It was interesting to read the comments following my blog about the recent Anglican Synod vote against women bishops. For instance, I did not know that Nytor had once been an Anglican who had become a Catholic when the C of E decided to ordain women as priests: welcome, Nytor, even if my greeting is a little late.
Friendly commentators on the question of women’s role in the Church but who are not members of the Catholic Church sometimes pity us because (as they see it) we are subject to authoritarian edicts from Rome, devised by elderly celibate men who are determined to suppress our right to free debate and a free vote on this matter; they think we are somehow against women priests or bishops simply “because the Pope says so”. We within the Church know the question of rightful authority – not authoritarianism – is not like this at all. The Holy Father has no power to change the nature of the ordained priesthood; he is at the service of the truth, just as we lay people in the Church are. In other words, we are all servants of Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and who speaks through the Church He founded. It is hardly possible to understand this from the outside.
There are also some women in the Catholic Church who believe as many Anglicans do, that women in the Church should be ordained priests. I always think that in taking this position they are unwittingly sidelining Our Lady, Mother of the Church, who never sought or was given the role of a priest, even though of all people she was the most worthy. Speaking for myself, it is because of the silent, faithful and strong role of Our Lady in the life of the Church that I have never felt remotely tempted to a “feminist” position on the priesthood.
At the Towards Advent festival last Saturday, as well as stopping by the ordinariate stall as I mentioned in my last blog, I visited a stall run by the Friends of the English College in Rome, the historic seminary for young Englishmen. This is only the second year that they have come along to this event, to draw attention to the young men training for the priesthood from this country. They gave me a newsletter, “Venerabile View” which gives news of the College as well as the activities of the Friends. It says that 11 new students have started at the college this October; this makes the total number of seminarians 46. This seems a small number for the immense work of evangelisation that awaits these young men in England after ordination, even allowing for those studying in the few seminaries we have left over here.
The Friends manning the stall gave me a prayer card with the following prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest, Send young men to become labourers for your harvest. Bless those preparing for the Priesthood; make them good shepherds in Your Church; and give them love and joy in following you. Bless Lord, the Bishops, Priests and Deacons who have studied at the College and help them in their ministry. Bless Lord, the Venerable English College and all its Friends and Benefactors. Inspire us by the prayers and example of its Martyrs to love the Priesthood and the Church in our country.”
This sums up a Catholic view of the priesthood. It is worth sharing and praying because, as Christ himself said, the harvest is ripe and the labourers few – and fewer today than in the past. Those who would like to share in the work of the Friends should get in touch with the Membership Secretary, 22, Kingsley Avenue, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire SN4 8LF.