Noting the Feast of Charles, Bishop of Fond du Lac


Today is observed, in some more or less official way, as a celebration of the life of Charles Chapman Grafton, second bishop of the Episcopalian diocese of Fond du Lac in Wisconsin.

Bishop Grafton is of interest in world religion as a leader of the late nineteenth century American Anglo-Catholic movement, the revival of Catholic forms and attitudes within the Anglican communion, and as it has evolved a fascinating attempt at establishing a genuinely inclusive and liberal Catholicism. Something worthy going on here, I think…

Bishop Grafton is particularly notable for his support of the revival of monastic life within the American Episcopal church, taking leadership roles in the foundations of Society of St John the Evangelist, perhaps better known as the Cowley Fathers, which may be the largest monastic order within the Anglican communion, and the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity, which currently seems to have houses in Wisconsin and California. He also helped to form a Benedictine congregation which may have some sort of continuity with a contemporary independent Catholic community, but does not seem to have survived within the Anglican communion.

There is a famous photograph from his consecration where both an Orthodox and a Polish National Catholic bishop were present, where all wore more Catholic vestments than was normative in the Episcopal church in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The photo came to be called, not entirely kindly, as the Fond du Lac Circus.

There would be more to follow…

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