What a phenomenal time to be living as a Catholic!
I was teaching a class on Church History for adults in the parish last night, and I brought up the tremendous events which are happening in England right now.
For those who don't know, the fruit of ecumenical dialogue is beginning to reach its culmination, at least in some areas.
On January 1st, three former bishops of the Church of England were received in to full communion with the Catholic Church. Tomorrow, they will be ordained to the diaconate, and on Saturday, be ordained to the priesthood.
They are the first (along with several sisters) to take advantage of the Ordinariate set up by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus.
The Ordinariate will set up a provision for former Anglicans to come in to full communion with the Catholic Church, while retaining some of the beauty of the Anglican Patrimony... which should be noted, is rooted in the old Catholic Sarum Rite.
Though we'll get formal numbers as people start to come in to the Church en masse, these Bishops, and then later in the Lenten and Easter seasons, anglican priests, will set up the framework to minister to the lay faithful (potentially 100's of thousands!) who will be received in to the Church corporately during the Easter season.
This begs to ask the question, "why"? Why is it such an important event? Isn't it really just a bunch of dissatisfied people who want to take their ball and play elsewhere?
I would respond with this question-- did Christ found one Church, or did he intend for some 38,000 (and growing) "denominations" of Christianity? (For a breakdown, see ye olde Wikipedia)
Hilaire Belloc said it best:
"There is no such thing as a religion called 'Christianity'... there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others... "
"There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals." (The Great Heresies, p. 144)
To do so, he posits, is to at some point (or in many and various ways), contradict the essential tenants of which the Church was founded on, thus unravelling all of orthodox Faith, leaving a faith which is totally unreasonable, and in fact, the antithesis of Faith.
But I digress. This history making moment is historic precisely because it is a corporate reunification of those who have previously rejected this essential doctrine in to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church instituted by Christ in the Apostles, and continues through the successors of Peter and the Apostles gathered around him. To them I say, "welcome home!"
Such an event is momentous, indeed. We should pray for the unity of the Church, especially for those who have already undergone suffering, by way of being persecuted for the sake of Christ and his Truth. We should pray for those separated brethren who, so overwhelmed by modernism, no longer believe in an objective Truth. We should also pray for those who continue to work in true ecumenical dialogue, daily showing the beauty and romance of Orthodoxy, that all might be truly one in Christ-- "ut unum sint".
Finally, we should pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, for health and long life, and that he not flee, for fear of the wolves.
(As Fr. Z. says,) Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity.