The Dominican Sisters along the road from us at Sway have been very busy. Today, Bank Holiday Monday, they were serving cream teas to their friends and supporters, but all last week they hosted a youth camp. There were around a hundred participants, mostly from nearby parishes but some from as far as Liverpool. On Wednesday, for the celebration of Reconciliation, they drafted in a dozen or so priests — among them me. For a long while in the Church of England we (in the ‘catholic wing’) taught about confession, but it was not widely used. We consoled ourselves with the mantra “All may, none must, some should" … which sometimes seemed more like “All should, few do, most don’t”. So at the Priory it was good to see confession and absolution being treated in such a matter-of-fact way, and the priest leading the worship at the camp was very positive. No sackcloth and ashes, much more a welcome home from the Father, who already knows all about us; and the priest is simply an instrument, handing on to our Father, forgiving on the Father’s behalf. It was a lovely occasion, meeting these young people as dusk fell, and a couple of candles gave a dim light in the tent where I was functioning.
Then on the doormat at home arrived a book from the USA, “Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach”, which has reinforced the blessings I had received by hearing children’s confessions.
Now I should declare an interest. The author, Fr Scott Hurd, was a student in St Stephen’s House during my time as Principal. But this will not, I hope, distort anything I say about his book. It will simply give me another source of pride — which no doubt I shall have to confess some time — that one more of our Seminarians has blossomed (dare I boast of such other luminaries as Bishop Jonathan Baker, Fr Philip North, The Ven. Luke Miller? To say nothing of countless other priests, some Catholics, some Anglicans, faithfully getting on with the job of being a servant for the people of God.
For too many people, Fr Hurd says, “to walk with God is to walk on eggshells. Confession isn’t a joy-filled reconciliation of a friendship, but a stay of execution”. Joy-filled reconciliation is what the youngsters experienced, I believe, at St Dominic’s Priory, and it is what Fr Hurd is trying to help us find.
He writes of forgiveness as a journey towards God. We need to forgive one another; we need to forgive ourselves, we need to accept that we are forgiven. In the Appendix to this little book he lists ten steps towards forgiveness. If you follow Fr Hurd’s blog and read his sermons, you will already know how practical is his teaching, how apposite the examples he gives. This book could be an encouragement to anyone on the Christian journey; but perhaps is is particularly helpful for those of us who belong, or seek to belong, to the Ordinariate. It might be especially helpful for study within groups of Christians, as we learn to offer and receive forgiveness. Fr Hurd has himself moved from the Anglican to the Roman Communion. And, whether I need confess it or not, I am proud of him. You will realise the cause of that pride if you read this book — for surely to forgive and to be forgiven is at the heart of our Christian faith?
Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach. 122 pp Paperback. R Scott Hurd. Published by Pauline Books and Media. $9.95 in the US. ISBN 081982691X.