Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A change in the weather

After the long Indian summer of cool, dry weather, autumn has appeared in the Wye Valley in a more usual form with heavy showers driven on a strong south-westerly wind. The leaves won’t be on the trees much longer.

As a result of yesterday’s news, the ecclesiastical weather has also changed dramatically. After our initial and joyful reaction to Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution, now is the time, as the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough have advised, for a period of quiet prayer and discernment. Expect a little less direct ecclesiastical speculation and a few more photos of the countryside on this blog for a while at least!

The world has changed; the options before us are, if not simple, much clearer than they were. I suspect many will immediately take advantage of the lifeline Rome has thrown to us when the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution have been published and the “caravan” starts to move in February. But as several bloggers and commentators have remarked today there will be others, perhaps with the financial responsibility of a family and with children in full-time education, or those whose marital status may be deemed “irregular” according to Canon Law, who will need a longer period of reflection before being able to make irrevocable and far reaching decisions about their future. But ironically, for them the dilemma will be that Pope Benedict’s great generosity and concern for souls in making this provision for an Anglican Use within the Catholic Church may make remaining in their present situations well-nigh impossible. The Church of England and the Anglican Communion generally, if significant numbers leave for an Anglican Use Ordinariate, will be a very different and progressively less hospitable place for anyone (clergy or lay) trying to live a traditional Catholic sacramental life, as liberals and evangelicals continue to wage the culture war for the soul of a now definitively and almost exclusively Protestant body. This really is the endgame now.

Strangely, part of the ending of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy springs to mind today in this context:
“... I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them……” [The Return of the King]

However, even for those who will be, in some way or for some length of time, left behind, yesterday’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a cause for great rejoicing and thanksgiving. The mere fact that it has happened will be a huge source of encouragement; something has now been saved from the wreckage of the Catholic vision of Anglicanism and repatriated into the Western Church. Reunion has been brought about, even if not in the form we had envisaged. God answers our prayers, but very often not in the way we expect. But this should be a cause for rejoicing, that some of the wounds we have inflicted on the Body of Christ are at last being healed.

Pray for all of us, please!

A prayer for discernment.

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe
That the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire
In all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me
To make my journey alone.

Thomas Merton, OCSO

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