"How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!"
I love these lines from the poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit priest, who wrote them reflecting on his ministry to the sick and now dead farrier, Felix Randall. In the course of the poem Father Hopkins describes briefly but with great feeling how he brought the Sacraments to this dying but once powerful man. He describes how this strong and skilful man was brought low by suffering but through the ministrations of the priest and the grace of the Sacraments came to be resigned to what he had to suffer before he died.
The priest-poet remarks that “Seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears”, and while filled with admiration at the handsome power of the blacksmith at his forge – a wonderful expression of the beauty and skill of the human person – somehow it is in our weakness and helplessness that we discover most about ourselves and others.
The values of so many of those around us, place so much store by health and quality of life and, while these are things never to be taken for granted, they can so easily mask the profound truth and goodness and beauty of our humanity. It is only in the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross that our minds are fully opened to the presence and closeness of God who makes his home in the heart of each one of us.
In ministering to the sick the priest makes incarnate the closeness of the whole Church to those who suffer but at the same time acts as a prism through which the world can find in the one who suffers the deepest dignity of the human person and the ageless presence of the God who brings salvation to the world through the Cross.
“His desire to save us is so strong-that Jesus is willing to lose His life, that we might experience, new life, eternal life”
(Homily for Lent 5-year B- Rev E. Mc Donald.)
Losing your life that others might live. This is the message that Jesus embodied, but it’s also the message that our parents lived by. As a young couple, they sacrificed many things, a social life, new carpets, home decoration, time off work, evenings in together, in order to provide for a new child. In a sense they lost their own lives that we might have a better life. For them it hasn’t stopped, they are still sacrificing for adult children on low incomes, or without work or with a new grandchild on the way. They are losing out on a bit of financial roughness that should have helped them enjoy retirement. Parenting is the way of sacrifice: losing your own life that others might live. It is in this very same context that I see the celibacy that the church demands of our priests. It’s a parenting thing, sacrificing that others might live. It’s a difficult thing, not without its difficulties, frustrations and blurred edges. Celibacy is a liberation for the sake of others. It’s a sacrifice, that others might have you, your time, your love , your involvement, your attention and your energy. You sacrifice, that others might have your life; that others might have life. Celibacy is a parenting thing, maybe that’s why we are called Father.
‘God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. ‘
Pope Benedict's address to pupilsSports Arena of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010
On one of the first occasions I walked into a primary class the teacher invited me to talk to the children. I quickly thought, ‘what about?’ After I’m sure was a period of boredom for the children and a cringe for the teacher I finally found my way out.
What then do you say to children? For along time I have listened to other priests and searched endless resource books, all coming up short. The phrase, ‘God loves you’, quickly becomes exhausted. As adults, we struggle with the phrase ‘God loves you’. Pope Benedict recognised this difficulty when at the beginning of his Pontificate he wanted ‘to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man’ (Deus Caritas, 1). If Pope Benedict felt the need to clarify it for the whole of humanity then a way of clarifying it for children has to be found?
There at Twickenham to that particular gathering the words he used gave clarity to those who listened. We, the grown ups, could do well to listen to this simple message because we are the people who muddy the waters in which this message finds life.
We do this when we fail to recognise the necessary end of merit and the beginning of pure gift and acceptance. ‘You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you’ (Mark 1:9-11), these are words that rip open heaven and we are miserly in their use. To break free from this we ourselves have to dismantle the need to achieve God’s love. Once this occurs our life becomes what it truly should be, a response.
We will see the hungry and respond, the stranger and respond, the naked and respond, the sick and respond, the prisoner and respond. With these good deeds going before us our hope is that He too will respond at the favourable time.
"Jesus, Lord of the calm and of the storm, whatever seas I sail upon, be Thou my helm, my compass, and my port."
Hebridean Altars (The Spirit of an Island Race) by Alistair Maclean - 1937.
I chose the above quote for my Silver Jubilee of Ordination card. Alistair Maclean's little book (Hebridean Altars) is full of short Hebridean prayers and blessings, but I thought this one particularly apt for my own personal situation at the time of my silver jubilee milestone, as well as an unknown future looming. At the time I had been ten happy years in Castlebay, Isle of Barra (more famous now than it was then thanks to 'An Island Parish' programme!), and had been given notice that within six weeks I would be setting sail for St Columba's Cathedral, Oban. I've had recourse to the quote again in the last year as I sailed the Minch once more, this time for my native isle, South Uist.
As island communities we are probably more dependent on the moods of the sea than most - from the fisherman's 'best ever catch of fish' to the nuisance of the cancelled ferry.
In the calm as in the storm, in the storm as in the calm, we are asked to recognise the providential care of Jesus … even although we often imagine him (and happy to leave him maybe) 'in the stern, with his head on a cushion, asleep'.
For the discerning of a vocation to priesthood, the helm, compass and port can only be Jesus - but it takes personal knowledge and skill and not a little common sense and wisdom to read and interpret both the compass and Jesus!
When you have read this, why not search the gospels for incidents in the life of Jesus and his disciples that happen at or by the sea/seashore. Did you not also encounter Jesus there - steering you, guiding you and giving you rest - in other words 'calling you'?
Once upon a time, in fact it is not so long ago, there used to be such a thing as the culture of the hero. The hero was someone who did something exceptional for the sake of the other. There were sporting heroes, heroes of war, even neighbourhood heroes, and they all had one thing in common; their greatness lay in what they did for others.
Generally speaking, that has been replaced by the culture of the celebrity. For example, today we have football celebrities who have celebrity wives and girlfriends. How much of this more recent fad is driven by what is in it for others? Hardly anything, if anything at all! The prime motivation in the celebrity culture is “what’s in it for me?” Today, people can occupy a highly esteemed position in society without any desire to give anything back. All they need is the right set of contacts, or the right break, and suddenly they are a celebrity!
The sadness in all of this is that the culture of celebrity deadens the human spirit. It dulls the fact that we are not made for ourselves, but for something more than ourselves. It quietens our conscience, and narrows down our consciousness to almost childish proportions. It prevents us from realising the great joy and reward of giving something back, not because of what is in it for me, but because of what it brings to the other.
Would you rather be a hero or a celebrity? It is not too late for you to discover that heroic voice within yourself. Whose voice is it anyway? Is it your voice, or is it God’s voice, or, is it God’s voice and yours in perfect harmony? What is that voice saying to you? Perhaps it is time for you to give something back!
No-one has ever seen the world through your eyes before.
Designer labels, iconic brands, (mass) media and social networking all help to encourage us to think the same way, to spend the same way, to value (and under-value) so many things – in exactly the same way. If you’re not on-message, if you’re not ‘photo-copying’ what the crowd wants to go with, not only are you different, but you can be made to feel quite ‘out of it’, a bit odd. And yet…. we actually need to be, to recognise that all of us are, in fact, a bit different, or to use another word, ‘unique’. There is something wonderful in that. Because of that difference, I have something to offer, and I have lots to receive from, and appreciate in others. By hiding behind the same labels and brands, we can make it so difficult to appreciate the gifts that each individual can have. A well known Scottish poet, Kenneth Steven, put it this way:
“(We have the capacity) To take the brokenness and make it new, to see the familiar and the dull and the taken-for-granted with new eyes each morning. And I have learned that it can be in a few square feet, for small things matter; that God is as much in them as he is present in the great.”
Today, I have the chance to look at so many things, so many people – in a new way, in the way Jesus would look at them. If I try to do that, then I’ll know how to do what Jesus would do in these situations. I can become Christ-like. Nothing is ever really déjà vu.
Fr. John Hughes
Quotation taken from p.66 in Making the Known World New, Kenneth Steven 2009, St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, ISBN 978 97152 08823
“Where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love”
This was written by Saint John of the Cross more than 400 years ago – but does it still make sense? Part of me wants to think that it’s just another wise saying from another holy man - so something not really for me. Yet, if I’m really honest, I know that it touches something deep inside, something very real which goes WHOW !!! Just what would the world be like if we all started putting in just a little bit of love? Sounds easy but don’t you just know there is going to be a catch? “Where there is no love, put love….” Where there is no love is not a place where many of us want to hang around, and yet that is where we - followers of the Crucified One - are called to be; it is right there that we are asked to love. .. to put love. Of courseyou can’t put what you don’t have, or better still, what you don’t know you have, but it’s there all right; God fills us with his love. Love is one of those things that can’t be exhausted, the more you share it, the more you have! Now is the time to spread it around: today - right now. Where there is no love put love! It’s not always easy to put love when you don’t feel loved but didn’t Jesus say “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you…” The really Good News is that love has its own reward and be sure “you will draw out love”. You will become more loving, you will be happier and know deep inner freedom- you will be transformed - you will change the lives of those around you and you will change the world – interested? Now JUST DO IT NOW!
“We are God’s work of art created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.” (Ephesians 2:10)
I recently took part in the Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust 2012 Easter Pilgrimage to Lourdes and the theme we followed through our week in Lourdes was “We are God’s work of art”. These lovely words of St. Paul express the deep truth that God has made us all as he wished and we are all therefore precious in his eyes.
A deeper sense of our human beauty comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ through the richness and goodness of the gift of his grace. This grace lifts us from sin and opens up for us the good life he wishes us to live in him. This is always a work in progress, the picture is not complete until we reach eternity with him. Each day brings new opportunity to allow the Lord to create us as his work of art, and he invites us anew today to give ourselves to him in complete love and trust.
We pray that we be ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts, that we allow him to work in and through the good gifts he has blessed us with, and that we work with him in drawing the bigger picture of the height and the depth of his love, especially in our love and service of our smallest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters. Thinking back to Lourdes a wonderful part of God’s work of art there is St Bernadette, especially her openness to God and her response to Our Lady in helping build there something beautiful for God. Can we do the same?
Bishop Joseph Toal
Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.
(The Lord) does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults. (Psalm 102:10)
Here’s a question: how important are people’s faults and bad qualities? I suppose the answer to the question depends whose faults we are talking about. When it’s our own faults we’re talking about, we hope that they do not really represent the real person; when it’s other people’s faults, we’re more inclined to conclude that what we see on the outside is a good reflection of what is going on in the inside! Or perhaps deep down we fear that the opposite is true, and that we are really defined by our faults! Maybe we are afraid we are in denial about the true significance of our faults, our sins!
So could a quote change our minds – or our fears on that score? If any quote can do this, it’s this. This one doesn’t mess about; it tells us exactly what God thinks about our sins – or even more to the point, it tells what God will do (or rather will NOT do) about our sins. The result is a major surprise; it tells us something about God that few would expect to hear!
How does God respond to sinners and their sins? What does God think of human beings who have faults (i.e. all human beings!)? The answer is disarmingly simple: “(The Lord) does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults.” If I ever came across a quote which could change my life, it is this one, because if I can take on board how fully God dismisses (forgives) my sins and how readily he overlooks my faults, I can break free from the feeling that I am defined by them! If I am not controlled by my faults, then I am free to respond to God’s love: now that’s what I call life changing!
Rev. Robert Hill
Psalm 102:10. The Psalms, a New Translation, Collins, Fontana Book, Glasgow and London, 1963
Why not challenge yourself to a new way of thinking about your future? The Priests for Scotland initiative will soon to launch Thirty Quotes to Change Your Life. Why not take the challenge of receiving two quotations per week that will help you to reflect on God’s will for you whether or not you are considering service as a priest.
Thirty Quotes to Change Your Life will coincide with the launch of the Year of Faith and it will make use of the social media tool Twitter. On each occasion you will receive the beginning of a quotation through Twitter. After clicking on the link provided in the Twitter feed you will be taken to a webpage where you will be able to read the quotation in full along with a reflection provided by a priest or religious currently working in Scotland. You will then be able to leave your own comment or reflection.
Visit the official page of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which runs from December 2015 until November 2016.
The Roman Missal Scotland
Musical settings of missal texts must receive an imprimatur from the Bishops' Conference in whose territory they first seek to publish. Click above for a Guide for Composers for those who seek to publish such settings for liturgical use in Scotland.
The St Mungo Singers
The Church seeks the “full, conscious and active participation” by all the faithful in the liturgy, a fundamental aim for all those involved in public worship.