Sunday, 13 February 2011

Receptions at Littlemore

The Vigil Mass of the Sixth Sunday of the Year is not normally a remarkable event. It is perhaps more remarkable when going to Littlemore: the place where Blessed John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic faith. It becomes of great note when a former Anglican curate and his wife are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Such was last night. A warm welcome was given to Daniel Lloyd and his wife as they became the forerunners of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Why so early? Why not with everyone else at Easter? Well in the joking words of Fr Andrew Burnham, 'to give them something to do'. Daniel was until Christmas in his curacy in the north of the Oxford diocese and left with the intention of joining the Ordinariate... and now he has. It was good that Fr Burnham (who had ordained Daniel to the diaconate in the Anglican Church only six months ago, and who also married Daniel and Alex thirteen months ago) was able to receive them into the fullness of the Church. Fr Burnham celebrated the mass at the kind invitation of Fr John Hancock, himself a former Anglican priest who trained at St Stephen's House in the late 70s, and now Parish Priest at the Church of Blessed Dominic Barberi at Littlemore.

This was a low key occasion in comparison to the rites Fr Burnham has previously celebrated for the couple, but no less profound. There is in the Church a striking sculpture of Blessed Dominic Barberi and Blessed John Henry Newman in front of the fire depicting the moment Newman finally submitted to 'come home' to the Catholic Church. Now, just a stone's throw from that historic event, this historic event took place. Newman had given up his orders to come into the fullness of the faith, so now did another. Fr Burnham referred to this. He said in his sermon how people seem to be going backwards. Bishops are becoming priests, and deacons are becoming laymen. There is in this the important message of stripping ourselves back in order that we may go forward. In Newman's case he gave up his orders and ended up a Cardinal. For others they may give up their orders to become laymen, but all will be the stronger for it, and with the help of Holy Church to sustain, none will fall.

There is also something biblical in the order that things are happening. The Anglican bishops went first - the senior order in the Church. Now a deacon has become the forerunner - the order of deacons was established second. Now we wait for the priests. I do not think we will have to wait very long.

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