From 1921-1927 in the primatial city of Malines in Belgium a joint committee of scholars who were Anglican and Catholic clergy met to discuss their differences and also their hopes for a possible restoration of unity between them. This meeting was given the blessing of none other than Pius XI who sent them this message through Cardinal Gasparri, his Secretary of State: “The Holy Father authorizes Your Eminence to tell the Anglicans that he approves and encourages your conversations and prays with all his heart that the good God will bless them.”
The Catholic Church has always encouraged charitable conversations between her children and other Christians who do not enjoy visible unity with her. Thus it is no surprise that from before the Second Vatican Council until now, seven successive Archbishops of Canterbury, the primates of the Anglican Church worldwide, have met the pope in audience in Rome and in England.
All the more has this been the case when the matters discussed are not differences, but precisely things held in common, about which there is no disagreement or historical tension. Thus is was that St Michael’s Abbey was happy to host none other than Archbishop Rowan Williams, emeritus archbishop of Canterbury for the first in an ongoing bi-annual Chadwick-Oden Lecture Series sponsored by our kind benefactors. The archbishop is a world-renowned scholar of the thought and spirituality of St Augustine of Hippo, whose rule for clerics we follow as Norbertines.
The archbishop stayed with the confreres in the abbey for three nights and attended all the choir office, Mass and Holy Hour. His devotion and prayerful attitude were evident and edifying to all. He thus showed us what, along with his kind demeanor and affability, is behind the depth of his scholarship and understanding of the works of Our Holy Father Augustine.
Call it “Ecumenism,” but in this case that is just a fancy word for loving the same good Lord and good things together.
The Chadwick-Oden Lecture series is made possible by the generosity of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson and Fieldstead and Company. All photos courtesy of Mr. Eric Stoner.