03 August 2009

Archbishop Nichols - Hope For Us All

There was a fascinating article in the Herald this weekend (actually there were several, but bear with me).
"Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of St Vincent de Paul primary school in Victoria, London on Friday July 17.
The opening of the school was marked by a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wiseman in an attic in the building where the school was founded. One hundred and fifty years on the current Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor by celebrating Mass for the school. The Mass was attended by pupils, staff, parents and Sisters of Charity. In his homily Archbishop Nichols described the symbolism of his bishop's mitre, which represents the Bible, upon which his ministry is based. He said the two points of the mitre symbolised the Old and New Testaments, a reminder of his ordination as a bishop, when the Bible was held over his head. Archbishop Nichols also said that the crozier represented a shepherd's crook, to show everyone that, as Archbishop, he is the shepherd of Westminster."
There are several things here: the Bishop exercising his teaching mission, as well as his pastoral mission; his respect and fidelity for tradition and the past, both in repeating what his predecessor did 150 years ago and in having a mitre held properly; and knowing how to talk to (rather than down to) children.
Unlike some Catholics who seem to think that Archbishop Nichols is an unCatholic failure, purely because he doesn't seem to want to do what they want him to do, I think he is building up to being a Catholic success, precisely because he isn't doing everything I want him to do.
The full story of how Archbishop Nichols came to be selected will never be known, but there are three phases: first ++MO'C offered his resignation to the Pope, and a terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome; after a while in which it seemed that the magic circle would have its way, a campaign began to debate the sort of man the Church in England and Wales would need to succeed ++MO'C and the Cardinal was asked to stay on for a while longer; a new terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome and ++Vincent was named for Westminster.
The second phase is interesting, because, I believe, it marks a decisive shift in the Church in this country. Just as Cardinal Heenan, intent on ensuring that whatever else happened, he would not be succeeded by ++Worlock, asked the people of his Diocese to tell the Nuncio what sort of priest should succeed him, a group of (mainly) lay people opened a debate about how the succession should happen. Damian Thompson and his blog played a key part in ensuring that there was a focus for the exchange of information, not just about the archiepiscopal possibles, but about the fruit of their parish and diocesan work. And at least one high profile prelate, Cardinal Pell, who was never ever realistically a candidate for Westminster was nevertheless proclaimed to be one, in order to provoke discussion and thought.
What was happening? This is the first time in which candidates for high office in the Church in this country were measured publicly against the Pope's criteria. Not, this time, nudges and winks in Eccleston Square, and a library packed and ready to be moved before an announcement was made: instead we learned about candidates by watching them at work and then discussing them.
What gives me hope that the Pope has chosen splendidly well is the very fact that it is unlikely that we will see ++Vincent celebrate Mass in the EF. He obviously doesn't want to, but has both an Auxiliary Bishop and priests in his diocese who are prepared to do so (a situation not without parallel in the Diocese of Rome, though we might assume its Ordinary to be a bit keener) and he is encouraging them to. Like the Pope he is keen to avoid the EF becoming a shibboleth for disunity.
My point is that we have witnessed a lot of ++Vincent's journey from Fr Trendy to ++Seriously Catholic. He is a not a turn-the-clock-back Traditionalist - far from it! - but understands and appreciates the need to be faithful to Tradition, and to allow those more traditionally disposed than he is to feel welcome. Above all, he understands the direction in which the Pope is leading us and is prepared to lead in the same direction.
There seems to be a lot of faux-ingénus about at the moment who profess to believe that they stand for a sort of labeless Catholicsm: there's no such thing. Why I think ++Vincent is a good thing is that the label he has embraced seems to be "Benedictine".
Somebody said recently: "much better than his predecessor; not as good as his successor". That'll do me; and it will do a lot of very good Catholics who will never voluntarily go to an EF Mass as well. In fact, that would be a pretty good epitaph for any of us.
(By the way, if you've got this far: what was Cardinal Mahony doing at ++Vincent's installation?)


Londiniensis said...

Learning how it should be done? (Fat hope)

Laicus said...

If he does two things, I will then accept your conclusions.

One is that he stops the scandalous Warwick Street Masses.

The other is that he abandons his general ideological support of the dreadful Catholic Education Service (so called) and makes a move towards solidly Catholic RE syllabuses for the children in our Catholic schools.

I regret to say that I see no sign of either of these.