Mgr Jeffrey Steenson: Inaugural Homily – ‘The Chair of St Peter and Christian Unity’

13 02 2012

The Chair of St. Peter and Christian Unity


“Behold how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). With all our hearts, let us thank Pope Benedict XVI for this beautiful gift, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and let us pray that it may further the goal of Catholic unity. When Cardinal Wuerl told me that the Holy Father would establish the Ordinariate under this name, I truly rejoiced, for it goes to the heart of what our mission should be. And it helps us to understand why our Lord entrusted His Church to St. Peter in the first place.


So much ink has been spilled over the interpretation of these words of our Gospel, which Jesus spoke to Peter in Caesarea Philippi – “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt. 16:18). Of course, for Catholics, the authoritative interpretation was provided at the First Vatican Council. But we must honestly acknowledge that Christians have read this text in different ways. Even amongst the church fathers there was not unanimity over what “On this Rock” means precisely. The great Augustine himself said that the reader must choose – Does this Rock signify Christ or Peter?  (Retract. 1.20). But Augustine quite properly would not have thought this a matter of either/or. For Peter brings everything to Christ. The trajectory is clear. We are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (I Cor. 3:23). I am grateful that, over the course of my ministry, the teachings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been so clear on this point – the Church exists to bring souls to Christ. But, as our text plainly affirms, Jesus has invested Peter with a ministry of fundamental importance. And he does so by employing three verbs in the future tense – I will build my church … the gates of hell will not prevail against it … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus speaks in the future tense, he draws all things to himself; we know then that this commission does not end with the historical Peter. The whole life of the Church on earth until the end of time is anticipated in this moment.


In this context, listen to St. Anselm, the 37th Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace England’s green and pleasant land:  “This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might therefore be invited to unity. Christ therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissentions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken” (Cat. Aur. Mt. 16:19).


The first time we find Matthew 16:18 specifically applied to Peter’s successors, the Bishops of Rome, came amidst a controversy between Pope Stephen and Cyprian of Carthage in the middle of the third century. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I hope that you will permit me to speak briefly to this, because it is very relevant to the Ordinariate. In the Anglican tradition, the church fathers are held in high esteem; here is where we were taught to find our bearings on theological questions.

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Ordinariate: An auspicious day marked in Newman’s pulpit

18 01 2012

From the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:

A former Anglican priest and member of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham gave the Latin Sermon at the University of Oxford this weekend. John Hunwicke, who is well known for his erudite writing on liturgy and Classics, gave the sermon — not a sermon in the usual ecclesiastical sense — in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on Sunday 15 January, the first anniversary of the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with the permission and blessing of the Ordinary. Whilst still an Anglican, Blessed John Henry Newman (who is the patron of the Ordinariate) was the Vicar of St Mary’s and it was from the same pulpit that he preached and John Keble gave his Assize Sermon, that the Latin Sermon is given. John Hunwicke joins other Catholics, including Professor Richard Parish, in giving the Latin Sermon.

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Ordinary’s sermon for first anniversary Evensong

16 01 2012

This sermon was preached by Mgr Keith Newton at St James, Spanish Place, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  The celebration was Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament & Benediction:

In June 1848 our patron, the Blessed John Henry Newman, wrote a letter to the father of Francis Cardinal Bourne, sometime Archbishop of Westminster. Bourne’s father had been received into the Catholic Church some months before Newman but he had heard a rumour that Newman was unhappy. Newman wrote:

I can only say, if it is necessary to say it, that from the moment I became a Catholic, I have never had, through God’s grace, a single doubt or misgiving on my mind that I did wrong in becoming one. I have not had any feeling whatever but one of joy and gratitude that God called me out of an insecure state into one which is sure and safe, out of the war of tongues and into the realm of peace and assurance. This is my state of mind, and I would it could be brought home to all and every one, who, in default of real arguments for remaining Anglicans, amuse themselves with dreams and fancies.

Those thoughts could be expressed by many of us today though probably not so well. They reflect something of what those us who have been received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have experienced over the last twelve month. The sentiments of joy and thanksgiving, two great Christian words, are ones which should characterize our first anniversary celebration this evening which is a beautiful and appropriate expression of our Anglican patrimony.

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Bishop Peter Elliott: The Marian & Petrine Principles in the Catholic Church

9 12 2011

Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and Episcopal Delegate for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, preached this sermon at Evensong & Benediction for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the Church of the Holy Cross, South Caulfield, Victoria, Australia. It is reproduced here from the Anglo-Catholic.

The heart of Corpus Christi College, the seminary of the Province of Melbourne and the archdiocese of Hobart, is a beautiful gothic chapel. Recently constructed within the bluestone shell of a modest colonial church, it features two windows on either side of a Pugin tabernacle. The rich stained glass depicts the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but in a most original way.

On one side the apostles are gathered around Mary in prayer, a detail recorded by St Luke leading into his account of Pentecost (cf Acts 1:14). That window represents the Marian dimension of the Church. On the other side the window presents St Peter presiding as teacher among the apostles. This scene represents the Petrine dimension of the Church, perpetuated across all ages in the Popes, teaching and governing as the true successors of the Fisherman of Galilee.

Future priests who raise their eyes to the glowing colour of the windows are invited to contemplate the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church in two complimentary principles. The Marian and the Petrine dimensions are held together through what guides them both, the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who prays in and through us and who guides and preserves the Church from falling into error.

In the new English translation of the Roman Mass, the Church is consistently referred to as “she” and “her”. In that perspective of the Church our Mother we find Mary, first member of the Church, but, as Saint Augustine pointed out, she is not greater than the Church. Therefore when we take up the title given her at the end of the Second Vatican Council, “Mother of the Church”, we do not set her above the Church, rather she is found, like any good mother, within the family circle of the Church. As such we gather around her in prayer with the apostles of Pentecost.

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Sermon of Dom Aidan Bellenger OSB at Evensong in Oxford

25 10 2011

This sermon was preached at Solemn Evensong & Benediction on the Feast of St Frideswide, by the Rt Rev’d Dom Aidan Bellenger OSB, Abbot of Downside. It is reproduced here from the Oxford Ordinariate Group blog:

Frideswide, a wonderfully evocative name, is the patron saint of Oxford and although no longer a popular focus of pilgrimage nor, for that matter, a popular choice for the naming of girls – how many Frideswides do we know? – to have a saint among us, at the heart of this university city, is a great thing.   As a Cambridge man I can claim no such patron.   St Etheldreda’s great church at Ely is indeed nearby but few would see her as a patron for the fenland university.

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Homily: Mgr Andrew Burnham at Littlemore

10 10 2011

Mgr Andrew Burnham celebrated and preached at the Newman Pilgrimage to Littlemore on Saturday 8 October 2011:

For myself, it was not logic that carried me on; as well might one say that the quicksilver in the barometer changes the weather….  All the logic in the world would not have made me move faster towards Rome than I did….Great acts take time. Apologia pp.155-156[1]

A year ago, at the Newman Pilgrimage, I was here in the congregation, still an Anglican.  Fr John Hancock, the parish priest came over and joked that I should be presiding.  Clearly I could not do then but, because of his courtesy, and the courtesy of the Family The Work, and of the Fathers of the Oratory, I am doing so today.   They were momentous times: we had just celebrated the beatification of John Henry Newman and were keeping his feast for the first time.  Personally, I shall never forget those weeks, partly because, at Cofton Park I slipped and fell on the way back from the loos, breaking my wrist.  When I was not falling over, I was conscious of following in Blessed John Henry’s footsteps.  I was a bit like the page in Good King Wenceslas: at the side of a great saint, anonymous and of lesser stature.  Coming to Littlemore was the beginning of a short, enjoyable life as a Catholic catechumen.  I had one more piece of bishopping to do: 30 November was my tenth anniversary and I kept it as a finale and a farewell to those I was leaving behind.  I was received as a Catholic on 1 January, ordained deacon on 13 January, and priest on 15 January.

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Bishop Kevin Vann: Homily for the reception of a group for the forthcoming US Ordinariate

5 10 2011

Bishop Kevin Vann received a group of Anglican faithful into the Catholic Church for the forthcoming Personal Ordinariate in the United States on Saturday 25 September 2011 in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Fort Worth. Here is his homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

As I awoke this morning reflecting on the new day “that the Lord has made” and furthermore on his command to “rejoice and be glad in it”, I was struck by the beauty of the sunrise. From the porch of the Cathedral rectory I could see just beyond the Texas and Pacific Building to the rose hues announcing the sun for the new day.  As the sun rose I could see light reflecting on the clouds in the sky and all around. The scene was both bright and soft.  It seemed to me that at the beginning of this new day the Lord was also calling us to rejoice in Him and walk in his light today and always.

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Fr Christopher Phillips preaches at Anglican Use Conference

12 07 2011

Fr Christopher Phillips preached this sermon at Solemn Evensong at the recent Anglican Use Conference in Texas. It is based on Acts 10:17-33. It is reproduced here from the Anglo-Catholic:

It is one of my pleasant duties, as a pastor with a parish school, to teach a scripture course to our high school students. The centerpiece of the course is a chapter by chapter study of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The drama of the early years in the Church’s history never fails to hold the attention of my students. As we work our way through Acts, we look for those “pivotal moments” – those individual and singular events which, from that moment, set the Church upon a particular path, and which frame our own experience as members of the Church. The Book of the Acts is filled with these exceptional moments, such as the account of which we heard in the First Lesson this evening.

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Bishop Kevin Vann preaches at Anglican Use Conference

11 07 2011

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.

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Ordinations: Homily by Bishop Thomas McMahon

20 06 2011

This homily was given by Bishop Thomas McMahon in Brentwood Cathedral at the ordination of priests for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:

I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them – and  so fasting and prayer they laid hands on them and sent them off.  Acts 11.

I am delighted that you are being ordained priest on this feast of the Apostle  Barnabas. Allow me to choose a number of words associated with this feast. Let us  start with those words in Acts 11 “I want Barnabas and Saul set apart”. Paul certainly had a great sense of being “set apart”. We read it in Gal. 1. “He who has set me apart from the day of my birth and called me by his grace saw fit to make his son  known to me so that I could preach his Gospel to the Gentiles”.

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