The Director of Forward in Faith contributes this month’s Editorial
The strains placed upon us by the pandemic and by the proposals emerging in many dioceses to reduce the number of stipendiary clergy, in some cases quite drastically, are such that we can at times feel weighed down and, in our less optimistic moments, wonder what value we are adding in what we do.
While not denying the presence of those pressures, it is worthwhile pondering some of the many good things – often heroic in their nature given our increasingly secular society – which representatives of our movement participate in, support, and promote.
In Plymouth, Fr David Way appeared on national media as he comforted those mourning the victims of a tragic and terrible shooting rampage. In Oldham, at the other end of the country, Fr Tom Davis has also been the recipient of media attention for his tireless work in running a local foodbank, providing for those in society in greatest need.
The point is not the media attention – welcome though it is when it highlights the positive work undertaken by the Church – but the selfless dedication of so many of our priests in places and in situations which others have abandoned.
Anglo-Catholic charities – many and varied as they are – continue to seek out opportunities to relay the Faith to which their founders saw fit to bequeath substantial sums. The Society of Mary recently marked its ninetieth anniversary with a novena prior to the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. The Society of the Maintenance of the Faith recently celebrated its annual Festival in a style befitting its illustrious history. And, early next month, the Guild of All Souls will host a Requiem Mass for the victims of the pandemic in our country.
In all these cases, we can delight in our laity working alongside our clergy so that both can apply their talents for the greater glory of God.
The Shrine at Walsingham has bounced back from the severe challenges presented by a series of lockdowns. Pilgrims are returning and, with them, comes a joyful rediscovery of this jewel in our crown.
The priests of the Society of the Holy Cross, commonly referred to as SSC, will shortly meet – in their hundreds – for an international synod. In so doing, they will reaffirm their commitment to a set of beliefs which are at the very core of our movement, and which are represented in short form by their motto of ‘In this sign conquer.’
Next month, The Society will launch its Catholic mission network, based on Fr James Mallon’s Divine Renovation resource. It will start with small groups of Society priests discussing what works in mission and seeking to learn from one another.
With the help of the newly appointed Missioner to The Society, the focus on mission will fan out to parishes so that we can all live out our gospel calling to deepen our Christian faith and to share it with others. This will include, in due course, the development of a Society lay rule of life.
Within a year, we shall have two new principal episcopal visitors (PEVs), one in the west of the country and one in the north. This represents a wonderful opportunity for two priests of our integrity not only to provide pastoral and sacramental oversight to Society parishes in those areas of the country but also to lead those parishes in their mission and outreach.
Too often we feel pushed into a corner and end up thinking that we are only ever against developments in the Church and not for them. Indeed, our General Synod candidates can be made to feel in hustings as though they are some sort of social leper, denying what any right-thinking person would find commendable.
And yet none of this comes as a surprise. We know that to follow our Catholic calling involves making sacrifices, many of them painful, and even at times inviting and suffering ridicule. We also know that it can be no other way. It is our vocation, whether ordained or lay, and we must follow that calling through good times and bad.
It is not a statement of superiority or complacency to say that we adhere to the Catholic faith. It is a statement of enduring truth; a bastion against the passing fads of our current age – as it has been in ages past and as it will be in future ages; a comfort and a support as we journey through life.
Whatever else might be distracting us, we can be reassured that, when we say the Creed on a Sunday, we know what we are saying, why we are saying it and what it means for our lives. And we know that there can be no greater joy.