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St Matilda's Church

A Threefold Ministry Remembered
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Fr Ted's Anniversary
A special message from Dr Edward Baty, IMM, one of our Honorary Assistant Clergy, aka "Fr. Ted," was published as he approached the Golden Anniversary of his priesting.
 
It is kept here as a reminder of important basics of our ministry as a parish and the role of the clergy as leaders.

A Threefold Ministry

1st September 2013

No! I’m not thinking of the threefold tradition of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons we hold as orders in the Church but of the 50th Anniversary of my priesting. It added three elements to my ministry. To help with the extra responsibilities of priesthood I was given authority for to perform three extra specific duties: to Bless, to Consecrate the Eucharistic elements, and to pronounce the forgiveness of sins. These were to be carried out in God’s name on behalf of the Church.

*

This “Golden Jubilee” of my priesting falls in three weeks’ time on 2nd September 2013. My dilemma is how to commemorate this. However, having written for advice to a senior colleague, I turned a few minutes later to the book I was reading, a detailed biography of St. Bernadette, and read this:

‘(Chapter 26)

Natural Character”’

‘“We must now take a closer look at Sister Marie-Bernard (= St. Bernadette) buried in her apparent uselessness.” (p. 306)

It hit home as the core of the matter is that in some ways I do feel useless! However two of her own comments have helped a great deal.

First her response to a fellow sister pushing her about the revelations at Lourdes:

‘What do you do with a broom?’ asked Bernadette abruptly.

‘Well, that’s a fine question! You use it for sweeping.’

‘And  afterwards?’

‘You put it back in its place behind the door.’

‘And that’s my history. The Blessed Virgin used me and then put me back in my place. I’m glad of it, and there I stay.” (p.326)

Second her comments on the various histories and accounts of the lives of the Saints.

‘I think,’ she use to say,’ that they ought to point out the faults the Saints had, and indicate the means they employed to correct them. That would be helpful to us. We would learn how to set about it. But all that is mentioned is their revelations or the wonders they performed. That cannot serve our advancement.’ (p346)

The comment may be incomplete in leaving out our finding examples to imitate in the lives of the Saints. But Bernadette has a point and it is an important one.

*

I have found very often in my life that the answer to problems is given or pointed at in the regular Bible readings. So today: Ecclesiasticus 11.[7-17]18-28 ends with the following comment (the alternative OT lesson at Matins - CW) ‘An hour’s misery makes one forget past delights,’

or a similar comment made by my wife to Father Michael Rothwell which he related in the homily at her Mass of Remembrance at St. Mary’s, Thorpe on the Tuesday in Easter Week 2007:

‘I will always remember a most profoundly telling phrase she came up with when I had a more than usually raised eyebrow at one of the Medjugorje pronouncements which seemed to me to fly a little close to Disneyland. She said: Suffering, you have to remember, Father, does most damage of all to ones sense of humour. There is perhaps no more profound statement that one can make about suffering than that. It does on occasions irreparable damage to our senses of humour, by which I understood her to mean our ability first of all to take ourselves slightly less seriously, and then to take our relationship with others, for their good, more seriously. Suffering makes us pre-occupied only with ourselves.’

 

The ‘humour’ or natural character has to be taken into consideration. As I approach this anniversary, I call to mind the rather brutal comment made at a Commemoration Service at St. Aidan’s Theological College by a visiting Irish Bishop. Addressing those shortly to leave to be ordained to the diaconate he said, “You are not called just because of your strengths. You are called also because of your weaknesses.”

 

Dr. Coggan, giving us his final, private, charge in the chapel at Bishopthorpe at the end of the ordination retreat reminded us that it was important to accept who we are if we are to extend God’s love, including his love for us to our neighbour. Like Bernadette we have to be realistic as to who exactly we are and what sort of person.

As I approach September 22nd I am fortified by these readings and episcopal comments. I am what I, still a priest, still human and still, , called to bless, to celebrate, and to forgive. That I am no longer bound to a specific place or area of ministry does not mean that I stop, merely, that it becomes rather hidden, and closer to the ground!

The quotations relating to St. Bernadette are taken from the “official” publication by Fr. Trochu made by the ACROSS charity, an agency specialising in pilgrimages and holidays for the sick, handicapped, and bed-bound.

 

 

 

 

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