The first three priests of the freshly-erected Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham were ordained yesterday, thanks be to God. There will be many articles regarding them but maybe a good place to start reading is at the sensible Anna Arco’s article at the Catholic Herald.
One thing stuck out when reading The Tablet’s feature article on the matter by Elena Curti. In it she writes in reference to the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Fr Marcus Stock:
Fr Stock is keen for the Holy Week receptions into the ordinariate to be sensitive in order to maintain good ecumenical relations. “There will be no semblance of triumphalism, but what there will be is a warm welcome for people who have had a difficult journey.”
There can be no problem with what he said. Yet, was he actually so “keen …to maintain good ecumenical relations” by avoiding triumphalism. It is hard to know if that is his sentiment or Ms Curti’s.
Obviously this will be challenging time for the Anglican Communion and good Catholics will not wish to be anything but gracious and charitable. At the same time, we have no need to apologise, nor should we fear a joyful and exuberant celebration of both these first ordinations, and also the receptions and ordinations to come in the next 6 months and beyond.
The Ordinariate is the fruition of honest ecumenism. The Catholic Church does not enter into ecumenical dialogue for mere chit-chat and a warm inner glow. The Church aims to bring our separated brethren back into the Church by means of ecumenical dialogue, demonstrating to them the truth of Catholic teaching and its claims to authentic authority. Fathers Keith, John and Andrew are the first-fruits of a new and potentially large ecumenical harvest of reconciliation to the Church. For this we must rejoice, and not say sorry, nor feel embarrassed. Our Lord was neither apologetic nor coy when he declared that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt 15:24). It was not his exclusive mission, nor is it the Church’s exclusive mission. But it is a real part of its mission and now that it bears much fruit we should rejoice.
Nor should we worry too much about ecumenical sensitivities. While rejoicing we are not gloating. Yet it is true that the heat has been turned up on the Anglican communion. There are now even fewer reasons to stay and more than ever to come back to the Church for those Anglicans with Catholic sensibilities. This may upset some Anglicans but it need not upset Catholics: it is the seed of ecumenism grown to a point when it can bear much fruit. The Anglican communion has given much to England: a wonderful liturgical sense, a missionary endeavour worthy of admiration, the voice of conscience to a country that has grown ever more secular and unbelieving over the last 250 years or more. On these levels God has used it to bring good out of the damage of the Reformation. But now the Anglican communion has largely ceased to voice the Christian message in any significant way and has yielded to secular forces especially in the areas of morality, theology and social teaching. I suspect that its day has passed, and now is the time for English Christians to return to the Church that brought Christianity here originally.
To say so is not triumphalistic. It is to be confident in the truth and rightness of the Church’s ecumenical endeavour. It is to rejoice at the return to the fold of so many lost sheep. It is to turn to the Anglican communion with arms outstretched and say, “Now is the acceptable time. Come home.” If we are in any way triumphalistic it is only the triumphalism shown by the father as he welcomed home his prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). And for that we have our Lord’s own warrant:
But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
And certainly let us who are in the Church not be like the prodigal’s elder brother as we see our separated brethren return:
Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
How can we rest and be happy until our brethren are back home with us? Perhaps now their return has begun in earnest. If so, let us rejoice and be glad.