This is one of my first posts, so greetings to everyone. Before I explain my question, I want to give a little background about my beliefs. I have been an Anglican for a decade now (since I was 15, when I converted from the Baptist faith by myself, much to the ire of my hardshell Baptist family ) I do attend an Episcopal church, however, it is of an extremely Anglo-Catholic and theologically orthodox persuasion. In fact, I would imagine that many of you would have flashbacks to the days before Vat 2 if you visited the Church of our Saviour (note the ‘u’ as an Anglicism ). Our Lady is venerated, Mass is said facing east, we still have communion rails, do not allow communion in the hand, and frequently combine the Anglican evensong with a period of Eucharistic adoration concluding with the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Yes, I know the Roman Catholic teaching on our Eucharist, but I am illustrating practice more so than theological tropes here. The only thing that you guys would notice that is different (it is a biggie) is that we do have a female Deacon. However, the Parish would never accept a female priest and we have ignored our Bishop’s threats if we do not allow a female celebrant at Mass. Our social teachings are the same as Rome’s entirely.
Among a Parish full of faithful devoted to Our Lady, I tend to stick out (proudly) as the most Marian of them all. (Father calls me the Margaret Thatcher of Marianism; when our new Bishop attempted to stop myself and others from teaching the Rosary in Sunday Church school, I replied with a once sentence email: “God sent us Christ through the Blessed Mother, so with all due respect your Grace, I will trust God’s judgement over your’s.”) The Rosary remains the spiritual mooring of all formation at our Saviour.
I say all this because, one would think, that I would be happy in a Parish that is Anglican in liturgical usage but orthodox in belief. And the fight against the “Oh, Anglicans would get on better if we just drop the Jesus thing…” crowd is indeed a just, if tiring and discouraging given that the present Presiding Bishop is an Atheist with a Miter on, cause. For 10 years I have been. But this last Sunday, I ended up attending a nearby Roman Catholic church because the 25-space parking lot was chock-full at Our Saviour. Mass did not begin for another hour, so I took a seat and began to pray the Rosary. As I moved from bead to bead, decade to decade, mystery to mystery, an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging came over me. I have never felt anything like it before. I immediately got up, and kneeling before an Icon of Our Lady, asked for her intercession for my discernment of this experience. When I went receive a blessing from the Father at Communion, he whispered “and, welcome my friend.” This priest, in a city of over a million people like Atlanta, and in the second-largest Parish in the city. recognized a newcomer and welcomed him. I knew then, that the doors were truly open. But going through them for an Anglo-Catholic is easier said than done.
As I continue to pray, I realize that I may be in a Parish whose beliefs reflect my own, but that I am in a Diocese and a National Church whose beliefs are contrary to the historic Catholic faith. I feel a longing to convert. At the same time, and many ex-Anglicans will tell you this, there are certain cultural and liturgical aspects of Anglicanism that make the thought of leaving a somber one as well. Our Rite I (traditional) Eucharistic prayer is sheer poetry, our tradition of Evensong is lovely and deeply moving, and receiving the Lord in both kinds at the Mass is almost an essential for us. I feel an unexplained longing to return to Christ’s Holy Catholic church. I want to hear others thoughts on how I might follow the Spirit’s guidance while attenuating (to the extent that is possible) the homesickness that will follow when I leave Anglican customaries behind.
As a final thought, for me, Anglican use within the RC is not an option. It would be like an Ex-smoker working at a Cigar bar. If and when I do return ‘home,’ it must be to a true Roman-rite church. It has to be a clean conversion, in other words.
I ask first, for your prayers in this uncertain time. The daunting decision makes this young man of 25 feel like that 15 year old who nervously walked into an Anglican church one day with no idea what to expect. For my part, I will continue to look to Our Lady, the very means by which the comfort and peace that are in Christ Jesus are brought to us.
And finally, I want to hear thoughts and feedback. Former Anglicans, what is your experience converting? Life-long Catholics, your advice is valuable as well.
I am off to (Catholic) church for the Rosary and Benediction. Thank you for your prayers, and I look forward to the replies that will await when I return.