What is the Process for Application to Seminary in Scotland?
The Process for Application to Seminary in Scotland (sometimes shortened to PASS) is based round a series of weekend retreats and scheduled meetings that begin the journey to seminary for applicants who wish to enter into priestly formation for priesthood in the dioceses of Scotland. There are at present three weekends in total, the emphasis of which throughout is prayer and discernment as the applicant is invited to consider the Lord’s call to service in his Church. Normally, these will have been preceded by meetings with a Diocesan Vocations Director, who will assist an aspiring applicant in discerning whether or not the time is right to make a formal application and so begin the process.
How are these weekends arranged?
PASS weekends normally begin on a Friday evening around 6pm. The atmosphere at these weekends is normally one of recollected quiet since there is the need not only to spend time in prayer but also to allow God’s Spirit to be heard. The weekends are also about meeting like-minded individuals who are also thinking about a possible vocation to priesthood and are considering entering seminary. Thus, an important part of the weekends is the time spent socialising with fellow applicants. Applicants in the past have also been grateful for the opportunity to engage with a number of priests each of whom brings his own understanding and approach to priesthood. This is particularly the case with weekend four and it is hoped that as the process reaches its conclusion applicants will have a better understanding of themselves, of God, and of priestly ministry.
The weekends are arranged as detailed below. Each weekend involves some themed reflection, based on the key notions of getting to know God, getting to know oneself and getting to know the Church. There are discussion points, guided reflection offered by various serving priests, time for personal prayer and opportunities to meet on a one-to-one basis with Vocations Directors and others.
It is expected that all applicants attend all of these events, that they arrive in good time for all events and do not arrange to leave until the weekend is finished, (this is normally around 2pm on the Sunday afternoon). Applicants who might wish to attend these weekends must first make contact with their Diocesan Vocations Director (click here for more) who will decide whether to invite the applicant to take part in the process.
Who else is involved?
Along with your Diocesan Vocations Director you will normally be assigned a Spiritual Director. Both of these have a very specific role within the Seminary Application process. Your Diocesan Vocations Director should be your first contact regarding your progress through the application process. Your Vocations Director should be available to help you with the whole process, including the application form, the various elements of paperwork that need to be gathered (e.g. Baptismal certificates, references, PVG certificates, etc) and the tasks that need to be carried out. Your Spiritual Director has a different focus since the core of your discussion with your Spiritual Direction is your relationship with God. Matters shared with your Spiritual Director remain within that forum and the Spiritual Director has no other involvement within the application process.
During the second of the weekends, there will be time allocated to meet with an interview panel. This is not a group who will decide whether or not you will be accepted for seminary (that decision is rightfully your bishop's decision to take), but rather will help to explore deeper how you are placed to enter into the various aspects of priestly formation - encompassing the spiritual, human, intellectual and pastoral dimensions the Church lays out. The interview group will present a report to your bishop to help him in his decision, along with your referees and Vocations Director, and to help you reflect on those areas which might require more focus once you move into the Seminary and priestly formation itself.
The Director of Priests for Scotland is responsible for having a general oversight of the process. He is responsible for presenting each bishop with a recommendation, based on what has been gleaned through the Process, regarding the suitability of an applicant to begin training to become a diocesan priest. The Process is, therefore, centred on the individual applicant but must also be mindful of the Church’s need for able priests. In other words, it is not only the applicant who is discerning whether or not he has a call to be a priest: the Church also has to assist in validating whether that vocation is authentic, properly motivated and freely chosen, and whether the individual has the potential to be able to serve the wider Church community as a priest.
So, if I think I might be called to be a priest, when do I start?
The whole Process, from discernment to entry into seminary runs from early in the year until December; the formal Application Process itself, with the associated weekend encounters, runs from September to December. Its purpose is to assist prospective candidates in discerning their future and to prepare them, after suitable assessment, for entry into the seminary process. Anyone thinking about applying should do so some time before the summer, to allow time for those early discussions to take place, and for the Diocesan Vocations Director to be able to advise on the best way forward, including entering the Application Process.
On successfully completing the Application Process in the autumn months, and being accepted for seminary formation (normally towards the end of the year), applicants will head to the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, Spain, to begin their seminary formation with a "propaedeutic", or "Initial Seminary Formation" course which runs from January to June each year. Thereafter, the Bishop will decide where the training should take place - normally at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, but sometimes in other seminaries, perhaps in Rome or in England.
Further details can be obtained from the Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations.
Each weekend begins with arrivals at 6.00pm. Applicants should speak to their Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations before attending.
Why should I think of becoming a Priest?
In his book The Joy of Priesthood Fr. Stephen Rossetti writes,
“Many generous young people want to commit themselves to a life that stretches them and that will in the end mean something. (…) Priesthood, when lived with integrity, is such a life.” (Page 13, Ave Maria Press) Recently I heard a priest saying that people often asked him why he became a priest? He said that for him this is the wrong question. The correct question is “why are you still a priest?” he goes on to recall the many challenging situation into which he has been called to minister. He speaks about the privilege of working with young people and with older people. He talks about how he has been honoured to share faith and celebrate the Eucharist. These and many other reasons he concludes are why I am still a priest! Why should you think of becoming a priest? Because you feel called to proclaim the gospel and lead others to Christ; you feel called to a life that will stretch you but will make a difference.
How do I know if God is calling me to be a priest?"
I would guess that this question above all others is the one that vexes most people who might be considering, even tentatively, the idea that they would like to serve as a diocesan priest. For if God doesn’t want me to be a priest then I am happy to leave the idea to one side but if this is what God wants for me then I am sure that I will be happy and fulfilled as a priest. If this is what God wants I am eager to serve. The question is of course a good one, even a gifted one, because it demonstrates an openness to God’s will and an acceptance of the idea that God may be offering a direction for my life. Whether or not I will ever become a priest the idea that God wants to be involved in my future is important.
How do I know what God intends for me?
The answer to the question lies in my experience of God and in an appreciation that God has gifted me for a purpose and that purpose must surely be the building up of his kingdom in service to those I meet.Perhaps you could think of the priests that you have known? Can you appreciate their gifts and do you share any of those qualities? Can you see yourself serving in a similar role? The gospels make clear that Jesus surrounded himself with a variety of different people. Some of those called he invited to become his closest associates. That varied group of men and women shared a variety of backgrounds, qualities and gifts. Peter, a fisherman who is sometimes strong in faith but at others strong in will; floundering and searching for the truth.Matthew, a tax collector who must have had to overcome some opposition as he strove to align his life to Christ and to follow him. Thomas who was hesitant in faith and needed to see the evidence for himself.If the variety of priests has not convinced you that there is no such thing as a typical aspirant to priesthood then just look at the scriptures for a similar range of characters.
But how will I know if it is God that is calling me?
So knowing what God asks any of us flows from us knowing God. Later in another homily the Pope went on to say, “This is not a matter of mere intellectual knowledge but of a profound personal relationship, a knowledge of the heart, of one who loves and is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows to be trustworthy.” (Priests for Jesus Christ, page 41, Family Publications)
Recognising your Giftedness
Talk to other people
Remember that God speaks to us through people and gifts us with our experience as Church. Try talking to others about your interest in becoming a priest. Perhaps there is a priest that you know who would encourage you and guide you. Take things at your own pace.
[learn_more caption="How long will it take to become a priest?"]
Formation programmes vary enormously and can range from five to seven years depending on the nature and background of the candidate. While programmes can be tailored to the needs of the individual they generally involve the candidate receiving substantial education in philosophy and of theology. Along with his intellectual formation time also needs to be given to forming the seminarian as a pastoral minister, spiritually rooted and mature and capable of ministering in a compassionate, mature and stable way. The years of training also include significant times of discernment about the vocation to priesthood, including the support of spiritual directors. Following this time of preparation and discernment, the Bishop may call the candidate to ordination.
[learn_more caption="Who should consider becoming a priest?"]It is important to say that there is no such thing as a typical priest or indeed a typical seminarian. Diocesan priests in Scotland offer a rich variety of characters, talent and interests.
A suitable candidate should be single with average, or above average intelligence. He should be emotionally stable and capable of relating well to men and women. He should be in good health and be sincerely interested in serving as an ordained minister. Anyone attracted to becoming a priest should be interested in working with people and in serving God.
Clearly as a prospective minister in the Roman Catholic Church a suitable candidate should have a desire to serve the Church. He also needs to have a working grasp of things Catholic and be ready to embrace the vision of the Church as outlined by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent official Church documents. A suitable candidate should be generous in spirit and ready to take on the challenge involved in the seminary formation programme and in following Jesus Christ in his Church - signs of his willingness to set aside his own preferences or ambitions in order to serve in whatever circumstances or tasks are asked of him. [/learn_more]
[learn_more caption="What does a priest do?"]
The particular ministry that a priest might get involved in depends on several factors. Firstly the needs of the Church, especially the needs of the diocese in which he serves, the ordained minister has after all placed his life at the service of the Church under the authority of the diocesan bishop, but a priest’s own interests and talents are also important. Besides serving in a parish community, he may be asked to put his talents at the service of young people, in an educational role, in supporting people discerning their vocations in life, or in roles supporting people in particular circumstances - such as the disabled, the elderly, the sick - or in spiritual direction. A diocesan priest spends much of his time celebrating the sacraments; Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage and Anointing. He will often be involved in helping individuals, couples or families to prepare for special sacramental moments. He will be involved in visiting the sick, visiting the homes of people in his parish and working with various groups and organisations. His involvement with the people of the parish may lead him in any of a number of directions attending to the needs of young and old. He may find himself ministering in the local school or university. He will spend time with those caught up in the sadness of death or the joy of new birth. The priest working in a parish strives to be available to the community whenever he is needed. He will be involved in offering counsel and comfort. He is also a spiritual leader in the community. Along with his parishioners, he addresses issues that touch all members of the community, particularly those who are abandoned and forgotten. On a daily basis, some of his time has to be set aside for prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours.
Most priests working in parishes are responsible for all ministry provided by the parish. He is also responsible - and accountable - for the administration and general organisation of the parish. Having said all this a priest is also charged with care of self. He must find time to relax, to look after himself and to recharge his batteries.
[learn_more caption="Why become a diocesan priest?"]
Everyone looks for meaning and fulfilment in life. As Catholics we look to our faith in God and the person of Jesus to provide us with that meaning and fulfilment. It is in the service of God that ultimately we find our calling as Christians. Discovering our place in God’s plan allows us to discover what form that service might take; single, married, religious or as an ordained priest. As a result, and after serious reflection, prayer and study, some men feel that they are called to ordained service as a priest.
[learn_more caption="What is a Diocesan Priest? "]
A priest who is committed to working within a particular geographical area, for example Galloway, under the direction of the Diocesan Bishop is a Diocesan priest. Most often diocesan priests will work in a parish and live close by its church. In many dioceses, particularly in rural areas, the priest may have responsibility for more than one parish and, while living in one of them, he may have to travel to several other churches or Mass stations.
In addition to serving the needs of people in the context of the parish, diocesan priests will often find themselves caring for people in hospitals, prisons, schools, or other settings.
[learn_more caption="How old should applicants be?"] This varies from diocese to diocese. Church law lays down that a man should be at least 24 or 25 before he is ordained as a priest. Since seminary courses normally last 6 or 7 years, applicants should have completed, or be about to complete secondary school - about 18 years old at the very least. In fact, many dioceses encourage applicants of that age to continue into higher education or work before entering the seminary, to gain some experience of life beyond school, to develop skills or talents which might enhance their future service of the Church or simply to ensure a more mature and stable understanding and grasp of what priestly life might mean for them. Applicants are often considered even into their forties, and some dioceses will consider, depending on circumstances, candidates in their fifties or even in their sixties. [/learn_more]
[learn_more caption="What academic background do I require?"] The application process does not focus on the applicant’s academic background alone but instead it takes an overview of the applicant’s abilities and skills in many different areas. Having said that, as a minister of the Gospel priests have to deliver homilies which necessitate an ability to study and prepare well. Also, the seminary process itself will involve perhaps as many as seven years of formation including academic study. It would therefore be foolish to suggest that an applicant’s academic background is unimportant. Applicants leaving school should aim to present university standard qualifications, but older applicants or applicants with other skills may be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.[/learn_more]
[learn_more caption="What should I do now?"]Having considered the way forward you should contact your Diocesan Vocations Director. A list of directors is available here. Chatting your feelings through will help you to clarify whether you feel called to priesthood. Your diocesan vocations director may also be able to offer some accompaniment and direction that may help to structure your discernment. Also look out for the various events that are scheduled from time to time by Priests for Scotland. For example, if you feel ready, you may wish to take part in our annual enquirers’ retreat, which takes place around "Good Shepherd Sunday" in April or early May. This is a no commitment time out to explore the call to ordained service. Other events will be advertised on this website from time to time so don’t forget to check back! You might consider "liking" us on Facebook or following us on Twitter (see right for the link).[/learn_more]
[learn_more caption="What should I do now?"]In short: ask someone (especially a local priest) about priesthood or get in touch with the Vocations Director in your local diocese. He will help you work out whether or not you might have a vocation to be a priest, and, in time, suggest that you take part in the Process for Application for Seminary in Scotland (PASS). This Process is a four-month long programme of weekends and discernment which is mandatory for those seeking to enter seminary for a Scottish diocese. During the period you will be offered regular meetings with a Spiritual Director, with your Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations and attend a number of retreat weekends run by the Diocesan Vocations Directors from around the country. This gives you the opportunity to meet and chat to priests who will be happy to share their experience of serving as ordained ministers in Scotland. At the same time you will be invited to submit your application for seminary. Numbers vary, but on average there can be from as few as six to as many as twelve men involved in this process. For more information see The Process for Seminary Application. Running the process of discernment and application to seminary together can be very helpful since often applicants grow in confidence as they hear from representatives of the Church that God may be calling them applicant to priesthood.
If you are accepted as a candidate for seminary you will be invited to take part in our Propaedeutic Period (or "Initial Seminary Formation" course). This is a six month course that takes place in the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, Spain, from January to June each year. It aims to prepare participants for seminary with some foundational courses that should help the candidate to settle into the seminary programme more easily, some exploration of the spiritual life and reflection on one's own personal vocational journey.[/learn_more]
[learn_more caption="What can you tell me about seminary?"] Why not check out the seminary for yourself at http://www.scotscollege.org/ Most priests have good memories of their seminary days. Although the course can at times be demanding most students would say that they enjoy getting to grips with the various philosophical and theological courses. Most students enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow students and they find that the six or seven years that they may spend at seminary pass very quickly. While the Scots College Rome is our national seminary we do have seminarians at other seminaries both in Rome and elsewhere. In addition, why not look at the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, where we run our Propaedeutic or "Initial Seminary Formation" course each year http://www.scots-college-salamanca.org[/learn_more]
The website that you are reading has been substantially recreated and upgraded. We hope it can offer some information and help to those considering life as a diocesan priest in Scotland - and some inspiration and support for those already serving the Church in this wonderful way!
Inserts for parish bulletins asking for prayers and appealing for readers to consider an invitation to serve as diocesan priests have been circulated to all parishes and are available from here.
Prayer cards were distributed on Vocations Sunday this year asking those at Mass to “Pray for the priests we need for the future and for the priests we have today” . Should you require prayer cards or posters to help in promoting priesthood in Scotland then please contact the Priests for Scotland office. We will be happy to supply so far as stock allows.
This initiative started last year and involved the distribution of memory sticks to young people attending World Youth Day 2011 and those attending Lourdes with Diocesan Pilgrimages 2012. The project is still ongoing. The memory stick contained ten short video presentation promoting priesthood or religious life. The memory stick also contained adequate space for the young person to use the available memory for study or for retaining other data. This initiative successfully delivered Vocational material to the point of use, a task not always easy to accomplish in vocations promotion.
“Suffering is not beneath human dignity. I mean: it is possible to suffer with dignity and without. I mean: most of us in the West don’t understand the art of suffering and experience a thousand fears instead. We cease to be alive, being full of fear, bitterness, hatred and despair.” Etty. The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943, Klass A. D. Smelik, p. 459.
The insights of this mystic Jewess in Holland during the Nazi occupation are inspiring. The failure to accept life’s contradictions is the cause of most destructive suffering for ourselves – and for others! “Systems” are notorious for self-preservation and imposing on individuals. Etty’s own prayer gives us energy:
“God, take me by Your hand, I shall follow You dutifully, and not resist too much. I shall evade none of the tempests life has in store for me, I shall try to face it all as best I can. But now and then grant me a short respite. I shall never again assume, in my innocence, that any peace that comes my way will be eternal. I shall accept all the inevitable tumult and struggle. I delight in warmth and security, but I shall not rebel if I have to suffer cold, should You so decree. I shall follow wherever Your hand leads me and shall try not to be afraid. I shall try to spread some of my warmth, of my genuine love for others, wherever I go. But we shouldn’t boast of our love for others. We cannot be sure that it really exists. I don’t want to be anything special, I only want to try to be true to that in me which seeks to fulfil its promise. I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You among people, out in the world.” (p. 154)
Mgr. James MacNeill
“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.”
Attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila, here is the whole prayer:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
This prayer is so clear it probably doesn’t need much commentary, it’s powerful in itself and the message is startlingly fresh. It does, however, leave a lot of unfinished business and some important questions hanging in the air: How can I use my hands, my feet, my body to be another Christ? How do my eyes see the world – do they have his compassion? What am I going to do about it? Take a few minutes and look at your hands and your feet, look at your eyes is a mirror– appreciate them. Take a moment and think about what you do with them, think about just having them and what a gift they are. Christ trusts us that’s obvious, he showers us with gifts and he wants us to continue his work, continue being him for others. It is truly awesome but we are not alone, he has promised us his Spirit. He walks with us, he loves in us. But he needs us to say YES!
Sr. Johann Macleod
"Behold the days shall come says the Lord. Jeremiah 31,31
All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. "Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord.
Being ‘Called to the Priesthood’ is not a term with which I am comfortable. Even the word ‘Vocation’ unsettles me. How then could I go through a process of discernment, pass through the seminary and be Ordained for priesthood if I have never heard the call?
My own thoughts on the subject are crystalised by a memory of attending mass in the parish during my time in seminary. The prayer for ‘Vocations’ was being said after communion and I remember feeling honoured with the prayers and at the same time unworthy of these prayers.
The question, looking back, was what was the core purpose of this prayer. I know now that we can’t conjure up the will of God since it is already there as gift. I believe the prayer was an expression of the desire for the days of the Lord. This pious moment wasn’t simply a call for more priests, it was the wider call of the people for the fullness of God’s reign.
The reign of God is when we ‘nurture in ourselves moral sensitivities that have special concern for those who are hurt or lost, that make room for the outcast, that are disposed to act towards others with mercy and forgiveness and that are inclusive of all.’ (Page 18 The Way of Goodness and Holiness, Richard Gula)
This ‘nurturing’, for us, takes place in the life of the church. In participating in the prayer for “Vocations’, I participated in the parish’s longing for the reign of God. Our prayers meanwhile cannot conjure up the reign of God since it is pure gift. What our prayer does is create the right disposition within us and within me to respond to this gift. The ‘Vocation’ as it is known is the fine-tuning of that disposition developed in the earliest school of prayer, which took place in the home, orientated in the life of the parish and given the DNA of esteem for the clergy.
The prayer is answered when all of us are given the courage to say yes to this offer of God’s reign. Then begins the journey of discovering the consequence and purpose of this yes in our lives. The consequence of my yes and the purpose given to it is that I am a priest.
“A Sacrament is a festive action in which Christians assemble to celebrate their lived experience and to call to heart their common story. The action is a symbol of God’s care for us in Christ. Enacting the symbol brings us closer to one another in the Church to the Lord who is there for us.”
(Tad Guzie, The Book of Sacramental Basics, Paulist Press, New York/ Mahwah, 1981)
I am always fascinated by the development of the Church and particularly its sacramental life. Recognising what God does for His people and how He nourishes and strengthens them, opens us up to recognising what a privilege it is to be part of the Church. Of course, sacraments have evolved and developed to become what they are, but they are very much moments of encounter with the living Lord.
The journey for adults who want to become members of the Church is a particularly profound one. To journey with those seeking life in the Church, and therefore in the sacraments, ultimately to bring them to life through the Sacraments is entirely life giving. I had the privilege this Easter of baptising two adults, confirming them and bringing them into Eucharistic sharing. A further two adults were received into the Church, confirmed and admitted to the Eucharist. What a joy, as a priest, to journey with these brave individuals and continue to share with them the joy of membership in the Church.
Most Catholics remember such sacramental moments. Few of us remember baptism, but have vivid memories of the celebration of Confirmation and First Communion. We celebrate these events as ‘festive’ occasions in the presence of our friends, families and the whole worshipping community. God does something for us and we gain a new strength from God. We ‘call to heart our common story’ through listening to and responding to the Word of God, whilst sharing a sacramental journey. It is that common story that strengthens the unity of the Christian believers and implies the growth of the Church.
Throughout the Easter Season, we listen each day to the Acts of the Apostles and find a renewed passion through hearing how the Church, after the Resurrection begins to spread and grow. That growth never stops. A little like those four who became members of the Church in this parish, or the 121 who became members of the Church in Glasgow this year, our mission never ceases to invite new members. The Apostles encountered hardships and difficulties, but continued in their mission. When the numbers of believers increases, they realise the need to share out the tasks required to care for people so as not to neglect the preaching of the Word. It’s no different in our day: we need priests and deacons who will preach the Word and celebrate the sacraments while others carry out the responsibility of caring for the day to day needs of their communities.
The Easter Season is the central time for the celebration of the sacraments, bringing life, vigour and enthusiasm to all those who receive them. What is needed is the continued growth of believers and priests and deacons to minister to them as we continue the mission of the apostles in preaching the Word and sharing the life of Christ with the whole world!
Rev. David Wallace
"The adult, unlike the adolescent, can live with ambiguity."
The image of Jesus on the cross sees him holding his arms out wide, in opposite directions. Could it be that one arm is reaching out to all that is wrong in life, while the other arm is reaching out for God’s grace? Looking at him, it is as if he holds together these two apparent opposites, without succumbing to the pull of evil. It is a remarkable image and an even more remarkable statement; Jesus shows that it is possible, in human life, to live with ambiguity!
Too often life can be painted in black and white. In our younger years, when we first develop a sense of ourselves, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that all that matters is how I see things. But, this is a stage that we must grow through and ultimately leave behind, because if we remain in perpetual adolescence we will never come to maturity, and never discover the truth that Jesus revealed on the cross.
What separates adulthood from adolescence is the understanding that there is a way of seeing things that is bigger than mine, a life that is more than mine, and an agenda that is different from mine. The struggle to come to this realisation involves letting go of many of the things that have comforted, supported and reassured me along the way.
Can I bear the tension of holding together conflicting forces in life without succumbing to the worst of them? Can I hold together the inner forces that pull me apart without becoming something less than my true self? Can I let go of the things that have comforted and supported me all through life? Is it humanly possible to live with these ambiguities? Look at Jesus on the cross. He did it, and so can you!
Rev. Willie Boyd
“That is why I am continually recalling the same truths, even though you already know them and hold firm to them”. 2Peter;12
The remit of these reflections is to reflect on a text that has changed the person’s life. The quote that I have chosen is just about in that category. What I mean is that once I discovered this quote from the Second letter of St Peter it best summed up what I thought. It was a discovery, it was a moment of “That is what I was trying to say”.
It is a quote that alludes to scripture, the Good News of Jesus Christ. In our worship at Mass Sunday by Sunday we do repeat the same truths, scripture does not change from one liturgical year to the next. It is however a living word and never the same, it calls us to change, conversion and growth, to maturity in faith.
It alludes to the teaching of the church. Through the revelation of scripture and the living Tradition of the Church there are those things that we hold firm to and teach to the world.
It also alludes to a living out of the faith. Yes we know the story; yes we know the content and yes we know what we believe, but there is also a call to live them with our lives. This opens up all the various notions that we have of vocation and service in the Lord’s name. For some we hope and pray that that expression of vocation will be the Diocesan Priesthood.
Peter’s motivation for writing his Pastoral letter is to draw all people to Christ, to strengthen those who already profess their faith and to serve and care for all people in response to the invitation by the Lord to feed His sheep. Hopefully that is that work of all the baptised and especially those who serve as priests.
Rev. Gerard Donnelly
“God deliver us from silly devotions and sour faced saints."
This saying is attributed to St. Teresa of Avila and more than amply backed up by many other such statements in her writings.
I don’t know about you, but I can never picture a Pharisee with a broad smile on his face! Everything is serious, competitive and goes against the grain – the grain that is, of happy human living.
How come religion is associated with glumness, boredom and even pain? We keep meeting people in the Gospels and the other writings of the New Testament who are filled with joy and enthusiasm, and St. Paul lists joy second in his list of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,…”
No joy, no holiness.
There is joy which can rest deep in our hearts in the midst of suffering and pain as well as when all is going well for us.
Edith Stein, a Jewess and philosopher had embraced atheism in her youth. While searching for the truth she was thrown into confusion when, on going to visit a young and newly widowed friend and wondering how to console her, found a profound joy in the young woman, born of her faith and hope in Christ. Edith later became a Catholic and a Carmelite Nun before dying in Auswitch.
Joy comes with freedom and love.
No joy, no freedom.
 Galatians 5:22
"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom."
These lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 give us an insight into the strength and beauty of human love. They express the difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation on its own is almost always “Time’s fool”, whereas no matter what changes, love holds fast and stays true.
The constant tradition of the Scriptures and of Christianity across the centuries has found in human love a reflection of divine love, so that what is beautiful and strong in human love draws us to understand God’s love and even God’s nature.
Many people today, young and old, but perhaps particularly the young, are attracted and even fascinated by the magnetism of celebrity: the culture, the life-style, the fame and the fortune. Yet all of these things fall within the compass of Time’s bending sickle: the do not last; they wither and fade with age. Love, however, remains and conquers even death. This is the message of the Gospel: it is the beating heart of the teaching of Jesus, who in a most perfect way has shown how human love is capable of embodying the love of God, which is everlasting and unchanging and which shines through even changing things shedding the light of immortality on what to human eyes seems doomed to perish.
The message we are called to announce is the message of God’s unchanging love made visible in Christ Jesus which conquers sin and death and leads those who allow themselves to be touched by it into the fullness of life which only God has the power to give.
Rev. Paul Conroy
“Love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.” (Gaudium et Spes 38.)
It began in the usual manner, over to the church around 7.30am; see the workers as they leave their Lenten Service at 7.40am. In to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, breakfast at 8.30am, Morning Prayer in the church at 9.10am and then Mass at 9.30am. Then it was off to one of our primary schools, class by class, story by story, joke by joke, “so you know me Father,” a child declares, “yes Karen” a delighted smile dawns, and a child is drawn closer to her parish family. Lunch, then home visits, Monday’s funeral, Wednesday’s funeral. Stories told, humour shared, facts checked, sermon beginning to form, in my head. Prayers said and onto visit the sick. A man anointed and received communion, his cancer taking its toll, another victim of this Viagra terrible disease, a woman this time. Communion celebrated and shared with her sister. They are delighted at my surprise visit, as they are just back from the hospital, and they’ve just got the dreaded news. “It’s just like you to appear when your most needed Father, its uncanny” A tearful celebration of Holy Communion, a tangible celebration of their love for Christ, his Church and his priest. Faith at its best. The day was full of the ordinary, but it was an extraordinary day. In the ordinary daily round, I know in my head, I do this out of love for Christ and his people. But in the ordinary daily round it was actually myself who experienced this love, I felt loved, I felt needed and I felt affirmed. In the car going home, I smiled and thought, “This is a great way to live; this is just the best job in the world”
Fr. John Campbell
“Yes,” said I, “strictly speaking, the question is not how to get cured, but how to live.”
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim , Kindle Edition, p. 159.
We are desperate for a cure, and there is no cure for the human condition. It just is as it is. It is rather difficult; quite messy at times. If we are not looking for a cure, then we have a tendency to live with “the determination to lounge safely through existence…” (Lord Jim, p. 9). But ultimately the latter becomes the riskiest path. For Conrad the way to live is “to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up.” (p.160) The deep is ultimately ourselves and we run away from it. Conrad again: “… it is my belief no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.” (p.59) Take on life as it is; “immerse” yourself in it with commitment to the real.
Does this give impetus to our understanding and living of the Gospel message? Jesus does not offer an easy solution, a comfortable life or a hand-out cure. He invites us, rather, to take up the cross (with him, of course); to lose our lives; to surrender; to submit ourselves to the consequences of the human condition, my mysteriously unique human condition. This is the paradox at the heart of the Christian experience: there is no cure for the human condition as we know it now; but we can live, come alive, by willingly immersing ourselves in it, by dying. Our Resurrection faith allows us already in the very carrying of the cross to live in certain hope, and self-surrendering love, until the life and glory which is out of all proportion is revealed when the dying is complete.
Mgr. James MacNeill
"It is a January morning in County Kerry. The Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of the craggy islands below me, is roiled with whitecaps and angry palisades of water crashing against the tiny islets in their rocky midst. The windstorms of the last two nights have drenched the hills… It is an average Kerry winter day.
But not average for some. In the last two days of rocking, howling wind, five Irish fishermen and their trawler have been reported missing at sea. This morning, they were pronounced dead, the sea too wild yet to even attempt to recover their bodies.
Who they were, how old they were, I do not know. But one thing I do know: life and time are ghosted creatures for all of us. Some of us, like the fishermen caught in a season’s windstorm, leave it by surprise. Most of us, like you and me, inch our way though life, sure… that it will never end, (yet) certain that it will."
(The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister, DLT, London, 2009 – page vii)
In a supposedly un-shockable era, we still manage to be completely bowled over, stunned by the untimely death of celebrity figures whether iconic musicians like Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson; actors like Heath Ledger; sports champions like Dan Wheldon, or news-stopping tragedies like the death of Princess Diana. Even the most hard-hearted or unthinking of people could scarcely fail to be forced by death into thinking about life. A consumer-society, a secularist culture might prefer us not to think too much, certainly not to think of life-and-death issues and absolutely not in terms of God, faith or Christian community. However, maybe our natural instincts take over, because so often when we emerge from the shock of death, we re-evaluate life and we even reconsider the values of God’s gift of life to us in Christ. A Christian life, a journey spent in the company of Christ, a life-time given to seeking Christ in others and sharing Christ with others – that might just give a dimension to living that starts to make sense; the sense of grace and blessing. No life is too long for all the graces God has to shower upon us; no life so short that it fails to bring the miracle of God’s blessing to us.
Shock and horror at unexpected departures from life can simply leave us numb and perplexed. A life spent expecting to meet Christ and share Christ with others might shock also – it might just shock others into really living life, rather than being constantly overawed by death.
Fr. John Hughes