As many readers know, the Holy Father’s General Audiences, on Wednesdays in St Peter’s Square, are delightful occasions. I particularly love the series of introductions, listing the groups attending that day. Those who are introduced may sing a song; or produce musical instruments and play a tune; but most of them simply leap from their chairs to cheer and wave. It is all very unsophisticated and innocent and happy.
At the audience my husband and I attended, on 7th May, 2008, there came a point in the introductions when the priest announced a group from England, saying: “We welcome a group of Anglican pilgrims from the parish of …”. They jumped up from their seats and waved to the Holy Father, and cheered him with great excitement. He looked for them and saw them, and smiled, and waved back, and blessed them. And they sank back onto their chairs, their faces shining with pleasure.
It was beautiful. My eyes filled up, as they do when a thing of spiritual beauty washes over me; and as they are doing now as I remember the scene.
I wonder how that little group has fared since then? And whether, at some date in the near or distant future, one or more of them may make their way along the path to the Ordinariate? By far the majority of Anglicans will not, I am sure. But those Anglican pilgrims had the desire to be there in Rome, to see Pope Benedict, and to take part in this wonderful, familial gathering; and they experienced, by the look of things, all the joy and gladness of the day. Who knows what the good Lord has in store for them?
It is a fine thing that the five Anglican bishops have announced their intention to be a part of this grand adventure. They are a vanguard of experienced men, of considerable seniority. This is just what the embryonic body needs. Their presence and leadership, whether in an official capacity or simply by virtue of their moral status, will help to give it a sense of shape and strength, which can only serve to encourage those who are at an earlier, more tentative stage of the journey. May God bless them each step of the way.