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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B

This Sunday/Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, and it’s also World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It also so happens that the Gospel is just a slightly

longer version of the one I chose for my Ordination Mass to the priesthood.

The reason I chose it was, when I was being interviewed to train for the

priesthood, Bishop Philip Pargeter asked me to sum up in one word how I

understood being a priest, and I said “shepherd”, with the idea of looking for

the lost sheep, binding up the stray and so on. For the first reading I chose the

option from the prophet Jeremiah, but a bit more about that later. Perhaps I

should just say something now about how I came to train for the priesthood.

This is the edited-down version.


Just shortly before I was seven, I received my First Holy Communion, and

some time later I became an altar server. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I liked it

when I got to carry one of the acolyte candles. Altar serving got me interested

in the Mass and the priesthood, and so that was what I wanted to do. But things

were to change.


After going to secondary school, I never stopped going to Mass, but through

peer-pressure and wanting to get married, the idea of the priesthood faded

away. When I was in the sixth form, what they now call Years 12 and 13, some

of the people in my parish, and my parish priest as well, suggested the idea of

the priesthood to me. I even went along to an open day at Oscott College,

which is one of the places where priests for this diocese train. I didn’t

particularly like the place or the idea of being a priest, and wanted to forget

about it all.


So I went up to York to study chemistry, a bit like Jonah trying to run away

from God. But, of course, you can’t run away from God, and whilst I was there

I had other people suggest the idea of the priesthood to me as well.


When I came back home for my Easter holiday, by this point we had a new

priest looking after the parish. One of the parish sisters spoke to me after Mass

and said that Father was running a retreat for good Catholic boys in the summer

in Portugal, and you didn’t need to be thinking about the priesthood. I went

and saw him and agreed to go. The thought was that I could go along, say that

I’ve investigated the idea, it’s not for me, and that’s the end of it. But it didn’t

work out that way.


We spent around three weeks in Portugal, with daily Mass, Holy Hour, Rosary,

spiritual reading and various talks and videos on the priesthood, and the

vocations director came to speak to us all whilst we were there as well. We

also did fun things like going motor-boating and went to a smaller version of

Alton Towers. The last few days we spent in Fatima, where Our Lady appeared

in 1917, and the last full day we were there I spent an hour before the Blessed

Sacrament exposed in one of the chapels there. I said to the Lord: I’ve been on

this retreat, so what do you want me to do? The response from God wasn’t a

voice, but more an inner conviction that He was calling me to be a priest.

Then, when I returned home, I went to Mass on a Tuesday evening, and

unusually, I was asked to read the first reading, which was about the calling of

the prophet Jeremiah, where he was called out to preach God’s word. As I read

that reading, I had a sense of God saying to me: this is about your life as well,

although I thought to myself at the time: don’t be so arrogant. I spoke to a few

of the clergy about this and they advised me to complete my chemistry degree

first, so that if it wasn’t my calling I could fall back on my degree. As it

happened, after graduation I went all the way through seminary and was

ordained in July 2010, with a few other twists and turns. But like I said, this is

the short story.


Just a few more points, though. We’re talking about vocations, and whatever

your vocation actually is, whether it’s the single life, married life, priesthood,

diaconate or religious life, the main thing is following the Lord, which includes

being faithful to prayer and open to whatever God wants us to do.


So I’ll wrap up there, but if you want to ask me any questions afterwards,

please feel free to do so.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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