This week, some 900 Anglicans joined the Catholic Church. While this may be a small start to some, Monsignor Andrew Burnham is encouraging his flock to remember that there were even fewer Christians at the first Easter.
Some 30 groups of former Anglicans, including more than 60 clergy, joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the new ordinariate for former Anglicans coming into the Catholic Church under the plan proposed by the Pope in “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
At the reception of some 20 new members on Tuesday at the Oxford Oratory, Monsignor Burnham noted that even 1,000 new Catholics is still not “statistically significant.” The priest is one of three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the Catholic priesthood in January.
“Every time we hear a set of national statistics,” he said, “even the statistics for rare diseases, the numbers seem to be in the 1,000s and tens of thousands. What significance have 20 or 30, 60, 900 or 1000?”
He warned of a “dangerous” scenario that the “groups of incoming Anglicans will simply melt into the crowd,” and that the “Pope’s imaginative and prophetic gesture in ‘Anglicanorum Cœtibus’ will have come to nothing.”
“But, there is a much more exciting scenario which could unfold,” Monsignor Burnham continued. “And here we need to go back to the first Easter. Even smaller numbers than now were involved.
“By the end of the Last Supper the disciples were down to eleven. By the time Jesus died on the cross there were only two there — Our Blessed Lady and John the Beloved Disciple. At the Garden of Resurrection there were ones and twos.”
“From those small beginnings,” he affirmed. “Christianity moved from being a small suspiciously-Galilean, rather unfashionable Jewish sect to becoming the official religion of the known world. And not entirely successfully at first.”
“I pray that groups of former Anglicans, as here in Oxford, may grow and flourish within the fertile soil of the Catholic Church,” the monsignor stated, adding that the growth of the Church lies in “the contribution of each one of us.”