“De Lisle’s Dream Come True”
An Article By the Very Rev. Leon Pereira, O.P.
Posted by Fr. Brian Mulcahy, O.P. on November 11, 2009
On October 20, 2009, the day on which simultaneous news conferences were held in the Vatican and London, at which the promulgation of a new Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, was announced, that provides for the reception of members of the Anglican Communion into Full Communion with the Catholic Church in their own "Ordinariates," Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, asked us to convey to his Dominican brothers and sisters that this was the intention for which he had asked them to pray the "Litany of Dominican Saints" back in February 2009. Archbishop DiNoia has now asked that a remarkable article, written by one of our Dominican confreres in England, the Very Rev. Leon K. Pereira, O.P., the Prior and Pastor at the Priory of the Holy Cross in Leicester, England, be shared with our readers. In this article, it is made clear that the Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman (to be beatified in 2010) had prayed for such a provision that might allow a greater number of his fellow countrymen to find their way back into Communion with the Holy See. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, a student and devotee of the thought and writings of Cardinal Newman, has been made aware of this article. With the permission of Fr. Pereira, his article follows below.
Two hundred years ago an extraordinary man was born in Leicestershire, Ambrose Philips de Lisle. He was a scion of the ancient De Lisle family, and the founder of Mount St. Bernard's Abbey. His descendants still come to Mass at Holy Cross. Ambrose de Lisle was a visionary ahead of his time. A convert to the Catholic faith, he dreamed of Christian unity. He wrote a pamphlet in 1876, voicing the idea of a corporate re-union of the Anglican Communion with the Catholic Church, whilst retaining Anglican juridical structures, liturgy and spirituality. When his friend Cardinal John Henry Newman read it, he wrote to him,
"Nothing will rejoice me more than to find that the Holy See considers it safe and promising to sanction some such plan as the Pamphlet suggests. I give my best prayers, such as they are, that some means of drawing to us so many good people, who are now shivering at our gates, may be discovered."
The plan was doomed to be thwarted in De Lisle's lifetime. To console him, Newman said:
"It seems to me there must be some divine purpose in it. It often has happened in sacred and in ecclesiastical history, that a thing is in itself good, but the time has not come for it ... And thus I reconcile myself to many, many things, and put them into God's hands. I can quite believe that the conversion of Anglicans may be more thorough and more extended, if it is delayed - and our Lord knows more than we do."
In our own time, Pope Benedict XVI has rightly been called the 'Pope of Christian Unity'. Two years ago, the Pope said that in the critical moments of the Church's history, when divisions arose, the failure to act on the part of Church leaders has helped to allow divisions to form and harden. He observed, 'This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.'
It is with this in mind, no doubt, that Pope Benedict has made this unprecedented and overwhelmingly generous response (N.B. the Pope is responding to a request, not enacting his own initiative) to the many requests submitted to him by Anglicans left in dismay within their own Communion. Already such Anglicans are being castigated as misogynist homophobes - an uncharitable, prejudiced aspersion. Some Anglicans see them as traitors; some Catholics see them as less-than-desirable for our Church.
The real issue is one of unity, genuine unity: that those who seek communion with the Barque of Peter should not be left to founder amidst the waves, but be brought safely aboard where Christ is not asleep, but Master of wind and waves, standing on Peter's deck. The Pope has shown that real ecumenism is not about courteous disagreement trying to increase each other's insipidity until one church cannot be distinguished from another in a cosmic-beige mélange. No, the call of the Gospel still holds: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. These are our brothers and sisters, shivering at our gates, to be received as brothers and sisters, and not as traitors or second-class Catholics.
The Dominican Order has a small role in all this. On 21 February this year, our brother Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., then Under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked all Dominicans to pray the Litany of Dominican Saints from February 22 (the Feast of the Chair of St Peter) till March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation) for an at-the-time undisclosed intention - it was for this intention. It is no wonder that in our history people have remarked, 'Beware the Litanies of the Dominicans!'
Fr. Leon Pereira, O.P.