“To the threshold.” That’s what ad limina means. It refers to the obligatory visit of some in the Catholic hierarchy to the thresholds of Sts. Peter and Paul, not only to make pilgrimage to their tombs, but to show their loyalty to St. Peter’s successor.
Today, I made my ad limina: Lambeth Palace, to a room where I and my colleagues had an hr. with Archbishop Rowan for free discussion. We had already met informally, as I’m sure you recall, at the reception following the installation of Prof. Kathy Grieb as a Six Preacher at Canterbury Cathedral. (And he will meet with us again on Saturday evening, this time with Kurt Cardinal Koch, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
Having met him twice now, the one word that summarizes my experience of the man is accessibility. He is genuinely interested in all sorts of people, though impatient with the press. “When I strive to be simple, they say I’m simplistic; when I write on more complex subjects, they say I can’t be understood. There’s no pleasing them.” Can’t say as I blame him. Anyway, my impression was that he was very warm and the disappointment at his departure from the See of Canterbury I spoke of in my previous post has only been sharpened by the time he spent with us this afternoon.
The questions we asked were wide ranging, covering everything from the clergy’s family life, to relations between the Africans and the Americans, and scholarship. I asked about the transition from the academy to the parish. I found his answer quite striking. First, he said, the task–which was always to be a teacher of the faith–remained the same, even as one had to taylor reflections to suit one’s audience. When he said this, I was immediately reminded of his Letter to Lulu. Which manages to cover notions of necessary being, creation out of nothing, revelation and incarnation in ways not only Lulu, but my own Hugh could understand. It’s a pretty high bar for my own children’s stories, but I’ll keep trying.
Second, Rowan also spoke of the task common to academic theologians and parish priests as that of making the world of the Bible a world people can live in. An absolutely arresting image. It is my task as a preacher and teacher not to apply the Bible to the real world, but to make the real world of the Bible available to people trapped in any number of false ones. This is not a new insight for me and has been one that I have striven for in my preaching and teaching especially since coming to the Epiphany. But it was wonderful to receive the imprimatur, so to speak, for my intuitions.
I will take both of these images with me. Speaking of images, a couple of you have asked why no pictures. The short answer is, I left the cord to connect the camera to the desk top at home and the computer lacks a port for the picture card. So, hang in there. I’ll be posting them either here or on Facebook as soon as I am back.