In another post we read of disquiet in the American part of the Ordinariate. Rather than commenting on that situation, it might help to say something about how things are in the United Kingdom — I almost said “England”, but in fact we now have Scots members of the Ordinariate, and many Welsh sympathisers.
Well, no, things are not ideal. Some ordinations seem to be taking a very long time — three former Anglican Preists in Southwark Diocese do not yet know when they will be ordained deacons, while most of their contemporaries are already lining up for the priesthood. In our little Group in Southern England, we have still three people waiting for their marital situations to be resolved, and the waiting seems interminable. That is hard for all of us, for if one member suffers so do we all.
Then again, we share a Catholic Parish Church, and sometimes there have been misunderstandings when we or they have assumed something would happen and it has not. It is difficult for that Catholic Parish to make room for another (very small) Group from the Ordinariate — especially when they were quite unprepared for this and did not know what the Ordinariate was supposed to be about.
But little by little we are learning, both those who have been Catholics for many years and we who are Johnny-come-latelies. As we participate in parish events — little things like coffee mornings, fund-raising events, more important occasions such as shared liturgical celebrations — we gradually get to know each other and appreciate one another. Of course things are not perfect; but then, despite the exceptionally high opinion I have of myself, even I have to admit that I am not perfect.
So just a year into this experiment, it seems as though we must relearn the old adage about the answer to prayer — it might be Yes, it might be No, it might be “Not yet”. We are particularly poor at accepting “Not Yet””. We want to see how the Ordinairiate will develop over the years, where we might be in ten years or a hundred. But that is not for us to know. St John taught us that “it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.
A brief glance at Church History will tell us that what the Holy Father is doing for us through “Anglicanorum Coetibus” he is doing at breakneck speed. What other former Anglican clergy have been ordained in the Catholic Church within one or two years? Where else in all history have groups of non-Catholics been received into communion together, and allowed to keep their identity?
We are part of a work in progress, discerning the fulness of Anglican Patrimony, and finding ways of preserving it and handing it on. Of course it would be wonderful if we had a great mediaeval church, with a three-manual organ and a choir the equal of Westminster Abbey; of course it would be lovely if our Ordinary combined the wisdom of John Henry Newman with the simplicity of the Little Flower and the energy of Robert Bellarmine and the piety of the Cure D’Ars; but he is who he is, and possibly one day people might look back and say “if only our BIshop had the skills of Mgr Keith Newton — or perhaps of Mgr Jeffrey Steenson”.
The Lord seems prepared to use the materials he has at hand – the impetuosity of a Peter, the obstinacy of a Thomas. He is even ready to use us, despite our desire to have everything perfect, and at once. Perhaps the prayer for all of us should be, to amend Augustine, “Lord, make me perfect — but not yet”. Not only Rome — even Canterbury was not built in a day.