Let me begin by going back 21 years. On November 10th, 1994, Pope Saint John Paul II promulgated an Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio adveniente, addressed to “the Bishops, the clergy and lay faithful on preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000”. The document contains a brief introduction and five chapters. The introduction presents the main subject of the letter: the Jubilee was to be a celebration of the redeeming Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Already earlier that year the first ever Bishop of Rome from Poland had, in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, given us a sense of how significant the Jubilee Year would be for a world sadly lacking in hope. And in his Apostolic Letter, as he proclaimed the forthcoming Jubilee, St John Paul considered how his predecessors had contributed significantly in what he called “the preparation of that new springtime of Christian life which will be revealed by the Great Jubilee, if Christians are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit.” A “new springtime of Christian life … if [we] are docile to … the Holy Spirit.”
St John Paul’s biographer, George Weigel, comments that the Pope looked to the Jubilee as “a moment of evangelical possibility in the wake of a century of winter.” And Weigel continues, “The year 2000 should be marked, not by millenarian frenzy, but by a new spirit of attentiveness.
The entire purpose of the Great Jubilee [was] to get the Church to listen to ‘what the Spirit is suggesting to the different communities’, from the smallest families to the largest nations.” This focus on listening and docility to the suggestions of the Holy Spirit was to find an echo in Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, establishing personal ordinariates, where in the very first paragraph he speaks of how “[I]n recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately”.
I want to establish a connection here between the expectation that attentiveness and docility to the Holy Sprit will inspire new responses on our part that will in turn impel the Church on her journey at the start of the new millennium, and to say that the personal ordinariates are a part of that movement, in that they are at the service of what is a key feature of the Church’s understanding of herself. Let me explain.