We have two Ordinariates named after Our Lady: The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales; and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.
In the United States, we have the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
I remember thinking when I heard the name of our North American Ordinariate that, wow, that name is going to make us a bit more of a hard sell from an ecumenical point of view. And the Marian names of the other two, might also be a bit of a barrier. Let me explain.
When our parish was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church, there were two areas where we needed to focus our catechesis.
We were solid on the Sacraments, on the Creed and on the Church’s moral teaching. Not much more than a refresher needed on that.
No, our weak areas had to do with ecclesiology and the role of the papacy, especially the sticky issue of papal infallibility and on the later Marian dogmas that had previously been treated as pious opinion to some extent. We had some very Marian priests and bishops, and prayed the Angelus and so on, but we were not taught this was something we had to assent to, until we were getting ready to sign on the dotted line to join the Catholic Church.
Coming from an evangelical church to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary I had an evangelical’s ignorance of Mary and her role in salvation. Though I believed in the Virgin birth as a fundamental, non-negotiable part of the Christian faith, I didn’t give much thought to Our Lady. We heard about Mary in Scripture readings around Christmas time and that’s about it.
So, I came to assent to the Marian dogmas as required and in good conscience but upon entering the Catholic Church five years ago, I would have described myself then as a Marian minimalist.
It was reading historian Roberto de Mattei’s fascinating The Second Vatican Council : an unwritten story that I caught a glimpse of the big debate about Mary at Vatican II, a debate between Marian maximalists who wanted the Council to declare Mary co-Redemptrix and the Marian minimalists who wanted to downplay Our Lady’s importance so as to not put off ecumencial observers. The minimalists were more successful, in that instead of a separate document on Mary, Our Lady got a chapter in Lumen Gentium.
One of my friends, the late Mary Wells, developed a big devotion to Our Lady in the run-up to our becoming Catholic. A member of Annunciation, she was prepared to leave to join the Roman Catholic Church, if the process of our community coming into the Catholic Church took too long. She passed away a couple of years ago. While I was reading de Mattei’s book about the Marian debates, I had an impression that could have been totally imaginary, that the Mary was speaking to me from wherever she was saying: “Debby, I’m a maximalist!”
I smiled to myself and thought, gee, I’m becoming a maximalist myself. I would have no trouble with a declaration of Mary as co-redemptrix. I have made several Marian consecrations—as it is a yearly requirement of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests, an apostolate I belong to. I have found in entrusting myself to her, my crosses become sweeter, my spiritual life becomes easier, my growth in grace more effortless. And no, she doesn’t eclipse Jesus, but helps me to love her Son more.
But it has taken deeper and deeper conversion to fully appreciate Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother.
As for papal infallibility. I had no trouble, once I learned about the definition from the First Vatican Council, that limited papal infallibility nor did I have any trouble with the notion of the Successor of Peter as a sign of unity, a servant of the servants of God and the defender of the deposit of the faith.
Anyway—the names of our Ordinariates may be signs of our really, truly, finally being fully Catholic and proclaiming it far and wide. But in a sense they speak of something I raised earlier—that we represent a “Finder’s religion,” the end point for people who have been searching for a long time. How do we then take something that required lots of conversion and maturity to appreciate and make it seeker friendly?