Christianity is not just another spirituality, because Jesus gathered the tribes, established a Kingdom. The Twelve were his royal cabinet, entrusted with viceroyal authority to represent him in his New Israel, the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21, 23); “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me” (Lk 10:16). King Christ had appointed them to an office, and an office left vacant must be filled (Acts 1:20).
Thus, the apostles appointed presbyters in each church (Acts 14:23). Paul reminded Timothy that the office of bishop was conferred on him through the laying on of hands (1 Tim 1:6; 4:14; 5:22). As King, Jesus was the ultimate foundation stone (1 Cor 3:10; 1 Pet 2:6–8); because he was establishing a Kingdom, he appointed ministers as foundation stones as well (Mt 16:18; Eph 2:20; Gal 2:9; Rev 21:14).
Even after Christ’s Ascension, the Kingdom was to remain a social reality, with apostolic succession and authority. In other words, the Kingdom of God is not only spiritual but also religious. So why did Anglicanism exist? Our very ecclesiology depended on the idea of a Kingdom divided, bishops torn asunder, an endless tearing and scattering. In our defense, we tended either to reduce the Kingdom of God to a spirituality or simply to admit that our existence was a necessary evil. Had Henry VIII lifted the Church out of the ground only to plant it firmly in midair?
Was I experiencing my own kind of “nesting instinct”? I was certainly having something like a crisis of fatherhood. I had become a biological father, and I was soon to become a spiritual father. The more Anglicanism began to feel like a melting ice floe, the more I longed for a lifeboat. At my ordination, I would swear obedience to my bishop, who was the spiritual father of all the priests in our diocese— but to whom did all these quarreling, divided bishops swear obedience? Was there a father for the fathers?
“It sounds like you’re looking for the Catholic Church,” Old Hickory said over the phone, when I shared my apprehensions about Brittany’s pregnancy and my pending priesthood. “But the pope is a tyrant, not a father,” I said. “But ‘pope’ means ‘father’.” I sighed.
And then one cold Sunday in January, feeling woozy and disoriented, Brittany and I snuck over to a neighboring Catholic parish, just to see. Everything was going fine until the elevation of the Host. Brittany leaned over as if in pain, but her eyes were fixed upon the altar. I had to remind her that we were not in full communion with the Catholic Church and so we could not receive the Eucharist.
Afterward, we decided to walk to a nearby diner; our collars turned up against the biting wind. Our coats flapped like sails. The snow was so cold it squeaked. The sun broke out between a rift of clouds, and the wind seemed to sweep the words from her mouth. She said that during Mass she heard a voice clearly say, “Love him!” She knew she needed God’s life to get inside of her, into the child in her womb. It was like her body was yelling, “Eat that! I need it!”
A shiver of fear rushed through me, as if I had just witnessed a kind of omen I had been looking for without realizing it. I cannot say that I was happy. But for the sake of my growing family, for the sake of my calling to the priesthood, I prayed that God would help me to be open to the truth, no matter the cost.
That night, after hours of study, I stepped in the living room and announced to Brittany that I was going to look into the papacy. Learning about the Kingdom and the Twelve, I needed to go back to that horrible passage in Scripture where Jesus announced the establishment of his Church, to the line that stopped me cold: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18).
Prayer: For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. — The Prayer of Saint Francis
Excerpted from “An Immoveable Feast: How I Gave Up Spirituality for a Life of Religious Abundance” by Tyler Blanski.