Monday, 17 October 2011

O Yes, We Have no Lions

We were pleased yesterday to be visited at St James's by two long-standing friends of the members of our Ordinariate group, both Anglicans, and both more than happy to come to see what St James's was like.  Rather good, was the answer to their question.  Fr Colven gave a thought-provoking homily, the liturgy was beautifully presented and the music was excellent. The Offertory motet was a favourite from my (and our guests') Pusey House days, Mendelssohn's setting of Ave Maria.  Indeed, the piece reached Pusey House precisely because I had just bought the then brand new Westminster Cathedral CD from which the recording below is taken.

The Father Faber recessional hymn, "O purest of creatures! Sweet mother, sweet maid," was a very happy reminder of Walsingham pilgrimages and parish processions past.  Much joy all round.

After all that, we repaired to a nearby pub (surely an example of Anglican Patrimony) for a couple of drinks and thence to lunch. 

If, by opening this "window on the Catholic Church", we can show our Anglican friends that there is a real likelihood (risk?) that they might in fact like what they find, then we feel that have performed "some definite service".  Doing that doesn't meant that they will want to follow us, but it does mean that we help to remove any negative pre-conceptions, so that people, in their own time and for their own reasons, can come to their own conclusions on the basis of the reality they would face, were they ever to wonder about life within the Ordinariate.  The decision can only be theirs, not ours, but we can help ensure that they have the full facts at their disposal.

As much as anyone, we know that closing the door on one very familiar place of worship and opening the door on another can be daunting (even without implications on employment and housing).  That's why it is absolutely vital that all of us as Catholics make sure that those thinking about joining us are aware of the many things that they will love about the Church.  By that, I do not only refer to the privilege of being, without doubt, part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, nor of Sacramental Assurance, nor of the joy of being in communion with the Holy Father : Anglicans with even the slightest peripheral interest in the Ordinariate are well aware of those. 

No, I mean the practical day-to-day aspects of being involved in the Catholic Church.  Some of those who might one day make the journey to join the Catholic Church are not only worried about things they might leave behind, but also anxious about what they might find when they arrive.  Where we can allay some of those anxieties, we each have a duty to do so.

Then beyond that, we also need to reassure people who have in their minds negative perceptions, in some cases fed to them deliberately in order to put them off the idea of joining the Catholic Church.  In a blogpost last month, we referred to the false image that some have, that the Catholic Church is a cold place, full of uncaring people imposing impossible rules, with no thought for or awareness of those who live "real lives".  It is worthwhile rereading that post, and watching the video of the Holy Father that is included.   The Catholic Church is for everyone, and all who wish to be welcomed will be welcomed.

The Ordinariate is a positive thing, joined by people for positive reasons, not because people were running away from their former homes.  Indeed, the "former homes" were usually rather nice, thank you very much: nobody walks away from the buildings and communities of eg St Mary's Bourne St or St Barnabas Tunbridge Wells easily.  No, those who have joined did so joyfully because they placed the need for Catholic Unity as amongst the highest of priorities, because they saw that the Holy Father had responded positively and generously to repeated requests from Anglicans, and because they could see no reason good enough to justify deciding to keep themselves outside the Catholic Church.

The joy in the Ordinariate is easy to see.  The welcome we have received at the parish level is beyond doubt, whether or not there might be politicking going on elsewhere.  Of course, we want to share that joy.  As Fr Ed Tomlinson points out on his blog, a second wave is now building up of Anglicans looking to come into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  It may well be that once the Church of England's General Synod has met next year, a third wave could build up.  There could even be further waves at later stages, because each person and each group will come to their own conclusions at their own times.  There is no time limit on Anglicanorum Coetibus.

It isn't easy to leave behind what is so familiar: a parish church you were baptised or married in; a parish church you have been involved with for years; a particular vision of the Church of England that has been dear to your heart.  It's doubly difficult for those whose livelihoods and housing are dependent on all that.  So, our duty as Ordinariate members is to answer questions, to reassure, to encourage, and to pray.

Today, in the modern calendar, is the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch, one of our earliest links to the time of Christ, St Peter and St John the Apostle, who through his surviving letters has given us some understanding of the developing theology of that early period. 

In the context of the discussion above, his direct relevance is that he is thought to be the first known writer to have used the phrase Catholic Church, and when he did use it in writing, just after the turn of the first century AD, he used it in the manner of an established term, rather than of a neat turn of phrase that he had just created.  This is said to be potential evidence that the term Catholic Church existed and was understood as an entity even in the part of the first century.

A robust believer in the Eucharist truly being the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Ignatius willingly and indeed eagerly accepted his fate as a martyr, being thrown to the lions in the Colisseum in Rome.

The sacrifices asked of those considering joining the Ordinariate today are rather less life-limiting of course.  However, we should not be flippant in underestimating how much thought and reflection is required, and just how difficult that step can be.  Some say that those of us who have gone already are the brave pioneers, and perhaps so in some ways: but each individual journey, or consideration given to a journey, is a challenge of its own. 

St Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us.

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