Pastoral Letter - Advent 2018
It is with true joy and thankfulness that I write to you this Advent.
Looking back over the last year we have faced many challenges, and one in particular caused me to remember an old Shaker song I learned many years ago when I lived with the Shaker community in the USA.
Oh my home, my sweet home in Zion,
My call, my holy call, how precious to me,
All the wealth this earth affords,
All the pleasures this vain world can give,
Never can purchase this treasure which I hold.
Although through deep waters and perils I pass,
Although with false brethren my lot may be cast.
Faith in God is my anchor and truth is my shield.
On these I rely when all else doth fail.
(Elder Otis Sawyer, 1855)
There are never any shortage of “deep waters”, “perils" and “false brethren” in the Independent Sacramental Movement, and this year was a little more challenging than most in that respect, but thanks be to God we got through with a minimum of disruption. Our Lady, Mother of the Church, is a constant protectress and guide.
Positively, we also had the great joy of welcoming many people into the church, our “Gospel Home”, as the Shakers would say, with several lay affiliations and no less than nine incardinations. Our bishops in the USA and Brazil, as well as Mons Bruno and I, ordained five priests and two deacons and admitted two ladies to the office of Deaconess. Most recently we had the great joy of blessing Dom Gregorio as Titualar Abbot of Galgano and Exarch of our Eastern Rite Exarchate, and consecrating Dom Giovanni as Titular Bishop of Bobbio and our Vicar Apostolic of Italy. Fraternal love, harmony and gradually increasing stability have been the answered prayers for this year, and what more could one ask!
Part of our appeal I think, as a little church, is the fact that within the framework of the "Statement of Faith and Sacramental Policies" we are increasingly a rather “broad church”, with a variety of liturgical styles and spiritualities - to say nothing of the “breadth" of many of the clergy! There is something for everyone within the HCCI, whether your preference is purely Celtic, or Anglo-Catholic, Liberal Catholic, Orthodox or Traditional Roman Catholic. Diverse liturgical styles and slight theological variation is no obstacle to unity in a community bound together by the seeking of God in prayer and sacrament.
Compared with many jurisdictions it has to be admitted that our focus is generally on the spiritual devlopment of the individual, however, ministry is not neglected, as members engage in diverse pastoral activity; from teaching martial arts and offering sacramental ministry in that context; to traditional parochial ministry in Brazil; to celebrancy for weddings and funerals; to our ministry of hospitality here at St Gall’s Retreat. We may be sure that over the course of the past year we will have positively touched the lives of many who would never consider attending a mainstream church. These, hundreds of them, are our laity!
As we begin this holy season of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year, let us take advantage of the long nights (at least in the northern hemisphere) and make time for extra meditation. It is vital in the spiritual life not only to speak to God, but to make adequate space for listening to him as well, and the place he chooses to speak to us is in the deep recesses of our heart, where the in-dwelling Christ takes up his abode. We meet him there in contemplative prayer and it is only when we are centred in Christ that our souls “may be lifted into the immensity of (his) love and breathe forth the fragrance of a holy life” (Liberal Catholic Liturgy). Let that loving union with the Lord in contemplative prayer and Holy Communion be the fountainhead from which we may draw the living water for thirsty souls.
I wish you all a blessed Advent.
All for Jesus through Mary,