Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Universal Church

The Universal Church is one of the concepts that takes some getting used to when you become a Catholic.  You think you know what it means as an ecclesial concept, but you haven't grasped how it translates into real life.  As ex-Anglicans, for years, like our Catholic brethren, we recited the Nicene Creed, with one translation or another of "Et in unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam."  Yet, while we understood and understand the idea of there being One Church, and in fact are patently rather keen on it, the practical reality of how that single Universal Church manifests itself is something of a revelation.

When we were Anglicans, we had a vague awareness of the concept of there being an Anglican Communion, and indeed we were used to hearing of appointments being made in the component parts of the Anglican Communion, and to welcoming visiting preachers coming from the far flung parts of what was, mostly, once the British Empire.  Part of the Anglo-Catholic ethos is that you consider yourself to be part of the one church, even if in impaired communion.  Yet, the degree to which any of us really had any real encounter with the ecclesial world beyond our own shores (or, to be frank, our own deanery or even parish) was limited to seeing old friends who had new appointments as Anglican clergymen in the USA or Australia, or in a part of Europe where there was a reasonably-sized expat or holiday community.

Coming into the Catholic Church, you realise very quickly that you are in a very different environment. 

One of the first Masses we attended at St James's, Spanish Place after we had left the Church of England was for the Feast of St James, when the Celebrant and Preacher was Archbishop Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Kingdom.  Although St James's is sometimes jokingly referred to as St James's, English Place, there is good international representation amongst the congregation.  When we attend Mass in Latin, we are conscious that precisely the same words are being said in the same language all around the world.  We read of ordinands and priests, charities and good causes, religious and lay people from every country on God's earth.  We are very aware of being part of one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, with one Vicar of Christ to guide us.

One example of that can be taken from a story connected to the saint of the day, St Francis of Assisi, surely one of the best known of all saints.  The son of a wealthy merchant, he later became known as a man of God, showing his care for the poor and "rebuilding the Church".  In this video, you will see that the Archbishop of San Francisco quotes St Francis as saying "Always preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words", which is to say, if you can, bring others to Christ through your actions, through your living of the Gospel.  A replica of the Porziuncola in Assisi has been built in San Francisco, and was dedicated and blessed in 2008 by Cardinal Levada, formerly Archbishop of San Francisco and now a great supporter of the Ordinariate.  We are now, very clearly and straightforwardly, part of the same Communion as that Italian saint who walked this earth a millenium ago, as those devout Catholics in the USA who are doing such great works with their National Shrine of St Francis, and as that Prince of the Church who comes from the USA, works in the Vatican for a pope of German origin, and who so recently came to lend us his support in London.

Finally, a note to congratulate one of the members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group and his wife on their wedding anniversary.  The recessional on that day 14 years ago, at St Mary's Bourne St, was the Widor Marche Pontificale.

St Francis, pray for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment