I just finished reading the text of Pope Benedict's newly promulgated apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus ("Groups of Anglicans"), in which he opened wide the door for Anglicans to convert to the Catholic Church en masse and retain their identity as Anglo-Catholics. As many have commented before me, this is a bold and hugely significant step in the direction of finally bringing England herself back into the Catholic fold. May God hasten that day!
As I reflect on Anglicanorum Coetibus, I recall having read a few prophecies from long ago regarding the eventual reconversion of England to the ancient Catholic Faith it had professed for many centuries prior to the Protestant rebellion. This one, which can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia, is particularly interesting, and I am inclined to think that Pope Benedict's historic overture to Anglicans fits nicely into what St. Edward described in his prophecy:
Ambrose Lisle Philipps in a letter to the Earl of Shrewsbury dated 28 October, 1850, in giving a sketch of English Catholic history, relates the following vision or prophecy made by St. Edward:
"During the month of January, 1066, the holy King of England St. Edward the Confessor was confined to his bed by his last illness in his royal Westminster Palace. St. Ælred, Abbott of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, relates that a short time before his happy death, this holy king was wrapt in ecstasy, when two pious Benedictine monks of Normandy, whom he had known in his youth, during his exile in that country, appeared to him, and revealed to him what was to happen to England in future centuries, and the cause of the terrible punishment.
They said: 'The extreme corruption and wickedness of the English nation has provoked the just anger of God. When malice shall have reached the fullness of its measure, God will, in His wrath, send to the English people wicked spirits, who will punish and afflict them with great severity, by separating the green tree from its parent stem the length of three furlongs. But at last this same tree, through the compassionate mercy of God, and without any national (governmental) assistance, shall return to its original root, reflourish and bear abundant fruit.'
After having heard these prophetic words, the saintlyKing Edward opened his eyes, returned to his senses, and the vision vanished. He immediately related all he had seen and heard to hisvirgin spouse, Edgitha, to Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Harold, his successor to the throne, who were in his chamber praying around his bed." (See "Vita beati Edwardi regis et confessoris", from manuscript Selden 55 in Bodleian Library, Oxford.)
The interpretation given to this prophecy is remarkable when applied to the events which have happened. The spirits mentioned in it were the Protestant innovators who pretended, in the sixteenth century, to reform the Catholic Church in England. The severance of the green tree from its trunk signifies the separation of the English Church from the root of the Catholic Church, from the Roman See.
This tree, however, was to be separated from its life-giving root the distance of "three furlongs". These three furlongs are understood tosignify three centuries, at the end of which England would again be reunited to the Catholic Church, and bring forth flowers of virtue and fruits of sanctity. The prophecy was quoted by Ambrose Lisle Philipps on the occasion of the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England by Pope Pius IX in 1850.