I was preparing to post another installment of "Gleanings from the Catechism" over this past weekend and I was taken aback by something as I was reading the section on the Church's catholicity, specifically regarding her missionary mandate. The Catechism quotes from the Vatican II Decree, Ad Gentes, in Paragraph 3, of Article 9,
Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be 'the universal sacrament of salvation,' the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the gospel to all men (849).
Pondering this declaration the word "men" (people) stood out in my mind. As I proceeded through the rest of the paragraph another portion of Ad Gentes was quoted,
With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them, and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic.
There was something in these readings that was tugging on my heart, so I delved into the Encyclical Letter of Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio. In this Encyclical (48-49) is contained the following,
This is part of God's plan, for it pleases Him "to call human beings to share in His own life not merely as individuals, without any unifying bond between them, but rather to make them into a people in which His children, who had been widely scattered, might be gathered together in unity.
It was all there, everything we speak, hear, write, and read about here and elsewhere, groups, universality, gathering, unity, etc. However, the tug was still there. Then it hit me! The source of the blow was not my keen perception, but the fine post recently submitted by Mr. Ralph Johnston entitled, Why St. Mary of the Angels Matters. While reading this post, I was nothing less than sickened by the realization that, due to the decision made that prevented St. Mary of the Angels from being received into the Church, there were people, individual souls of God's creation and infinite love, who were scattered. The statement that I found particularly bothersome was, "Many faithful of the parish were received individually into mainstream Novus Ordo parishes, while others found other church homes including Orthodoxy." Praise God that the former are at least in Communion with the Vicar of Christ, but what of the latter folks? This was the subject of the tugging upon my heart: individuals! Anglicanorum Coetibus is literally a Godsend. Be that as it may, I submit to you that we may get caught up in the coetibus, the groups, and lose sight of the fact that it is the soli Anglicani, the individual Anglicans, that compose the groups. If not for the individual souls, the groups do not exist. We must minister to, and nurture these individuals. We must avoid at all costs falling into the trap of "broad-brushing" our approach toward the groups to the detriment of the singular personage.
In preparing for last Sunday's sermon, in a different context, I was taking pains to emphasize that in our Christian walk we must not lose sight of the fact that in addition to the communal aspect of our ecclesial life there also exists an equally important individual component, our positions on the "team" so to speak, using St. Paul's sports analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:24ff. Just as in that sermon, I want to bring to our minds that in the context of Anglicanorum Coetibus we must not lose sight of the particular souls involved. This being said, I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination that we are, or have discounted this notion. I merely want to ensure that we don't lose sight of the specific people that we desire to bring into the fullness of the Faith, nor the "custom tailored" ministry that may be necessary in some cases. Let us continually be aware that each person approaches this matter of moving toward communion with Rome from a different perspective, e.g., personal background, theological understanding, current catechesis, etc. These differences in perspective raise significant challenges for the community. For example, there are those of us (I include myself in this group) who have for several years believed everything the Catholic Church believes. Consequently, the move to communion is merely the logical result of our beliefs. However, and I will speak for myself, the "baggage" I carry is when I am confronted with talk that I am a "convert." By dictionary definition conversion is change in belief. When I am received into the Catholic Church I will change nothing in terms of my belief. I will merely be where I belong given those beliefs. So, this talk of "conversion" may be a source of consternation for some. On the other end of the spectrum, there are many who have had to, or will have to change prior beliefs to a greater or lesser extent. These folks need a completely different approach than those formerly described. Given the variety of personalities involved we must ensure that we are prepared to work patiently and prayerfully with each and every member to guarantee the strength of the body.
Nothing I have stated here is new, but I believe it may be an issue hidden in plain sight. As we glory in the addition of groups to the cause, the adding of pins to the map, we must not lose sight of each person involved in these groups and pins. Just in the short time since the announcement of Anglicanorum Coetibus we have been witness to the span of interest in the Holy Father's historic endeavor toward Church unity, but let us realize that this is the interest of specific Anglican, Episcopalian, and now Lutheran men, women, and children who desperately need our individualized, personal nurture, love, and prayers.
Take heed that ye not despise one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18:10).
Be sure to follow our Moderator at Eccentric Bliss, his personal blog!