Called to be One Day in Nottingham – talk by Fr. Simon Ellis

Father Simon Ellis of Sheffield has kindly let us have the text of the talk which he gave at the Nottingham Ordinariate group’s Called to be One Day event on 6th September. Here is the beginning of his talk:

The Ordinariate and the Re-evangelisation of Europe
St John the Evangelist, Stapleford, Nottingham.

Look at the picture of St Gregory which accompanies this day (prayer card, St Gregory from the mural in the Ordinariate Church of St Gregory and Our Lady, Warwick Street, London).

Last year I found time to visit Canterbury and spend some time soaking up the history and the place which is the spiritual centre of English Christianity, after Pope Gregory (see picture) sent Augustine to evangelise the English people in 597. He arrived at a mudflat called Ebbsfleet – now a small commuter town with its own football team and railway station which you can board a train to France – and from there Christianity spread through Kent establishing itself at Canterbury.(Many of the Midlands parishes we worshipped in were called ‘Ebbsfleet’ parishes after that Canterbury mudflat, and that English Catholic heritage but that is another story). The rest, as they say, is history, including that momentous moment in 29 May, 1982 when Pope John Paul II knelt at the place of Thomas a Becket – murdered in 1170 – with Archbishop Robert Runcie, for the unity of the two Churches.

This historic moment itself was built on the 1977 Common Declaration of Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan and Pope Paul VI, who identified some of those essential ecclesial elements when they wrote:

“As the Roman Catholic Church and the constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion have sought to grow in mutual understanding and Christian love, they have come to recognize, to value and to give thanks for a common faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit; our common baptism into Christ; our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the Chalcedonian definition, and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many centuries with its living traditions of liturgy, theology, spirituality and mission.”

The word common and the words living traditions seem important. Cardinal Kasper wrote:
“In this text, we can hear Archbishop Coggan and Paul VI pointing to what is the common ground, the common source and centre of our already existing but still incomplete unity: Jesus Christ, and the mission to bring Him to a world that is so desperately in need of Him. What we are talking about is not an ideology, not a private opinion which one may or may not share; it is our faithfulness to Jesus Christ, witnessed by the apostles, and to His Gospel, with which we are entrusted. From the very beginning we should, therefore, keep in mind what is at stake as we proceed to speak about faithfulness to the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession, when we speak about the threefold ministry, women’s ordination, and moral commandments. What we are talking about is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ Himself, who is our unique and common master”.

I carried on through Canterbury and stumbled across the parish church of St Dunstan. In that church are some of the buried remains of Thomas More, one of the greatest martyrs for the faith England has ever known. After More was executed by Henry VIII on 6 July, 1535, his daughter, Margaret secured the release of More’s head from its spike on London Bridge. (Note the similarity with the recent images of Iraqis beheaded recently by Islamic extremists). The body was buried in the tower of London, or was it All Hallows by the Tower? Claim and counter-claim!

We are not here for a history lesson, but it reminds me of the phrase of that great Archbishop, Michael Ramsey, who said Christian history should make us humble. Well, we are, by definition, living through some history, and I think we can all agree that it has been quite turbulent and certainly exciting history of the past four years since Pope Benedict XVI announced the Ordinariates for UK, America and Australia.

(to read on, click here)

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