While reflecting on the life of the late Sister Mary Clare, I must admit that questions have come to the surface which I had pushed aside many times in the past but really still have no answer to.
While I can understand the various reasons often given why larger numbers of Anglo-Catholic priests and parishes have not entered the Ordinariates (financial and family questions, marital problems, the fact that many parish members were perhaps not really convinced Anglo-Catholics but just worshiped in their geographical parish, etc.) but none of these arguments really applies to religious communities of brothers and sisters, and most specifically of monks and nuns. In fact I can see no reason why a considerable number of these has not been received into the Ordinariates more or less intact, bringing with them their buildings and all their property.
They have now had more than five years since the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus to begin and complete their discernment process – even if they waited until the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary had become settled in their own new monastery, more than a year has passed since then. Where are they all? What is keeping them in the Anglican Church?
Is their loyalty so much greater than their absolute frustration at the state of doctrinal and moral chaos in which the Church of England finds itself? Are they able to close the cloister doors and not notice what is happening in the Church around them? Dare I ask, is their hatred, dislike, suspicion of Rome so great that true unity with the See of Peter was never really something that they hoped and prayed for? Is Justin Welby a nice man who makes them feel comfy? Is “The Society” functioning better than feared, even better than the Flying Bishop scheme?
Whatever it is, they are not knocking at the door in droves (or if they are, the negotiations are taking an eternity).
I am reluctant to pray that loyal Anglicans should leave the Church where they are at home, this would really be spiritual proselytism. But I am inclined to intercede for those who want to enter the full communion of the See of Peter but are being held up by material or other concerns. This Sunday’s Gospel reminded me of the Franciscan Friars who at the beginning of the thirteenth century went out just as Jesus had sent out his disciples, with a stave, sometimes not even with sandals, and established friaries all over France, Britain etc, even before the death of St. Francis himself in 1226.