I believe the best foundation for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and indeed for a full and happy life, is the Catholic home and family. And the secret here is regular and faithful prayer as a family – prayers like the blessing before and after meals, morning and night prayer or the recitation of the rosary, as in my experience. In my home, after the evening meal the dishes were cleared away and before they were washed we all knelt down to recite the rosary together.
The morning and evening prayer of the Church is nowadays very popular and helpful, as it introduces people to the wonderful habit of reciting the psalms. Quality time spent in prayer helps children in their relationship with God, makes them grateful for his infinite gifts, teaches them to be good because that is pleasing to Him and, especially in our own time, enables them understand the holiness of their bodies and trains them in chastity. All this because they understand that every physical development is a gift from God to them and comes under divine providence. Family prayer also teaches them, very gently, to respect members of the opposite sex. Such prayer also teaches forgiveness as part of their relationship with the Heavenly Father. In other words, children who experience prayer in their family home are helped to live a grace-filled and happy life.
Serving his people in the priesthood is so wonderful, and every day spent and every person met and every work done becomes a privilege and a blessing when done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A parish priest baptises babies, always a joyful event as we celebrate new life from God, follows the growing child through school, presides over the child’s Confirmation and First Communion, is still with him/her in high school, and no doubt, is around at the time of the engagement and pre-marriage preparation, officiates at the wedding and hopefully baptises the resulting children as we start all over again, not always the same child of course, as a priest moves around at the request of the Bishop, but always the same privilege and grace at whatever stage the priest is involved. At the end of the day, the priest is also present at the sick bed and is there to administer the last sacraments to the dying person, encouraging him and interceding on his behalf with Almighty God. He buries the dead, commending him/her to God’s mercy and forgiveness and consoles the living with Christian faith and hope.
I have to say that God has been very good to me. No words can describe the life and privilege of a priest and how wonderful it is to serve the Lord every day and how loving and supportive the parishioners are (after all, they are God’s holy people and it shows) and what a privilege it is to serve them in the priesthood.
I am a humble worker in the vineyard, as Pope Benedict likes to say. I can only thank God for these wonderful graces and blessings. I thank Him for his people who were so good to me along the way. I thank the Lord for my Irish family and friends and for the training for the Priesthood I received in All Hallows College, Dublin; for this beautiful Diocese of Dunkeld where I have spent 60 grace-filled years as a priest, and thank Him for our Bishops, Priests and Parishioners from whom I have received so much love and kindness all my days.
May the Lord be good to them all.