Showing posts with label Free Catholic Movement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Free Catholic Movement. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2024

Reflecting on My Ordination to the Priesthood on the Feast of Saint Melangell

An Icon of Saint Melangell created on the Island of Mull by the monks of Mull Monastery.

 A blessed Feast of Saint Melangell to you and yours in this year of our Lord two thousand and twenty-four!

It was nineteen years ago today that I became a priest within the Free Catholic tradition. I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Archbishop Robert M. Bowman and Bishop Larry Cameron, of the United Catholic Church, on May 27, 2005, the Feast of Saint Melangell. The ordination took place at Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church, the church of my baptism and confirmation, surrounded by friends, family, and members of my ministry from the four corners of the country.

In many ways it seems like a lifetime ago and in some ways it seems like just yesterday.  The experience of the passing of time is odd, especially as one ages.  The ebb and flow of time seems to move as it will, where it will; collecting in reflective pools of memories, or perhaps murky swamps of vague recollections, and sometimes dangerous riptides of regret.

When I first began to sense my calling, I immediately told my mentor and friend, Fr. James Martin, an Episcopal priest of blessed memory.  His initial response was "what took you so long to figure that out?!"  Before I would start my discernment process for the priesthood he gave me some good advice.  He said, "Brian, if you can do anything else with your life, go do it and don't become a priest. Only follow this path if you absolutely cannot turn away from it."   He knew first hand that the priesthood was not for the faint of heart and that it was simultaneously a heartbreaking and heart-healing vocation.

While I thank God for my calling, I still question God sometimes why He called me and why He wouldn't let me go.  I also thank God for my mentorship and friendship with Fr. Martin, who was one of the most Godly men I have ever encountered.

I am a terrible priest and that is not false humility, just a simple reality.  Too often I fail and I am strong willed when it comes to listening to the gentle call of the Holy Spirit.  More than I care to admit, I want things my own way without a thought for what God wants for me and sadly, sometimes I allow my passions and ego rule my life instead of giving myself over to the simple obedience and grace of Christ. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my priesthood.

There's a traditional prayer to God and Saint Melangell whenever one sees a hare hopping about, "May God and St. Melangell save thee and may a thousand angels guide your steps!"

A self-indulgent prayer for myself on this auspicious day: May God and St. Melangell save this Br'er Abbot and may a thousand angels guide my steps!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Anniversary: Consecration to the Episcopacy

On the Feast of St. Kevin of Glendalough, nine years ago today, June 3, 2006, I was consecrated to the episcopacy and made a bishop in the Free Catholic Movement.

It was a day of little but hard work, frustration, and ultimately disappointment. In retrospect that was a foreshadow of things to come, though not yet realized.

Consecration was not something that I sought out and in fact I had turned it down several times before. If truth be told, I’m not so sure that it was something that sought me out either, though several bishops had tried to consecrate me.

There were always hidden agendas attached to the deed and somehow I managed to wiggle my way out from under their hands before they uttered the magic words and poof, I was turned into a bishop, which is infinitely worse than being turned into a frog – there’s more dignity and authenticity with being turned into a frog and you don’t have to wear a silly pointed hat.

No, this was something that was sought out for me by someone else, someone with an agenda of their own, and sadly for all the wrong reasons. Which is a story for another time. Be that as it may, this is the anniversary of the day it happened.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Validity, Legitimacy, & Education

Recently I had the occasion to dialogue with a young priest in the ISM (Independent Sacramental Movement) on Facebook. While he wasn’t necessarily young in age, he hadn’t been ordained long.

The conversation started with some folks talking about the need for better training for clergy in the ISM, or rather, perhaps more accurately, they were picking apart an ISM seminary long ago closed.

They disparaged much of the nonsense that goes on in the ISM in regards to clericalism and lack of education and in those regards I would agree with them.

I certainly agreed with most everything they said and have said as much myself many, many times over the years, and yet out of the ISM, there are still good folks of deep faith out there doing good works and making a difference in this broken world by sharing the Gospel Message.

Where I disagreed with them was in their conclusion that the only legitimate way forward was to ordain only those folks with an accredited Master of Divinity. 

What was particularly and delightfully demonstrative of my counterpoint in the conversation was when the young priest touted his own degree from Yale Divinity School, I believe, and then asked what the acronym “ISM” stood for. 

Now, anyone who’s spent any time in the ISM knows it stands for the Independent Sacramental Movement, a moniker made popular by Bishop John Plummer in his book, “The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement” which should be standard reading for any cleric involved in the ISM. 

I asked the young priest about his affiliation and he said, “I’m not an independent, I’m an Anglican priest.”

He could have been an Episcopal priest, meaning a member of the clergy in The Episcopal Church of the United States and that might explain his ignorance of the ISM acronym but I doubted it and so I pressed on.

After more questioning I discovered he was a part of a group that claimed to be Anglican but was not a part of The Episcopal Church nor in communion with the wider Anglican Communion.

I gently corrected him, educating this graduate from Yale Divinity School, that he was indeed a part of the ISM. I stopped short of pointing out that he wasn’t Anglican at all unless he was in communion with the greater Anglican Communion. The reality of the fact would have fallen on deaf ears.

His ignorance underscored my point that we, in the ISM, must train our own and not rely upon the mainstream educational institutions to do it for us. Simply put, they don’t know who we are or much about our own venerable traditions.

I’ve said all of that to say this:

I live by a simple saying: “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Our validity will never be found in goofy titles, silken vestments, and photo-shopped pictures. However it won’t be found in academic degrees, accreditation, and professional credentials either. We mustn’t fall into the trap of shunning one set of contrived trappings and yet embracing another in our grasp for legitimacy and validity.

Our validity as ministers of the Gospel will only ever be found in our servitude to Christ and our compassionate and loving ministry to our brothers and sisters and in our continual work to make manifest the Commonwealth of God here on earth.

Many of us may not be perfect but we try at least to be faithful.