Yesterday, the great Feast of the Holy Apostles of Rome, I strolled down to Sandford lock. I took with me my battered "summer picnic" volume of the Pars Aestiva; and, since Blessed John Henry Newman, Patron of our Ordinariate, must often have walked there from nearby Littlemore, I took also his Apologia pro Vita sua.
I love the Mattins readings for the Second Nocturn, from S Leo I's First mighty Sermon In natali Apostolorum Petri et Pauli. It gets to the heart of the Romanita of the Western Church, and especially of the English Church; S Leo I, the finest Latin stylist since Cicero, explains to the plebs Romana (now the plebs sancta Dei) how all that is meant by being Roman has been transformed ... yet, in transformation, preserved and enhanced ... by the Gospel. "For although, glorified by many victories, you have advanced the jus of your imperium by land and by sea, yet, what the labour of war subdued to you, is less than what the Pax Christiana subjected to you". The culture of classical Roman antiquity was baptised by S Leo; my view is that he is the one who finally recast the Roman Eucharistic Prayer in a Latinity moulded by the the prayer-style of the old, pre-Christian, prayer-style of early Rome. Under S Leo, being a Christian finally ceased to be adherence to a foreign and dodgy sect largely followed by Greekling immigrants, and became the new majestic embodiment of all that it meant to be Roman in culture and law and liturgy. And, with S Augustine, that Romanita was parachuted into Kent and became the marker too of the Anglo-Saxon Church; the Church of Augustine and Justus and Mellitus; of Wilfrid and Bede and Alcuin. The Kentish king who had considered it beneath his dignity to adopt his wife's Merovingian Christianity rejoiced in the opportunity to receive Christianity from its august and Roman fount. Therein lies the exquisite beauty of "the Anglo-Saxon Church", a Roman island beyond the Alps.
And that same Mr Newman expressed the essence of the Petrine Ministry, of the munus of the Successor of Peter, in an epigrammatic passage: "It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift". It is precisely along these lines that Cardinal Ratzinger in a passage of lapidary elegance criticised the bloated and corrupt hyperpapalism of the post-Vatican II period, with its disordered, disordering belief that a pope, especially if backed by a Council, could monkey around at will with Tradition. It is, Ratzinger asserted, the Pope's job to be the Guardian of the Tradition and the preserver of its integrity and authenticity. This is where the essence of our Holy Father's Ministry lies ... not (as some very foolish and dreadfully noisy people mistakenly think) in being a charismatic innovator, the herald of a God of Surprises.
Heaven forbid that any Pope should ever sink so low, should be so deaf to his true ecclesial vocation.