Monday, 8 June 2009

“Wear your tribulation like a rose.”

The Anglo-Catholic blogosphere is about to lose one of its brightest lights as Fr Jeffrey Steel has announced his decision to become, in the terminology of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, “a solo swimmer.” In these matters one has to obey one’s conscience, and our prayers and good wishes accompany
Fr Jeffrey as he makes a individual journey which most of us in our heart of hearts recognise is the only logical (and consistent theological) conclusion to our present difficulties.
“Well, chaps, we had a good run,” would be the phrase of another catholic blogger which springs to mind, closely followed by “ but it’s over now.”
It is very hard indeed at this stage to view the future with any kind of equanimity. Clearly our days as Anglican Catholics are numbered, but that’s hardly a startling revelation to anyone who is living through what surely has to be regarded as the death-throes of the Oxford Movement.
Anyone who has been involved for any length of time in “fighting the long defeat” within the Anglican context will be aware of the temptation to despair and sink into depression. The noonday devil is a constant companion in these days.
Here in Wales, Catholics in the Church in Wales have been living for almost twelve months with a sense of bereavement, not only because of the loss of a Father in God with whom we were in full communion but also because of the complete and blatant betrayal of the promises made to us. If we were honest, even the most cynical among us would have to admit we did not think such a thing could be possible – for solemn promises to be made which would be broken just a few short years later and by those who, even if more often than not one disagreed with them radically, we always (more than a little naively as it turned out) regarded as men and women of integrity, and brothers and sisters in a fairly small and close-knit ecclesial family.
What of the future? We are greatly indebted to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet for his honourable and consistent support for us so far as canon law and the niceties of Anglican inter-provincial contacts allow, although in some ways the River Wye has never seemed wider. There are those (and I count myself among them) who still hope against hope for at least some kind of corporate reconciliation with the Holy See as part of Bishop Andrew’s “untidy caravan.” As things stand that prospect seems at best somewhat uncertain.
But for those who wish to remain in the church of their baptism (and that begs many questions, I know) the price will be either to submit to the current heterodoxy or hope (mistakenly I believe) that by remaining silent they will be left alone.
And in the meantime we wear our “tribulation like a rose” and do what the Catholic Church has always done, minister to the flock of which we have the spiritual charge, baptise the infants, bury the dead, teach the faith and day by day offer upon the altar the sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world.
But I have to say that in returning to the recitation of the Salve after Night Prayer in these days after Pentecost, its words have never seemed more poignant:

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae;
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrymarum valle.
Eia ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O Clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

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