few parish priests how we could best let them know we’re thankful for them and all the work they do for us. In no particular order:

1. Pray for Your Priest(s)
“The most important thing a parishioner can do for his/her priest is pray for them. We are always praying for someone, even required to offer a Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation on behalf of our parishioners. It’s just good to know that they pray for us everyday.”
“A rosary, a holy hour, a small offering or a daily suffering offered for the priest.”
“Send cards to priests with assurances of prayer for their intentions.”
“The offering of prayers for the priest and his ministry. (It’s a great joy to know of prayers since I know that my life and ministry are only as fruitful as the people praying for me.)”

2. Cook Them a Meal, Especially on Their Busy Days
“It would be nice if someone made sure that the single priest(s) of the parish had a nice home-cooked meal on Sundays and major holidays. Unmarried clergy often have no cooks and after a long morning, it would be nice to come home to something we didn’t have to make.”
“Find out his favorite meal and make it for him.”

3. Celebrate Their Special Days
“Celebrating the priest’s birthday and ordination day are good thoughts, too.”
“It’s nice to be remembered on the day of my priestly ordination.”

4. Pray More, Complain Less
“The vast majority of interactions seem to revolve around a complaint about the priest, the parish, a parishioner, the music, the temperature in the church, a burned out lightbulb, a decision, etc. and rarely about the supernatural realities.”

5. Offer to Help
“Don’t wait to be asked! Priests are ordained to give, and it’s hard for us to ask for things.”
“Volunteer your time to the parish as a sign of support and service.”
“Consider increasing your tithe to show your support for the parish and priest.”

6. Go to Mass and/or Confession
“Nothing will make a priest happier.”
“Pick a day, go to a Mass that he’s celebrating, and get a bunch of people to sit in the front rows. When Father asks you after Mass why, tell him you were offering your participation at Mass in thanksgiving for His priesthood.”

7. Write Them a Note Expressing Your Gratitude
“A note, especially to a priest with whom you’ve lost touch, letting him know how his priesthood impacted your life – and that you’re still with the program – means a lot.”
“My favorite thing to receive from people is a letter. Not a card with a few words. Those are nice too, but I love receiving a letter or a card with a substantial message in it. It is very powerful to hear somebody describe exactly HOW the thing I said or did was so fruitful for them. It is a reminder that Jesus is a lot bigger than me and he can do great things with the little I have to offer.”
“I really appreciate when people say to me personally or send notes of gratitude: “Thanks for your priesthood”, “Thanks for being our pastor.” ‘Thanks for answering the call.’”
“Tell them that they have made a difference in your life.”
“Write them a thank you with a tone of appreciation.”
“Simple notes mean a great deal to priests these days. Things like notes of appreciation after funerals and weddings a simple compliment after a well prepared homily.”
“Being specific helps!”

8. Say Thank You
“Thank the priest for every Mass. Even if you don’t necessarily like the priest, as the Mass is always about the presence of Jesus.”
“Even something as simple as saying to the priest”Thank you for your ministry and I will pray for you” can mean a great deal.”
“Make a video asking random parishioners one thing they would like to thank Fr. ____ for.”

9. Give Them a Compliment
“Look for opportunities to compliment priests. Even ones you don’t particularly like.”
“I always cheer up when someone tells me after Mass, ‘That was a beautiful Mass, Father.’”

10. Look Out for Their Wellbeing
“Encourage priest to take time off.”

11. Save the Drama for Yo Mama
“Avoid and discourage gossip about priests and parishes.”
“Don’t gossip or criticize, instead offer to help and to build up. I wonder how many vocations were ruined when young people hear adults tear down the priest, usually because of some petty parish dispute.”

12. Let Him Know You Have His Back
“When you witness a situation when someone is being rude to a priest, let him know that you noticed and express compassion.”

13. Establish a Relationship
“Don’t tell him what you don’t like if that’s the first time you’ve bothered to talk to him.”
“Say hello before telling him what’s wrong.”

14. Have Realistic Expectations and Be Helpful
“He’s probably not a plumber, so don’t expect him to fix the leaky pipe. But definitely do ask him if he knows it’s leaking.”
“Always assume good will. Offering feedback is helpful, but criticism and complaint given without humility and sincere love is draining after a while.“

15. Don’t Be a “Priest Collector”
“Don’t think that you have to have the priest over every Sunday. Don’t expect to be the priest’s friend – he is your pastor/assistant and he needs to keep things professional. Don’t brag to fellow parishioners how “Close you guys are” as then that creates animosity or jealously – and THAT stresses the priest out.”

16. Be Supportive
“Whenever there is something that is stressful, such as a difficult time during the parish, I know “reinforcement” is appreciated. I recall some tremendously difficult funerals where people sent a nice note.

17. Give Him Space
“Sometimes it’s good to be just left alone, too. Stay away from what is called “unkind kindness” which is assuming Father is (Lonely, depressed, stressed, anxious, etc) when sometimes he needs to just blow off some steam.”

18. Invite Him Over
“It’s nice when people think to invite me to family gatherings: special birthdays or anniversary celebrations, holiday dinners (even though I usually decline because I’m with my own family — it’s nice to be invited).”

19. Strive for Holiness
“Ultimately, being the saint God desires them to be! There’s nothing more exciting for a priest than witnessing holiness in the lives of the people to whom he ministers; not only is that an experience of grace that his labor is bearing fruit but it’s also tremendously edifying in his own pursuit of holiness.”

I hope this list has inspired you to do something for your priest. Remember, each priest has his own preferences and ways that make him feel appreciated. Some may really like being invited over for dinner, while other priests may recharge with a quiet dinner alone in the rectory. No matter what you do, let’s make sure we let our priests know just how much we care for them.

Read Full Post »



It is appropriate that we should include here some discussion of the training which is required for a man who is to give his life to, and draw all his cares and studies toward, the ministry of Christ’s Church in the sacred office of the priesthood. The period of training which one must undergo has much to do with the quality of his priesthood in the years after he is ordained. Men have often said that they were “formed,” both in their understanding of the nature of their ministry and in their own approach to it, by the years which they spent in preparation.

With the advent of distance learning since the original edition of this book, there are any number of cost-effective options for delivering “content” to the aspiring clergyman. Distance learning allows a man to pursue studies on a schedule that permits him to continue to earn a living and to contribute to the support of his family. The problem that remains is one of formation, an inchoate process that takes place in the life of a priest during his education. In the past, this has taken place in the context of a traditional seminary education. I note, however, that the seminary is no guarantee of orthodoxy or stability as events have sadly proven. Nevertheless, formation in community is essential, in my view, to a full preparation for the priestly vocation.

We will not need, of course, to discuss the actual canonical requirements for ordination, the studies which are prescribed by the Church’s regulations for candidates for holy orders, nor the procedure through which one must go in order to be ordained to the sacred ministry. Suffice to say, these are somewhat consistent among similar bodies in the branches of the Anglican “continuum”, although there may be wide differences in the rigor in which standards are applied. This poses a very difficult problem, and must be a focus of any discussion of Anglican unity. Our purpose, here, is rather to look at the whole question of training and see what sort of things should be included, so that the candidate may have the possibility of the richest and most serviceable ministry.

Now the conception of the priestly “call” which was developed in the earlier chapters will be of considerable importance in this context. In a sacramental understanding of the office, a man is not made a minister simply by a divine command, thereby receiving as it were “from on high” the message which he is to preach. On the contrary, if the priesthood is to be understood as requiring the commissioning, the authentication, the authorizing, of the Body of Christ in its historical, empirical expression, then it is obvious that the priest is one who stands for, labors for, speaks for, the whole tradition of the Christian Church.

If a priest is one who so represents the tradition of Christian faith, worship, and life-in-grace, it is obvious that he must know that tradition. He must know it intimately, as one who believes in it and is himself living in terms of it. He must also know it in its long development from apostolic beginnings through the centuries to our own day. Unless he has this deep knowledge, he is quite likely to be one whose approach to his people has no background of historical understanding. His proclamation of the gospel will lack the wholeness that comes from entrance into the varied yet wonderfully integrated life of the Christian fellowship.

Because a man who is to enter the priesthood must be concerned with al broad range of disciplines, he should first of all have as thorough a grounding in the liberal arts and philosophy as is possible. Normally, this implies an undergraduate college experience of four years. It is of course true that many men who have lacked this advantage have been most useful and dedicated priests. For example the Cure d’Ars, made by the Roman Catholic Church the patron saint of parish priests, was from the strictly intellectual side a very simple man. Yet he was a holy, consecrated pastor and confessor, whose spiritual insight and profound grasp of the secrets of human souls have never been surpassed.

For these reasons, exceptions can be made. It is one of the most difficult and exacting tasks of a bishop and his examiners to make sure in a given instance such an exception should be made. It is also one of the hardest duties facing seminary officials and standing committees to determine whether a man who is not adequately prepared on the intellectual side should be recommended for ordination.

By and large it is true that a priest should be a man whose secular education has been sufficiently thorough to make him acquainted with “the best that has been thought and said.” He ought to have familiarity with the whole humanistic tradition, for this is the material out of which, humanly speaking, religion is made. Broadly speaking, he ought to have a good grounding in philosophy in its several branches; some knowledge of secular history, especially in its European phase since the dawn of the Christian era; some acquaintance with the literatures of the world, in their great range and sweep; some grasp of the meaning of the scientific method and the veracity of thought which the mathematical disciplines demand. Latin and Greek, despite their unpopularity in most educational circles today, have an enormous value for the future minister, as does a knowledge of some modern language other than his own, sufficient for him to read in that tongue and understand what he is reading. This latter study is particularly important in light of the growth of immigrant communities and whether the candidate wishes to enter the mission field.

If I were asked in what particular fields candidates for holy orders tend to be particularly weak today, one would say that it is in literature and philosophy, with history and English grammar as close third and fourth subjects. For the most part, men may have some knowledge of history, although they appear to be increasingly lacking in a comprehensive understanding of European history owing to the current disfavor shown the Western canon in many colleges and universities. during its formative period through the middle ages. Again, because of the disdain for metaphysics and epistemology and the pervasive emotivism in academe, men generally have little any grasp of the great philosophical problems which have always plagued the mind of man.

What is real? What is the process of knowing? What is the relation of matter and spirit, of soul and body? How about time and eternity and their bearing on each other? Questions such as these, with the answers proposed by thinkers from Socrates and Plato through Aristotle down to Descartes and Hume, and on to Kant and more contemporary thinkers like Kierkegaard, are not usually questions with which candidates have wrestled long and earnestly. In fact, they may not even be questions about which they have done much thinking. Yet their answers to these basic questions will have a profound effect upon their ministry.

When it comes to the great writing in the non-technical fields, many men entering seminaries these days are very badly off. The roll of names from Homer to Hardy seems to mean little to them. One might well ask how it is possible for a man to understand the depths of human experience unless he has felt “the surge and thunder of the Odyssey”; has followed Aeneas on his long journey to Italy and has seen Anchises “stretch forth his hands in longing towards the farther shore”; has gone with Dante in exploration of the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso; has heard Lear cry, “Tears, tears, tears, tears”; and with Hamlet has pondered the lot of man in this “weary, unintelligible world.” Surely, too, he ought to know the writers like Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and the rest. This need not necessarily be in detail or with scholarly exactness, but at least well enough to see with them the heart of man as he tries to live significantly and with dignity in this world where he has been placed by God.

So, in purely secular pre-theological training, it is good that a man who is to be ordained have as rich an acquaintance with the culture of the world as he can acquire. The priest ought to continue his reading and keep up his study in this wide cultural field after ordination. Otherwise, he is likely to grow stale intellectually or, worse perhaps, to be so sunk in his own immediate situation, culturally speaking, that he is shallow and superficial in his thinking and preaching.

But beyond this, and much more important, a young man looking forward to the ministry ought to be very sure that he is learning the things of God. He needs a knowledge of Scripture to be attained only by constant and devoted reading of the Bible from day to day. It is astounding, and disconcerting, to see how few men seeking ordination have a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture. At best they may know the passages which appear in the Sunday lections in the appointed services of the Church. Such ignorance handicaps them in their seminary studies, requiring them to spend hours in learning that which they could just as readily have mastered during earlier years.

Of course it is not the Bible alone which is needed. We hope that we may assume regular churchgoing, especially the fulfilment of the duty of assisting at the celebration of the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday and at other times. But a man who plans to be ordained should see that his own personal spiritual life is not neglected. For this reason, a rule of life is invaluable, since it guarantees that proper time will be allowed for prayer and the cultivation of one’s inner life. It is not necessary to go into detail here, since it is included in the techniques of the devotional life to be discussed in a later chapter. Perhaps the only difference is that the postulant or candidate for holy orders is not likely to be so far advanced in this respect as the ordained man, but he does need to learn the vital lesson that the spiritual life is central, and that prayer is the very breath of the Christian without which his life as a believer cannot flourish.

Those who know college students well, and especially those students who have a sentimental attachment for the priesthood as a possible vocation, know also that much that passes for incipient vocation is nothing of the sort. It is very easy for a student to fancy himself as a future priest and in this to be guilty of self-regarding wishful thinking. The test of a true vocation, discussed in a preceding chapter, lies frequently in the willingness of a student to live under a rule, of which more will be said. later. The student even in college must learn to take heed to his own spiritual growth, relying upon God’s grace in prayer and sacrament. Something must be learned, and learned before seminary, of the need for discipline.

Men who think they have a vocation, and who yet cannot get up in the morning in time to serve at the altar when scheduled, have all too often substituted a sentimental notion for the rigorous demands which are made upon one who is seriously concerned to become a priest of the Church. It is in the days before one has gone to the seminary that one can best acquire the sense of discipline and the habits of religious practice which should mark the life of a servant of God in the sacred ministry.

In the theological seminary, whether in house or by distance, the course of study is carefully prescribed. Few “electives” are permitted, since the necessary subjects have been set down in the canons of the Church and must be acquired by the ordinand. A great deal depends, however, on the way in which the seminarian approaches his studies. Are they merely something to be got through in order to be ordained? Or do they have a deeper value and meaning? Surely, one who is to be a faithful priest must try to learn from his seminary studies more than those minimum to pass canonical examinations. He must seek that profound understanding of the Christian tradition which will make him a worthy representative of the Church, wherever he may be.

Certainly, he will study the Church’s theology, both in its development and in its dogmatic form. To appreciate these, he must know the Scriptures, which record the events from which our religion took its rise and which always constitute, for the Anglican, the “proving-ground” for all doctrine. He will learn of the way in which the Christian Church has developed through the centuries. He will study the Christian moral tradition, both in its theological statement and in its practical application. He will learn of Christian worship, its theological grounding, its liturgical expression, and its implied results in the life of the worshipper. He will be acquainted with the principles of pastoral care, and he will learn how to conduct services to the glory of God and the edifying of His people. He will be instructed in the cure of souls, so that he may ad-minister counsel and absolution to sinners. So one could go on, through the whole round of the theological curriculum.

All of this is taught, all of this is learned, not by rote so that one may “get it out of the way,” but in the heart so that one may have it at the very root of one’s being. The priest is to be the Church’s man. The life of the Church is to flow through him to such a degree and in such a fashion that he thinks and speaks, works and lives, the Church’s tradition.
Not the problem of distance learning. It is not the classroom which is at the heart of seminary life. The chapel is there, and it is in chapel, as the future priest joins in the daily round of worship with his brethren who like him are preparing for holy orders, that he can most effectively develop the disposition and bent of personality which will make him a worthy priest.

Dutiful and devoted participation in worship in the chapel, especially at the Eucharist, will do much to deepen and strengthen his personal conviction. It will clarity and meaning to classroom studies and the underlying reading and writing which he must follow. He is learning to serve God with his mind; and he must also learn to bring to the altar that which, intellectually speaking, he has made his own. There his mind, his heart, and his soul, together with his very body itself, are offered to God for His service in the priesthood. It is in chapel, too, that he can acquire that habit of saying the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer which will give stability and form to his life in the priesthood as he joins with the whole Church throughout the world in its fulfilment of what St. Benedict called the opus Dei, “the work of God.” This becomes far more complex for the distance learner, and the local priest and mentor needs to arrange for the parish seminarian to have this experience in the home church.

In his life with his brethren, in classroom, in dining hall, on the walks of the seminary campus, at social functions, as well as in the worship of the chapel, the future priest learns the charity and forbearance which are the marks of the Christian man, and above all the marks of the Christian priest. Here, in a place where everything is directed toward one end, God and His will, as known in His Church,there is a unique opportunity to grow in the grace of Christian life, with its little courtesies, its remembrances, especially its willingness to let others be themselves and not merely serve as adjectives which modify one’s self.

Here is a supreme opportunity to discover, and to incorporate into one’s own life, the truth that the Church is indeed, as St. Augustine said, a corpus permixtum; and that its very variety of membership, and its rich differentiation in thought and approach, is a sign of its divine quality and nature. In the seminary one can begin friendships in Christ, friendships which perhaps are deeper and more enriching than those known anywhere else, because they are grounded in an undergirding devotion to Christ and His Church, and are set in the context of the life of Him whom we cannot lose because He is our God as well as our Brother. Again, for the distance learner, the sponsoring parish must make accommodation to replicate this experience, at least in part, by working to draw the seminarian into the various aspects of the community’s life.

The life of a seminarian is not without its problems. He must learn discipline, and the average young American certainly does not like this. However, many, particularly those who have had military service, have found themselves in situations where discipline was both necessary and enforced, and have come to recognize that one of our greatest needs today is precisely such a patterned and ordered life as discipline provides.

In other ways, too, life in a seminary is not always easy. The studies are exacting; the obligations regarding chapel attendance may be irritating; there may be many other community problems, quite apart from personal ones. Above all, there is the readjustment of one’s whole life to a new point of view. For even if a man, before he has come to seminary, has been a devout Christian, loyally practicing his religion, he has not been obliged constantly to bring everything into line with this single all-encompassing aim: the knowledge of God, the service of God, as this is expressed in the Church’s ministry. Thus, there may come periods of disturbance, emotional upset, staleness or dryness in prayer and worship, a sense of partial frustration. But these can be met and conquered, if the initial commitment has been made and if the seminarian will follow the advice given earlier and learn where necessary to “take it easy.” Most men now in the priesthood will say that with all the questions and problems that seminary years raised for them, those years were among the happiest, the most fruitful, and the most rewarding they have ever known.

I would offer two or three remarks in conclusion. The first is that the man who is planning on entering the ministry must be one who is teachable. Far too often, a seminarian, or even one who has not yet reached that stage of his preparation, thinks and acts as if he were in complete possession of the face of it. Yet, the lesson of humility before the tradition, and teachability in the presence of those who are commissioned to train ordinands, needs to be learned over and over again.

Intellectual freedom is encouraged in most seminaries. The future priest must learn to think through the content of Christian teaching and make it come alive to himself, as he freely studies it with no other commitment than the great commitment to God and his revelation as the Church proclaims them.

It is plainly true that the Christian faith and much that is contained within the tradition must be studied critically and analyzed fearlessly; and the seminary is the place where this is done. Students in seminary are often startled by new ways of stating the faith or by new theories concerning its origins, by biblical criticism both of the Old and New Testament, by distinctions between “central” and “peripheral” beliefs and the like. In the face of these new and different ideas, they need to remember that their teachers, men who have given their lives to the Church’s tradition, are themselves men of faith as well as men of intellectual integrity. Their task in a theological institution is so to think through and so to present the truth, that the historic faith may be soundly and firmly based in the light of modern knowledge and with relevance to modern problems.

Secondly, I would offer a word about the need for a wholesome “secularity” on the part of those training for the priesthood. While it is true that such men are concentrating on one goal, which is their future ministry in the service of God and his Church, it is also true that they need some “nature” upon which “grace” can work. This principle holds true for the ordained man as well as for the man looking forward to ordination. Baron von Hugel used to recommend to those who came to him for spiritual counsel that they should have some non-theological or non-religious interest to which they could turn from time to time.

It may be music, it may be poetry, it may be current affairs, it may be any one of a number of things. Yet it is necessary that there be something which is not strictly directed toward the theological or religious goal. Of course, in the long run and ultimately, any good thing is God’s and leads to God, even though it be God under one of his million incognitos; but it is right that it should not be “religious” in the narrower sense. In this way, the ordinand will have a balance which will make him a healthier and better integrated person.

In sum, the years spent in the seminary provide the opportunity for a great development in the personal religious life of the future priest. Here, he can learn the techniques of meditation and mental prayer; he can strengthen his grasp on the principles of the spiritual life so that he may himself be one who walks with God and hence one who can help his people. Here are older and more experienced men to whom he can turn for advice and assistance, and from whom he can learn much that he needs to know about the spiritual life.

All that we have said in this chapter leads directly into our next subject. For the man who is training for the priesthood is training so that he may be a worthy representative of the Church’s tradition, functioning for Christ in His Mystical Body and carrying on Christ’s work in the world today. But he is a priest in one branch of the Church, the Anglican communion, and more particularly that part of it known as the Episcopal Church in the United States. He will soon promise to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of that Church. He will be a “man under authority.” To that subject we will now turn.

Read Full Post »


Today, we resume Book II (Ch. 3) of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. The subheading of this book spells out its contents, “Of the Life of the Pastor.” Here, the saint explores the idea that the ruler as bishop should be always “chief in action”. While some of the language is a bit stilted, the St. Gregory’s meaning is clear and reinforced by the image of the vestments to be “put on” by the ruler: the bishop should be an example in his way of life to clergy and lay people alike.  Absent a godly life and personal example, clothes do not make the man.

The ruler should always be chief in action that by his living he may point out the way of life to those that are put under him. His life should stand as an example so that the flock, which follows the voice and manners of the shepherd, may learn how to walk better through example than through words. He who is required by the necessity of his position to speak the highest things is compelled by the same necessity to exhibit the highest things. The voice that more readily penetrates the hearer’s heart is that which the speaker’s life commends, because what he commands by speaking he helps the doing of by showing.

It is said through the prophet, “Get you up into the high mountain, you that bringest good tidings to Sion.” (Isaiah 40:9) This means that he who is engaged in heavenly preaching should already have forsaken the low level of earthly works, and appear as standing on the summit of things. In this way he will so much the more easily should draw those who are under him to better things as by the merit of his life he cries aloud from heights above. So it is that under the divine law the priest receives the shoulder for sacrifice, and this the right one and separate to signify that his action should be not only profitable, but even singular. (Exodus 29:22) He should not merely do what is right among bad men, but transcend even the well-doers among those that are under him in the virtue of his conduct.

The breast also together with the shoulder is assigned to him for eating, that he may learn to immolate to the Giver of all that of himself which he is enjoined to take of the Sacrifice. He is empowered not only in his breast to entertain right thoughts, but with the shoulder of work invite those who behold him to things on high. He may covet no prosperity of the present life, and fear no adversity; that, having regard to the fear within him, he may despise the charm of the world, but considering the charm of inward sweetness, may despise its terrors.

Wherefore by command of the supernal voice (Exodus 29:5) the bishop or priest is braced on each shoulder with the robe of the ephod that he may be always guarded against prosperity and adversity by the ornament of virtues. Walking, as St. Paul says II Corinthians 6:7, in the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, he strives only after those things which are before. He may decline on neither side to low delight.

Neither should prosperity elate nor adversity perturb him. Neither let smooth things coax him to the surrender of his will, nor rough things press him down to despair; so that, while he humbles the bent of his mind to no passions, he may show with how great beauty of the ephod he is covered on each shoulder. This ephod is also rightly ordered to be made of gold, blue, purple, twice dyed scarlet, and flue twined linen. (Exodus 28:8) As a result, it may be shown by how great diversity of virtues the priest ought to be distinguished. In the priest’s robe before all things gold glitters, to show that he should shine forth principally in the understanding of wisdom.

With gold there is blue, which is resplendent with aerial color, is conjoined, to show that through all that he penetrates with his understanding he should rise above earthly favors to the love of celestial things. This is a reminder lest, while caught unawares by his own praises, he be emptied of his very understanding of the truth. With gold and blue, purple also is mingled, which means, that the priest’s heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice. It is if by virtue of a royal power, he may rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration. Accordingly, his manners guard his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through St. Peter, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” (I Peter 2:9) With respect also to this power, whereby we subdue vices, we are fortified by the voice of St. John, who says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. (St.John 1:12)

This dignity of fortitude the Psalmist has in view when he says, “But with me greatly honored have been Your friends, O God; greatly strengthened has been their principality.” (Psalm 138:17) For truly the mind of saints is exalted to princely eminence while outwardly they are seen to suffer abasement.

With gold, blue, and purple, twice died scarlet is conjoined, to show that all excellences of virtue should be adorned with charity in the eyes of the judge within; and that whatever glitters before men may be lighted up in sight of the hidden arbiter with the flame of inward love. Further, this charity, since it consists in love at once of God and of our neighbor, has the luster of a double dye.

He then who so pants after the beauty of his Maker as to neglect the care of his neighbors, or so attends to the care of his neighbors as to grow languid in divine love, whichever of these two things it may be that he neglects, knows not what it is to have twice dyed scarlet in the adornment of his ephod. But, while the mind is intent on the precepts of charity, it undoubtedly remains that the flesh be macerated through abstinence.

So, with twice dyed scarlet fine twined linen is conjoined. For fine linen (byssus) springs from the earth with glittering show: and what is designated by fine linen but bodily chastity shining white in the comeliness of purity? It is also twisted for being interwoven into the beauty of the ephod, since the habit of chastity then attains to the perfect whiteness of purity when the flesh is worn by abstinence. Since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shows white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod.

Read Full Post »


In view of recent events, the instructors from the Virginia Cadet Corps (Explorer Post 320) which meets here at St. Albans will be offering an “active shooter course” on Saturday, December 16th. There will be two sessions, one at 9:00 a.m. and a repeat offering at 1:00 p.m. The training session is to last approximately 1 hour. Class leaders will include retired Federal and local law enforcement professionals, as well as private security consultants.
An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area including churches and schools. In many cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.
Everyone can help prevent and prepare for potential active shooter situations. This course provides guidance to individuals so that they can prepare to respond to an active shooter situation.
Upon completing this course, the participant will be able to:
Describe actions to take when confronted with an active shooter and responding law enforcement officials.
Recognize potential workplace violence indicators.
Describe actions to take to prevent and prepare for potential active shooter incidents.
Describe how to manage the consequences of an active shooter incident.
Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a law enforcement active shooter exercise to be held at St. Alban’s in February or March 2018. Please sign up by emailing stalbansrector@outlook.com or on the sign-up sheet in the parish hall.

Read Full Post »



Apart from a vigorous renewal of catechesis at all levels, what our Church needs in clergy and laity is a real deepening of the spiritual life. We become so intermingled with the world as to lose the fresh enthusiasm of the early martyrs and confessors. We are lacking in that zeal and self-sacrifice which won, in early times, England and Europe to the Faith.

Many Clergy perform their duties in a perfunctory way. To preach Christ effectually the priest  must preach of the Cross from the pulpit of the cross.

We need Communities whose life enables them to study and practice the mysteries of the spiritual life. How far below most of us come from the standard of that “fulness of God” revealed in the New Testament! How comparatively little is known of the science of prayer, as developed by the great teachers and saints!

Some lay people say a morning or evening prayer and some clergy make meditation.  But, in a truly religious home or rectory, those who dwell there should practice a life of devotion through regular daily offices and their prayers would bring a blessing upon the Church and thus especially enrich it.

-Adapted from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 5),  edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


Here is a little something that can be copied and put into larger form.  It is derived from a notice in an English parish circa 1950, so the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On Entering Church

This is church where the Faith once-delivered is taught, and where the Sacraments of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church are administered according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Anglican Catholic Church.

The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in this church for the needs of the Faithful.  You will see a white light burning in the place of Reservation.  There Jesus Christ, God and Man, is sacramentally present, and therefore you will see others reverence and say their prayers before Mass or other services.  So we ask that you behave with great reverence here.

On entering the church before services, please use a low voice and converse only as necessary.  Many are at prayer before the liturgy, and we ask that all be mindful of undue noise.

Please turn off mobile phones.  If your occupation requires that you maintain contact, please silence your mobile device.

During the service, please refrain from conversation. We make every effort to keep our services beautiful and dignified, particularly because of the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar and for benefit of all who join together here in as a community and in the Body of the Church.

If you are a visitor, welcome and blessings! Please sign the register and join us for fellowship after the service.  If you have any questions, please contact the Rector at 804-262-6100 or through the church website http://www.stalbansacc.org


Read Full Post »

statsAmid the election uproar, an important economic study issued quietly concerning the “value” of faith expressed in cash terms.  Those leading the jihad against Christianity would do well to read it and then figure out how they will replace the more than USD 1 trillion plus in economic benefits currently provided by the faithful.

Of course, the statist solution would be to continue the economic plunder of the nation and simply adding to the staggering deficit.  After all, what’s another trillion dollars, right?

I have reproduced the press release below and, I hope, the links to the study.  It is free for the viewing over at the website of the authors’ foundation-Faith Counts.

New study values faith in America at over one trillion dollars

–First-ever national research highlighting the impact of religion on U.S. economy– National Press Club, Washington, D.C. — In a panel today, Dr. Brian Grim and Melissa Grim, J.D., unveiled their groundbreaking new study: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” The first-of-its-kind study analyzed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations around the country, in addition to quantifying the economic impact of religious institutions and religion-related businesses. Through this study, Dr. Grim found the total economic contribution of religion in America to be nearly $1.2 trillion, equal to the world’s 15th largest economy.


Dr. Grim presented his research at a panel event at the National Press Club. The panel included Dr. William Galston, Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, and Dr. Ram Cnaan, Professor and Program Director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities, and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country,” said Dr. Grim. He continued: “In an age where there’s a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion. Every single day individuals and organizations of faith quietly serve their communities as part of religious congregations, faith-based charities, and businesses inspired by religion.”   Despite prolonged economic hardship in many communities, the amount of money spent annually by religious congregations on social programs has tripled in the past 15 years. Some examples of the social issues addressed by these congregations and religiously-oriented charity groups include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse recovery—130,000 programs
  • Veteran and veterans’ families support—94,000 programs
  • Prevention or support for people with HIV/AIDS—26,000 programs
  • Support or skills training for unemployed adults—121,000 programs

Operating alongside these charity groups and religious institutions sit faith-based and inspired businesses, which employ people in every field and industry. This fills the marketplace with goods and services used by people of all faiths, plus those with no faith at all.  At the same time, religious schools educate millions of students from pre-K to the post-graduate level. The study is sponsored in part by Faith Counts, a multi-faith campaign aimed at promoting the value of faith.  Kerry Troup, spokeswoman for Faith Counts, states, “From our work with diverse faith communities across the U.S., we know that despite differences among individual religions, there are many more things that bring us together. This study shows that faith is still a cornerstone of our economy and society, and we’re actively working together to celebrate and promote its value.”

For more information, including the full study and a video summary of the research, please visit www.FaithCounts.com/Report.

About Faith Counts   Faith Counts is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization comprised of many religious communities who represent nearly 80 million Americans.  The mission of Faith Counts is simple:  to promote the value of faith.  The centerpiece of Faith Counts is a social media campaign that tells powerful stories about how faith counts—how it inspires, empowers, motivates, and comforts billions of people.

Data from: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis”, a 2016 study by Brian J. Grim (Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project) and Melissa E. Grim (Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center), published in the peer-reviewed journal, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Volume 12, Article 3.



Read Full Post »

BenedictFrom a Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2015, (Given at St. Alban’s, Richmond, Virginia)

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  -Romans 8:18

Friday, June 26th, in the year of our Lord 2015, creation groaned.  A man-made court issued a pronouncement on that which is not main-made but is ordained of God.  That Friday, God’s creation groaned as a man-made institution made a proclamation on marriage that is directly contrary to the law of God.  Against the law of the Constitution, too, perhaps, but more importantly for us as orthodox, traditional Christians it defied the law of God.  Creation groaned under its weight.

The ground under our feet has shifted fundamentally. “Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of us as Christians a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.”

“It is now clear that extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice.” True, the Court gave a nod and a wink at the First Amendment in an attempt to calm those who might find themselves just a wee bit worried about religious liberty. But when a court is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the most minimal protection to religious dissenters from homosexualist orthodoxy.  As Mr. Justice Alito warned, the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Of course, the next goal of homosexualist activists will be a long-term campaign to remove tax-exempt status from religious institutions and faith-communities who will not submit. However, the more immediate goal will be the shunning, then the vilification and, finally, the persecution of dissenters within civil society. This already is happening in a number of venues ranging from wedding-cake bakers, to photographers who refuse to be party to homosexual “marriages”. As orthodox Christians, beloved in Christ, we must understand that this situation is going to get much more difficult for us.

As commentator Rod Dreher put it aptly, “We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.” And, so we are going to be called to suffer for our faith. We are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children.  To do this we are going to have to build resilient communities in the face of suffering.

We may look for easy answers, but there aren’t any.  Suffering is complex, but you know it is a part of love, real love—particularly of loving others as Christ loves us.  “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” (Thomas Merton)

And so we come to the question of suffering which is treated straight on in the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday in Trinity.  Romans 8 is in a sense a unique passage in that it brings before us one of the most interesting and mysterious questions of human life: our fellowship in suffering with the world in which we live-a world that seemingly has taken leave of its senses-and the common redemption which awaits all creation.  This is the direction in which we must live, and work and teach.

Saint Paul’s main thought in this passage is that suffering is the pathway to glory.  Let’s say that again.  Suffering is the pathway to glory. And, since in that suffering it is not man alone, but all creation is involved, so all creation awaits and expects a redemption which shall be revealed through man when he reaches the goal of his life and enters upon the glories of eternity.  That’s a big theme.  That’s real comfort for us in times of suffering.

Saint Paul begins by comparing the sufferings of earth with the glories of heaven. Beloved in Christ, our sufferings are not light.  We know this in many ways. From the viewpoint of our broader Christian experience, the dreariest thing we can do is read or listen to the news, particularly in the last several days. In truth it has become a season of groaning, and the present one seems to be full of turbulence and distress.

St. Paul speaks of all creation groaning and travailing in pain. But here is the hope: so overwhelming is the glory to which they lead, that St. Paul deliberately reaches the conclusion that no real comparison is possible. We find the same thought expressed elsewhere in the words, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”(2 Cor.)

How can he say this?  Well, my beloved, anyone who has only superficially studied Saint Paul’s life could fall into the error of believing that he had an easy go, a free ride, that he was unacquainted with sorrow and trial.  However, few people ever suffered more than he; but so clear is his conception of the glory to which these sufferings lead, that he speaks of them as “light,” as “but for a moment,” as “not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.”

So, then what are we to do, you and I?   As a third-order Benedictine, I have often said that a monastic type of life will be our future. This was echoed by Mr.  Dreher and others in the wake of Friday’s events.  We are called to what Mr. Dreher has identified as “the Benedict Option”.

In his 1982 book After Virtue, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new and doubtless very different St. Benedict,” while we await a new and different creation.

Throughout the early Middle Ages, St. Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped re-found civilization.

I believe that we orthodox Christians are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. So, how do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions and suffering?

We can begin with fervent, regular prayer in community, of the sort that goes on in St. Alban’s every weekday morning at eight o’clock.  We must study as the Benedictines, and genuinely work at learning our faith in a deep and profound way.  We must teach as have the Benedictines in their renowned abbey schools. We must work tirelessly as do the Benedictines and be hospitable to the stranger and sojourner so that we can bring them inside the community to teach. I am not certain if there are other ways, but we had better figure this out together, and soon, as the hour have grown very late.

“The actions of our Supreme Court on Friday last are signs of the times for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert” or preaching repentance while chained to the top of a column in the village square. No. “This is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order” and the concomitant impending suffering of the traditional Christian order.

St. Paul would remind us though that these pains and sufferings, which wring a groan not just from the faithful, but from all of nature, are but the travail pains which lead to birth into a better world. If we allow it, these sufferings will carry us up, up into a higher state than we now know. This is the hope which St. Paul sets before us.  This is the hope of all creation-to be delivered from the bondage of our present state, and to be born into a new world wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Now? Now we have sorrow in the experience of the birth pains which precede that deliverance. But, beloved in Christ, morning is coming.  Morning is coming and all nature will share with us in the glories of this deliverance.  Amen.

-With profound thanks to Mr. Rod Dreher, Orthodox Christian, whose Time article I have “borrowed” liberally throughout this sermon.


Read Full Post »

I am away from the parish this week and am just in from the opening of the first In Defense of Christians Summit www.idcsummit.org in Washington, D.C., where I am attending as the Canon Law Institute’s representative and occasional executive director.  As the incredibly brave Canon Andrew White (aka the Vicar of Baghdad) was taken ill, I might have been the only Anglican about.  I was honored to have been one of the six priests selected to bear the torches to lead the procession into the joint prayer service.

The service, which used ancient forms, was the first joint Catholic-Orthodox-Coptic (and an Anglo-Catholic) since 1987.  Dedicated to Our Lady, it was a remarkable moment pf penitance and prayer as the incense ascended before her holy icon. It was very powerful to have all of these groups and evangelical Protestant Christians in worship together.  It was a little bit of heaven

I had a chance to speak with some remarkable men of the Church Universal, albeit too briefly, as we prepared for the procession.  Cardinal Wuerl was very gracious and even remembered a wandering priest who was way out of his depth.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in good form, referring to the conflict between Islam and Christianity as one of liberty against forced religion.  A good, middle weight speech that didn’t fire things up.  Yet, it caused me to miss having an honest, Christian A-G who was not an Alinsky-Marxist.

The keynote by Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Oriental Churches, was disappointingly bureaucratic and rife with “social justice” metaphor.  With apologies to his Eminence, ISIS is not a problem rooted in “economic disparity” and “disproportionate wealth” as his speech seemed to suggest. As well, quotes from the documents of Vatican II and appeals to the U.N. weren’t seeming to resonate with the Orthodox side of the house or some of the uniates who have folks on the ground.

I think it might be difficult to appeal to the international ecclesiastical or legal bureaucracy when the “junior varsity” is sawing the heads off the faithful.  It appears that the church’s bureaucrats in Rome and those of  secular Washington are similarly detached from the reality of Islam.  Of course, he just might have been being cautious to keep more heads from rolling, although the Neville Chamberlain method doesn’t seem to work with ISIS any more than with Herr Hitler.  The post-opening reception was extraordinary-an embarassment of food and drink in the face of the sufferings of those say, on a mountainside in Iraq waiting for airdropped food.  But, gang, this is Washington, and you have to make a splash to get attention.  I just pray that I am not witnessing the birth of yet another faith-based lobbying group to employ out of work political science majors.  Too darned many of them already.

More to come after the first big session tomorrow.  Meantime, pray for Christians persecuted throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »