In recent days the blogosphere has been ‘buzzing’ with the news that five Anglican Bishops have chosen the path to Rome via the Ordinariate, which we understand will come into being at Pentecost 2011.
It is not my intention to examine the detail of this generous provision made by the Holy Father last year in his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. I leave that to the more informed.
What my intention is, dear reader, to ask you to think very carefully about this. I have been saddened by some of the comments that have been ‘floated’ on the Internet. Some, downright rude, some most uncharitable, some cautious and suspicious, and some joyous and welcoming. I am of sufficient vintage to remember those days pre Vatican ll when at each Mass we prayed ‘for our separated brethren, that they would return to the one true Church’. I have probably (with the passage of time) paraphrased the actual words, but I am sure you understand that this is something the Church has prayed for for many generations.
So – here we have five Bishops publicly announcing their resignations from the Church of England to become part of this Ordinariate. I do not know any of the reverend gentlemen, but I am certain that they would not have collectively taken this step without much prayer, consultation, heart-searching and yes – pain. I hesitate to call these Bishops ‘flying bishops’ – I cannot imagine a worse title, but these are shepherds who, over many years, started to walk along this path, probably often in anguish and always with a will to serve Our Blessed Lord. I read one wag venture that we should have a cold war type exchange – with five of our Catholic Bishops as a gift to Canterbury (where it was felt they would be more at home) in exchange! I will not mention the names of those Bishops, but I am sure you will know who they are.
Here we have Bishop Broadhurst, Silk, Newton, Barnes and Burnham. Bishop’s who have over a period , walked warily towards Rome, but have stayed with what, for them as for us, was the faith of their fathers. But, while the Bishop’s path to Rome is considered ‘high profile’ there are other Anglican vicar’s who, as I write this, are considering where their future might lie. They have, I believe, nearly all have families, and this probably will make their walk that much more painful. In my own parish we have an Anglican vicar who converted and became ordained some years ago. Although retired he occasionally celebrates Holy Mass. I can still remember the apoplexy in the back of the pews when, during a homily, he referred to his ‘wife’s gift in the rearing of baby lambs’. This dear man, whilst not a bishop, had also attained some level of responsibility in the Anglican church, but I imagine felt unable to convert until he had faithfully discharged his duties to those of his flock the Lord had given him.
In conclusion I beg you – welcome these priests. Conversion is rarely a ‘Eureka’ moment (unlike St. Paul), but a process. Pray for them. If you know their families be sure to extend your welcome there as it might be a lonely place they find themselves in. I know this is not always easy in parishes that have never had wives of priests, but we must all learn. Our Holy Father welcomes them – we should do likewise. One vicar, having made the decision to join the Ordinariate recently described his decision as ‘jumping out of a plane not being sure if the parachute will open’. To embrace such change, at any stage in life, can be scary - we are creatures of habit.
Great will be the rejoicing in Heaven of each person that, at whatever stage in life,returns to the One True Church. Great should be our rejoicing too.
Our Lady Help of Christians – pray for us.