As we begin the week of prayer for Christian Unity, it is of note that three newly ordained Priests celebrated their First Masses today, having been ordained yesterday. There were, perhaps other men ordained to the Priesthood yesterday, but these three are of note to the Universal Church because they heard the call of Christ ut unum sint. These men followed the call of Christ, wherever it led them, counting not the cost. Until recent months, these three had been Bishops of the Anglican Communion. It could not have been easy for these men to have accepted the teaching of Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae that Anglican Orders are null and void. Hearing the call of Christ to come to His Church is not without cost. For these men, this must have been a cross, which they nobly took up and carried.
The Holy Father, in his letter Anglicanorum Coetibus, has followed the imitation of St John the Baptist in today's Gospel, pointing the way to Christ. His Holiness has opened the way for those who have realized that Christ has called them into Communion with Him and His Church. His Apostolic Letter was a response to the request of many in the various Anglican Ecclesial Communion, who desired full, corporate communion with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Those Anglicans have realized that the ecclesial community that they love has gone off course from the Christian tradition in its many controversial ordinations over the last 30 years. Each has reached his own point of no return. For some it was the "ordination" of women to the "priesthood" -- the Anglican official position is that the priesthood is a ministry of word and sacrament -- not a sacrificing priesthood. I.e., they don't intend to ordain Priests in the way the Catholic Church does. That aside, many who identified themselves as Anglo-Catholics believe as Catholics. They accepted the Catholic teaching, and then were confronted with the "ordination" of women in the 1970s in Philadelphia, PA. For those who accepted that, like some from my own family who were Anglican, the ordination of the "Philadelphia Eleven" -- Eleven women who were "irregularly ordained" in the Episcopal Church USA [ECUSA] in 1974, was considered a fringe (originally invalid according to the ECUSA) movement. In 1976 (see same citation timeline) the ECUSA decided that no one was to be refused admission to orders on the basis of sex. In 1989, the first female Episcopal bishop was ordained. At that point others found that the line had been crossed, and "Swam the Tiber", i.e., converted to Catholicism. Then came Vicki Jean Robinson, an openly practicing homosexual bishop., then came the election of Schori as first female Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA. Interesting enough, in the UK, there are no female bishops, so when Schori "celebrated the Eucharist" over there, she was conceded that she could carry her mitre in procession, but could not wear it! Now, in the UK they are talking about female bishops, and this has been the breaking point for still more.
This does produce a bit of a snowball effect as the more traditionally minded are leaving the Church of England, thus abandoning her to the less traditionally minded. The Oxford Movement had strong influence on the so-called Anglo-Catholics. These are they who wish to adhere to the liturgical patrimony of England, and who tend to think more as Catholics than Protestants. My maternal grandparents were in such a group. They would never have identified themselves as Protestant (even though the official name of their church at the time was The Protestant Episcopal Church of America). This same movement was a great influence in the life of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who also eventually converted.
At any rate, it is with great joy that Holy Mother Church welcomes these new sons (and their families) to her bosom. With equal joy, we, the faithful welcome these new Fathers in Christ and pray that God will bless their ministry in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham with much fruit.