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Day 8: Different Doors

AliceAlice Heans is a member of the Beckenham Ordinariate which is lead by her father who is an Ordinariate priest. She is currently studying for an MA in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop College.

‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’

Deus Caritas Est

I first read these beautiful words whilst I was studying theology on my ERASMUS year in Malta. I was required to read Deus Caritas Est for one of my courses there and having never read a papal encyclical before I didn’t know what to expect. Whatever I was expecting I could not have been prepared for the beauty and clarity with which Pope Benedict writes. In signature Benedict style he begins by placing the person of Jesus Christ before our eyes. Christianity isn’t a philosophy, he says, it is an encounter! Moreover this encounter is going to change your life- it gives, ‘a new horizon and decisive direction’. As someone who was seeking to deepen their faith these words were what I longed to hear. Those outside of the Catholic Church sometimes criticise her for not placing enough emphasis on the personal encounter with Jesus Christ however, I would say the defining characteristic of Benedict’s pontificate has been the way he has consistently focused attention away from himself to the person of Jesus. This was true especially in his abdication as he, in his own words, entrusted ‘the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

This is also what has made Benedict such a perfect pope for ecumenical dialogue. His focus on the Incarnation as the central mystery of the Faith means that all Christians instantly recognise in him someone who, like them, has encountered the Lord. Only a pope with his Christ-like humility and meekness could have established the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and still maintain bonds of friendship with those remaining within the Anglican Church.

For me, the creation of the Ordinariate has changed my life and the life of my whole family. Although I was received into the Church separately from my family, because I was studying in Malta at the time, the Pope’s offer was the open hand that invited me to take the final step in my journey into full communion with the Catholic Church. I can honestly say that that Easter vigil was the best night of my life as I experienced that personal encounter with the Lord that Benedict writes so eloquently about. My joy in being able to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was added to by the fact that I knew my family had been embraced by the Church a month before and that my father was soon to be ordained. The next time I saw my parents and sisters after my reception was at my sister’s wedding in Poland! My sister, soon to be married, had been received in Poland that year and my other sister had entered the Church whilst at university in Durham some years previously so this was our first meeting altogether as Roman Catholics! We had all entered the church through different “doors” but were finally able to go together to receive the Eucharist as one family in flesh and spirit.

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One comment on “Day 8: Different Doors

  1. I was with your father at a Churches Together in Beckenham AGM some years back, and we were both discussing the sorry state of the Anglican Church (it must have been just after Gene Robinson was elected). I remember him saying, with what sounded like regret: “You see, we don’t have a magisterium.” I had long since decided I couldn’t be doing with a church that could at one and the same time believe in transubstantiation and have a Calvinist view of communion. I had always sensed there was more to communion than the Anglican church was letting on, and that was so important that I wanted to know that my fellow-Christians all believed and practised the same thing. [The fact that Catholics often act as though they don’t believe it (and in some cases actually don’t) doesn’t mean the Church is inconsistent, it means they are.] There was a lot more to it than that (the subtlety of Catholic teaching as against that of the Pentecostalists, and the authority of the Church as distinct from being dependent on the whims of the interpretation of a particular preacher, being two). [ Again, if some Catholics behave more like non-Catholics, that is their opinion, or lack of knowledge, not the teaching of the Church.]

    What has happened since my days as a student (when I came into the Church, in Germany. so I felt particularly close to Benedikt XVI, our dear German Shepherd) makes me thankful for the voice of the Church and that Our Lord founded his Church on a Rock and not the shifting sands of popular opinion (those that say the Church should get into the 21st century, take note). We have had two great Popes and we need a third …. where, o where, is he to be found?

    I am so glad your family were all united as Catholics. Mine found my conversion very hard, in particular my dad. Now, with a renewed emphasis on evangelization rather than it being absent (or at least downplayed) in the Church since Vatican II, what I learned from my dad and what I am learning as a Catholic are coming back together. (St Ignatius Loyola was the bridge between the two when I first began learning about the Church) I think he would have loved Benedict XVI who spoke in terms of his own relationship with the Lord whose hand was leading him and he would have been impressed by the integrity his resignation demonstrated. They share integrity (and having experienced WWII) in common.

    I hope I haven’t presumed on your patience too much with what is beginning to be an essay. Please give my regards to your father, and God bless!

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