Sunday, November 01, 2009

Christ or Narcissus? Whose face do they see?

" Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A distressing triad made up of pathological self-centerness; a repeated pattern of frustrating, damaging efforts to establish intimate relationships; and an insecure, fragile self-concept. Internally an unpredictable lability makes life miserable." C.M.Berry, "The Baker Encycopedia of Psychology" Marshall-Pickering, London/Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan h.b.,1223pp, 1985, p.745

Well, they gather in numbers in many places, liable to sudden moves and changes whenever the wind blows favourably from across the Tiber, or unfavourably from their own governing body in General Synod. Judging by the reports and comments on the blogs and websites and the church press and the broadsheets such gatherings have taken place wherever members of Forward in Faith have drooled together over the Pope's offering to groups of Anglicans who wish to become Roman Catholics whilst remaining as Anglican as they can.

Their self-centreness blinds them to the appalling damage such an action would do to the cause of Christian unity, as well as to the rather obvious point that being in an Anglican-style enclave of Roman Catholicism will mean that the rest of their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters will have little contact with them. Is that supposed to be unity? Theoretically, probably Yes. In practice the disunity is carried over. In terms of Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, disunity is increased by the appearance of a large "traditional" and catholic shaped hole within the former.

Believe me, I would have become a Roman Catholic many years ago were it not for one thing - my vocation. If I had looked only in the mirror, I might have been tempted to think - "What a lovely Roman you'd make"! However I looked also into the faces, and listened to the voices, of fellow Christians who knew nothing or very little of such things. They asked for my ministry. I saw the face of Christ in them and served them diligently and as best I could until illness, old age, and a measure of invalidity prevented it.

To convert to Roman Catholicism would have been to desert them. Being good Anglicans and not all traditionalist or catholic in their orientation,hardly any would have followed me even if I had asked! I stayed to serve them as I had been called to do, despite being regarded as more Roman in practice than many Roman friends. It was their description, not mine as I was only following normal Anglo-Catholic usage.

In time there will be those who after careful consideration feel that their true vocation is to serve in a different jurisdiction and ecclesiastical structure and that the Anglican Church which has nurtured and fed them so far is no longer home for them. I have no problem with these and respect their calm integrity and their thoughtfulness where it is present.

Change happens, as they say, and Cardinal Newman commented that a true Christian will make many changes, continuous conversion in essence. An acquaintance of mine returning to the fold after many lapsed years, having made a full confession and received absolution was told by her spiritual advisor "and now your conversion begins." For some conversion to Roman Catholicism will start that process in a new and exciting way. For many others a quick trip to their local psychoanalyst beforehand might be needed. I have been impressed over the years in contacts with Franciscans that so many of them had degrees in psychology and post-graduate qualifications in psychotherapy, (OFM Franciscans that is - SSF had the late and much loved Peter Graham of the Clinical Theology Association to help them over many years).

I have my doubts as to whether whether many of those members of Forward in Faith now so fervently saying they want to be Roman Catholics, Anglican-style, gaze into pools of water. However, they do, I suppose shave, or trim their beards, or brush and comb their hair and so look into a mirror. What do they see? Who is important? The lowly unprofitable servant of Christ and His people - or a wonderful reflection only of a self-centred personality. They may feel refreshed by the generous offer from Rome ... and it is unbelievably generous and kind. However they should perhaps themselves reflect on the fate described below of a certain, handsome, Greek, youth:

"Narcissus pined away and died, leaving behind only a small, sad flower which even today thrives best when bent over cool streams." C.M.Berry, op.cit. p.743

An apt description of our limper brethren in this matter.

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