DOWN IN ADORATION FALLING
by Gareth Grainger
(Pommegranate Publications, 2008, 130pp, $ 25.00. Available from publisher, PO Box 391, Bungendore, NSW 2621)
A prefatory remark: the subject of this work is a former Anglican, now Catholic, priest who has spent most of his years of active ministry in Melbourne; hence his story might not seem to have immediate interest for readers other than those in Melbourne.
However, any Catholic who has some interest in the origins and inspiration of Anglo-Catholicism and especially its present situation, should find that the book has considerable relevance. The storms of confusion and controversy which, in recent years, have buffeted the Anglican community worldwide, have not completely spared ourselves.
The author, Dr Gareth Grainger, is well placed to write this book, if only because he has travelled a similar path ending in his embracing the fullness of Catholic faith some years ago.
Those who may have made the acquaintance of his subject, Fr Geoffrey Taylor, only in his twilight years as a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, will probably be amazed to learn of the dynamism that inspired his many years of progress towards his final goal, the Catholic Church. They may also be surprised to learn how influential was his role in Anglo- Catholic circles, not only in Melbourne but far beyond.
Born in 1925 in South Australia into a deeply religious family, Geoffrey Taylor was a staunch believer and practitioner of the ideals of Methodism, having even in his teens become an assistant lay-preacher. Early, however, he was attracted to the more solemn and inspiring Anglican ritual, which led him (in 1950) to enter the Anglican Church and eventually (1951) be ordained to its priesthood. All his inclinations and, no doubt, the prompting of grace, directed him towards the Anglo-Catholic wing of that Church.
Fr Taylor's pastoral zeal in all his appointments in the Melbourne Anglican archdiocese and elsewhere in Australia made him an outstanding and encouraging figure of dedicated and successful ministry.
For some time the ideal of Benedictine monasticism tempted him; but, realising that this was not his vocation (though he always strove to attain its ideals of pax et benedictio), he continued his Anglican ministry until, like many of his brethren in that faith, he was shaken by the Anglican Church's decisions in the 1990s to ordain women.
Fr Taylor was never in any sense a misogynist: it was simply that his instinctive understanding of the nature of the Christian priesthood guided him clearly through the confusion of issues; nor did he fail to perceive that such a drive was very largely another expression of the dominant, if not strident, feminism so often associated with the movement.
For many of what were his prime years Fr Taylor was Rector of the well-known Anglo-Catholic congregation of St Peter's, Eastern Hill. (If I might quote Browning with a slight change of name: '[St Peter's] ever was the church for peace'). Those of us - Catholics et al - who have never been in this beautiful, quiet (and for Australia, ancient) church have missed out on a true religious experience. In Fr Taylor's time as Vicar, St Peter's was a vibrant centre of worship and social involvement.
It should not be thought, however, that Fr Taylor's interest lay solely with a socially respectable middle class clientele of worshippers. That his zeal extended far beyond the purely aesthetic dimension of liturgy and worship is shown abundantly by his pastoral ministry in the Anglican parishes of Footscray and Essendon (cf. Chapter 6) where he was as much beloved and respected as in East Melbourne.
However, in 1993, troubled in conscience at the ever-increasing pressure within the Anglican Church for the ordination of women, Fr Taylor, to the great regret of his superiors and parishioners, resigned from the Anglican ministry and began his spiritual journey once again; this time from being Catholic layman through the stages of ordination until he was finally 'priested' in 1995.
It was the then Bishop Pell who received Geoffrey Taylor into the Church at St Patrick's, Mentone; and later, the then Fr Denis Hart of Brunswick who steered him towards Catholic priesthood.
Even though by that time approaching his twilight years - and in failing health - he continued to exercise his quiet influence when and how invited, including opening up to the Corpus Christi seminarians the riches of the Divine Office.
In reading this book I was agreeably surprised to find how strong was the network of his convert acquaintances, ranging from Bishop Geoffrey Jarrrett of Lismore down to Melbourne's recently ordained Deacon Cameron Forbes, as well as the author of this book. Further, the launching of the book was entrusted to Bishop Peter Elliott, another convert from Anglicanism, deputising for Archbishop Hart who was unwell.
The Catholic Church in Australia is much the richer for so many such converts.
For anyone sympathetic to the history of Anglo-Catholicism - consider such converts as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ronald Knox, Christopher Dawson and so many others of yesteryear - this book is a fascinating insight into how deeply members of that movement appreciate the treasures of Catholic tradition and devotion: treasures which we so-called 'cradle Catholics' sometimes seem to take for granted.
This story of Fr Taylor's religious odyssey reminds me of the dialogue between St Paul and the Roman tribune who, in contrast to Paul's declaration that he was born a Roman citizen, had to admit that he had bought his citizenship 'at a great price' (cf. Acts 22: 25-28). May we all learn to know and value the gift of God, which is our Catholic faith.