So what does all this preparation for the priesthood entail? For the first flush of sixty or so former Anglican Clergy from the Church of England and the Church in Scotland, it is involving us in one day a week at Allen Hall under the aegis of the Director of Studies there Fr Stephen Wang. He has a number of distinguished academics lined up to address us, and today it was the Dominican, Fr John Farrell. He somehow managed to compress into little more than an hour a conspectus of Catholic Ecclesiology starting with Vatican I's Pastor Aeternus and its background (Wyclif, Boniface VIII, the Council of Florence down to the 'enlightenment'). This helped us understand how in Vatican I 'infallibility' (so often the great stumbling block for Anglicans) is less important than Papal primacy.
A brief respite to stretch our legs, and off we went again looking at Vatican II and seeing how it came very naturally from the conclusions of Vatican I: and we considered Lumen Gentium and tried to discern how the Church as an ideal and as a reality is indivisible; both/and, not either/or. Both a structured society with hierarchical organs, AND the mystical Body of Christ, and so on. We began to tease out the implications of "subsists"… how the fullness of the Presence of Christ's Church subsists in the Catholic Church ('subsistit' rather than 'adest') — but we know we shall have to return to this.
We were given a diagram to help us understand better the relationship of the local Church to the whole Church – and when it came to the Ordinariate we were helped a little by analogies with Religious Orders – did we really hear a Dominican say that the Dominicans were a Virus in the whole body Catholic?
After lunch (a very nuanced Lenten lunch, as John Hunwicke might say) we went to our study groups in which we try to tease out some of what we have been reading over the past week, and what we have just heard from our Lecturer.
On returning to the Lecture Room, we had a very quick run-down from spokesmen for each of the Groups, giving a flavour of the diversity of discussion which arose from what we had heard and read. Then, unusually today, we had a brief presentation from "Aid to the Church in Need" (you can find them at www.acnuk.org/persecution). We completed the day with Mass, and since some will be in process of Reception and Confirmation next week, we were handed a double bundle of homework; Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Pope Paul VI — a short document of only sixteen pages, since those who are able will be back on Tuesday next — and the more weighty Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II — and alongside it the customary readings from the Catechism; this time two hundred and fifty paragraphs to amplify the thirty-five pages of Veritatis Splendor … but then, we are getting Easter Week off!
Fr John Selvini was a visitor today — some of us remembered him from his Anglican days in Golden Hill. He assured us that what we were doing was far more thorough and worthwhile than what he had done in years of Seminary preparation after he joined the Catholic Church. I hope Fr Wang heard that and was duly encouraged. It really is a very intensive but hugely interesting undertaking in which we are engaged. It will not give us all the answers; but it will equip us better to look for those answers in the years to come.