Monday, September 24, 2012

"There Is A Way – And It's The Truth": In England, A Call for "Conversions"

While today brings the feast of the English Madonna, Our Lady of Walsingham, with this year's edition came an event that's been anticipated rather feverishly in UK church-circles: the ordination of Msgr Philip Egan as bishop of Portsmouth.

Until now vicar-general to the "star" prelate of Brit Catholicism's traditional crowd – 52 year-old Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury (ordained in 2010) – the appointment of Egan, 56, has been heralded across the Pond as perhaps the most potent sign yet of a significant B16-induced shift in the philosophical makeup of the English episcopate. (Possibly corroborating a genuine Roman intent behind said theory, the Pope's selection was conspicuously announced on 11 July, St Benedict's Day.)

Long a formator at St Mary's, Oscott – the Birmingham seminary – the Rome-trained theologian has already made a reputation as a forthright author and speaker on the UK circuit; in its brief on Egan's appointment, the traditional journal of record of the English church apparently found it remarkable that the nominee "has publicly defended" Humanae vitae, "describing it as infallible teaching." (For the record, the 2009 talk which spurred that assessment was not as categorical on the point; according to transcripts, Egan said that “It seems to me that there is a persuasive case for believing that the doctrine of Humanae Vitae... has been, and is being taught infallibly, that is, irreversibly and without error, by the Church’s ordinary universal magisterium.”)

Among his duties in Shrewsbury, Egan was notably tasked with overseeing the diocese's efforts toward the New Evangelization. The Portsmouth diocese numbers some 150,000 Catholics in south-central England and on the Isle of Wight.

Back to today's rites, while Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster pointedly gave a homily focused on unity, the new bishop (below center, with Davies) veered elsewhere in his concluding remarks... and apparently to quite the effect.

Judging by the mail and other reactions around, Egan's message has caused enough of a stir to become – at least for the moment – the seeming talk of the English church.

In that light, here's the substance of his inaugural address, its text (in its original strophing) released by the Portsmouth Curia:
Dear fellow pilgrims on life's journey,
    we inhabit a remarkable century, the 21st, 
    which despite the current economic distemper, is witnessing momentous advances
    in every domain of human knowledge and endeavour,
with new discoveries and new applications in science and engineering,
    in computing and cybernetics, in medicine and bio-technology,
    in the social sciences, arts and humanities,
    all of which manifest the limitless self-transcending reach
    of human experience, understanding and judgement
    and the cloud of burgeoning possibilities for human deciding,
    undreamt of by those who've gone before.
Indeed, even as we speak, Curiosity is roving among the sand-dunes of Mars,
    in anticipation of a manned space-voyage to the Red Planet.  
With all these exhilarating developments, the Catholic Tradition must engage,
    the old with the new, in a mutually-enriching critical-conversation.
Yet the ordination of a Bishop,
    as Successor of the Apostles, in communion of mind, will and heart with the Pope,
    as the chief Shepherd, Teacher and High Priest of the diocese entrusted to him,
    who, like the Master, must lay down his life for his flock,
reminds us that human needs ever remain essentially the same:
    the need to love and to be loved,
    the need for a purpose and vocation in life,
    the need to belong to family and community,
    the need for mercy and forgiveness, for peace and justice, for freedom and happiness,
    and most profoundly, the need for immortality and for the Divine.
All these fundamental desires, hard-wired into the human heart:
    theology expresses in the word 'salvation,'
    and we profess that every child, woman and man on this planet can find that salvation. 
There is a Way – and it's the Truth!
    It's the true Way that leads to Life, real life, life to the full, a life that never ends.
There is a Way, and it's not a strategy, a philosophy or a package-deal.
    This Way has a Name, because it's a Person,
    the only Person in human history who really did rise from the dead,
    a Person alive here and now: Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son Incarnate.
He alone can save us.
    He alone can give us the salvation our spirits crave.
    He alone can reveal to us the Truth about God and about life,
    about happiness and humanism, about sexuality and family values,
    about how to bring to the world order, justice, reconciliation and peace.  
This message of Good News, and the civilisation of love it occasions,
   we Catholics must now communicate imaginatively, with confidence and clarity,
    together with our fellow Christians, and all people of faith and good will,
    to the people of England, this wonderful land, Mary's Dowry. 
We must offer this salvific message to a people,
    sorely in need of new hope and direction,
    disenfranchised by the desert of modern British politics,
    wearied by the cycle of work, shopping, entertainment,
    and betrayed by educational, legal, medical and social policy-makers
    who, in the relativistic world they're creating, however well-intentioned,
    are sowing the seeds of a strangling counterculture of death. 
My brothers and sisters, today, the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom, of England's Nazareth,
    let's go forth from this Mass with joyful vigour, resolved in the Holy Spirit,
    to help bring about the conversions needed – intellectual, moral and spiritual – for everyone-we-meet to receive Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Life.... 
Please pray for me to the Lord Jesus,
    whose Heart yearns for us in the Blessed Sacrament,
    that I might be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous,
    Bishop of Portsmouth, one fashioned after the Lord's own.
PHOTOS: Mazur/,3)