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.
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:
must now take a closer look at Sister Marie-Bernard (= St. Bernadette) buried
in her apparent uselessness.” (p. 306)
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.
her response to a fellow sister pushing her about the revelations at Lourdes:
you do with a broom?’ asked Bernadette abruptly.
that’s a fine question! You use it for sweeping.’
it back in its place behind the door.’
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)
her comments on the various histories and accounts of the lives
of the Saints.
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
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.
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
you have to remember, Father, does most damage of all to one’s
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
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.