26th July. Ss. Joachim and Anna

We don’t usually celebrate feasts on a Sunday but today is the anniversary of my ordination twenty odd years ago and so I have a big attraction for these two who were traditionally the parents of Mary. This is the sort of day when you can get into looking back over the years, and I am not going to go into them in detail you might be relieved to read. However I would just say that when I began on this path a great woman, a Catholic, who was one of my referees for the priesthood said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this in the current climate?’ By which she meant all sorts of things as you can imagine, as there are very good reasons for not being a priest today. But I have to say that of my decisions over the years, and there have been some pretty bad ones, this has been one of the best, if not the best. People arrive at the priesthood through many roots, and mine was through social work, working for the Church of England as it happens, though I was a Catholic if not very practising at the time. How you arrive affects how you feel about it, but if you just stay there you never grow and I learnt a long time ago that if you are not growing life starts to die, you get in a rut. Throughout these years I have never stopped growing personally. It has not all been good and there have been some major downs as well as ups, but it has been one of the most fascinating journeys, one of the most rewarding, and I have had to learn a great deal not only about life around me, which you often learn from the people in the parish, but about the Church itself, as well as myself. I don’t think, and I hope, that will never stop happening, because I am sure that if you ever think you have cracked it as a priest, then you are mistaken. Who knows what may happen, what events or people may enter your life, just as in any person’s life, but once Jesus gets into your life, and I know that this may sound like something off a cheesy religious card, but once he really does, then you can never go back. You might try to reject what he asks of you at times, but he is here. This goes for anyone, not just priests, as you may well be aware already. If someone was thinking about the priesthood, I would say think very carefully, pray very hard, talk to God, talk to people you respect, but do not doubt that it is an amazing way of life if you embrace it. If you think it might be what God is asking of you, you have to try it out. I will add, which many of my good fellows, the majority perhaps, might not, that if you are a woman and feel called there is no denying that call. As a Catholic, I would like to welcome you on this particular journey, but as yet cannot. But who knows what may happen.

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