Fr Ignatius Harrison, Cong. Orat., writes on the London Oratory’s website:
Occasionally one has the privilege of being present at something unique. Saturday 15th January 2011 was one such occasion. At Westminster Cathedral the establishment by the Holy See of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the territory of England and Wales was announced by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, reading an official communiqué from Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is the first of a new type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction to be founded thanks to the provisions made by the Holy Father’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
The official documents about all this, including the Archbishop’s splendid and moving homily, are easily found on the internet. At the Pontifical Mass which followed, three candidates, who before their reception into the Catholic Church on 1st January 2011 had been Anglican bishops, were ordained as the first three priests of the new Ordinariate, with one of them named by the Holy Father as its first Ordinary.
A number of things struck me throughout the celebration, and it would be difficult to enumerate the individual details which together created such a powerful atmosphere of serene authority (the Church Christ founded doing something authoritative and purposeful), humble confidence (not triumphalistic but very solemn and recollected) and perhaps above all supremely joyful and positive – ‘upbeat’ as they say. There was no sense whatsoever of a dominant power lording it over submissive victims. The whole feel was one of joyful homecoming and grateful mutual embrace. The three candidates who then became priests seemed to me, and I think to all present, supremely happy. There were several especially memorable moments in the celebration. One was when the three wives of the newly ordained priests carried the stoles and chasubles into the sanctuary for their husbands to be vested in. Secondly, at the end of Mass, Archbishop Nichols knelt before each of the three new priests to receive their blessing and kiss their newly anointed hands. We found this blessing deeply moving. It seemed to illustrate what the Holy Father has called the ‘prophetic’ element in this new ecumenical development. This is how things can and should be: the Catholic Church reaching out in charity and with generosity to those of our separated brethren whom God the Holy Spirit has called to seek full communion with the Successor of St.Peter, the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. I hope that the three new priests themselves felt what I believe we were all feeling – delighted and grateful that this was happening, and full of hope for the spiritual health and progress of the Christian religion in this country. This day was made by Lord, and is marvellous in our eyes.
Another aspect worth pondering is the unpredictability (from our point of view) of Divine Providence. Those of us who started our journey to heaven from within the Church of England never imagined that the ecumenical enterprise could ever have developed in this way. How often we spoke of our desire for some sort of corporate reunion between the Church of England and the Catholic Church. How narrow was our vision, how timid our expectations. How impossible for us to foresee that it would only become viable in a way we had never really thought of, during the pontificate of a Pope we had never heard of (of course nobody had). It seems to me that in Anglicanorum Coetibus the Holy Father has cut through several knots and cleared a path through what previously seemed like an impassable morass of verbiage and myopia. That of course is easy to say with hindsight, and a proper deference to Divine Providence should incline us to add that maybe the earlier morass was something that had to be gone through, in order for God’s plans to come to their present fulfillment. In any case, however it came to be, the fact is that it did come to be. Through the Pope, and his collaborators, God has done something unforeseen and we should thank Him for it, and pray that it will bear much fruit in the future, for the good of souls, and His greater glory.
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