Author Archives: sacristan

#TractSwarm Seven: Priestly Formation – Insights from the Trenches

At the recent SCP Annual Conference in Atlanta, we engaged in deep theological reflection on various facets of priestly formation. This discussion included the content and structure of seminary education, new models for academic preparation, and the spiritual formation of priests in habits of holiness.

To continue the momentum of the conference, we are inviting current seminarians and recent graduates to offer their personal insights on the needs, challenges, and opportunities on any aspect of priestly formation. For those who attended the Atlanta conference, we would also greatly value your feedback on your experience of the conference as a seminarian or newly ordained clergy.  More seasoned clergy are also welcome to submit their blog postings reflecting on our conference theme too,

  1. Post the submission you wish to share on your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm
  2. Include the TractSwarm logo code below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Mtr. Anjel Scarborough. As people write posts, she will list them below…

Swarm on!

Mtr. Anjel Scarborough

Posts:

#TractSwarm Six: Preaching the Context

We are living in unsettled and disturbing times marked by unrest, violence, and calls for justice for the marginalized. As clergy, we have an obligation to be a voice for Christian justice, peace and mercy. In a world where moral conscience is now largely left to individuals, how does our preaching address these issues?

Our SCP members have been preaching about justice within the context of Catholic spiritual and moral teaching. We invite our members to share recent sermons in this #TractSwarm series on Preaching the Context.

Post sermons you wish to share on your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Mtr. Anjel Scarborough. As people write posts, she will list them below…

Swarm on!

Mtr. Anjel Scarborough

Posts:

Mtr. Lizette Larson-Miller – Proper 10C Sempersacramentalis
Fr. Anthony Hutchinson – Proper 7C Ellipticalglory
Fr. Bill Carroll – Proper 10C Emmanuel Shawnee

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#TractSwarm Five: Fasting – a Catholic tradition

LentCloud

We are now between the historical liturgical Sundays of Sexigesima and Quinquagesima and Lent is quickly approaching. Our culture at large is aware that something is happening on Ash Wednesday as they see the faithful emerge from church with ashes imposed on their foreheads; however, beyond that the cultural understanding of Lent often revolves around “giving something up.”

As a young child in the Lutheran Church (pre-merger …  yes I am that old), not much was made of the Lenten practices of “fasting and self-denial” other than having Lenten mite boxes. However, my Roman Catholic cousins ate fish on Fridays and seemed to make more out of this than we did. Only after joining the Episcopal Church did I hear the exhortation on Ash Wednesday which includes the call to observe fasting and self-denial.

For our Fifth #TractSwarm, we are asking for your thoughts on the practices of “fasting and self-denial.” Why is this important to the observance of a holy Lent? What are the purposes of focusing on these practices? How can we practice fasting beyond the obvious ways involving food? What is the relationship between fasting and feasting – particularly surrounding those Sundays “in Lent” but not “of Lent”?

Post your essay to your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Mtr. Anjel Scarborough. As people write posts, she will list them below…

Swarm on!

Mtr. Anjel Scarborough


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Posts on #TractSwarm Five: Fasting – a Catholic tradition
Posted in the order they were written.

Fr. Ethan Jewett – The Language of Fasting

Let Not Sacred Things Become Profane – Fr. Ryan Whitely, Sermon at 7th Annual Conference Low Mass

 

THE SOCIETY OF CATHOLIC PRIESTS

7TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE MEETING IN DENVER, CO

Psalm 112:1-9 • Acts 20: 28 – 32 • Luke 16: 10 – 15

On January 5, 1951, C.S. Lewis wrote a letter to a young man named Sheldon Vanauken, an American friend of his whom he had met while Vanauken was a student at Oxford. The letter included a line which stopped me in my tracks. Vanauken, his wife Jean, and Lewis had become friends when the Vanauken’s faith was only just budding, and Sheldon had sought out the Oxford Don as someone he trusted intellectually who might guide him through the tumultuous waters of conversion from atheism. Their story is a fascinating and a tragic one, which Sheldon recalls with poetical prose in his memoir entitled, “A Severe Mercy”. I commend it to your no-doubt ever-growing reading lists, for even if you find you don’t care for Sheldon (his relationship with his wife Jean is a unique one and probably an acquired taste) the letters from C.S. Lewis are priceless.

The letter in question concerned an inquiry he had made of Lewis on whether or not Sheldon, now a Christian, should pursue holy orders. Lewis counseled against it, identifying three reasons, but the principle one was that he thought it might be detrimental to his soul. If you think that’s an overly harsh assessment of our beloved vocation, you might not want to read the book! Lewis thought there was a lot to be said for one’s spiritual interests differing from one’s job. Clergy in particular, he warned, sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the “natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation.” This might have been one of those lines that catches you up when you’re reading and causes you to put the book down to think for a while, but it was almost at the end of the letter, so I continued. And I’m glad I did, because the real kicker was in the last paragraph. Continuing the theme, Lewis wrote, “’None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterised with holy things’: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job.” Like I said, I was stopped in my tracks.

Our Gospel lesson today invites us to be cautious about what we love and to be thoughtful about what we choose to prize. Our theme for this 7th Annual Conference is the Heart of Catholicity, and from my perspective, it invites us to consider the same. As priests, deacons, and religious, our hands handle all manner of sacred things on a daily basis. Prayer books worn at the edges with their dirty pages threatening to come loose from the binding. Linens and vestments lovingly set aside for holy use. Sacred vessels of gold and silver in holy tabernacles. And of course, that which those vessels contain: the Body and Blood of our dear Lord, which we distribute at church and carry out to the faithful stuck elsewhere. I remember a time when I would have trembled even to be in close proximity to some of those things, but now, too often, I pick them up like car keys, a necessary tool to carry out my duty. And I wondered, as I read Lewis’ letter, had my hands become cauterized by holy things? As you hear Lewis’ powerful line, do you wonder the same?

My wondering took me deep into thought and eventually, prayer. I remembered someone on my discernment committee before I was an aspirant asking me if I was sure it was a calling, because there are many ways to serve God, most of them as a lay person. Then, I remembered the feel of the holy oil being pressed into my palms at my ordination, and I wondered, has it burned off by becoming a matter of the job? In my prayers, God led me to understand that I was thinking about this all wrong. But don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet, for what God said to me only increased the strength of Lewis’ convicting line. I was deeper in the weeds, not out of them. I was being led closer to the heart of Catholicity.

Linens, vestments, pyxes, candles, cassocks, yes, even thuribles: they’re tools. Important, traditional, sacred. But tools. So, once we realize that, (and I’m not suggesting we haven’t) it’s no wonder we no longer tremble in their sight. Lest you think I’m throwing out the Baby Jesus with the bathwater, let me say this: So long as all those priestly tools remain symbols, pointing beyond themselves to our Great High Priest, then I’m all for them. But, the Sacrament, that’s something different. That’s cause to tremble. And the vessels of the Sacrament as well, but I don’t mean the patens and chalices, the ciboriums and monstrances. I mean the people into whose hands and mouths we have the high duty and privilege of delivering the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here then is the heart of Catholicity: that Jesus died to save sinners. Here then is our cause to tremble: that we have been given charge over the souls of some of those for whom Jesus died. When our people become matters of the job, we are like those sacred things become profane that Lewis wrote about and what we have prized above those beloved daughters and sons of God becomes nothing less than our golden calf.

Vanauken never became a priest; I think he trembled at the thought. As priests, deacons, and religious, we are given charge over all matter of sacred things. The most important of those sacred things, though, don’t have names like chasuble or cope, but names like those conferred at baptism where we hear echoing across the ripples on that water the voice of God saying, “You are my child, my beloved…” The most sacred things we come into contact with are they who walk through our doors each and every day, those whose path’s we cross on city streets and country lanes, those we visit lying in great weakness in hospital beds, those who attend our day cares and our schools. Here then is the heart of Catholicity: that Jesus died to save sinners and those sinners, including you and me, bearing the Sacrament within them, over whom we’ve been given charge, are precious in His sight. May we never be cauterized to their holiness.

Amen.

#TractSwarm Four: The Heart of 21st Century Anglican Catholicity

“The real development of theology is . . . the process in which the Church, standing firm in her old truths, enters into the apprehension of the new social and intellectual movements of each age . . . and is able to assimilate all new material, to welcome and give its place to all new knowledge, to throw herself into the sanctification of each new social order, bringing forth out of her treasures things new and old, and showing again and again her power of witnessing under changed conditions to the catholic capacity of her faith and life.” ~ Lux Mundi: A series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation (Charles Gore, ed.), Preface to the 1st Edition, 1889.

anglo_catholic_liturgy_2The Society Facebook Page regularly gets messages and posts from people asking if we are “real priests” and, if so, if we can answer a question about something. Several of our members get questions regularly, when people see the name of our Society, about whether they are some kind of ecumenical group for Roman Catholics and Anglicans. We seem to go back and forth in Chapter meetings and other gatherings of the Society, debating the finer points of a well-made cassock and then debating whether we should be debating about wearing cassocks! Many members are clear that they are not interested in a “gin and lace” group… while, at the same time, a good number of our members enjoy good gin and well-made lace.

What does it mean to say we are Catholic Anglicans? When we say that one of the twin aims of the Society is Catholic Evangelism… what does that actually mean? Does it mean being evangelistic within our church for the Catholic tradition? Does it mean using the Catholic tradition as the source of our evangelistic efforts outside of the church?

Most importantly, what is at the heart of catholicity for the 21st century Anglican?

This is the Theme for our 7th Annual Conference, October 7-10, 2015, in Denver. What is at the heart of Catholicity?

For our Fourth #TractSwarm, we are asking for your thoughts on this question. What is at the heart of the theology and practice of Catholic Anglicans today? What is the most important message of the Catholic tradition of our church to the broader body? What, for you, is at the core of why you identify as a Catholic?

Post your essay to your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Fr. Jared Cramer. As people write posts, he will list them below…

Swarm on!


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Posts on #TractSwarm Four: The Heart of 21st Century Anglican Catholicity
Posted in the order they were written.

#TractSwarm Three: Prayer Book Revision

It is a most invaluable part of that blessed “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people,” according to the various exigency of times and occasions.” ~ Preface to the BCP, page 9

Title Page of the 1662 BCP

Title Page of the 1662 BCP

In many ways, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was a realization of many of the aims of the Catholic movement in the Anglican Communion. Communion was once more located as the central act of worship on Sundays and other Major Feasts. The office was restored and expanded. New pastoral rites were added along with a much fuller traditional observance of Holy Week. And, as the years have gone one, chasubles, candles, and many of the components of Anglo-Catholic worship are now common and uncontroversial.

At the same time, those who lived through the transition to the 1979 BCP remember how controversial it was. It was a difficult time to be a priest—exciting, perhaps—but hard.

As the Episcopal Church prepares for her 78th General Convention, one of the questions being considered is whether or not it is time for a further revision to the prayer book. Everything from gender-inclusive language to a new BCP rite for marriage has been suggested.

What is needed? Does the current Book of Common Prayer remain sufficient for our time? Is there a need for a revision, whether small or large? Or, like in some other parts of the Communion, are the days of one shared book of worship slipping away with supplemental liturgies taking the place? There have been times where the Anglo-Catholic movement has been seen as the home of much inattention to the rubrics and rules of the BCP—is that still the case?

What does Common Prayer need to look like in the Episcopal Church today—and what should General Convention be focusing on to help further that end?

For our third #TractSwarm, we are asking our members to write blog posts about their own thoughts as priests, deacons, bishops, religious, or seminarians on these questions. What do we, as the church in the 21st century believe should happen with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer?

We’d particularly invite our Canadian members to chime in—your experience of a different book can shed some light on these questions for us in the United States.

Post your essay to your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Fr. Jared Cramer. As people write posts, he will list them below…

Swarm on!


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Posts on #TractSwarm Three: Prayer Book Revision
Posted in the order they were written.

#TractSwarm Two: Faith in Christ’s Resurrection

resurrection-icon“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… on the third day he rose again.”

Each day in the public prayer of the church, we confess belief in the resurrection through the Apostles’ Creed. Each Sunday and other major feast we confess as well that we believe that “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.”

However, what exactly does it mean to believe in the resurrection? Must all Christians believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ? If so, why? If not, how do we understand these creeds?

And, perhaps most importantly, how does our belief in Christ’s resurrection change the shape of our lives, how does it affect the way we think and act and worship as Christians?

For our second #TractSwarm, we are asking our members to write blog posts about their own thoughts as priests, deacons, bishops, religious, or seminarians on these questions. What do we, as the church in the 21st century believe we are celebrating in the Great Fifty Days?

Post your essay to your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Fr. Jared Cramer. As people write posts, he will list them below…

Swarm on!


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Posts on #TractSwarm Two: Faith in Christ’s Resurrection
Posted in the order they were written.

#TractSwarm One: The Sacrament of Reconciliation

the-sacrament-of-reconciliation“All may. Some should. None must.” This aphorism regarding the practice of private confession is one of the most potent and popular in the Episcopal Church. But does it actually represent what we believe as Episcopalians regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

During Lent, many churches hear the Exhortation, including the call to avail yourself of “a discreet and understanding priest” when you are particularly burdened. It urges the faithful to careful preparation for the reception of Holy Eucharist.

For our first #TractSwarm, we are asking our members to write blog posts about their experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Is it a part of your life? Should it be a part of the life of every Episcopalian? Is the aphorism above accurate… or is it time to revisit the way we talk about this Sacrament?

Post your essay to your own blog with the hashtag #TractSwarm—and be sure to use the TractSwarm logo below to mark your essay as a part of this project. You can simply cut and paste the following code into the end of your post:

<a href=”http://www.thescp.org/tracts/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.thescp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/tractswarm.jpg” width=”100%” /></a>

After you are done posting your essay, then e-mail a link to our Communications Director, Fr. Jared Cramer. As people write posts, he will list them below…

Swarm on!


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Posts on #TractSwarm One: The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Posted in the order they were written.

Advent 2 & Ferguson

The Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, Assisting Bishop of Chicago

The Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, Assisting Bishop of Chicago

Advent 2, Trinity Cathedral, Davenport Iowa

On this Second Sunday of Advent, our Presiding Bishop has asked us to remember the victims of the Ebola virus, especially in West Africa, and to pray for our church’s efforts to combat this dread disease. I had even prepared something on that… but now feel that I cannot avoid addressing a disease affecting us even closer to home.

I speak of the deepening racial divide in this country spotlighted by recent Grand Jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to bring indictments against certain police officers involved in the deaths of two Black men.

Some of us, deeply mindful of the difficult and dangerous job law enforcement officers have, and of the fact that they put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, are content with the fact that provisions are made in the law to give the police permission to use deadly force, even the responsibility to use deadly force though tragedies sometimes occur in the application of such measures…such as the killing of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy in Cleveland who displayed a realistic-looking toy gun.

Some of us, deeply conscious of the sad legacy of slavery and segregation in this country, the effects of which are still with us, are saddened that such incidents remind especially African Americans of the bad old days of lynching and of the more recent heavy handed policing in the years leading up to and including the civil rights demonstrations we all remember so well.

All of us, it seems to me, must admit that there remains a huge chasm between the majority and minority communities in this country which, for all the progress we have made, does not seem to be narrowing or overcome but simply bubbling right below the surface just waiting for an emotionally charged act to occur in order to erupt once again.

From the Rodney King affair in the early 1990s to the O. J. Simpson trial to the more recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, study after study reveal the fact that White and Black Americans view these things in almost completely opposite ways, not so much because of the “facts on the ground” (which in most cases will always be disputed) but because of personal experiences each of us has had and the very different histories we have lived out, even though we are citizens of the same great country.

I wish I had solutions to suggest for healing this great divide. I do not. But as one who grew up in the deep South and drank in the legacies of slavery and segregation with my mother’s milk, I know that the effects of these things are far from over and that we will never be the “one nation under God” we claim to be until they are. I know that “quick fixes” like body cameras on police officers will not solve the problem. And my Faith tells me that only repentance and forgiveness, the building of personal relationships and the hard work of reconciliation will begin the process of healing that we so desperately need.

Hmmm…repentance and forgiveness…relationships and reconciliation. Those sound like Advent themes to me.

I wonder if you would be willing to join me in a couple of minutes of silent reflection about what you could do, in these dark days, to try and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem in our racially divided land. Are there things you need to repent of? Someone you need to forgive (even the stranger…or an “enemy”)?

Is there some way you can build a relationship with someone who is very different (maybe even of a different color) than you? What would reconciliation look like… in your family…in your neighborhood…in THIS neighborhood…and in our country? Let’s think about these things together in silence for a little bit…

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid…
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together…

Let us pray,
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Right Rev. C. Christopher Epting is Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Chicago. Though not a member of the Society, he has affinities for much that we hold dear and submitted this post in the hope of saying something worthwhile in this troubled time.

On the way of indirect achievement

Dcn. John Hazlet

As a former Benedictine monk I am probably a little biased, but I believe that we as Anglo-Catholics have a great deal to learn from the vision of Christian life set out in St Benedict’s Rule. No less august a supporter of this Society’s outlook than the Rt Rev’d Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has commented on the Benedictine flavor (or perhaps more appropriately “flavour”) of the Anglican way.

One of the many things we stand to learn from the Father of Monks and of Europe is the importance of what I’ll call indirect achievement.

The very titles I have used here attest to this point. Benedict of Nursia did not set out to be the “father” of anything. He set out simply to pray. That his life of solitary prayer in a cave at Subiacco should have grown into the founding of monasteries, branched out into the composition of the most enduring of monastic rules, flowered in mystical vision, and borne fruit in the creation of European culture (among so many other things), would all have been regarded by the great Abbot himself as of secondary importance.

The same is true of his daughters and sons, at their best. Between the eigth and the eleventh centuries, Benedictinism was the dominant force in the life of the Western Church and, one could even argue, of the Western World. Monastic communities built great churches (and a Benedictine abbot more or less invented Gothic architecture). They wrote and illustrated beautiful manuscripts of essential importance in the preservation and transmission of texts ranging from the Bible to works of classical literature. They composed exquisite music. They wrote important works of theology. They even became some of the most powerful landowners of their time.

All these achievements, however, would have been regarded by the communities responsible for them as byproducts of their real raison d’etre, which was simply the search for God (as Pope St Gregory the Great so memorably put it), toward which all their work was oriented. The churches were for praying in. The books were for learning to read (the Classics) in order pray (the Divine Office, Mass, lectio divina). The music was, as some scholars of chant would still argue today, not music so much as sung prayer. The theology was written in the service of prayer and as the outpouring of prayer (and thus nearly always in the form of commentaries or homilies rather than systematic treatises). The land and the agriculture it supported were to provide a livelihood for the monastics so that they could sustain the search for God in work and prayer.

I must avoid idealising the monastic achievement. It had its dark side. There were systemic problems (like the second-class status of “lay brothers” and of all women monastics throughout much of history, or the injustices occasioned by all that land ownership). There were also occasional ones (arising and subsiding with the ebb and flow of fervor, decline, and reform). St. Bernard, one of the great monastic mystics, was also a bitter controversialist. But despite the flaws, the achievement was – and is – real. And it was (and remains) essentially indirect.

There is much that our Society hopes to achieve. Dauntingly, perhaps it may sometimes seem overwhelmingly, much.

All the more reason, then, to take up the Benedictine imperative to aim at something other than what we might think of as our concrete goals. To aim, simply, for God. And to allow what we hope to achieve in practical terms to take shape, almost unobserved, on what will seem like the periphery.

What I am talking about here is – unsurprisingly – largely liturgical. The hallowing of time by the Daily Office, the transcendence of time in the Eucharistic meeting of heaven and earth, the inhabiting of time in our personal prayer and in the undertaking of all our work as a quest for God. All this will aim us in the right direction, keep us on course or correct our course as needed. And it will free us to accomplish, within the life of the Holy Trinity, much besides.

***

If these themes interest you, consider perusing the following books:
Jean Leclercq: The Love of Learning and the Desire for God
Ivan Illich: In the Vineyard of the Text
Alexander Schmemann: Introduction to Liturgical Theology

***

The Rev. Dcn. John Hazlet is a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, CA. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate while a (Roman Catholic) monk but has not been in ministry since leaving the monastery. He holds the degrees of BA (philosophy) from Grove City College, PA, and MA (theology) from the University of Oxford. At present, he works as a realtor and has a small shop on Etsy.