The Call to Love and Serve

During these next nine days, some of us will be praying a novena of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which ends next Sunday; known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

I was ordained as a priest 49 years ago this June. This gives me pause to reflect on how it all began for me. Each of us, through our baptism, is called to a life of love and service. We are each called to have Christ as the centre of our life. For me, I realised that God has asked me share in his life in this particular way as a priest.

When I look back on my young life, growing up on the Clapham Park Estate, I can see how much being part of the local parish of St Bede’s had an important influence on our priorities as a family. I enjoyed my primary school that had just been built. I was a Mass server and my parents, in different ways, were involved in aspects of parish life. My Dad was in the Knights of St Columba and the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament, and my Mum, among other things, made marmalade for our Christmas Fairs and Fêtes.

Also crucial for me was the witness of my parish priest, Father Joe. I do remember being asked, at my interview for the Junior Seminary, why I wanted to be a priest. I said that having the example of Fr Joe and several mission priests that had come to our parish was an attractive advert for priesthood. It was their joy and sense of fun and deep happiness that was infectious. They were deeply human, ordinary, yet showed great love and care. All this encouraged me to open my heart to see if this is what God wanted of me.

Much has changed in the last sixty years in the Catholic Church in this country, influenced as we are by the changing attitudes and demands made of us both politically and socially. There is a temptation to look back to the good old days when things seemed simpler and more straightforward. But more than ever the call for every one of us is the call to love and service and we need nurture that call in our family life, our school life and in our parish life. It is essential that we experience a life of care and prayer, a life of joy and wonder.

Let us pray for vocations among our parish and families so that our young people may hear and experience the call to love and serve in the priesthood and religious life. Amen.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest