Archbishop Rowan Williams: Address celebrating the Mary Ward 400 Jubilee

In an age of complexity and crisis when the identity of Christendom seems to be under threat, an age when the flames seem to be burning fast and the landmarks are no longer stable, how very tempting it is to take refuge in the complicated, to build with greater and greater elaboration the walls of self-defence: and how very difficult it is to be simple. The Church of Mary Ward’s day didn’t really know what to do with her. It preferred the complications of what people already understood about discipleship and the religious life and particularly the religious life for women. But Mary Ward raised up in the Church of her day a sign of eucharistic simplicity: verity, sincerity, transparency.

In a time of crisis and uncertainty what we need is simple transparency to the contemporary Jesus. Transparency: it reminds me of the one piece of actual connection between Mary Ward and the archbishopric of Canterbury (in case you were wondering). The archbishop of the day had made some quite pointed remarks about how dangerous a woman she was. (There was indeed you might say, a level of ecumenical consensus about what a problem she was in her time!) But being the holy person she was, she was not going to be intimidated by an archbishop of Canterbury any more than by a pope. She decided she would visit Lambeth Palace with some of her sisters. She did so, and the Archbishop was out. But she left her mark. She scratched her name on a windowpane. Whatever else that story says, it says something about holiness and simplicity; about the saints as those whose names are simply scratched on a windowpane against the overwhelming light of the living Jesus. We cannot look at them and read their names without seeing that light. And that light comes to us through the saints, illuminating those names, those faces, those histories.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

One comment on “Archbishop Rowan Williams: Address celebrating the Mary Ward 400 Jubilee

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    There is some winsome humor and humility in this address. But there is also considerable irony. Because Cantaur praises Mary Ward for her simplicity and transparency, allowing Jesus to shine clearly through her.

    But the irony comes from the fact that the man who here praises the virtues of simplicity and transparency has been anthing but clear and simple and easy to understand in his words and actions relating to our great Anglican crisis. Sigh.

    David Handy+