On, Saturday 17th July, two men were ordained priest in St George Cathedral by Archbishop John. Please do pray for them. They are Matthew Donnelly and David Hunter. You might remember Matthew. He was here in the parish for three weeks on a pastoral placement and also he went, as a helper, with our Loudres group to Hosanna House. He has been appointed as assistant priest to Sacred Heart Parish in Wimbledon. Today, 18th July, is the first anniversary of Fr John Howard’s ordination to the priesthood. He is very much in our prayers and we thank God for his year of service with us. It is so good to have him with us and hopefully in the coming year, with the lifting of restrictions, he will be able to be more involved with our local schools.
I love those words in the opening prayer from the Mass on the anniversary of the ordination of a priest: “Holy Father, who by no merit of my own, chose me for communion with the eternal priesthood of your Christ and for the ministry of your Church. Grant that I may be an ardent yet gentle preacher of the Gospel and a faithful steward of your mysteries.”
For myself I had thoughts about becoming a priest while in Primary school and it was the example and personality of my parish priest at the time who affirmed and encouraged these thoughts. He was a man of great humour and great humanity. It was clear from his life that being a priest didn’t mean that you were somehow other worldly. Having Christ at the centre of your life didn’t mean that you were somehow cut off or remote from the ordinary everyday concerns of life. He was certainly an ardent yet gentle preacher of the Gospel through the example of his life.
Priests are called pastors, these are men called the relate to those in his care as a shepherd cares for the sheep. In the first reading today the prophet Jeremiah cries out: “You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them. ”The Lord promised: “But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!
Pope Francis has emphasised that priests must be joyful, stubborn shepherds who take risks and seek out even those who are most distant from God, in imitation of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. “A shepherd after the heart of God has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or how long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but a Good Samaritan who seeks out those in need.”
As a priest I ask forgiveness for the many times I have failed to be a caring shepherd, and ask your prayers that as a priest I may have the heart of the Good Shepherd.