Throughout the season of Lent, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church reads a series of texts that follow Moses and the Chosen People in their journey from captivity to the Promised Land. It was certainly an eventful and epic journey, filled with great blessings and abject failures. The Church has found in these accounts a pattern for the Lenten journey of every soul in search of its true home.
One of the most dramatic of these events happened in Numbers 13-14, when the people arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land, and then because of fear and a lack of faith they murmured and rebelled, even to the point of plotting to stone of their leader. It would be better to have remained in Egypt as slaves than to venture forth into an uncertain future. And so they turned away from the Promise, choosing instead to wander in the wilderness for the next 40 years.
This is a very striking metaphor for every person’s journey of faith. At some point on this journey, we must leave the well-trodden paths to venture forth in faith, trusting in the Lord to guard our steps.
The journey to full communion, for both individuals and groups of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, seems not to be unlike this. In these first three months, I have heard stories of faith and courage that humble and inspire; but there have also been disappointing stories of those who have come to the doorstep but then for one reason or another do not step through the portal. These stories always bring sadness and sometimes scandal, when they involve an unwillingness to embrace wholeheartedly Catholic teaching and discipline. This is, according to Lumen Gentium 14, to those who know “that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ,” a matter of salvation.
On Palm Sunday I had the great privilege of visiting one of the happy stories of the Ordinariate, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Orlando, which has been superbly shepherded over the years by Bishop Louis Campese. Here are people who have been well catechized, with the right disposition, who have already built good relationships with the local Catholic Church, well poised to grow, and they are an excellent model for what an Ordinariate congregation can be.
In this infinite mercy, God watched over the reluctant pilgrims as they wandered through the wilderness for the next forty years. But it was a severe mercy, a difficult penance, and many were not ultimately able to see the Promised Land before they died. I pray that if you are on this journey, if you are persuaded that the Catholic Church is the will of Christ and the keys have been given to St. Peter and his successors, nothing will deter you from this holy goal, which is the principal mission of the Ordinariate.
And may our Lord bless you in this Holy Week, direct your steps, and give you peace.