All Souls' was 11/2/18. St. Aelred Catholic Community went to a Latin Novus Ordo, fasted, said The Office of the Dead at a local cemetary they cleaned up, and prayed Newman's prayer for the Faithful Departed from his Meditations and Devotions. All Souls was a major part of my own journey into The Ordinariate.
Praying for the Dead
This tradition is as old as Christianity itself. We have plenty of sarcophagi, catacombs, and tombstones for the earliest centuries that ask people to pray for them. If you notice, the customary "R.I.P" followed by someone's name and date is meant to be prayed. If you pray a tombstone, "Rest in Peace, Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667," then Jeremy receives a prayer for his soul. Easy.
The Reformation and Purgatory
Luther wanted to take out Johann Tetzel's practices of selling indulgences for his own benefit (a sin known as Simony). But Luther went too far, and tried to throw the baby out with the bathwater. To get rid of indulgences he decided to try to get rid of Purgatory altogether. But to do that he then tried to throw out the Books of Maccabees (2 Macc. 12), The Book of Wisdom (Wis. 3), and others to remove any reference in the Scriptures to Purgatory. The result was the Protestant version of the Bible which lacks 7 books. He posted his theses in 1517, which is considered the start of The Reformation. The "Luther Bible" was published in 1522 to remove Purgatory and All Souls. To this day some Protestants don't celebrate the Eve of All Saints on October 31st, they celebrate "Reformation Day."
Anglicans on Purgatory
The Church of England likewise tried to abolish Purgatory. This can be found in Article 22 of the 39 Articles of Religion that once filled the back of the Book of Common Prayer
XXII. Of Purgatory. The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques [relics], and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
The problem with this article is that parishes continued to be named after saints, take on Confirmation saints, pray for the dead, and All Souls was still celebrated. As long as the practices continued, the theory continued to exist even amongst Anglicans.
Jesus on Purgatory
The last large event I celebrated as an Episcopal priest was an All Souls Requiem "Mass." We had a side altar with photos of our departed, a mariachi band, a big bonfire, and dead bread. I preached a sermon on Matthew 12:32 where Jesus says the one unforgivable sin will not be forgiven "in this age nor in the age to come." The age to come cannot be heaven, for there is no logical possibility of forgiving saints, they don't need it! "This age" seems to refer to us, here, now. Thus, what is this "age to come" where forgiveness is possible? This implies a "third place" where forgiving is possible. In other words, Christ assumed this place and/or process which we call "Purgatory" for it purges us (1 Cor 3). Jesus also preached on Purgatory in his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5 you'll find him using a parable until not getting out of prison until you pay the last penny.
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman on Purgatory
The preaching of this homily brought my mind back to a time I was at Duke Divinity. I was in a library reading a small blue book:
Now the first remark that occurs on perusing this Article is, that the doctrine objected to is "the Romish doctrine." For instance, no one would suppose that the Calvinistic doctrine containing purgatory, pardons, and image-worship, is spoken against. Not every doctrine on these matters is a fond thing, but the Romish doctrine. Accordingly, the Primitive doctrine is not condemned in it, unless, indeed, the Primitive Doctrine be the Romish, which must not be supposed. -Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman; Tract 90 from Tracts for the Times
Newman (1801-1890) was basically saying 'We rejected the Roman idea of Purgatory, but that means we can have an Anglican idea of Purgatory if it matches the Early Church's idea of Purgatory.' It's also important to note that Newman's Tract 90 was notorious. It was a dividing line and many Anglican Bishops deplored him for it. His reading of the text allows for the logical possibility of an "Anglican Doctrine on Purgatory," but in practice Anglicanism had no central practice concerning the matter. For reasons like this Newman later called Anglicanism a "paper religion," i.e. it exists on paper but not in reality.
The Tracts for the Times and The Ordinariate
If you're not familiar with the Tracts for the Times, they're a very important piece of history for Ordinariate Catholics. They were written from 1833-1841. So while the U.S. is gearing up for a Civil War, England is having a spring day of liturgy. They were little tracts written by Anglicans trying to reintroduce 'lost practices' like having six candles on stone altars, chanting, beautiful liturgies, evensong, and all things that "worship The LORD in the Beauty of Holiness." This group was known as The Oxford Movement, Tractarianism, or The Tractarians. They and their progeny in years to come became known as Anglo-Catholics. Their Tracts are available online, and I highly commend Newman's, as well as some of Keble's and Pusey's to you all. They were marked largely by three things:
Liturgy: a concern for meet and right worship of The LORD for the love of God
Doctrine: clear and well thought out doctrine rooted in the concrete practices of The Church
Theology: an understanding that theology is lived and practical for everyone
The generations that were begotten by the Tractarians came to be known as Anglo-Catholics. It helped create the distinctions in Anglicanism between Low Church, Broad Church, and High Church. Thankfully, all these gone now as members of The Ordinariate. The Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholics were the Forerunners to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
You can see how Newman has had an effect on the Anglican Patrimony at our Cathedral. Last year when I was visiting The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham it was using its black vestments and hangings for eight days starting on All Souls. Instead of Evening Prayer, The Office of the Dead was recited all eight days. Purgatory is real. And we care for our dead in a distinct liturgical way that begets a distinct spirituality in our members.
I read all of Newman's Tracts at Duke Divinity in my spare time. Now it's obvious why I became Catholic. At that time I just thought he was the best Tractarian.
Jeremy Taylor on The"Romish" Doctrine on Purgatory
The homily I had preached at All Souls as an Episcopal priest left me thinking about Newman's Tract on Purgatory. Newman references another famous Anglican priest, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), who is known as one of the best Anglican theologians. These are called "Caroline Divines." Taylor had critiqued a particular view of purgatory put forth by some Catholic thinkers:
...some of the pardons are but fantastical, and not true... The first four days in lent they may purchase thirty-three thousand years of pardon...The first week of Lent a hundred and three-and-thirty thousand years of pardon, besides five plenary remissions of all their sins, and two third parts besides, and the delivery of one soul out of purgatory. The second week in Lent a hundred and eight-and-fifty thousand years of pardon... -Jeremy Taylor
It's important to note here it is not the fraction of time off that troubled Taylor or Newman, it was the specificity of years. The 33,000, 180,000, or 50,000 years off seems something one cannot know.
Nor could I see how one would know the numbers of years spent in Purgatory. Furthermore, I wasn't even sure if such a "place" was a place, or even existed in time, nor could I reconcile the listing of years with hagiographies where a man is only in for a few weeks.
Peter and Purgatory
But I was quite agreeable to plenary remissions or getting half time off. Why? Because I remembered what our Lord Jesus had said to Peter, "Whatever you bind on earth, is bound in heaven" (Mt. 16). I have the Daily Office to thank for that. It did more for my knowledge of Scripture than all my schooling. Praying the Scriptures works better than studying them, though both are good.
Authority on Purgatory?
But where was Peter? I understood Authority to be the "Anglican Stool:" (1) Tradition (2) Scripture (3) Reason. But how did Peter, how did The Church, use those? I saw Episcopalians having All Souls days where they prayed only for the poor, or only for a certain race of people. Those are people who need prayer, but then, wouldn't we call it Some Souls Day rather than All Souls Day?
There is nothing quite like an Annual Council in an Episcopal Diocese or The Episcopal Church's General Convention to wake you up. It shows you where Anglican Authority actually is -- a majority vote. You can vote to make someone a saint only in your diocese, vote to change the sacrament of Holy Orders, Matrimony, vote to remove Baptism as necessary to receive the Eucharist. Nothing logically prohibits voting to remove Mark's Gospel from The Biblical Canon or to change the Trinitarian formula of Baptism. Anglican Authority just turned out to be the will of a group of people. Democracy and moral relativism frequently go hand in hand. People can vote to crucify God if they want to. I realized we didn't functionally believe in The Holy Trinity, we believed in ourselves.
I realized if praying for the dead and purgatory were all true and part of a 2,000 year old Christianity, then I needed to find it. I realized every person, family, parish, and diocese could have their own way of doing things or own practices that embodied contradictory doctrines. And yet this diversity was exactly what appealed to most members. There was no clear sense of The Faith or conversion to the image of Christ that was a Standard above all our preferences. I realized my vow could not be broken as a priest because I swore to uphold "The Doctrine of this church," where no doctrine existed on purgatory and like matters. A few weeks later I walked into a Catholic Church. A few weeks later I called up the Ordinariate. I laid down my Anglican "Orders" and joined Catechesis to learn what The Faith, as passed down from Jesus, had to say about Purgatory and other matters. All Souls is still one of my favorite Holy Days.