A very literal translation of sursum corda might be something like "Up with the hearts!" Personally I prefer the more standard "Lift up your hearts", which is one of the many places in which the English translation of the Latin Mass matches the English of the Book of Common Prayer used by Anglicans. I mention all of this because I have always thought that there is a great deal of commonality between Roman Catholicism and what is best about Anglicanism (in the interest of full disclosure I will remind my regular readers--both of them--that I am myself a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism). I have blogged often about the reasons for my conversion, so I won't go over all of that again, but in light of what happened yesterday I felt as though some sort of effusive outburst on my part would be appropriate.
So what happened yesterday, you ask? Well, let me begin by saying that if it had happened twenty-five years ago my conversion story might have been very different. Yesterday the Vatican announced the creation of a Personal Ordinariate for Anglican Christians, allowing as many as wish to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church (see the story here at Catholic.org). This is nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion, and it is the first step towards the righting of the wrongs that began centuries ago when Christians first started disagreeing with each other so vehemently that they began to excommunicate each other.
A Personal Ordinariate is an ecclesial structure that allows for parallel Ordinaries. To put it more simply, if there is both a Roman Catholic Bishop of, say, Steubenville, and an Anglican Bishop in the same area, the Anglican Bishop and his entire Diocese can retain their current ecclesial structure--that is, they will continue on as the Anglican Diocese of Steubenville or whatever, and will not need to be "absorbed" into the Roman Catholic Diocese--and yet they will be in full communion with Rome. They will continue to use the Anglican Rite liturgies, their priests, if married, will continue as priests in communion with Rome, and their Bishops will continue to have autonomy within their Dioceses.
I have already seen many reactions to this, some happy, some virtually ecstatic, but also some not so happy and some downright negative. I suppose this sort of distribution of views is to be expected--you can't wipe away 500 years of bitter division overnight--but one does hope and pray for further healing, and not just between Romans and Anglicans, but among all Christians worldwide. Our greatest charism is our unity as members of the Body of Christ, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for having thrown that away, and we ought to work ever harder to make amends for what we have wrought. It is not an easy task, but yesterday's decision shows that it is not as difficult as some have feared it might be.
Many who call themselves Anglicans do not approve of this move, however, and they will say that it is easy for me to rejoice today, since I view myself as having made the right move long ago. Those who do not think this is the right move will have many different reasons for being unhappy. Some will say that Rome has been in error about many things, including Papal Primacy; others will say that to "come back", as it were, is to admit that you were wrong; still others will say that the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, that it just doesn't matter all that much if one is in communion with Rome or not. All of these views entail that it would be wrong to take the Vatican up on its offer, though clearly some of these views entail it much more strongly than others. Certainly the first objection--that Rome is the one that has been wrong all these years--is the biggest worry for some. If Rome has been wrong about such things as Papal Primacy, the Marian dogmata, the nature of justification, etc., then it would not only be a bad idea, it would be virtually heretical to rejoin her. But this sort of view is typical only within the more Protestant parts of Anglicanism, and I don't think it is very widespread. In any event, there is not much one can do about that sort of view, since the arguments against it are out there and anyone who is not yet persuaded by these arguments is unlikely to be persuaded by kindly invitations to just forget the whole thing. Much more to the point, I think, is the fact that many hundreds of thousands of Anglicans--if not millions--have secretly been longing for this sort of invitation for years, and now here it is. If charity and unity can be miraculous, then here is a miracle for you.
What would I have done had this invitation been made prior to my conversion in 1983? It's difficult to say with any certainty, obviously, but I remember quite clearly thinking at the time that I wanted to work for reconciliation. I had followed the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission with great interest, and at that time the prospects for reunification did not seem so dim as they had come to seem in recent years as the Anglican Communion slowly began tearing itself to bits. The Anglican Use is an attractive one, and I imagine that I would have taken advantage of an offer such as this; but after 26 years of the Latin Rite I don't see myself getting rid of all my Latin Breviaries and taking up the Anglican one (though it is a wonderful thing and I heartily recommend it--you can order one here), or trying to find an Anglican Use parish somewhere around here. Time is grace, and I think that, in general, it is a mistake to try to undo what one has done thoughtfully and prayerfully (unless of course one discovers some serious error in one's thoughts and prayers). So I remain quite happy and content with my own choice, while rejoicing in this opportunity that has been made available to all those I was grieved to leave behind 26 years ago.
Those who have followed my last few posts will know that I particularly have Robert Duncan in my thoughts and prayers today. When I wrote my last entry, Sunt Lacrimae Rerum, I really had no idea that this sort of thing might happen, and I really wonder what his response will be. Many years ago I would have guessed that he might take advantage of such an offer, but as I indicated in my last post, it seems I did not know him as well as I had thought. So who knows? One can only hope and pray. Time is grace.
In the meantime, sursum corda! Rejoice in the Lord, for he has done great things for us, and this is surely one of them.