I am sure that most of you have heard the rumor by now; I could have said nothing about it, but it has been leaked, so it is best to deal with it. I am neither going to affirm or deny its truthfulness, but would like only to acknowledge that the rumor exists and then comment on where that puts us. The rumor (of course) is that Fr. Jeffrey Steenson is going to be appointed on January 1st as the first Ordinary for the Ordinariate in America.
Let me begin here by reminding everyone that Scripture tells us that we are supposed to hold our tongues about private matters, but often unexpected things happen and information gets disseminated before it was supposed to. Digging for information that is not yours to have is not a healthy practice, and each of us has been guilty of it at one time or another. Yet the temptation to gossip is widespread today and rumors cause this temptation (and many others) to surface. A rumor is just that: a rumor. If you hear a rumor, be careful that you are not speaking about it like a proven fact. That means that you should consider how you respond to rumors. Regardless of whether we are guilty of spreading a rumor, we are still accountable to react in a godly manner whether we like the rumor or not.
Personally, I always dislike rumors. If they are true, then it usually means that someone spread information that was not supposed to become public yet. If they are false, then it only serves to cause people to shift gears unexpectedly and that is often not helpful to our spiritual walk. The Catechism of the Catholic Church warns us to have "respect for the reputation of persons" and that means that we should neither quickly spread a rumor to others, nor give it too much credence. If we like the rumor we will often rush to let everyone know about it because we want them to share our joy, and if we dislike the rumor, we will do the same thing because we want them to share our grief. God calls us to treat a rumor as just that: an unsubstantiated fact. The only benefit to a rumor is that it allows us to consider our response to it if it is true; it gives us time to prepare our hearts to give the most godly example we can, and that is what each of us can be doing now.
If this rumor is false, then we have not hurt anything by following through with some spiritual exercises. If the rumor is true (and we should not try to know before the proper date of January 1st), then we each can be ready to receive it with joy. If Fr. Steenson is going to be our Ordinary then I look forward to working under his authority (whether as a layman or a clergyman). We can all look forward to getting to know him better as he comes and visits our parishes. We can pray that Jesus will use him mightily to help facilitate and make our entrance into the Ordinariate a quick and smooth process. We can pray that God will use him to help to further the cause of the Catholic Church through the special ministry of the Ordinariate. All of these are things that we should have already been doing, but now as the days grow closer the responsibility for this is even more urgent.
Whenever there is a change in jurisdiction or in leadership, there is always the potential for people to be upset. During that initial time when people in a new relationship (like an Ordinary to his people) get to know each other, mistakes can be made and people can misunderstand each other. As I have said before, entering the Catholic Church will definitely be a blessing, yet, that does not mean there will not be hurdles to overcome. Getting to know a new Ordinary will be one of those hurdles. No matter how personable or winsome a man may be, the newness of the situation will always provide the potential for sticky situations. Even if you already know the man, you can still have awkward situations when the boundaries of authority change (especially when you are tempted to say "I thought we were friends!"). This means that it is good for each of us to hear some admonishment about where our hearts should be when the Ordinary (whoever he may be) is announced. Scripture encourages us along these very lines when it speaks to us with these words:
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
In another place we are reminded of our duty toward those that are appointed to serve us with their leadership:
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
I do not personally know Fr. Steenson, but I have heard from many that he is a gifted priest who can "watch for our souls". Some have commented at times about their interest in Fr. Christopher Phillips becoming the Ordinary. Those of us who know him well, know of his capabilities in this regard, and we are thankful for the work that he has done to help support the move toward the Ordinariate. If he is not chosen as the Ordinary, then that will be because God has other plans for him to continue to serve in a wonderful capacity as a priest and guide in God's Church (and also that being appointed as the Ordinary would somehow prevent him from doing precisely what God wants him to do). There is no doubt that with all that he has done for the Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church that he will continue to be used in an amazing way.
Again, if the rumor is true, then we can give a voice of thanksgiving that God has granted us the man He has chosen for us at this time. We can rally around God's servant and give him our support, and prayers. At the same time we can continue to grow spiritually as we make new friendships and deepen old ones. If the rumor is false then we can thank God that He will still take care of us and provide the best leader for us. Whoever that is going to be, we are to put our trust and confidence in how God works through His Church, giving thanks in all things through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.