One of my jobs is that of teaching Church History in a seminary, and it is a awesome (in the correct sense of the word) thing to be actually present at an event which my successors will be teaching about.
I was present today in Westminster Cathedral when three (not the five that had been prophesied) former Anglican bishops were received into full Communion with the Catholic Church.
The whole thing was very low-key, really. I turned up early, and was saying a prayer at the shrine of Our Lady of Pew when I was joined by a man in a purple tie. He asked for assistance in a small matter, and I recognized John Broadhurst (hard to know how to title him right now). We chatted for a minute, and I thought that he seemed in very cheerful humour.
I crossed over to the Blessed Sacrament chapel and was met by two anxious-looking journalists who also wanted help. They were deceived by my clerical collar into thinking I was on the local team. 'We're from The Telegraph, and are here for the Ordination at 12.30'. Well, The Telegraph had obviously not sent the A team, I thought, if they hadn't even realized what they were coming to!
I got a nice seat at one side, and was pleased to espy Jeffery Steel of De Cura Animarum in the congregation.
There was a little rehearsal beforehand, and Mass duly began. There was absolutely no reference whatever to the elephant in the room (the reception of these notables) from the celebrant (and former Tibernaut) Bishop Alan Hopes or anyone else. It was simply a Mass for the feast of the Mother of God; a little note in the service sheet simply observed that there would be a reception in the middle. Finally, once he had preached, Bishop Hopes said a word about what was happening.
The reception itself was very low-key. The journalists turned out to be photographers, and put their heads over the screen behind the choir stalls, setting the volume of their shutter clicks to Maximum and Extremely Distracting. Only the three active flying bishops were received, all modestly and humbly in ties, together with some members of some of their families, plus the three sisters from Walsingham. I was surprised to see that even John Broadhurst, baptized a Catholic, was received along with the rest. They were then confirmed—some in accord with tradition took confirmation names; one of the former bishops took Benedict, another Joseph, others used their baptismal names—and they returned to their places to gentle applause. One of the sisters, descending the steps grinned at the congregation and gave two thumbs up.
They were then introduced to a great Catholic tradition; the collection. With masterly tact, a large African woman in a great pink headdress descended on the poor sisters (who if Dame Rumour speak true* had been turned out into the snow in their shifts) and menaced them with a collection bag. A fellow brigand went to mug the former bishops.
We all received communion, (five of our new brethren, including all three former bishops, on the tongue) and, lo, it was done. We are in communion.
The Ordinariate is launched very quietly and gently, slipping almost unnoticed into the water.
Dat Deus incrementum.
* perhaps she doesn't. I've also heard that the sisters were financially helped by their former community.
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