Fr Jonathan Munn begins the year with a bang!

Sorry for the corny title! Fr Jonathan has reached the end of his tether with Facebook. That is something I fully understand, though I have learned to use Facebook with great care and understanding it as a place for special interests (like the old Yahoo e-mail group) and for light banter (something we aspies are not very good with, except it is by writing and not chattering). He has just written Currents and Raisons. I wrote the following comment which is longer than the posting!

I am a little puzzled by the title, though my knowledge of French points me to think in terms of courants (de pensée) and raisons – reasons or rational thought. Perhaps Fr Jonathan will enlighten us as to his choice of title…

* * *

I think you experience life differently in that lovely Yorkshire countryside, perhaps not unlike here in Normandy. Something that taught me a stern lesson was being in the TAC at the time when Archbishop Hepworth was telling us that the water was warm. In reaction to all those people getting on the “coeti-bus”, we were struggling to define what it is to be an Anglican and what is our justification for saying “Hold your horses” as the bus driver was telling us “Bitte, einsteig” (Please get onboard). We don’t have to justify not joining any herd of people all wanting to do the “done thing” (converting to a “true church”).

You and I have different experience. For example, you went to the ACC from the Church of England. My own way was more tortuous, going via the Roman “true church” and becoming very unhappy, perhaps largely due to my own difficulties. It is natural to want to appropriate our “identity” and monopolise it to validate ourselves and protect ourselves from having to go back to more justifying and negotiating with the bullies. I begin to analyse things in these terms, because I know the pain of having to go outside the box to find our own way and make sense of our experience.

I don’t think we have to justify ourselves vis à vis the Prayer Book. As far as I am concerned, I am simply an English Catholic, pre-Reformation, and sharing many things with the French of before the Revolution. The blog seems to be our place for such reflection and education of others, because it is written in greater depth and eventually becomes a self-publishing book. We let people have it for free instead of letting a publisher sell it for money and slap a copyright on it. We in the ACC don’t all have this Romantic pre-reformation perspective on our Anglicanism as a kind of “English Gallicanism”, but we have largely let go of the Reformation and have never been influenced by the Counter-Reformation (though there were good things like St Philip’s Oratory and some great diocesan bishops like Francis of Sales). We in England have the Anglican Missal – I have Sarum in Latin and English – and no one minds what we use for the Office, though most of us prefer the Coverdale Psalms to any other English translation.

The problem with many Americans is that they lose sight of the existence of cultures and people outside their country. Though it is a melting-pot of all cultures, they can be incredibly parochial like English people in their little northern neighbourhoods. My own experience of life has made me one in a thousand – and I can be perceived as quite threatening to the “herd”.

We certainly need to move on away from the polemics and self-justification to the study of history and philosophy. I am too aware that our treasure, our faith, is superstitious bunk to nearly everyone else. Our churches should be razed to the ground or given to other religions or to cultural or business concerns. We should all be like Richard Dawkins and realise once and for all that in the beginning there was brute matter and we cease to exist when we die, that life is totally pointless and futile. I am working on studying scientific views of the primacy of consciousness over matter, because I believe that the notion of God can thus be revived and re-discovered in a totally new light. It is the seed from which our treasure can re-grow and be loved once again – and influence our lives in the family and society. Along with science, there is art and culture, which can vehicle the faith and the essentials of the Tradition. This vision is becoming ever clearer in my mind.

We have now to go forwards, not looking back at our unhappy times in the past, but to build on the good a brighter future. I have no children. You do. I think you are well placed to develop the Benedict Option idea and refine it for our side of the Atlantic Ocean, to bring that something new and luminous to people who are deeply sceptical, cynical and nihilistic. We won’t get anywhere with the “herd”. We need to rebuild not only the contemplative life, but the arts and crafts of the medieval world, music, poetry, literature, architecture, working with our hands. I think you have talents in this great vision, with a logical mind capable of delving into science and philosophy and putting them into the service of Christ.

I have my blog and you have yours. We need to be as distinct as we are as two different persons, but I see the vision building up in you and the desire to forsake what is destroying Christianity and orthodoxy. I don’t care about Facebook. I have clear limits within which I use it, but I am not tempted to use it as a “blog” – because it just doesn’t work that way. If people think that culture and writing will disappear because of Facebook and the smartphone, they are wrong and push themselves into a nihilistic world where no one reads or writes! We may not be able to use the Internet for much longer for serious work, and we have had the Internet for such a short time. I hope that when we lose it, we will have the ability to write books and articles and print them on paper.

Keep your courage and discernment, and may God bless you in your new calling as a priest.

* * *

Please note Fr Jonathan’s new article Currants and Raisins: a response to Fr Chadwick. I’ll answer it when I complete the two translating orders that have to be in for tomorrow morning!

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3 Responses to Fr Jonathan Munn begins the year with a bang!

  1. jimofolym says:

    “…. we have had the Internet for such a short time. I hope that when we lose it, we will have the ability to write books and articles and print them on paper.”
    Ah, Father Anthony, you say it so well here! If the internet, and even perhaps the telephone, would disappear overnight and we ‘intellectual’ persons were reduced to writing on paper, we would perhaps be more thoughtful and nuanced in our efforts.
    Just a thought. Even the early fathers of the church had to write things down in order to communicate with a larger audience. and they have lasted for a millennium!

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Dear Fr. Jonathan,

      I do not fit any comment profile you offer, so I will… maunder a bit here. Two developments strike me as worth considering in the broadest liturgical discussion. One, is the development of a Scottish Book of Common Prayer under the Personal Union of the King. One King, two Kingdoms, two simultaneous variant Books of Common Prayer. Was that ever seen as problematical per se? The second is more momentous, following the success of the American War of Independence, a third simultaneous Book of Common Prayer came into existence, under no King nor (Arch)bishop of the Church of England. I understand there were all sorts of long-standing practical problems relating to Holy Orders, but how problematical – if at all – were the three Books of Common Prayer, per se?

      Behind these Book(s)-of-Common-Prayer ‘official’ liturgical matters, there is the liturgical aspect of what seems a – or the – main ecclesiological perspective of the Church of England, as expressed by Richard Hooker. I confess, I have never yet properly read Book IV of the Laws right through, but I venture to wonder if “In the Church we were, and we are so still” with a refusal to join those who “make the Church of Rome utterly no Church at all” (III.i.10), does not include an implication that some form of liturgies there current would be among the acceptable variants in the visible Church. Richard Baxter certainly seems to imply something of the sort in his remarks about likely Church attendance were he to travel in Roman or Orthodox lands.

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