The Bishop of Fort Worth, Bishop Kevin Vann, preached at a Solemn Mass during the recent Anglican Use Conference in Arlington, Texas. His homily is reproduced here from his blog:
Welcome again, all of you, to Fort Worth. If I might digress briefly, I would like to reflect a bit on our Cathedral. It is a House of God, like some of our older Churches in the center of our city, which still shines forth with art in their windows, statues, communion rails and even votive candles…which have never been taken out or moved or subject to any kind of iconoclasm. A place where the vocabulary of those who come to worship, still includes “Hail Mary Full of Grace” or “Bless me Father for I have sinned” or even entrance songs that are the entrance antiphons of the Sacramentary which are sung. The words of the Angelus are heard daily as well as during the Mass and later on the words of Sanctus, Sanctus, which at times still ring forth, as part of the full, conscious participation in the Liturgy envisioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council. And, not only here, but also in parishes throughout the Diocese. In fact, Diocesan celebrations at St. Patrick’s will even echo Vietnamese, Latin, Spanish and other languages at times.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been a place of worship and refuge, while giving glory to God since 1888. On bright warm Texas afternoons like today, the crucifix stained glass window, along with the Saints, shine forth so bright in fact that they seem to come alive. The Saints are many including: Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Rita, St. Anthony, and yes, even St. Oliver Plunkett. God’s providence stands out to me in that regard, because at least a number of our gatherings of prayer with some of our brothers here have been in the sight of that window.
The Saints in our Cathedral echo the words of the opening hymn for us today, as we pray for unity and live in the historical reality of a Church strengthening in unity and ecclesial communion, and hear “Back to the Faith which saints believed of old…one with thy Saints in one unbroken peace….” And along with the Saints in glass and wood, all looking toward the Eucharist, the colors of the windows spill forth from them on to the darker parts of the wall — creating together a portrait which is a union of connections of color, light, and human faces. All of which, call us all to be faithful to the vocations that we have been called to.
Not unlike what Cardinal Newman said in his “Meditations and Devotions, 301-2: “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place…if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.” On many an afternoon, the Saints of St. Patrick’s, and these words by Cardinal Newman, have called me back to my commitment as Shepherd, as a point of unity and communion.
These days together — as days of Faith, Hope, and Anticipation should do the very same for all of us gathered here. It is a time to reflect within our lives the Catholic vocabulary of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” what we pray here this evening: “…In the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope; in favor with you, our God, in perfect charity with the world.”
How do these words and this Eucharist help us to do that? To give thanks, with the Lord in our midst. To know that even in our sometimes challenging history, we have but the gift of the present moment that God in His providence has placed us together. It is a moment of great history that we take for granted, and that in the communion of Saints we are being watched and prayed for — just like St. Oliver Plunkett watched us Catholic and Anglo-Catholic Clergy pray together in the Divine Office — to be those who are called to rebuild that communion and learn from one another. For all of us, but especially the priests here, to reflect with our lives the words of Newman:
“Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you; sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you.”
In this Mass of the Holy Spirit, which has readings, then of Pentecost, we look once more to the “Birthday of the Church”. That moment in time when the words, teaching and mission and life of the Son of God became visible in the communion of Faith. His visible body here on earth.
Reflecting on the above words of Newman, then, and this Mass, when we are celebrating a new birthday of the Church, the Ordinariate, are we not called to live lives of communion and charity as we are transformed from our old selves into a new life of ecclesial communion, guided always by the Holy Spirit. And, do not the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, need to take personal root in our own lives, so that our corporate life of a Communion of Faith will radiate all that Blessed John Newman hoped for, and indeed prayed for.
Should not our lives radiate the glory of God just as all of those saints and bright colors do on the walls of St. Patrick’s in Fort Worth? Each color, each Saint, may be a thing of beauty, but how all the more so linked together. Do they reflect the living reality, the living glory of God in His people, when together those lives reflect love, patience, and even reconciliation, and the truth and reality of ecclesial communion? It is indeed a privileged and providential moment in history where the Lord has placed all of us together.
As the Holy Father himself said during the vigil in Hyde Park on September 18 of last year: “The drama of Newman’s life invites us to examine our lives, to see them against the vast horizon of God’s plan, and to grow in communion with the Church of every time and place: the Church of the apostles, the Church of the Martyrs, the Church of the saints, the Church which Newman loved and to whose mission he devoted his entire life.”
“Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!!”