When I was a young boy, I can remember Auntie Maude saying from time to time, “do you think you’ll be a priest?” For a young Catholic boy, it wasn’t unusual to imagine being a priest. We often had priests and religious in our house. I too was in the company of priests and religious brothers and sisters at school. I think I did from time to time wonder if I might be a priest. And I also wondered if I might be a doctor. And I wondered if I might marry and have a family. Somewhere along the line the priesthood took greater hold of my imagination than anything else. And the priesthood has been good for me. I have grown into being a priest. A diocesan priest finds his natural habitat in the parish, among people. A priest is a friend of the Lord and a friend of humanity. The two can’t be separated. A priest needs to be comfortable with his own company and in his own skin. A priest needs to know himself and know the Lord. The later can be more elusive at times. Knowing oneself is also an ongoing discovery! Openness to the ineffable God and to the voices of our nearest and dearest all helps.
The priesthood has opened me to books I may never have read, to people I may never have met, friends I may never have found, depths of grief I may never have seen, heights of love and sacrifices I may never have witnessed and a relationship with a God who remains ever close and yet still to be discovered.
As I reflect on being a priest during this National Vocations Week, I am reminded of what a privilege and a responsibility it is to so often accompany people in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, throughout the various stages of their lives.
I am also reminded that each of our particular vocations in the Church flows out of the vocation of the whole Church, to build up the human family and create a culture of peace for all. As he has so often done during the last ten years, Pope Francis has looked at vocation with fresh eyes in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. He reminds us that journeying together is a fundamental vocation of the whole Church. Christians are called to be a people who walk with each other and with the whole human race, creating a single human family in a shared common home. Only after this shared vocation can individual charisms and vocations emerge.
And they all exist to serve the one vocation of humanity to live in love and mutual acceptance.
I wonder if Auntie Maude had that vocation in mind when she asked her intermittent question.
By Fr Brendan Reed