Thursday, 24 July 2014

Called to Sanctify

Called to Sanctify
The priesthood is a calling, a voice heard, spoken by the creator of all. The scriptures are full of examples of the nature of being called by God to follow him, here are but a few examples.

Gen 12:1-4   Call of Abram: Leave your country, your family, and come…

Mk 3:13        The Mission of the Twelve: “He summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him”

Jn 15:9-17    You did not choose me; no, I chose you

The priesthood is an invitation to follow and find life. The call is one to sanctify, to make holy. This begins as a personal invitation. The one being called is to prepare the ground for God to dwell within.

So I would say if you discern that God is calling you to the priesthood then look at the life you are leading, immerse it in the person of Christ. Do this through prayer, reading and praying scripture, by going to the source of life in the Eucharist and adoring and worshipping there. Make holy and sanctify yourself by thinking of others first, allow Christ to seep into the very pores of your being and realise from the earliest point that you are not worthy, you never will be, for it is not the self that is proclaimed to the world, but Christ. There is nothing attractive about proclaiming the ego to the world!

I felt called to the priesthood when I was 17 and happily working. I was at that stage, not in love with Christ, nor would I say at that early stage of being called, did I want to know Christ very much. There were other things that held my attention, and Christ was not really one of them. Christ called and my life changed. So that from not caring much about Christ, I developed a thirst to know him, and flowing from that, I came to experience being love by him.

The call from Christ has not gone silent in my life as a priest, as that call continues every day subsequently. Admittedly it is often far away in the background of life, but Christ is constantly calling, encouraging me to seek to sanctify and begin with self. So that everyday I am to start again. I am not to despair but to hope> I am not to choose death, I am to choose life! The call is to know Christ more deeply, and to become more aware of how loved by Christ I am. So the first aspect of being called to sanctify, is to begin at the source, to start with yourself.

I am called to sanctify, as a priest. I find that this is the expectation of the ministry I am called too. I am to stand at the altar, as a bridge between heaven and earth. This is the very heart of what the call to sanctify holds. I am to serve Christ, to do his bidding, to pray his words at Mass. I am to stand trembling in his shoes and bring the reality of the presence of Christ to others. Everything else in my priestly ministry flows from this. The preaching, the teaching, the care of the sick, the compassion, the empathy, the presiding at baptisms, at weddings, at funerals, all the day to day serving, the input made to schools, the answering of telephone calls or emails, the grinding maintenance of parish life, the joy of sharing life with others, all flows from the call to sanctify. It all comes from the privilege to celebrate the Mass.

Leading a parish community in faith, flows from serving Christ, by being aware daily of the call to sanctify. I am to sanctify by allowing Christ into my living, and then to serve by daily answering the invitation to follow Christ. From this I invite Christ to flow through me. I invite Christ into my living when I am willing to cooperate with his grace and I do so even when I am dull or uninspired, or tired or cynical, or weary. The call to sanctify is cemented in the call to serve. And this call is rooted in Christ, who is the one who calls, the one who loves and the one who plants and sustains hope. So I pray…

Lord, I am called to sanctify, to make holy, to prepare a place for you, the author of life.
Lord, I am called to serve with humility, with simplicity, so as to prepare a place for you.
Lord, I am called to life, to find its fullness in you, so as to prepare for it’s eternal reality.
Make me Holy Lord, for my holiness comes from you alone. Amen

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Nazarene

The Nazarene

Innocent voices crying, weeping in the wilderness
Abandoned, persecuted, driven out, left homeless
Frightened by an overwhelming tide of intolerance 
Children's hysterical tears herald hatred's advance
A symbol drawn on the houses, an identifying mark
To create despair, smothering light, a sinister dark
The Nazarene, a man despised, the man of sorrows
Rejected, crucified, yet the hope of our tomorrow's 
Father, do not forsake them in this the hour of need
Do not remain silent, as your innocent ones bleed
Reveal to them the comfort of your abiding shade 
By the Nazarene's holiest name, come to their aid.

Fr Patrick Brennan 2014 ©
all rights reserved

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Homily Notes: 16th Week Ordinary Time Year A

There is a phrase we use when we describe certain groups. We can say a group consists in having a mixed bag. For example, the Villa team are a mixed bag. A classroom has a mixed bag of students, differing strengths and weaknesses, gifts or lack of.  
Christians are a mixed bag of weakness and strengths, of good and bad, all kinds make up the mixed bag of Christianity. We tend to think that someone who professes Christ would be naturally a good person, but humanity is flawed, good intentions often walk hand in hand with laziness. Good is not far from bad, in fact it is only a choice away. Christianity proclaims Christ to the world and it is his goodness which makes Christianity authentic.
Christ is Christianity and we hold unto to him, doing what we can to be faithful and seeking forgiveness and mercy when we fail. We need Christ, especially when the rough seas of life threaten to overwhelm us or the inconsistency of our behaviour lead us to despair. As St Paul says we know what the right thing to do is, but for one reason or another we can fail to do the right thing.
The wheat in the gospel today grows side by side with the weeds, weeds that were planted by an enemy. In the culture of the day the people listening to Jesus would know that the  wheat and weeds looked exactly the same and became intertwined as they grew, indistinguishable one from the other, until fully grown, then the deception could be recognised and something done about it. Pulling them up before fully grown might harm the wheat, so the two grow side by side until harvest.
What this teaches us is about the nature of the goodness of God, who is the only judge. He allows a mixed bag but will be the one who separates one from another. Judgment is not ours to make but God’s.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Vocations: What have stats got to do with it?

Vocations:  What have stats got to do with it?
The change in football has been vast since I first started watching it, aside from the finance involved the fascination with statistics has increased to such an extent that we know how many passes one player made, and how many miles a man runs.  Mueller of Germany’s winning team ran the equivalent of two and a half marathons in the games he played! There are tables of stats on football websites, all designed to get us into the game! I must say stats do bore me slightly. A good game statistically could be 0-0 and a bore fest, a good game is not quantified by stats but the stats don’t lie either! Should we take notice of stats? In sport we do and why, so as to improve the game or be able to be aware of where the improvements need to be made.
Vocations to the priesthood interest me. As a priest I must say the life of “joy and sacrifice” in the priesthood is a rewarding one and a fulfilling one too. The Mass is the greatest gift left to the Church by Jesus. To celebrate the Mass is to tantalise the senses, to reinforce the hope of the people of God that the Lord is close by, abiding forever. The Mass, the blueprint for Christian life, is the reminder in an often hopeless world that hope has been restored once and for all by Jesus. On the Cross, by his obedience to the Father’s creating will, in his rising from death and opening the gates of life for all who profess his name and so become immersed in God’s eternal love. The Mass is the place where the ordained priest stands at the altar as the person of Christ, “In Persona Christi” and the whole point of Christianity is revealed, as Jesus is made present. A priest is called, chosen, ordained and commissioned to bear fruit, the Mass is the first fruit.
Back to the stats. The need for prayers for vocations to the priesthood are urgent. The stats tell us this. Taking a very brief glance at the clergy list at the directory for our diocese, shows the ages of the clergy and they are no spring chickens! Well over a hundred of the two hundred and sixty five priests will be over seventy five in the next five years. Many will want to retire but will feel obliged to carry on. The bottom line is we need more priests, and more young, or not so young men to respond generously to the call to priesthood.
Prayer is so very important, as is the wonderful work of vocations offices who are doing what they can to promote the priesthood. Our own diocesan vocations team are very visible and work very hard to encourage vocations. We can help by praying, and for me I feel it means to be a priest, to show how wonderful the calling to priesthood is. I keep close to my heart the prayer that “I am never worthy of the priesthood but sustained by it! I am never worthy of Christ, but sustained by him.”
The national vocations site for the UK quotes Pope Francis who understands the importance of prayer to allow vocations to develop. Both personal prayer by the one called and the prayers of the whole church, our prayers for vocations to the priesthood are in the form of a request, a question addressed to the Father.
Vocations are born in prayer

Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life there is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father or a community.  Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit.

Pope Francis: Regina Caeli Message, Fourth Sunday of Easter: 21st April 2013
Another quote from St Teresa says this and it sums up the emotions of love that inspire us to serve Christ.
 “I understood that it was love alone that made the church's members act, that if love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found vocation is love! Yes, I found my place in the church...I shall be love. Thus I shall be everything...”

St Therese of Lisieux
Love is at the heart of vocation, prayer too and hope resides in the midst of this heart of vocation also. Please pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood as the stats don’t lie!

Monday, 14 July 2014

25th Priestly Anniversary

25th Priestly Anniversary.

Stepping out of the sacristy, wearing a brand new alb
His heart is ready and willing
Alone in a congregation of well wishers, of family, friends
His mind is ready and willing
A delighted yes resounds from within, as he kneels down
His body is ready and willing
Promises made, and a whirlwind of ordination passes by
His soul is ready and willing

An appointment is made, to a parish waiting to receive him
His trembling words are greeted with love
Toiling in the vineyard of the Lord, he gives of himself
His comforting words are greeted with faith
Sharing peoples lives at the deepest need, thirsting for God
His challenging words are greeted with hope
Moving on in obedience to pastures new, he bows his head
His reflective words are greeted with fondness

The years race by as the fashions change, the body ages
His life is being poured away
Resolutely he sees the road ahead, ready for what’s to come
His life is being given time and again
His journey is one taken with the Lord, a constant companion
His life is spent in the Lord’s service
Personal weakness is God’s strength, his humanity is God’s glory
His life offers the gentle glimpse of eternity

Fr Patrick Brennan © 2014 all rights reserved

I am celebrating with priests that I have known for longer, the 25th anniversary of priesthood. Being able to concelebrate at the Masses has been uplifting and has left me reflecting upon friendships that speak to my deepest reality. I am blest to share the journey of my fellow pilgrims in the priesthood, and I felt moved to write the above verse in celebration of the 25th anniversary. This milestone is worth celebrating but as the years pass, each day spent in the Lord’s service is one of joyful and humble gratitude to God who sustains, nurtures, and fulfils the calling to be a priest. Congratulations to 25 years in priesthood and I hope to make that mark of the journey in the not too distant future! Ad Multos Annos!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Homily Notes: 15th Sunday Year A

St Augustine once said that “God creates us without our consent, but will not save us without our consent.” There is another phrase that says “You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” I have baptised many people over the years but as they are given the gift of God’s life I cannot make them embrace it and live it. The frustration in ministry can be that results are not happening quickly enough. The message of the gospel is preached, taught, encouraged and yet many choose not to bother to take it on board and some may take it on board for a while, before allowing the gospel to drift to the back of their thinking.
The temptation is to despair, and then we read the gospel today about sowing seeds and we begin to relax a little.  For it is not about me, Jesus is at the heart of the message, and he says that faith is all about the sowing of seeds. The seeds are sown, that is important. How those seeds take root is often beyond our control. We have to take it on trust that when the gospel is preached, faith will manifest, and if it does not, then don’t give up but trust more fully in Jesus.
There is a choice involved in faith. When seeds are sown, many conditions come together to enable growth. If faith is to take a root in us then those conditions are to be attended to. Choice is key, for we are to decide firstly what do we choose in life? Good, bad, right, wrong, ourselves or others? We are to be uncluttered enough in our living to allow the seeds of faith to take a hold of our living. So as not give in to selfishness, personal ambition, the pursuit of glory, of wealth, of status, esteem from others, power or control either, for this is where the seed of faith withers as it finds no suitable good soil to grow within. Creating the conditions for the seeds of faith to grow takes time, patience, love, endurance, hope, humility, giving, caring, a genuine concern for the justice and welfare of all people.
I heard a priest preach about this gospel and it made an impression upon me he spoke of being an “Apple Tree” Catholic and I would hope to aspire to that state, a state that takes a life time to cultivate. The Apple Tree Catholic he says goes a little like this: 
“The good soil is the soul which accepts Christ’s commands and humbly takes up the cross, the cross so alien to the soft life of today’s cocktail circuits. These are the “Apple tree Catholics” who, like the apple tree, stand quietly, naturally and no big show, but are always giving. The apple tree gives beauty in the spring for poet and painter, shade in the summer for the traveller, and fruit in the autumn for everyone. It is a strong tree that will bend, shudder, and groan during a winter storm, but since its roots are firm, deep and strong, it does not fall, and it is always growing.”

Let us be the good soil wiling to allow the seed of God’s word to grow and flourish in us in each and every season of our living.