Reclaiming a Catholic Mission for Anglicanism

After I posted my first article on here defining Anglo-Catholicism as I see it, I now hope to show that I believe a catholic understanding of the Anglican faith will lead us to be more attuned to the needs of the world.  As a deacon, I am called to be the icon of Christ the Servant to the world that I live in– at work, with my neighbors, in my family.  Along with the Bishop, as a deacon, we show the world what the suffering servant is and what it really means in our dismissal:  Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord. 

In his closing address to the Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1923, Bishop Frank Weston called Anglo-Catholics which historically in the late nineteenth century, were the ones heading to the inner city and the slums to set up missions and hospitals, and plant religious orders.  They were the ones that served the sick and dying in Memphis (see Constance and her Companions, the Martyrs of Memphis) and established parishes in the East End of London.  But by this time in 1923, it was being lost (as in our day if you look at established Anglo-Catholic churches here in the States), and there was no longer a missionary zeal associated with our movement.  I am Anglo-Catholic in practice because I believe that with high ceremony and liturgy comes a higher calling to live our lives as Eucharisticaly as possible.  If we are to fight for historic Catholic Faith in the Anglican Church then we are to also strive for Historical Catholic Mission and Movement as we have seen in the early church, in great saints like S. Augustine of Canterbury & S. Patrick, and in the known and unknown saints who died in the slums serving the least of these. That is why I’m Anglo-Catholic and why I will fight for the Faith Once Delivered.

So yes, it’s more than just ceremony and pomp and circumstance.  It’s more than what colour the vestments are or how many candles you have on the altar.  I believe all those things are important, but if we lose the heart of Jesus for the poor and marginalized in our communities and parishes, if we forget that we do all of this because it shows a bigger God to the world, and not just *because*, then it’s all for naught.  Our heart has to match our action in our adoration for Jesus wherever He may be found.

The whole address is a great work, but this section hits me harder than most:

But I say to you, and I say it to you with all the earnestness that I have, that if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in his Blessed Sacrament, then you have got to come out from before your Tabernacle and walk, with Christ mystically present in you, out into the streets of this country, and find the same Jesus in the people of your cities and your villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slum.

Now mark that—this is the Gospel truth. If you are prepared to say that the Anglo-Catholic is at perfect liberty to rake in all the money he can get no matter what the wages are that are paid, no matter what the conditions are under which people work; if you say that the Anglo-Catholic has a right to hold his peace while his fellow citizens are living in hovels below the levels of the streets, this I say to you, that you do not yet know the Lord Jesus in his Sacrament. You have begun with the Christ of Bethlehem, you have gone on to know something of the Christ of Calvary—but the Christ of the Sacrament, not yet. Oh brethren! if only you listen to-night your movement is going to sweep England. If you listen. I am not talking economics, I do not understand them. I am not talking politics, I do not understand them. I am talking the Gospel, and I say to you this: If you are Christians then your Jesus is one and the same: Jesus on the Throne of his glory, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus received into your hearts in Communion, Jesus with you mystically as you pray, and Jesus enthroned in the hearts and bodies of his brothers and sisters up and down this country. And it is folly—it is madness—to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the Throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children. It cannot be done.

There then, as I conceive it, is your present duty; and I beg you, brethren, as you love the Lord Jesus, consider that it is at least possible that this is the new light that the Congress was to bring to us. You have got your Mass, you have got your Altar, you have begun to get your Tabernacle. Now go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you. Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.


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