Thursday, 21 June 2012

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

There has been some wonderful news for the Ordinariate.  Our previous post reflected briefly on the Sacred Heart and its importance as a devotion recognising the unbounded love of Our Lord for humanity, and so it is most appropriate that in this the month of the Sacred Heart, we as new members of the Church should feel not only the love of Our Lord, but also the love of our Holy Father and of fellow Catholics for their new brethren.  Today, there has been an announcement that, in Monsignor Newton's own words : a further sign of our Holy Father's love and warmth towards [the Ordinariate].
At the plenary meeting for Ordinariate clergy held at Allen Hall in London today (the photo below comes from the Ordinariate's Facebook page), it was announced that the three other former anglican bishops serving now as priests in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have been raised to the rank of Monsignor by the Holy Father in recognition of their long and fruitful ministry undertaken in the Church of England.

It is yet another sign not only of how much the Holy Father is keen to show his support for the Ordinariate, but also of how enthusiastic he is about recognising the immense value of the service that Ordinariate clergy have previously given.  All the polemic put about by some, with a degree of stridency (and we suggest error) worthy of E P Thompson or even Richard Holloway, to the effect that the Catholic Church requires prospective Ordinariate clergy to renounce their past, is put to utter ridicule by news such as this.

Congratulations then to Monsignor Edwin Barnes, Monsignor Robert Mercer and Monsignor David Silk.  We rejoice with you that together we have found our place in the Catholic Church, and that our Holy Father Pope Benedict continues to value so highly, and to recognise so publicly, not only the Anglican Patrimony that we bring with us, but also the undisputed value of our previous Christian life.

We are of course particularly delighted to read of Monsignor Barnes's honour.  In the Marylebone group, we are devoted fans of Monsignor Barnes's blog (to which a permanent link is provided in the right hand sidebar of this blog), and readily admit to having "borrowed" a couple of photographs he posted on his blog, including in this post.  We also have a couple more of his photos stored up ready for a future post.  Here though is a picture (copyright Fr James Bradley, and taken from the Ordinariate's own Facebook site) of Fr Barnes taken on the day of his priestly ordination.

There is a personal connection between the Marylebone group and Monsignor Barnes.  In the interregnum at Bourne St that ended with the appointment of the current Vicar, one of our group was a St Mary's churchwarden, and as such, in consultation with the assistant parish clergy, co-ordinated the list of visiting preachers.

One of those preachers was the great Fr John Hunwicke, whose powerful sermon that day can be found here.  We all know of course of this erudite, charming and holy man's upcoming priestly ordination in the Catholic Church, and indeed some of our group intend to make the journey up to the Oxford Oratory that day.

Another of the guest preachers was scheduled to be Monsignor Barnes.  However, events took over, such that, following the faster than expected establishment of the Ordinariate, it was no longer possible to secure his speaking presence among us.  We were utterly charmed by our interaction with Monsignor Barnes during those discussions, as we were when we had the pleasure of meeting him again at the Ordinariate Anniversary celebrations in January this year. 

Taking into account that not everyone at Bourne St was quite as catholic in their sensibilities as we were, in the interests of fairness, celebrity cleric Giles Fraser was also invited.  Given his fascinating views on Holy Saturday (as mentioned here), as on some other subjects, perhaps it worked out for the best that, although he accepted the invitation, a date could not be agreed. 

Another visitor was Dr Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen's House in Oxford.  Wearing a mozzetta that would befit even the grandest of monsignori, he preached extremely well.  This, of course, was exactly as expected.  A more intelligent, thoughtful, witty and able preacher does not exist in the Church of England.  A few months before Dr Ward's visit, we had very much enjoyed reading the sermon he gave at the 125th Anniversary Celebrations of Pusey House, including his reference to Blessed Pius IX comparing Dr Pusey to a church bell, ever summoning people to church but never entering it himself.  Fr James Bradley has already commented very effectively upon this sermon on his blog (to which we provide a permanent link in the sidebar), but we can certainly confirm that the sheer intellectual force of Dr Ward's argument in that text was no small factor in our decision to accept the Holy Father's invitation to follow the Gospel's call to Christian Unity. 

Dr Ward is, of course, one of Monsignor Barnes's successors at St Stephen's House as Principal (Monsignor Burnham was Vice-Principal at one time, and Bishop Peter Elliott, the Australian bishop responsible for supervising the establishment of the new Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, is a former student).  Who can say whether Dr Ward might one day share another of Monsignor Barnes's titles by himself becoming a monsignor in the Ordinariate.  A "larger room" for that very fine mozzetta, perhaps. 

To bring together the themes of Our Lord's love for His creation, and the Church's and the Holy Father's love for all humankind and in particular for those considering joining the Catholic Church, we might mention very briefly a book that over the past few years seems to have helped many in their journeys "across the Tiber" into the Church founded by Our Lord Himself.  It is very hard to read this book (and one chapter in particular) and not to feel a bout of Roman fever, as the Anglo-Catholics say, coming on.

Pope Benedict's book, Jesus of Nazareth, is designed to reunite the artificially separated concepts of the "Historical Jesus" and the "Christ of Faith".   By focussing too much on the first - as important a concept as it undisputedly is - we lose sight of the second, we risk obsessing about minutiae rather than pondering the momentous nature of the Son of the living God's presence among us.  If we focus only on the second, we fail to consider sufficiently the very glory of the Incarnation, that God was made man at a specific point in time and in a particular place.  In his book, the Holy Father said it rather more eloquently, of course :
What can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture the Evangelists painted of Him, and that the Church, on the evidence of the Gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching?
The chapters move through different aspects of Our Lord’s life and teachings, often grounding the analysis in details from each of the synoptic gospels, building on the context that was set by the introduction’s explanation of Deutoronomy’s promise of a new Moses: not merely a miracle worker, a sufferer of trials or a leader, but in fact someone close to God.

Former Anglicans now in the Ordinariate are understandably very interested by the chapter on the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration. We see that Peter is recorded in all four Gospels stating clearly his confident belief that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, but from our perspective we perceive very lucidly that there is both a confession and a commission, a creed from Peter but a commission from Our Lord, a calling in response.  It is almost a challenge : you say you believe this, well this is how you exercise that belief.

Peter and others were witnesses to the Truth.  They saw it, recorded it, reported it.  They were not a committee or a general synod that debated what the Truth was: it was before their very eyes, and in Peter's confession he made it clear that he had recognised it.   Truth, not opinion.  It is on this Truth, and on this rock, that the Church is built.  Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram, aedificabo ecclesiam meam.

In some of the articles on this blog, we have touched upon that theme of Tu es Petrus, and with hindsight it seems extremely fortuitous that we have talked of a journey into Unity, and of a continuing journey thereafter.  For example, in this post we mentioned the journey towards joining the Ordinariate, and in this post we highlighted the eternal yet immediate invitation, indeed the call, towards Unity that is issued to many different groups who lie outside the full and unimpaired visible communion of the Catholic Church.  In this post, we referred to the power of a particular piece of music to drive people along the road of that journey.

We cannot claim that this consistent language of journeying was deliberate, but happily it reflects something that the Holy Father talks of in the chapter on Peter's Confession.
The great period of preaching in Galilee is at an end and we are at a decisive milestone: Jesus is setting out on the journey to the Cross and issuing a call to decision that now clearly distinguishes the group of disciples from the people who merely listen, without accompanying him on his way – a decision that clearly shapes the disciples into the beginning of Jesus’ new family, the future Church. It is characteristic of this community to be “on the way” with Jesus – what that way involves is about to be made clear. It is also characteristic that this community’s decision to accompany Jesus rests upon a realization – on a “knowledge” of Jesus that at the same time gives them a new insight into God, the one God in whom they believe as children of Israel…

… The disciples are drawn into his solitude, his communion with the Father that is reserved to him alone… They are privileged to see what the “people” do not see, and this seeing gives rise to a recognition that goes beyond the “opinion” of the people. This seeing is the wellspring of their faith, their confession; it provides the foundation of the Church.
When the Holy Father talks of "the Church", we know very clearly that he talks of the Catholic Church.   The Catholic Church, founded by Christ Himself, which presents the Truth today as then, not as one of a suite of alternative theories from which we can select as we choose, but as divinely revealed Truth.   This is our call today, we are called to be members of that same Church, to accept that same Truth.

Joining the Ordinariate was a journey for all of us: a journey of faith, certainly, but clearly also a journey of trust.  This is so for all who left behind happy years with long-established friends in Anglican churches across the country, but it is perhaps most so for those brave clergy who left behind established careers and career paths, housing and membership of a pension scheme to follow their consciences.

There will be some uncharitable souls who, in response to the above, will mutter that those of the Ordinariate clergy who were already retired did not give up as much as the others.  Well, unkind and somewhat snide remarks of that nature fail when we remember that our three new monsignori laid down episcopal status to serve the Lord as priests in His Holy Catholic Church.  They gave up a comfortable position among the "great and the good" of retired Anglican bishops (status among the "great and good" is very popular in some quarters), and they gave up direct exercise of the role of a Successor of the Apostles, a most honourable calling whether retired or not.  This is not something that can be easily dismissed, either by the more worldly or the more spiritual of the deniers.

So, once again, we give thanks to Almighty God for giving all of us that sense of trust and that vision of unity, such that we have become capable of being brought at length, by the Power of the Divine Will, into One Fold and under One Shepherd.

Monsignori: congratulations, and thank you.  Please be assured that what you have done is right, and that we offer our prayers for you and for all the Ordinariate clergy, as well as for all those still wrestling with their response to the call to unity.  Your journey into the Catholic Church is an example to all, and is no less than you playing your part in the work of this our Pope of Christian Unity.

Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  In response, Peter received Christ's commission, part of which was to gather together all who believe in one fold.  Let us rejoice that our lives as Christians, where we already shared in Peter's confession, have been made more whole by our response to Our Lord's commission to Peter, through joining that same Church built on that same rock.

The Holy Father, in an Angelus address given in August 2008, once again expressed all this far more eloquently :
"Upon this rock I will build my Church"

The Lord directly questioned the Twelve: "But who do you say that I am?". Peter spoke enthusiastically and authoritatively on behalf of them all: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". This solemn profession of faith the Church continues to repeat since then. Today too, we long to proclaim with an innermost conviction: "Yes, Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!". Let us do so in the awareness that Christ is the true "treasure" (Mt 13,44) for whom it is worth sacrificing everything; he is the friend who never abandons us for he knows the most intimate expectations of our hearts. Jesus is the "Son of the living God", the promised Messiah who came down to earth to offer humanity salvation and to satisfy the thirst for life and love that dwells in every human being. What an advantage humanity would have in welcoming this proclamation which brings with it joy and peace!

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus answers Peter's inspired profession of faith: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven". This is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church, whose mission is the actuation of God's great design to gather the whole of humanity into a single family in Christ. Peter's mission, and that of his Successors, is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God formed of Jews and pagans of all peoples; his indispensable ministry is to ensure that she is never identified with a single nation, with a single culture, but is the Church of all peoples - to make present among men and women, scarred by innumerable divisions and conflicts, God's peace and the renewing power of his love. This, then, is the special mission of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter: to serve the inner unity that comes from God's peace, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
As we are still in the month of the Sacred Heart, I think we can be permitted one further example of the fine hymnody that is associated with this devotion.  A few days ago, we included O Sacred Heart.  Today, we include the hymn that was sung after Mass at St James's last Sunday To Jesus' Heart All Burning.  This is followed by a very familiar setting of the Te Deum, in thanksgiving for the love, support and recognition shown by the Holy Father to his flock in the Ordinariate, and no less in thanksgiving for the long years of service given by Monsignors Barnes, Mercer and Silk in their Anglican days.

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