Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Archbishop Nichols: "Missionary discipleship fundamental to priestly vocation"

The Bishops of England and Wales met recently with the staff of seminaries and the students for the priesthood from those seminaries. The date and place: 14th September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at Walsingham. This meeting followed those with Pope Benedict at Oscott in 2010 and one held to mark the first anniversary of that meeting with Pope Benedict.

The text of Archbishop Nichols' homily at Mass on this occasion is on the website of the Bishops' Conference: Missionary discipleship fundamental to priestly vocation. This homily does not appear to have been remarked upon, but I do think it is worth a read.

The influence of Pope Francis in Archishop Nichols words is unmistakeable - perhaps most poignantly and not a little amusingly as he reflects on the experience of being driven in a silver Mercedes to Canary Wharf.

Pope Francis' themes run throughout the homily - read the whole, beginning to end so that you do not miss any of them. At one level, this is Archbishop Nichols being a bishop in his own "local Church" (okay, not quite literally, but certainly in spirit). At another level, the universal pastoral office of the Successor of Peter towards the faithful - not in a way that undermines that of the local Bishop but in a way that confirms the office of the local Bishop - is very apparent. Is this collegiality/communion at the level of lived experience?

I found it difficult to pull out one paragraph to quote and give a fair reflection of the homily as a whole. My choice has been the paragraph that is most pertinent to one who is a lay person rather than a priest or seminarian. It is the paragraph where Archbishop Nichols describes his encounter at Canary Wharf. I thought the reaction of his audience was very significant.
The conversation at the table of the Financial Services Authority was fascinating. Top professionals struggling with mechanisms of financial control that might restore lost confidence. I had a lovely quote to contribute, from Gandhi: we are dreaming of perfect systems which will mean that no one has to try to be good. So I spoke of the need for virtue in professional life, those qualities which we speak of as ‘cardinal’, which form character and behaviour and which alone make us trustworthy. I spoke of the duties of companies and businesses to foster such virtue rather than minimise them. My remarks were met with a moment of silence, not a hostile silence, but more a curious silence. Afterwards most of the participants approached me to say that they appreciated my words very much indeed, how true they were, and that it needed someone such as me to say them in those circles.

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