Monday 14 October 2013


My ordination chalice.

I celebrated 22 years as a priest this weekend - which quite amazed me and put me in reflective mood as I pondered all the ups and downs of those years, with many beautiful and privileged moments but many trials as well (and rather too many failings).  I was quite touched to receive a card on the day of the anniversary from our Apostolic Administrator (while the See of Liverpool remains still vacant) Bishop Tom Williams.

 The chalice is French and dates from 1913 
with three roundels on the base depicting Our Lord, Our Lady and St Joseph.

When I first went to seminary, Ushaw College was at the reduced numbers of 150 students and there was talk of the "Vocations Crisis".  What we might call the "crisis" now that the college is shut altogether is another matter.  (Incidentally, it was posing as a private school in a recent episode of the detective series "Vera" - so it's earning a bit of income.)  There are those who believe that the Vocations Crisis is at least partly the fault of some administrators in the Church, as many young people came forward but if they showed any "traditional" inclinations they were weeded out.  We all have our own stories about this.  I was told at seminary that I'd never last - only interested in "dressing up", in which case, drama school might have been a better option!  The Rector seemed to have no comprehension that a desire for decent vestments and a desire to be a decent priest are not mutually exclusive ambitions.  I'm reminded of a lunch at which Norman St John-Stevas (like me, a member of the Order of St Lazarus) said, "The great thing about our Order is the dressing up!" The "dressing up" proved not to be incompatible with also raising funds for those in great need. (Strange how no one ever says such things about Red Nose Day, when people get themselves up in all sorts of strange costumes to raise money for charity but put on a decent suit or a white tie and your fund raising is somehow suspect.)

Anyway, I digress.

Well at least we have some good news this week.  The Catholic Herald reports on a three-fold increase in Vocations to the Religious Life. It's only up to 64 from 19, but a marked increase nontheless.  I was very pleased to see that first place in the reasons behind this is attributed to the visit of Pope Benedict.  You will recall the (according to the media) highly unpopular Pontiff with the taint of the third Reich about him and a reputation for a rottweiler-like temper.  Apparently, just the qualities to attract men and women to the Religious Life.  Or perhaps he was a rather excellent Pope after all.  

Among those inspired by Pope Benedict is a friend of mine.  Congratulations and prayers for a great future to James Hinchcliffe who has just begun his Novitiate of a year and a day with the Carmelites in Salamanca.   James is someone else who hasn't let his desire to see beautiful vestments in the service of the worship of God cause any conflict with pastoral care - in his case, for example, working with the homeless in Glasgow.


jp said...

Congratulations to you and good luck to him!

The Welkin said...

Congratulations,Father; I am not sure that you ever get used to being a priest of God. After 50-odd years of priesthood, I still feel strange walking out to begin Mass in front of a respectfuloy standing congregation.

Sitsio said...

Ad multos annos! May God continue to bless you and your ministry Father!

Tom Piatak said...

Congratulations, Father!

GWAM said...

Ad multos annos, Fr.

I'm convinced that the very best of your priesthood is still to come.

Jacobi said...


Tell your friend James, no, I had better say, kindly advise your friend James, to continue with his pastoral care in that part of the world which, I believe, badly needs it, but above all when he come to say the Mass, the Pauline New Mass, to do so in a way which re-sanctifies the Mass, compared with how it has been said for so long and in so many places, and to wear appropriate vestments to honour the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. But above all, since that latter advice applies possibly to the Sunday 9.00 children’s’ Mass, he is to say the Sunday 11.00 Mass, in the form of the Ancient Catholic Mass, the Vetus Ordo, as the Holy Father has quite appropriately called it, in Continuity with two millennia of Catholicism.

Remind him of what the Pope Emeritus said, “The Church stands or falls by the liturgy”.

Zephyrinus said...

Many congratulations, Fr, on your Anniversary.

Thank You for your Priestly devotion.

Ad Multos Annos.