I was thinking about the
example that Christians give to others. I wonder what impression do I give to
others about my faith in God? Does my faith in God shape the person I am? Does
my faith underpin and support the structure of my living? As a priest I have a
wonderful responsibility of administering the sacraments, which are encounters
with Christ. As I am entrusted with these tasks, I am aware that I am blest
with my own opinion, personality, character, weaknesses, strengths, faults and
failings, fallibility, unworthiness and the like, and as a whole person, I am
representing Christ by embracing my faith. Not just in the holy places am I to
radiate Christ, I am to be an icon of Christ. This is very difficult and when I
struggle to live up to Christ, “mea culpa” suffices. What I take from my
encounters with Christ in the holy places is to be that nurturing principle and
aspect of living the Christian life. How I choose to do good in certain situations
can be supported by a life of faith, by a real attempt to bring together in
living, what is prayed, and what is demanded by Christ.
I try to be the person that
God wants me to be only when I cooperate with his grace. This cooperation
incorporates my reliance upon Christ, my abandonment to his will, it relies
upon humbly accepting my weaknesses and offering this to Christ in each
encounter with him. There are times when the witness given or the example shown
falls short of what an encounter with Christ demands. We learn from experience
how to radiate Christ, we learn from the example of others too. I remember too
examples that have helped shape and form who I am today. Both relate to being
on placement in a parish as a seminarian.
The first example is a priest
who I was on placement with, who was giving, caring, understanding, helpful,
prayerful, he showed me much kindness and encouraged my vocation by relating
his own love of the priesthood and demonstrating that in the kindness he showed
me. He would go out of his way to show a good example and I learnt about being
a good priest from him. I did not have a car at that time, and he would drop me
off at places I needed to be, even though sometimes that would put him out of
The second example is a
priest, who I was on placement with, who was also giving, caring,
understanding, helpful, prayerful, in a slightly different way to the first. On
his day off he would play golf with some friends, he invited me to come along. I
went along with him thinking it to be the right thing to do, though I had no
clubs. So I walked around with him and his friends, retrieving golf balls if I remember
correctly! At the end of the round it was time for lunch and after a long walk I
was hungry. When we got to the club house I was told by the staff that I was
not allowed in, as I was wearing jeans, and only trousers were permitted. The priest
and his friend went past me and I was told to go and wait outside, which I did.
I was not best pleased, as the priest knew the dress code, and could if he had wanted
to, advised me not to wear jeans! After an hour or so the priest returned and
we drove home. The priest said on the way back “That will teach you a valuable
lesson!” He thought it was somehow a good spiritual lesson learnt, but I failed
to see the wisdom of it! Hungry and tired I felt little love towards him at
that moment! It did teach me something, but not how he had intended it! It
taught me how not to be a Christian or a priest, it taught me that the choices
we make as Christians can sometimes be wrong, that priest was not a bad person,
and was a prayerful, good man, yet sometimes the good choice is not made. The
lesson I learnt too is that we are called to serve God, to be an example, and
sometimes we get it wrong, though for the most part when we rely upon Christ
and entrust ourselves to him, we get it right too!
We learn about being a
Christian from Christ and the example good or otherwise from those who follow
him. Jesus says follow me in the gospel for this Sunday and when we do, only
staying close to Christ on the journey will help us show, and be the good
As I explore the gift of a vocation to the priesthood I reflect today upon the word itself taking each letter as a point for reflection, trying to understand better the meaning that my priestly vocation has had for me
V is for Vision: Listening to Christ and truly hearing him, is I suppose an essential for starting out on the journey to the priesthood. I have found that to be the case. Why did I want to be a priest? I wanted to serve Christ, the person I had learned about in the scriptures, the Saviour of all, who died on a cross and still more, rose again! Making heaven not just a possibility but a reality! Getting to know Christ, adopting his vision for my life is an important element in deepening my vocation to the priesthood. Having a vision that strives to emulate Christ is part of the everyday struggle in being a priest. One thing I have learned is that I fall short of Christ in every respect, instead of that being a point of despair it renews my love and awe of Christ. The person of Christ, Jesus has to be personal to me, he has to touch my heart and soul before I can adopt his vision.
Lord help me to see, may I adopt your vision in my living.
O is for Openness: I really dreaded this word in the seminary, it came in the context of being open to anything! But as I reflect upon the priesthood I come to realise that I have to adopt an openness in my prayer, exposing my attitudes to Christ and allowing his healing touch to enable me to function as a priest. Openness to Christ enables me to hope and enables me to walk with Christ with full confidence. So that whatever good I do, it is through Christ and my being open to his life.
Lord help me to be open to You.
C is for Calling: I am called to the priesthood, I did not choose this! When talking with young people about vocation, one of the confusing aspects of discerning a vocation is the element of choice. Sometimes a vocation is seen in the same category as a career which is in itself a choice. A vocation is a calling one that leads and guides. I am chosen and if I listen it is a daily choice!
Lord you call me to follow, keep my faithful to that call.
A is for Attentiveness. When the Lord calls to the priesthood I used to think that call was a once heard voice. But as I grow in the priesthood I begin to understand he calls each day and when I adopt an attentive posture and listen with my heart then I appreciate the gift of priesthood more.
Lord grant me an attentive and listening heart.
T is for Trusting: The key to a happy priesthood is trusting in God’s goodness. Trusting is no easy thing, yet it helps to guard me from giving in to on the one hand pride and on the other hand despair. I trust that each step I am taking is taken with Christ.
Lord increase my desire to trust you more and more
I is for I. In the seminary there was much talk of teamwork, which I know has an important place in my priesthood. There is no I in teamwork, but there is in priest and in vocation! I must take responsibility for my actions, I am a priest and I must be prayerful, hopeful and an example.
Lord help me to take responsibility for my living.
O is for Opportunity: Priesthood is a gift, an opportunity to grow closer to Christ. When God calls to a life in the priesthood I must take the opportunity to listen and accept the invitation to serve.
Lord may I see the opportunity to grow closer to you as a priest.
N is for Nurturing: At the end of the word of vocation is the letter N that I see as nurture. So vital for growth is a nurturing spirit, one that feeds upon the Eucharist and expresses that in a Eucharistic lifestyle. When I am happy and fulfilled as a priest, I am nurturing my vocation by getting to know more fully the person of Christ.
Lord nurture my priesthood in the revelation of your nature.
listened to people who no longer come to Mass, and who use the phrase, “I am
bored at Mass and get nothing from it.” Usually this can be an attitude that kicks
in as teenagers and then it becomes a justification for not practising in later
life. So a person is bored and is not getting anything from coming along to
Mass, then of course why should they come! Why indeed!
with being educated in faith, simple questions like who made me, and why, are
not explored so much these days. There seems to be more of an emphasis generally
upon how does it feel for me today, rather than is it right. A reliance upon transitory
whims, rather than on truth. The latest fad seems to win over old fashioned values,
if it feels right, then do it, blow the consequences. A modern mantra of our
society is the freedom to do what I like, and this replaces the freedom to be
aware of others. All of this contributes to a world view, a developing conscious
awareness of what life is and where we find a place in it. Does life serve us
and our needs or do we serve life and the needs that manifest themselves outside
of our own desires?
If I come to
Mass, then I must want to come, and if it’s to make an impression upon my life
then I stand a better chance of that happening if I am educated as to why I come.
I don’t come because I am dragged along kicking and screaming, or perhaps I do,
and until I understand why I come, then the experience will perhaps be a boring,
empty one. Being bored is a part of the humdrum of life. Not every moment of
everyday is exciting, not very meeting is riveting, not every hour is stimulating,
there are times in the lifetime of any human being that is repetitive,
necessary, tedious, difficult and painful. These run along swiftly with joyful
experiences, such as happiness, ecstasy, love, vitality, enjoyment, hopefulness
and inspiration. If I come to Mass expecting to be entertained, as I would come
to a cinema or a concert, then am I realistic about my expectations?
There is a
rather beautiful passage from the scriptures, in the Old Testament, in the book
of Job 1:20-21
Job arose and tore his cloak and cut off his hair.
fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,
“Naked I came forth from my
and naked shall I go back there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”
This passage sums up an
attitude of trusting in the Lord. This trusting is to underpin any
understanding of why I would come to Mass. The Mass is not about entertainment,
it is not about how I am feeling today, it is not about feeling good when I come
out again, it is not meaningless either, or empty, a dead rite, or an
irrelevant recitation of words mumbled in repetition, and a series of half hearted
actions done at a distance from me. The Mass springs from the very heart of
truth, from God himself. Jesus’s death on the cross, and rising again, sets me
free from sin and death, and makes me an heir to heaven. In response to this
truth I come to worship God, to participate in that truth, to be thankful for
the very notion that God loves me and holds me in the palm of his hand. What do
I get from the Mass? I get life itself, the fullness of life, lived in service
of others, a life that’s direction is eternal. “Blessed be the name of the Lord”
These are not a few empty words, but a statement of intent, a declaration of trust,
an indication that I understand why I come to Mass, and what I expect!
Being bored, and not getting
anything from the Mass, is a poor excuse.
Walking with the Lord is an exercise of faith, it is a
simple prayer. When the conversation and walk began many years ago I was struck
with questions, I was hesitant as to how to engage. I first thought, what do I say
as I walk along? How do I address him? So soon that conversation become
essential to my living, the listening, the silence, the journey, so important to
I talk with him as I would with a friend, a good friend, one
who does not take offence easily, one who knows me, knows when I’m sad or
happy, or when I just want to be left alone. I speak to him, and let him know
how things are in life. “Things” that word that describes any number of issues,
activities, emotions, needs, or just plain old trivial things! Things are good,
life is moving on before me, I am scared sometimes how little control I have
when it comes to the passing of time. It’s a road before me that I am walking
upon, a large open one, filled with buildings, people, events, and as I walk,
there is little time to look back, or to stop still, and reflect. There is
always a deadline to make, an appointment to keep, a “thing” to do.
rushing around and as I grow older it is not so easy to keep up!But through it all, you Lord are with me,
your presence fills the spaces that surround me, your presence is as natural to
me as my breathing, your presence makes the road familiar, worth walking along,
and a task I willing undertake. I remember the first time I heard you calling
to me, a whisper in the background of my living, "follow me" you said and you invited a
response. I ignored you for a while, but I recall the wonderful moment I heard
you calling me by my name, and the joy I felt when I recognised it was your
voice, your words that I heard.
I have tried to be inspired by the likes of the
prophet Samuel, and whispered in the darkness and stillness of my prayer “speak
Lord, your servant is listening!” My heart dances within me when I talk with
you, and walk along with you, my eyes are fixed upon the road ahead as your
eyes are fixed upon me. Sometimes I look to the side anxious you are not there
and you tap me on the other shoulder and reassure me of your presence, and as I express
anxiety you move me to look at the bigger picture, that all is in your hands.
Each step I take of this walk with you, I follow you, Lord.
Lord, throughout our walking together, keep my heart steady,
my feet firm upon the path you ask me to walk upon, and lighten my spirit with