Devotion to Sacred Scripture

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Pope Francis on love for Scripture

30th September 2020 marks 1600 years since the traditional date of the death of St Jerome, one of the early Church's most fascinating and learned characters.

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ (St Jerome)

Born around 340AD in Dalmatia (the western part modern Croatia), he studied in Rome, was baptised and - after a number of years travelling Eurpoe and the Middle East, and discovering the monastic and ascetical life, he was ordained a priest. Having returned to Rome around 382AD and spent some time there as secretary to Pope St Damasus, he travelled to the Holy Land where he spent many years in Bethlehem, frmo about 386AD until his death in 420AD), studying the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible in order to produce a translation into the contemporary language of the time, the common version of Latin, called the "lingua vulgata", or "language of the people". His aim was to make the riches of the Word of God accessible to the people of his time. The mammoth work which came frmo his long labours and researches is known to us today as the Vulgate version of the Bible, and it has had an immense influence on how we understand the biblical texts. For many centuries, it has been the "official" or "authoritative" version of the Scriptures in the Latin-rite Church.

To mark the occasion (and the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict's Exhortation on Scripture, Verbum Domini), Pope Francis has written an "Apostolic Letter" called "Scripturae Sacrae Affectus" ("the Love of Sacred Scripture") encouraging us to follow St Jerome's example of devotion to the Sacred Scriptures, to go to them regularly for prayer and study. As Pope Francis writes, St Jerome saw the study of Scripture not as an academic or purely intellectual endeavour but as "a spiritual exercise and a means of drawing closer to God". Indeed, St Jerome "devoted himself to the study of sacred Scripture not for aesthetic reasons, but – as is well known – only because Scripture had led him to know Christ." For this reason, it is St Jerome who gave us the famous dictum: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

In this Letter, Pope Francis speaks of scripture scholars and biblical experts; he speaks to priests and bishops who must go to the Scriptures regularly for nourishment in prayer and for preaching, encouraging them to be guides to their fellow-Christians who seek to enter into the Bible's riches but are sometimes overwhelmed by its 'strangeness'. He speaks of the importance of translation and the important work of mission which resides in the effort to interpret and translate biblical language and images into the language of people. He invites families to rediscover the place of the Scriptures in their lives and to be more familiar in reading the Bible.

And he speaks very directly to young people, that they might discover the beauties of their heritage and take up the search for beauty, meaning and truth, looking to Jerome as an example of one who discovered Christ, the pearl of great price.

To read the document, click here or on the famous picture of St Jerome by the artist, Caravaggio, which Pope Francis mentions in the Letter.

May we develop and deepen that "living and tender love" for Sacred Scriptures that inspired St Jerome and which Pope Francis now invites us all to rediscover!

St Jerome by Caravaggio (Borghese Gallery, Rome)

I often think of the experience a young person can have today entering a bookshop in his or her city, or visiting an Internet site, to look for the section on religious books. In most cases, this section, when it exists, is not only marginal but poorly stocked with works of substance. Looking at those bookshelves or webpages, it is difficult for a young person to understand how the quest of religious truth can be a passionate adventure that unites heart and mind; how the thirst for God has inflamed great minds throughout the centuries up to the present time; how growth in the spiritual life has influenced theologians and philosophers, artists and poets, historians and scientists. One of the problems we face today, not only in religion, is illiteracy: the hermeneutic skills that make us credible interpreters and translators of our own cultural tradition are in short supply. I would like to pose a challenge to young people in particular: begin exploring your heritage. 

Pope Francis, Scripturae Sacrae Affectus

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Vocations Awareness Week 2020

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13th - 20th September 2020

2020 has proven to be a very strange year for all of us, from lockdowns to closed schools, to cancelled holidays and working from home. We have been forced to reconsider some of our priorities and to think about what is truly important for us, to consider in a new way how we live as communities, families and parishes. For many, the months of shielding and isolation were very painful and many families faced the heart-ache of separation from elderly relatives, or from children and grandchildren. The need to reach out and care for others - or simply to think of others when we make our own choices - has never been more important.

Parishes too have had to re-invent things we all used to take for granted: prayer together, the celebration of Sacraments, our Sunday Mass. We'ev had to make greater use of online resources, live streaming, Youtube and parish websites for communicating the Gospel, gathering people in prayer and keeping in touch with those who are most isolated. In many ways, it has never been a more tiring, challenging, painful, exciting, collaborative, creative time to be a priest!

This year's Vocations Awareness Week, therefore, draws its theme directly from the richest source of our faith: the teaching of Jesus himself, looking at the very basic tools he used to share the message of God's Kingdom: Parables.

In particular, we reflect on parables of discovery (such as the treasure in the field, the coin lost and found) and of faithfulness (such as the parable of the dishonest servant). In these teachings of Jesus, we see that our vocation, our call, is to discover what God has planted deep within us for our happiness and joy, and to respond to it, to cherish it, and to live faithfully by it.

For some, that "treasure" is the gift of a call to serve the People of God and his world as a priest, a deacon or in religious life. For all of us, it is a call to serve God and each other with love, with generosity and with compassion. These are things whose value we have rediscovered this year in all sorts of ways.

As each year, "Priests for Scotland" has produced some resources for use by schools and youth groups (age range s1 - s4 or above). Click on the image at the top or here to see more and to access the materials available.

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Thinking Vocations for 2020

Thinking Vocations for 2020

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Bulletin and Website Notices for Vocations

Trinity Sunday to Christ the King 2020

This page offers brief reflections drawn from the readings for Mass from the Sundays and major feast days in the second half of 2020.

We hope they can prompt some thought and prayer about vocation to priesthood or religious life. While parishes have been unable to provide the usual bulletins and notices due to church closures over these months, we hope that you can use them online, on parish publications on your website, parish Twitter feeds or Facebook pages. An occasional or weekly post may be sufficient to help someone who may be considering whether God might be calling him or her to follow Him in a life of service to the Church.

Below, you can find the "prompts" for the first two Sundays after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi). For the remaining Sundays of the year, click here.

If you are using Twitter or Facebook, you might consider using the hashtag #ThinkVocations2020. Why not get it "trending" this year!

(Note: The texts here contain hyperlinks which may not be replicated in a "cut-and-paste" operation.)

Be generous in casting the net!

Trinity Sunday -- 7th June 2020
“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.” Could you be someone who brings people knowledge of God's love as a priest, a deacon or in religious life? Call your Diocesan Vocations Director, email Priests for Scotland at, or see our website or Facebook pages, PFS or VocationNetworkScotland.

Body and Blood of the Lord ("Corpus Christi") -- 14th June 2020
“Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life.” There is no greater gift of God than the Eucharist. Are you being called to bring God's people the nourishment of the Eucharist as a priest? Is it the source of your own life? Call your Diocesan Vocations Director, email Priests for Scotland at, or see our website or Facebook page.

Click here for the page where you will find all the prompts for Sundays and feasts after Pentecost 2020 as far as the Solemnity of Christ the King in late November.

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Word of God Sunday

Word of God Sunday

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On the 30th of September 2019, the feast of St Jerome, Pope Francis published an "apostolic letter" under the title "Aperuit Illis" in which he invites us to mark the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time each year as "Word of God Sunday".

This was something he had already reflected on and suggested at the close of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 (Misericordia et Misera, 7) and which he now wishes us to mark in our parishes and communities each year.

The title comes from the Latin phrase used towards the end of the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus, after the Resurrection, met the disciples in the upper room and "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). He hopes that setting aside a particular moment each year to celebrate the Word of God in Scripture will "enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world." (AI 2)

Click below to access a page among our "Ongoing Formation" pages which will, in time, offer some reflections and resources for marking this Sunday in the coming year.

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Vocations Awareness Week  2019

Vocations Awareness Week 2019

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Vocations Awareness Week 2019

8th - 15th September 2019

Each year, the Church in Scotland sets aside this week as a time for parishes and schools to reflect on the idea of vocation - whether the vocation each of us has as baptised Christians to live our faith or the specific vocation some have in the Church to live and work as priests, deacons or in some form of religious life.

In a special way, we invite our Catholic schools and our parish youth ministries and groups to help our young people to reflect on and explore what their vocation in life might be: "to what is God calling me?"

To help with this, we provide each year a guiding theme with some ideas and materials to focus our reflections.

This year, Vocations Awareness Week takes as its theme a phrase from St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: "We are God's work of art" (see Eph 2:9).

With these words, St Paul invites us to consider how God has made us and called us to live the "true life" he has planned for us, a life modelled on and guided by Jesus. In many ways, this is nothing more than a call to live our true vocation, our true calling, faithful to the plan God had in mind for us when he first created us.

So, young people are being invited to reflect on how they might see themselves as God's "work of art": how do they think God calls them? what gifts or talents has he given them to use and how are they using them? how are they discovering their "true selves"? how are they giving of themselves and their gifts to others? In short, we invite reflection on what it takes to be the kind of person God wants me to be, and how, for some, that might mean thinking about a vocation to priesthood or religious life of some kind.

For more, and to download the materials for 2019, click here or on the image below.

Click the image for the schools materials for "Vocations Awareness Week" 2019

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Weekly Vocations Posts for Parishes 2019

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Bulletin and Website Notices for Vocations

Sundays in Ordinary Time 2019: Weeks 14 - 34

As we did in the earlier part of 2019, we continue to offer here some short reflections for each Sunday and major feast day for the remainder of the year. 

Taking as their starting point some element of the day's Scripture readings, in particular the Gospel of Luke which guides us through this Liturgical Year, they offer a reflection question for anyone who might be thinking - however loosely! - about the possibility that God might be calling them to priesthood or religious life.  Indeed, they can be relevant for anyone considering any kind of vocation in the Church priesthood, whether diocesan, religious or missionary, consecrated life, or diaconate.

Please feel free to copy and paste these brief reflections into your weekly parish newsletter or other publications. You may want to copy and paste them onto your parish website as a banner message or news item, to place a link to the page as a whole from your website, or to use them as Facebook posts on or around the relevant Sunday.

(Note: Some of the texts are a little too long to serve as Twitter posts, but they can be edited by removing the email contact and some of the repeated contact information as desired.)

Below are the first two suggested posts.  The rest can be found here.

14th Sunday of the Year – July 7th 2019

“The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few.” Could you be one of those Jesus sends to preach the kingdom and bring his healing, as a priest, religious or deacon? Call your Diocesan Vocations Director, or email Priests for Scotland at See or visit our Facebook page.

15th Sunday of the Year-- July 14th 2019

"The Word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart." Perhaps you feel a desire to share God's word with others. If you feel you may be called to the priesthood or religious life, call your Diocesan Vocations Director, or email Priests for Scotland at  See or visit our Facebook page.

Click here for the page where you will find all the prompts for the Sundays and feasts through the weeks of Ordinary Time until the Feast of Christ the King 2019.

Click the image for more...

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Vocations Awareness Week 2018

Vocations Awareness Week 2018

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Every year, the Church in Scotland sets aside a week in which we are all asked to reflect on our vocation within the Christian family, a vocation which flows from our shared Baptismal vocation to grow in holiness and in service of others. In particular, we are asked:

  • to pray for a renewed and strengthened sense of vocation among all God's People;
  • to consider what my own vocation is in life and how I might be responding to the call that God has made to me;
  • to pray for a generous response in the hearts of those called to serve the Church in priesthood, consecrated life and diaconate;
  • to consider - in a way which is appropriate to my own stage and situation in life - whether I might not actually be one of those called to be a priest, a religious or a deacon;
  • to encourage someone, whom I think might be showing the signs that they have such a vocation, to consider discerning or pursuing such a call;
  • to pray for and offer support and encouragement to our priests, the religious women and men who serve in our communities, the deacons who serve our parishes and dioceses and our seminarians and others in formation or discernment of their vocation in the Church.


For 2018, we offer some reflection on the Vocations Stories of six individuals whose lives have had a great impact on the Church of today. Two are still alive, three are now canonised as saints of the Church and one is considered "Blessed". Three are men; three are women. Some lived (or still live on!) to a fine old age; one or two died young. Some are household names; some are less well known. All have something to say to us about faith, about trust in God, about service and about vocation.

Click here for more and to access the resources available for schools and youth groups… 

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Newsletter – Issue 2 available

Newsletter – Issue 2 available

With 0 Comments, Category: Discerning Priesthood, News and Events, Planting seeds, Preparing for Seminary, Resources and Publications, Vocations, Vocations Campaigns,

To coincide with Vocations Awareness Week around Scotland, a second edition of our newsletter has been sent to parishes and schools.

This edition focuses on the stories and personalities of some of the new priests ordained around Scotland this year, a year which has seen what some have referred to as a "twenty-year high" in numbers of ordinations.  Likewise, 2017 has seen a number of new religious professions and young people exploring religious life as a real option for them.  As a final cause of joy and thanksgiving to God, it seems likely that this year also will see the highest number of applicants to seminary, to begin formation for priesthood, that we have seen for a decade or more.  G0d's grace is at work; the call is being heard. Please pray for all those considering and entering into priestly or religious formation and for all the new priests who will begin their service in our parishes over these months.

To download the Newsletter, click here or on the image below.

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PFS Magazine – Issue One now available

PFS Magazine – Issue One now available

With 0 Comments, Category: Discerning Priesthood, News and Events, Planting seeds, Resources and Publications, Vocations, Vocations Campaigns,

Priests for Scotland has issued for parishes, schools and those interested in priesthood and in vocations to priesthood, the first issue of a free magazine.  This edition has short pieces from seminarians studying to become priests from around Scotland as well as an insight from one of Scotland's newest priests, Fr Matthew Carlin of Paisley Diocese, ordained in the summer of 2016.

Over the course of a year we hope to produce a number of these short newsletters, to help promote the importance of priesthood, to look at the work priests do around the country and to issue the invitation to consider a vocation to priesthood.  Over the next few months, Vocations Directors in our dioceses will be inviting and meeting with men considering this possibility, to help them discern whether God might be calling them to serve his People as priests.  (Click here for contact details for the Vocations Director in your area.)

You can download the Magazine, issue 1, by clicking here or on the image below.

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Posting the Invitation

Posting the Invitation

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Each Sunday, we hear the Word of God in the readings at Mass.  But do we really listen?

Do we notice the call to follow Christ which gently echoes in every text?  Do we hear the "still, small voice", the "gentle breeze", which brought Elijah to the mouth of a cave, ready to go on his journey as prophet of God? Do we even think God is speaking to us when we hear his word?

As part of our shared task of Vocations Promotion, Priests for Scotland invites parishes to keep before its people the idea that some of its members might be being called to serve the Church as priests, deacons or religious. To this end, and as a help for busy parish priests, we have published here some brief notes, drawn from the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time as well as the major liturgical seasons, which can be used in the weekly parish newsletter or Bulletin, cut and pasted for use on parish websites or Facebook pages, or adapted for tweeting.

Let's work together to "pay out the nets", to let the Lord's voice be heard!

Click here for more.

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Advent and Christmas Vocations Prompts

Advent and Christmas Vocations Prompts

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Each Sunday in Advent, and throughout the Christmas season, Priests for Scotland is publishing via our Facebook page little vocations "prompts" to help those who might be thinking about a priestly vocation to use this sacred time to consider the possibility guided by the weekly Scriptures.



Advent is a season in the Church's life which of its nature looks to the future - yes, to the coming of Christ as a child at Christmas, but also beyond that to his coming in glory at the end of time.  What better time is there in the Church's liturgical calendar to think about our own futures too, about what God is asking of us, about how we might respond, and about the direction of our lives in light of our faith.

Could that future involve a life of priestly service for you, a member of your family, or someone you know?

In the middle weeks of Advent we encounter the person of John the Baptist.  He was called "from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15) to be a herald of Christ, to call people to repent and return to God's ways.  He was called to be a prophet, to be a messenger, to be a witness to God's action in the sight of the people.  In the middle weeks of Advent we hear him fulfilling that vocation, as he "prepares a way for the Lord", as he becomes the voice "crying in the wilderness" (Matthew 3:3).

And so, our little "prompts" invite those who think God might just be calling them to be priests in Scotland today - to be messengers of the Gospel, heralds of Christ, witnesses to God's merciful and saving action in the world - to ask God to guide them to know his will, to hear his voice, and, perhaps, to look to their future as priests to serve God's people.

Pray for all who are thinking they might be so called...

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Misericordia et Misera

Misericordia et Misera

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On Monday 21st November 2016, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera following the closure of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King.  In the Letter, he outlines some of his reflections on the impact of the Jubilee Year and his hopes for its ongoing legacy in the Church.  While some specific aspects of it have been widely reported in the press, it is well worth reading in its entirety, in order to join the Holy Father in his hope that "the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open" long after the "Mercy Doors" have closed in Cathedrals and churches across the world.

To read the Apostolic Letter in full, click the title here: Misericordia et Misera.

Below are a few highlights from the document in which Pope Francis makes explicit reference to the life and ministry of priests:

In the liturgy, mercy is not only repeatedly implored, but is truly received and experienced. From the beginning to the end of the Eucharistic celebration, mercy constantly appears in the dialogue between the assembly at prayer and the heart of the Father, who rejoices to bestow his merciful love...  In a word, each moment of the Eucharistic celebration refers to God’s mercy. (par. 5)

I strongly encourage that great care be given to preparing the homily and to preaching in general. A priest’s preaching will be fruitful to the extent that he himself has experienced the merciful goodness of the Lord. Communicating the certainty that God loves us is not an exercise in rhetoric, but a condition for the credibility of one’s priesthood. (par. 6)

I greatly desire that God’s word be increasingly celebrated, known and disseminated, so that the mystery of love streaming from this font of mercy may be ever better understood... It would be beneficial if every Christian community, on one Sunday of the liturgical year, could renew its efforts to make the Sacred Scriptures better known and more widely diffused. It would be a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people. Creative initiatives can help make this an opportunity for the faithful to become living vessels for the transmission of God’s word. Initiatives of this sort would certainly include the practice of lectio divina, so that the prayerful reading of the sacred text will help support and strengthen the spiritual life. (par. 7)

I invite priests once more to prepare carefully for the ministry of confession, which is a true priestly mission. I thank all of you from the heart for your ministry, and I ask you to be welcoming to all, witnesses of fatherly love whatever the gravity of the sin involved, attentive in helping penitents to reflect on the evil they have done, clear in presenting moral principles, willing to walk patiently beside the faithful on their penitential journey, far-sighted in discerning individual cases and generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness. (par. 10)

We confessors have experienced many conversions that took place before our very eyes. We feel responsible, then, for actions and words that can touch the heart of penitents and enable them to discover the closeness and tenderness of the Father who forgives. Let us not lose such occasions by acting in a way that can contradict the experience of mercy that the penitent seeks... (par. 11)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life. This requires priests capable of putting their lives at the service of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), in such a way that, while no sincerely repentant sinner is prevented from drawing near to the love of the Father who awaits his return, everyone is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness. A favourable occasion for this could be the 24 Hours for the Lord, a celebration held in proximity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. (par. 11)

I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation. (par. 12)

In all religions, the moment of death, like that of birth, is accompanied by a religious presence. As Christians, we celebrate the funeral liturgy as a hope-filled prayer for the soul of the deceased and for the consolation of those who suffer the loss of a loved one. I am convinced that our faith-filled pastoral activity should lead to a direct experience of how the liturgical signs and our prayers are an expression of the Lord’s mercy.  It is the Lord himself who offers words of hope, since nothing and no one can ever separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:35).  The priest’s sharing in this moment is an important form of pastoral care, for it represents the closeness of the Christian community at a moment of weakness, solitude, uncertainty and grief. (par. 15)

We are called to promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters. The works of mercy are “handcrafted”, in the sense that none of them is alike. Our hands can craft them in a thousand different ways, and even though the one God inspires them, and they are all fashioned from the same “material”, mercy itself, each one takes on a different form. (par. 20)

I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor. This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46). It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace. This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy. (par. 21)

As Pope Francis exhorts us: "Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace." (par. 18)  He makes no secret of the fact that he sees the ministry of priests as crucial to opening these gifts of God's mercy for God's people.  "This is the time of mercy."  May our reflections on the Jubilee Year now ended and on the mercy of God we experience, celebrate and share every day in priestly ministry renew us and open us to a new joy in service of the Church and of those whose lives we touch with the compassion, consolation and forgiveness of God.



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Decade a Day

Decade a Day

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During the month of October – a time when Catholics often take up the prayer of the Rosary with greater devotion – Priests for Scotland invited friends to offer up one decade of the Rosary each day with the intention of praying for Vocations to the Priesthood.

In this, we were led in prayer by pupils of St Peter the Apostle Secondary in Clydebank, near Glasgow.

Go to our Facebook page to find out more, and to join with the pupils as they pray (via video) and reflect on the mysteries of the Rosary in prayer for priestly and religious vocations.

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Seminary Applicants’ Weekends

Seminary Applicants’ Weekends

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The process for application to study for priesthood in Scotland has a number of elements.

First, there is a process of discernment carried out in conversation with the Diocesan Vocations Director (click here for contact details).

When the enquirer is ready, and at the recommendation of the Vocations Director, the formal application to the Bishop is prepared and submitted.  This process is facilitated and coordinated nationally via Priests for Scotland.  Application forms are available only through Vocations Directors from Priests for Scotland.

As part of the Application process, there are weekend retreat and reflection gatherings for all applicants.

For the dates for the Process in 2020 (for entry into seminary in 2021) click here.  Please note that this page is password protected for access by Applicants and Vocations Directors only

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Vocations Awareness Week – Bishop’s Reflection

Vocations Awareness Week – Bishop’s Reflection

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This Sunday we begin our celebration of Vocations Awareness Week in Scotland – a time when we are encouraged to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.

Both within and outwith the Catholic community, people often wonder what a life of service in the Church actually entails. What does it mean to be a priest, deacon or religious sister in contemporary Scotland?  What is involved in serving the Church in the face of rising secularism and seemingly widespread religious indifference? A powerful response is encountered in this weekend’s Gospel.  Through the use of three parables, Jesus offers us a perfect template of ministry – that ministry is to seek out that which is lost.

094be8cGetting or being lost is a common experience. At one time or another, we have all been there……. lost in airports or in train stations or on the way home from a night out. We have panicked when we’ve realised we’ve taken the wrong turn or that the sat-nav isn’t working or that our surroundings aren’t very familiar.

But in the Scriptures and in the tradition of the Church, ‘being lost’ isn’t just about being in the wrong place – it’s not simply an issue of geographic dislocation – rather it’s about becoming disconnected from God,  disconnected from the family of faith and disengaged from who we really are and who we are called to be.

In our communities there are so many who find themselves spiritually ‘lost’. We think of so many of our young people ‘lost’ in an arid and desolate cultural landscape.  We think of those who are lost in the worlds of addiction – where everything is hurting and nothing has meaning. We think of those who have been forgotten by the world and ‘lost’ in a sea of societal indifference and apathy – the poor, the elderly and the unborn. We think of those who have wandered far from the faith – ‘lost’ in the frenetic busyness of everyday life.


Our Priests, deacons and religious are called and chosen to find all of the ‘lost’  – they are challenged  to be the good shepherd, to be the woman who will not rest until she has found that missing drachma and to be the Father who’s heart is restless until his prodigal Son has returned. They are called, to bring the ‘lost’ to the House of Our Heavenly Father where there is always hope, light and love.

Wherever there is human need and wherever there is human suffering whether in Scotland or abroad you will always encounter the Catholic Church – offering comfort, restoring hope and ‘finding’ what is true, beautiful and good in human life.

This week pray for more vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Religious life. Encourage all those who are engaged in ministry in your community and finally, discern whether you could be called to the Priesthood, Diaconate or religious life.

Bishop John Keenan

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Vocations Awareness Week 2016

Vocations Awareness Week 2016

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As in past years, for 2016 Priests for Scotland is making available materials for schools and parishes to help our communities reflect on the idea of Vocation.

First of all, each one of us has a common vocation - or calling - to follow Jesus. This comes from our commitment as baptised people, to listen to Christ, to follow his ways and his teaching, and to live as faithful members of his Body, the Church, sharing with others our life, our faith and our love.

We each have a personal call too, however.  For many, this might include a call to family life, marriage and parenthood, for others a life dedicated to prayer or ministry in consecrated life or permanent diaconate, to a religious congregation or in a more personal consecration. For others, their vocation to love and serve might be lived out in their line of work - to teach the young, to care for the sick, to support the needs of a community in various ways, to offer their talents in creativity or the arts to beautify our lives and our environment, to serve in public life, etc.

Vocations Awareness Week invites us all to consider our own vocation, and how we are living it, or perhaps even to reflect on what our vocation in life might be. It invites us to take some time to ask: To what is God calling me? How is he inviting me to serve his People or our world more generally?  And what do I do to help or support others in finding their vocation in life?

For some, however, that personal vocation is a call to follow Jesus and to serve his Body, the Church, as priests.

For that reason, Vocations Awareness Week is also our opportunity to invite some to consider priesthood as a life to which the Lord might be calling them.  Out of all the possibilities to which God might be calling me, could priesthood be the one I need to consider more deeply?


Below are materials which can be downloaded for use in parishes - either for use on the Sundays at either end of Vocations Awareness Week or for prayer and reflection at daily Mass or as part of a prayer group or other parish group meetings taking place during the week.

A Word document format can be downloaded by clicking here .

A PDF version can be downloaded by clicking here.   

Please feel free to use the materials as you wish.

Materials for schools can be accessed here.

A reflection by Bishop John Keenan of Paisley for Sunday 11th September can be accessed here.

"God calls you to make definitive choices

and he has a plan for each of you:

to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation

is to move toward personal fulfilment."

(Pope Francis, World Youth Day, Rio de Janeiro 2013)

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Propaedeutic Seminary Course

Propaedeutic Seminary Course

With 0 Comments, Category: Discerning Priesthood, News and Events, Preparing for Seminary,

What does "propaedeutic" mean?

In short, "propaedeutic" is a technical word in the Church for "preparatory".  However, we don't simply use the word "Preparatory" as that might suggest that such a course is not really part of formation for priesthood, or is somehow not that important.  Rather, we want to suggest that those who are undertaking this course while, certainly, "preparing" for the full seminary course of philosophy and theology studies which lies ahead, are at the same time already engaged in formation for priesthood.  It is an "Initial" stage of seminary life and training for priesthood, although it might also be a preparation for the full formation programme which will begin afterwards.

Following the injunction of Pope Saint John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis that “there be a sufficient period of preparation prior to Seminary formation” (PDV, 1991, #62) many countries around the world made provision for such a period of initial preparation for students for the priesthood before they enter the full rigours of philosophical and theological studies in the major seminary.  From 2010, under the auspices of “Priests for Scotland”, the Bishops of Scotland provided a brief period of between three and five weeks in late August and early September for students who were about to head off to seminary. This took place each summer at the Royal Scots College in Salamanca.

So what is a "Propaedeutic Course"?

A propaedeutic course is intended to provide candidates for the Priesthood with aspects of spiritual and human formation for priesthood within a community setting. It is intended to help them explore their faith, deepen their relationship with Christ and reflect on what a vocation to be a priest means for them, so that they can be all the better prepared to enter into the academic and formational programme provided by the major seminary. It offers an Initial Formation, aimed at equipping them with a deeper understanding of priesthood, of the Church they seek to serve, of prayer, and of the various dimensions and themes which unite in the seminary formation which lies ahead of them. As a programme of formation, what is offered aims to provide as broadly-based and comprehensive a catechetical curriculum as possible, looking at the major aspects of any Christian formation (see the General Directory for Catechesis, #85-86):

  • Knowledge of the Faith,
  • Formation in prayer,
  • Preparation for and reflection on sacramental life
  • Formation in moral life
  • Formation for community living
  • Preparation for mission, keeping in mind the Church’s project of a New Evangelization

The opportunity offered to seminarians through a propaedeutic period, to deepen their faith and develop a more intimate relationship with the Lord, only makes sense in a community context. This is, in part due to what Pastores Dabo Vobis notes as the essential feature of discipleship as we find it in the Gospels: “To be with him”. That is: to join with others in company with the Lord, in order to learn from Him and become more like Him. It is also due to the fact that diocesan priesthood, which is the ultimate goal of this formation, is characterised above all by a life of service to the Christian community, and is rooted in a spirituality of service to that community. To help develop that spirituality and to express it most fully, Pastores Dabo Vobis (#31) says that all priestly formation should be placed in the context of - and be inspired by - an “essential and undeniable ecclesial dimension” of priesthood.  Even if our priests might work in "one-man-parishes", it is essential that they have developed a strong sense that they are not "lone workers", but rather servants of a community, either the local parish or parishes where they work, or the wider Church itself of which they are representatives, witnesses and servants.

“It is a good thing that there be a period of human, Christian, intellectual and spiritual preparation for the candidates to the Major Seminary. These candidates should, however, have certain qualities: right intention, a sufficient degree of human maturity, a sufficiently broad knowledge of the doctrine of the faith, some introduction into the methods of prayer, and behaviour in conformity with Christian tradition.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 62)

In practice, Initial Seminary Formation - our name for the "Propaedeutic Period" - aims to support the development of the student’s personal life of faith through:

  • opportunities to deepen their personal life of prayer;
  • an introduction to Sacred Scripture as the Living Word of God;
  • an introduction to the Liturgy and the Paschal Mystery;
  • reflection on the person of Christ and the mystery of the Church;
  • regular spiritual direction and opportunities such as days of recollection;
  • lived experience of the communitarian dimension of the Christian (and priestly) vocation.

As Pastores Dabo Vobis suggests, spiritual formation also requires an authentic and balanced human formation: “It is important that the priest should mould his personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ” (PDV, #43).

In this regard, seminarians who are engaged in this initial stage of formation will be encouraged to:

  • take responsibility for aspects of the shared life of the community;
  • participate fully in the community’s life, spiritually, liturgically, socially and materially;
  • generously place his talents and experience at the service of others;
  • conscientiously follow the Rule of Life laid out by College staff on behalf of the Bishops;
  • humbly and prudently reflect on his experiences, his relationships and his vocational sense as the period unfolds, so as to share a self-evaluation of his progress.


How does this all happen for those training to be priests in Scotland?Scots College Salamanca cloister

From January 2016, seminarians beginning their training for priesthood in the dioceses of Scotland head to the Royal Scots College in Salamanca. Founded in 1627 to train young men to serve as priests in Scotland, the College takes on the role of beginning this process for all our seminarians.

Courses undertaken include:

  • Spirituality - exploring prayer, traditions of prayer, prayer practices and the devotional life;
  • Liturgy (both the Mass and the Prayer of the Church, or "Divine Office") and the Sacraments;
  • Introductions to Scripture - the Gospels, the Old Testament and in particular the Psalms;
  • the person of Jesus: how we understand what the Scriptures and the Church says about him, what we believe about him and how we form a relationship with Him;
  • the Church and how we understand it, sense our belonging to it, and recognise its "marks" as one, holy, catholic and apostolic;
  • Church history, especially the story of the Church in Scotland;
  • the nature of faith, the Creed and how we express and understand our faith;
  • Evangelisation, Mission and the call to witness to our faith;
  • aspects of our lived faith: Catholic Social Doctrine and moral thinking

In addition, there are courses and reflections on human development, our human capacities, relationships and personal growth as well as a variety of pastoral themes and opportunities to meet and hear from priests engaged in ministry in a variety of contexts, or with various responsibilities, to give insights into what diocesan priesthood can  look like.


As well as all this, however, there are many valuable opportunities offered by living for these months in Spain, and especially in that part of the country which has been home to saints and scholars over the centuries: St Teresa of Ávila, St John of the Cross, St Ignatius Loyola, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (the Dominican "Father of Human Rights"), Miguel de Cervantes (author of "Don Quixote") and many others.  Included in the course, therefore, are excursions to places of interest both in the spiritual life and in cultural life more widely.


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The Pontifical Scots College, Rome

The Pontifical Scots College, Rome

With 0 Comments, Category: Preparing for Seminary,

The Pontifical Scots College, Rome was founded on 5th December 1600 by Pope Clement VIII. It provided an education for young Scots Catholic men who, due to the laws against Catholics, could not receive a Catholic education at home. During the centuries that followed, the college sent a steady supply of priests to Scotland, being closed only when the French invaded Rome in 1798 and again during the Second World War. For two hundred years Jesuits and Italian secular clergy directed the College, but since 1800 the Rectors have all been Scots secular priests.

At first the college was sited in a little house in what is known today as Via del Tritone, opposite the church of S. Maria in Costantinopoli. In 1604 it was transferred to Via Felice, now called Via delle Quattro Fontane, and there it remained till 1962. The Church of St. Andrew of the Scots was built beside the college and, although no longer in the possession of the college, Mass is still regularly celebrated there. The present college building on the Via Cassia was opened in 1964 by Pope Paul VI and has since been visited by Pope John Paul II.

As well as a house for students for the priesthood, the Scots College has been a temporary home for many other Scots, such as the Bishops during the Second Vatican Council and other meetings, the several groups of priests who have taken part in theology refresher courses and, more recently, groups of pilgrims who come during the summer vacation. It has been at the centre of celebrations for the creation of three Scots Cardinals, Cardinal Gray, Cardinal Winning and Cardinal O'Brien, and it was visited by many pilgrims who came from Scotland for the Canonisation of St John Ogilvie.  It also frequently hosts groups of pilgrims from Scotland staying in the city for major events or Holy Years, such as the Jubilee of 2000, the Year of Faith in 2012-2013 and the Jubilee Year of Mercy 2015-2016.

This year there are around twenty students currently studying in the College in Rome, of the roughly thirty-five studying for the dioceses of Scotland in total.


Twitter: @ScotsCollegeIT


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