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by armaghpriest.com on August 3rd, 2022

August 7th: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That those who have been given their vocations as priests, deacons and consecrated men and women will be guided to imitate the Lord’s generosity as they live that gift…


August 14th: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For all those who are troubled in the discernment of their vocation, that they will be blessed by the Holy Spirit with encouragement, insight and the grace of perseverance…


August 15th: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
That through the intercession of our Heavenly mother, we will be blessed with abundant vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life…


August 21st: Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
That all men and women pursuing a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life will have the discipline and perseverance to follow in the path of Christ…


August 28th: Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
That those discerning vocations “will find favour with God” and renewed dedication to His work.…



by armaghpriest.com on July 16th, 2022

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life – July 2022



July 3rd: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For an increase in laborers to the Lord of the Harvest in response to our prayers for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and the consecrated life, and for the holiness of all those now serving the people of our diocese in these vocations…


July 10th: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That all those now discerning their vocation will be attentive in prayer and active in their response to Jesus the Eternal Word who calls them…


July 17th: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

That like Mary of Bethany, all priests, deacons and brothers and sisters will listen to the Lord in prayer, faithful to their choice of vocation…


July 24th: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That the Holy Spirit will give inspiration and guidance to all those discerning their vocation in Christ.…


July 31st: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That those who desire to be “rich in what matters to God” and are discerning a vocation to the consecrated life will be enriched by the Holy Spirit…


by armaghpriest.com on June 28th, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, I have just returned from the World Meeting of Families in Rome where families from across the world gathered with Pope Francis to reflect eon the fundamental importance of family in the life of Church and society.  You will recall that the last World Meeting took place in Dublin in 2018.  The emphasis this year was on the “vocation” of the family. We tend to use the word “vocation” when referring to the call to priesthood or to the consecrated life, and of course we recognise also the vocation to marriage, but the focus of this World Meeting was on the “vocation” of family love as a path to holiness.

I mention this today, Colm and Stephen, because it is important for us to see the vocation to priesthood as one of service, and especially of service to the family.  The Decree, Lumen Gentium, of the Second Vatican Council, spoke about priesthood.  It drew attention to the distinctiveness of the ministerial priesthood, but it also richly reminded us of the common priesthood of all the baptised, and emphasised that the ministerial priesthood serves the common priesthood of the faithful.

I invite you then, on this day of your ordination, to commit to a life of priestly service to the family.  I was ordained to the priesthood in Derry on this same Sunday, 35 years ago.  Even in that relatively short time there has been a sea change in the culture and context in which we exercise our ministry as priests.  Two weeks ago in Athlone, the Pre-Synodal gathering of the Church in Ireland identified the challenges and the opportunities for the Church at this time and in the coming years.  It has been clear during the Synodal journey to date, that despite the negativity that often accompanies discussion about the Catholic Church in Ireland, there remains a significant body of lay women and men who are deeply committed to their faith and passionate about the future of their Church.  And, I also have a strong sense that any lasting renewal of faith in Ireland can only come about via a renewal of our commitment to the “domestic church” that is the family.

It is important for us priests to realise that we do not have a monopoly on the “charisms” for building up the Church, including in leadership and decision making.  Far from it.  The Holy Spirit is already inspiring many lay women and men in Ireland, who are being called and gifted for the service of the Gospel in this time and in this place.  The catechism is clear in that in the Church there is “diversity of ministry but unity of mission” and that the lay faithful “share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, 873).”

Part of our role as priests is to call forth these charisms and enable our lay brothers and sisters to fully exercise their baptismal calling and role.  We should be careful not to block the Holy Spirit's work by stifling the Spirit's call to our lay faithful, or by selfishly holding on to some outmoded sense of priestly power or control.

Colm and Stephen, the centrality of family and life is consistently upheld in the teaching of the Church, and alongside this, real families need our priestly respect, support and pastoral accompaniment - that was mentioned many times in the testimonies of families in Rome during this past few days. But equally importantly it was emphasised that the vocation to priesthood and the vocation of marriage and family are complementary - we need each other. I urge you therefore to make time for ministry to the family, and for the distinctive ministry of the family and within the family. This is not about passively waiting for families to come to you, but it is an essential ingredient of priestly mission and service to reach out to families, to meet, to visit homes, to encourage, pray with, support and guide families as they play their rightful and vital part in the mission of the Church.

Of course you will not find “perfect” families without their struggles and upsets, but you will find many examples of families who are living the reality of the domestic Church, the “little church” - as cradles of prayer, of faith hope, and charity; schools of love, forgiveness and compassion; and, seedbeds of vocation where each member is finding her or his own personal encounter with Jesus and path to discipleship and holiness.  Yesterday evening at the concluding Mass in Rome, Pope Francis said to parents, “if you help your children to discover and to accept their vocation, you will see that they too will be 'gripped' by this mission; and they will find the strength they need to confront and overcome the difficulties of life."

Colm and Stephen, I encourage you to nourish families by sharing joyfully with them the Word of God.  To do this successfully we priests need to meditate on the Word of God every day of our priestly life - to believe what we read there, to faithfully teach what we believe, and, of course, to practice what we teach.  People will look to you for the encouragement, challenge and consolation that the Gospel brings, but they will also want you to be priests who are authentic, faithful to your priestly promises, sincere and grounded.

Bring also to families the nourishment of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.  When you celebrate the Eucharist and the other sacraments, understand what you are doing and imitate what you celebrate.  As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, this means always striving to put to death whatever in you is sinful, and to walk in newness of life.

Colm and Stephen, please do not forget to offer support to grandparents - for they hold and share the wisdom of years spent living the faith in the grounded reality of family with all its joys and struggles.  Be humble in your priesthood, recognising that we priests can learn far more from families about lived Christianity than we can ever hope to bring!

Remember, when you gather others into the People of God through Baptism, and when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the Sacrament of
Penance; when you comfort the sick with holy oil and celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the People of God but for the whole world – remember then that you grew up as part of a family yourself, with all its ups and downs, its joys and its struggles.  You were called and appointed from among the family of families that is the People of God to give your life to God. Your vocation to holiness and your pathway to ordination was inspired, nurtured, and shaped by your personal experience of home and family.

Pope Francis often says that “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed”, so in your priestly ministry be merciful, be understanding and always be aware that families often struggle, as we do, to live up to their vocation and stay on the right path to holiness.

That is why we must always strive as priests to bring the people of God together into one family and to carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love and mercy.  We ought not to be selfish in attending to our own concerns, instead keep in mind that we are ministers of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and to seek out and save those who are lost or going astray.
 

by armaghpriest.com on April 29th, 2022

I am Mrs Roseline Adeola Fasakin by God's grace the mother of Reverend Father Emmanuel Oluwadamilare Fasakin (MSP).

Before Fr. Emmanuel and his younger brother made their decisions to become a priest, I will not stop them from attending the Churches activities, especially with the members of the Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria in the parish. I also would encourage them to participate in the Youth’s activities in the Parish, and at the Diocesan level. Also, I never stopped them from attending the Altar server’s practices and meetings. However, they must first attend to all house chores allocated to them before they leave for those church’s activities. And I never bothered about them giving their time, talents and energies to the service of God even though they spent most of their time in the church either after school on weekdays or morning on weekends, rendering services to the priests or attending the youth or altar server’s activities which at some point, they both held an office, both in the parish and at the diocesan level.

When Fr. Emmanuel declared his intention of becoming a priest, all I could do as a mother was to always support him with prayer for his success, that he may not to fall into temptation and prayed that God would uphold him till the end. Upon hearing of the date of his ordination, I was overwhelmed at the same time, I continued to pray for that day to come to fulfilment, that nothing should hinder his ordination since it was his dream to answer God’s call.

On the day of his ordination, at the moment he was proclaimed as ‘Rev Fr. Emmanuel Fasakin MSP’, I knelt down with joy, with tears rolling down my eyes. I thanked our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother Mary who through her intercessions gave her son Emmanuel the opportunity to share in the work of salvation of Christ to the humanity.

After this came the reality that Fr. Emmanuel now belongs more to the Church, ordained for the work of God and to the missions, to be sent anywhere for God wants him to be. As his posting was immediately announced that day to resume the diocese of Bomadi in Nigeria which is about 10 hours’ drive from us. There he was for 9 months, after which he called and told us he has been sent on mission out of the country to the Northern Ireland in the Archdiocese of Armagh where he is presently, still working to win souls for God. Although this feels sometimes awkward, but it is a great thing to behold. And I get to appreciate any time I have to see him no matter how long it may be.

CONCLUSION:
I regard being a mother of a Priest, and two priests in a year’s time (since his kid brother is preparing to be ordained a deacon this year and to be ordained a priest next year by the grace of God), as a great privilege and honour from God. And I’m always happy about it because I know that I have a son who through the celebration of the Mass prays for me every day not just as a member of the church but as his own mother.

Thus, I think we mothers should try to instil some level of discipline into our children with the fear of God so that they can stand with their heads up high wherever they find themselves and defend their faith among their friends.

Also, some mothers who frown on their sons/daughters who chose to work for God either in the priesthood or religious life, should realise that while they debar their children from working for God, they also debar them from saving souls, which in my opinion God will not be so pleased with.

Finally, mothers should encourage their children to render services to God in their parishes by joining the different groups and societies like the altar servers, choir, lector stewards etc. In doing this I realised that our children, judging from my perspective learn to know more about God. They also remain focused and determined in their moment of discernments.

I pray that God will spare my life to witness the second Ordination of my sons. So please remember them in your prayers, thank you.




by armaghpriest.com on April 28th, 2022

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life – May 2022




May 1st – Third Sunday of Easter
For prayerful openness in our young people: that they will see their vocation discernment as a call to love the Lord and respond generously to His choice of them…

May 8th – Fourth Sunday of Easter (World Day of Prayer for Vocations)
That the Lord of the harvest will send labourers into his harvest inspiring young men and women to accept vocations to priesthood, diaconate and the consecrated life …

May 15th - Fifth Sunday of Easter
That the coming of the new heaven and new earth will be hastened though the holy lives and faithful witness of all those called to serve the Lord as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers …

May 22nd – Sixth Sunday of Easter
That the Holy Spirit will guide and comfort men and women discerning their vocations.…

May 29th – The Ascension of the Lord
That Christ, from his seat in heaven, will bless and guide all those being called to serve Him as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers


by armaghpriest.com on April 22nd, 2022

For me every Catholic priest is  a real and tangible link between the people and God, a bridge between Earth and Heaven.


The priest  has a vocation -has been chosen by God - with a special calling from Jesus Himself   to follow in His footsteps in the world today.


Priests  are the  human embodiment of Christ on earth - ever available to us throughout our lives  .They help strengthen our  relationship with God and guide us how to do His will.

They are the only people on earth ordained with God’s divine authority and power:  
•to celebrate  the Mass  for us
•to consecrate the bread and wine into The Body and Blood of Christ    
•to grant us the assurance of God’s forgiveness in Confession and
•to administer the Sacrament of the Sick which aids  recovery or  gives us strength for our final journey to eternal life.

When I visited St Peter’s  Basilica in Rome I experienced a truly deep  awareness and appreciation of  the authenticity of our Catholic faith . Our faith has been handed down to us from Jesus -the Son of God and our Blessed mother Mary - through Peter and the apostles and priests parents and teachers . It is still alive  and being nurtured and practised daily  in all corners of the world  over 2000 years later as a result of  the dedicated service of  our priests. These men who down through the ages – in good times and bad - have given their lives so selflessly - to do the  work of Jesus – leading us to the Father.

We   all enjoy  the  presence of the priest at  many happy events in life:   Celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, First  Penance, First  Communion , Confirmation , Weddings, and also on Anniversaries, Special birthdays , Community events  and other celebratory occasions  .We are so privileged to have the priest present during these  happy times and his presence  adds a very special dimension signifying that  Jesus himself is among us.

Then there are sad times  when  sickness, trouble ,worry ,loss ,anxiety, addiction, poverty, misfortune, abandonment, tragedy etc. etc. come to us or our families.   In such times we all become very aware  that we are totally  powerless over so many things.
We realize how  important it is to have a real knowledge, relationship, faith and trust  in God  to whom we turn for support , comfort and assistance.

At such times the priest through his ministry has a very special role .He  brings support, advice, guidance , counselling  ,encouragement, comfort, hope and consolation to all in these situations.  He brings the presence of Jesus in a way that  no other person can.

Whether life be short or long - death awaits us all and this can be a scary thought but through our faith we know and trust that God has reserved a place for each one of us-  and we look forward to His invitation to take our place in the Kingdom He has prepared for us.
I hope and  pray  that when my time comes that I - like my parents, brothers and grandparents will have the privilege of having a priest to administer the sacrament of the sick to me to help me on my way.

The rite of a Christian funeral celebrated by the priest brings  value, dignity and closure to our earthly lives. We are reminded and assured   that death is not the end but indeed the beginning of eternal  life. The priest – by  his words and presence -  provides love ,support, comfort and consolation to the bereaved family and friends.

Throughout my life I have had the privilege of meeting so many priests at so many levels and in so many situations. They have all been unique individuals with different personalities, interests, personal qualities , strengths and indeed even some human weaknesses -  as we all have .

However they all have one very special thing in common . They have accepted God’s call -  a call to leave all, to follow Him and to devote their lives to carrying on his mission here on earth . They are there to  instruct , encourage , guide and   support all of God’s people through their work , word and example.

We trust and pray that God will continue to call many more to follow in their footsteps so that  we will continue to experience – through His priests - the love and care of God  till the end of time. We ask this through Christ , Our Lord . Amen

Mary Hampsey



by armaghpriest.com on April 8th, 2022

I am a member of a family of 13, I was brought up in the Catholic religion by my devout Catholic parents and as a result developed a strong faith. We were taught the morals of right and wrong. I lived at home in the small town of Coalisland and there I attended St Joseph secondary school for my education, then afterwards onto Dungannon Technical College where I learned my trade in carpentry and joinery. I worked as a joiner all my life and my brother and I set up our own kitchen and bedroom manufacturing business, which is still going after 30 years.

Throughout this time, I became a firefighter for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue service and provided 21 years of service to my community of Cookstown where I Live Today. I did a lot of voluntary work in Romania, helping others less off and in need of assistance in different villages and communities. Back in my home parish I worked as a sacristan in the church.

In my 20s I felt this sensation of God calling me and, on searching into it I was sent to the Columban Fathers in Navan, Dublin. After a few short stays with them I left and returned home. My life carried on and I was kept busy with other things. The world was big, and I wanted to see it. But this pulling sensation towards God had always been with me. So, in 2019 I visited a vocations director Father Peter mc Anenly in Armagh. I met with him over several months. He then sent me to Salamanca in Spain on a propaedeutic course. On returning home from Spain after six months, I had a meeting with Archbishop Eamon Martin to discuss the next step of my journey. It was decided that I should go to the Beda College in Rome, to study for the priesthood. If God is calling, we need to listen to him. We need to be open and generous in responding to the call in order to become messengers of God. I am simply following my heart and doing God's will.

I feel very lucky to have been given this gift of a vocation from God and will live it as best I can for as long as God allows. It has been a long road with many twists and turns that has brought me to this new and exciting place in my life, and it is surely a beacon of hope to those of any age that when the Lord calls if you say yes, he will do the rest and make it happen.

When I said yes to God, I started this journey when I was 59 years of age. With having left a desk and education behind me now for a number of years, I felt afraid of what lay ahead of the unknown and wondered why me. But when I started, I became more and more content and happier within myself and drawn closer to God, it has given me a purpose to my life. You must be open to yourself to be able to listen to God.

The Beda college in Rome where I am at present is mainly for late vocation to the priesthood it is a great place and helps to nurture and bring out your good points and values. The staff and students are very supportive.

I thank God for my family, friends and all the students and staff at the Beda College who are praying for me and especially for Archbishop Martin for his support, encouragement and belief in me on this stage of my journey.




by armaghpriest.com on April 5th, 2022


by armaghpriest.com on April 1st, 2022

When I was a child, growing up in a Catholic household, there was a young priest who we all loved to be around. His name was Fr John. And boy did he live up to his name which means: “Graced by God.” I must have been about seven or eight when I first encountered him and though I didn’t understand what Fr John was saying most of the time, I thought the light shone out of his head like a halo when he was on the altar speaking.

Everyone seemed to admire him. He had come from a comfortable background, was very charismatic and very handsome. I would hear my parents marvel that he had become a priest (lay people rarely understand the power of the call unless you tell them it’s like falling in love with God. The falling in love part they understand!)

Fr John had the heart of a shepherd. The self-sacrificing love he shared was powerful, his faith was palpable and his joy was infectious. What a witness for Christ. After mass, we all lined up to greet him and shake his hand. When I think of him, I remember two words, the words he used most often, words of encouragement, praise and delight.  “Just beautiful,” he would say, smiling broadly. “Oh boy, just beautiful.” Sometimes it was directed at the choir,  the children’s nativity play  or a small child shyly looking up while holding a parent’s hand. I remember it made me feel great to hear those words as a child, as a teenager, as an adult and eventually I saw the faces of my nieces and nephews light up when Fr John told them. “Beautiful. Just beautiful.”

Every parish Fr John went to was reinvigorated and I remember a priest once saying to me: if you want to know what a parish is like, look at the priest.

Fr John had a gentleness about him but he was always obedient, not afraid to speak the truth, refusing to water down the wine of the Gospel.   “I’m not going to hell for any of you,” he would say with a smile.

At the end of every Christmas mass, he and his brother priests would sing to the parishioners from the altar: “We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!” Everyone in the church would all respond, singing  with joy, repeating the refrain. “We wish you a merry Christmas…”

Fr John knew how to lift people up. It was his special gift from God, and over the years I have found that each priest I have encountered carries in a marked way some quality of Christ, the eternal priest, perhaps Christ’s sensitivity, his vulnerability, his gentleness, his zeal, his mercy, his humility, his kindness, his generosity, his joy, his peace.

Fr John was there at some of the most poignant moments of my family’s life: baptism, marriage, funerals. Indeed he was at the graveside when we  buried my father. I will always remember Fr John handing my mother the cross from my father’s coffin. There were no words needed: love is stronger than death.

And while priests might get a poor press these days, I have always been blessed with good priests in my life, priests with a servant’s heart, a shepherd’s heart, a father’s heart: inspiring men, who make holiness look attractive, whose call is so powerful it inspires others. I thank God for these priests, one of whom helped me discern my call to religious life and another who pointed me to the hope my call still held for me when my vocation changed dramatically.

If you want to know what a priest is, look at the cross. A priest is a great lover of souls, one who sacrifices himself for others, who gives all, who lays down his life.

So being a priest  is not for the faint hearted.

Ven Fulton Sheen used to address seminarians with the words: if you are not prepared to be a Divine Victim, to be falsely accused, rejected and even put to death, then go do something else. What a privilege it is  to be called by the Divine son of God into the most intimate relationship possible, a relationship of love with our creator God.

It saddens me when I hear priests and others saying the celibate life is not a natural state. Of course it is not natural. It is supernatural. And in God, all things are possible.

Yes Jesus is demanding but he is very loving. And believe me following Jesus is never boring. It is the greatest adventure you will ever have. Jesus is the greatest adventure you will ever have and that journey in the heart of God just gets better, despite all the challenges.  

I thank God for the priests I have known. They have been a blessing in my life, always there when I needed to be heard, to be helped, to be guided to be forgiven. I shudder to think we have so few men now answering the call. I shudder when I hear Catholic parents say they don’t want their sons to be priests.

Being a priest is a great privilege. It means bringing Jesus to people. What could be better than that?

Sr. Martina Purdy


by armaghpriest.com on March 26th, 2022


by armaghpriest.com on March 18th, 2022

It comes as something of a surprise to people today when I tell them that I always wanted to be a priest. I was convinced from a very early age, perhaps from about five or six, that joining the priesthood was my future destiny. The ordination of a neighbour when I was nine helped to solidify that calling and I never really thought of doing anything else throughout my primary and secondary school years.

Reflecting now on my own call to become a priest I am struck by how straightforward it was and how it was very much of its time. When I was going to school during the 1970’s and the early 1980’s the support for people in Ireland with such a calling was assured. No one questioned it or thought it odd. There were plenty of role models and examples of others in every locality who were ordained priests, or who were professed as religious, to work in the home or foreign missions.

The priests who worked in my own parish throughout my childhood and teenage years were kind and thoughtful men who did tremendous work within the community. The Christian Brothers I encountered in secondary school were of the same ilk. They were devoted to education and Christian formation. Fortunately, I never had any negative experiences of the Church or Church personnel, and I can only look back with gratitude for what they contributed to my life and the life of my family. Such a positive experience also contributed strongly to my own personal sense of vocation.

I went to secondary school in the Christian Brothers School in Kells, Co. Meath. By the time I got to 5th year there were about 50 students left in the Leaving Cert class. When the time came to decide on our future direction five of us in the class entered the priesthood and religious life. Three of us are still working as priests today. Two of us in Ireland and one in the USA. All of us knew that our parents would be supportive because they had nurtured our vocation and welcomed it. I was fortunate to also have an aunt who was my godmother and who was particularly supportive and encouraging. She gave me the confidence to follow my vocation and to realise that I could one day be a priest. These factors more than any contributed to my vocational choice.

There are many deep and complex reasons for the poor response to becoming a priest or religious in the modern world, but one of the main ones is a lack of support from the families and from the community around the person considering their calling or religious vocation. I thank God that I grew up in the community and time that I did. It was a time when the environment was much more positive and nourishing for young people and not filled with the challenges and distractions that they have to face today. I pray that, despite all the obstacles placed in their way, more young people will trust in God’s call to serve in the priesthood and religious life. Just as important, however, is that those who are closest to the young person, family, and friends, will see the importance of their God given role to support and encourage them on their vocational journey.  


by armaghpriest.com on March 11th, 2022

It’s the simplest of stories; the story of an altar-boy who wanted not just to serve Mass but to celebrate Mass.   So, very quickly I found myself in Maynooth and then the trouble started!

Like a fledgling swimmer I was now in at the deep end; out of my depth, in the company of some of the most generous, talented, gifted young men of my generation.  What was I doing amongst them?  Now that is a very good question and the one who most asked it was myself.  Thank God I was preserved from the pangs of jealousy and from the green-eyed God of envy but it was a ”Beam me up Scotty” moment.

Was the altar-boy’s dream just that, a childish dream?  Was it now wakey-wakey time?  True, I still wanted to be a priest but did God want me to be a priest?  I knew somewhere in my heart that it could only really happen if it was God’s will and not a silly dream/wish of mine.  And another question if I was a priest could I ‘Do’ the priest thing? Could I, yes me, do what God expects a priest to do?  Do, what a priest is called to do?  Frightening questions!

So to make a long story short, in the summer before I was due to start First Divine I resolved not to return to Maynooth.  It was all just a pipe-dream.  Do something else with your life, something that would not be a disgrace to God.  I wasn’t particularly happy with my decision to leave but it was all I could do.  Oh Lord show me the way.  And mirabile dictu He did.

I was in my local village church one evening in that summer stumbling at prayer when Miss…came in.  She had taught me, way back when I was in P.5.  She was a very religious person and she had always been most kind to me.  She had her own problems as her brother would have fought depression all his life.  But as I continued trying to pray she came over to me and asked me to pray for her brother as he was again in the local psychiatric hospital. I said I would pray for him and I did.  But (and it was a big ‘But’) why had she asked me to pray for her brother?  My prayers were just two-penny prayers; I don’t know how to really pray.   She was much more devout and certainly a more faithful follower of the Lord that I would ever be.

She left me thinking!  I knew I couldn’t do the priest thing but perhaps I could try to pray for her brother and all the other brothers and sisters, parents, children of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Armagh.  So, at the end of the summer I went back to Maynooth.
But the tossing and turning did not go away.  Is this what God wants me to be? I knew that only in doing God’s will would I find peace and only if it was God’s will could I offer Him and His people something of beauty; anything worthwhile.

And then one night my Spiritual Director asked me, “Imagine” he said, “If you were in Parish A1 this night, would your heart be at peace”.  That of course was the         64, 000 dollar question.  I rumbled on.  And the night before my Diaconate I was racked with doubt.  But the Dean, Fr Michael Olden who incidentally just died before Christmas, RIP, steadied me and I was ordained a deacon over forty years ago on Easter Monday, the day after the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection and that was that.  Praise God and thank God over again.

From that Easter Monday all those years ago I have never questioned should I or should I not be a priest.  I am what I am and if I can ever be of any value to the Lord then dear Lord let it be.
Did God want me to be a priest?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Can I ‘Do’ the priest thing.  No, in truth I cannot.  But I try to do what I can and pray the Lord to do the rest.  Do I regret being a priest?  Never.  Have I regrets about the quality of my priesthood, the generosity of my priestly years, the fidelity in following Him?. You bet ye.  A thousand regrets..

Would I do it all over again.  Yes absolutely but dear God let it be more generously, more faithfully, more willingly.  So I do what I can and pray the Lord to be merciful.
 
The years of my priesthood, like the beautiful scarred face of the Madonna of Czestochowa have been scarred by the scandals of my brother priests who broke their vows in the most egregious way possible and of the Bishops who could not grasp the nettle of their crimes.  But I cannot be too hard on any of them, because if I have learned anything through the years it is that I am a sinner and that there but for the grace of God go I.  And what would I have done without the Sacrament of Reconciliation I cannot imagine.

Perhaps Cardinal George Pell may speak for me when he wrote from an Australian prison on March 21st 2019,  “I do not regret becoming a priest, although my life has been one of turbulence, as I do believe I did God’s will however imperfectly.  I gave my life to a cause of ultimate significance – and a priestly way of life with many human consolations.”2
Well my turbulence has been little or none, my consolations have been many especially in the privileges of being with people in their joys and more being with them in their sorrows.
I only continue to make my own the prayer of St John Henry Newman.

Dear Lord, I do not ask to see
I do not ask to know
I ask simply to be used.
And I add another line of my own,
I ask only for your mercy.                                                                  
Praise God.  Amen

1God laughs at me often.  There are 61 parishes in the Archdiocese of Armagh.  Guess to which parish was I assigned immediately after my Ordination, you are right -  Parish A!!!  And despite having a tough parish priest I was happy in it.
2Prison Journal Vol 1 p 69  Just 8 days after his incarceration in solitary confinement.

by armaghpriest.com on March 8th, 2022


by armaghpriest.com on March 7th, 2022


by armaghpriest.com on March 4th, 2022

This time forty years ago I was on the edge of making a life-changing decision. Though life has always been kind to me, it had kicked me up the backside in the previous year or two and made me more reflective than usual. I liked what I was doing in the family business and outside of it but I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing it. I began again to think of priesthood.

I had been taught by priests in secondary school in Newry and having several aunts who were priests’ housekeepers, the figure of the priest was familiar to me. The priests who crossed my path were benign if inter-personally distant figures in my life. Career choices were limited at the time and most people followed family patterns of training and vocational choice. During my time in secondary school, I explored the idea of priestly vocation briefly but then I set it aside.

At twenty-two years old, I was now thinking about life and revisiting my original intentions. When I got around to doing something about it, I chatted to my aunt who was the local parish priest’s housekeeper and asked her to make an appointment for me. The recently arrived parish priest was called Fr Savage. ‘A terrible name for a parish priest’ was the verdict of the bar-stool philosophers in Murtagh’s Bar.

Tomás Ó Sabhaois was how he chose to be known. He was a kindly man who had a charismatic style spirituality and he was an avid fior-Ghael. His sister was a local primary teacher who had taught us Irish before school opening hours in a country school. With the appointment organised, I took to figuring what I might say to him when we met.

Part of my daily routine in those days was foddering cattle in two different farms and I took the opportunity of the tranquillity of the countryside to compose and to practice what I might say. I spoke to the trees and the hedges and eventually settled on my spiel.

The time arrived and I went to the Parochial House for my interview. My aunt brought me in and showed me upstairs to the priest’s sitting room. He was relaxing and watching a television programme called Trom agus Éadrom. This was a ‘heavy and light’ production that ran from 1975 to 1985 and was compered by the genial Liam Ó Murchú.

The parish priest asked me if I minded waiting until the programme ended and I assented. He then turned to me when it was over and asked me, in Irish, if I spoke Irish. ‘An bhfuill aon Gaeilge agat’? His sister had given me both a solid grounding in the language and a love for it and I had attended the Donegal Gaeltacht over several summers in the early 1970s. I had then taken it to ‘O’ Level standard at secondary school and begun studies to ‘A’ level in it.
My mind however was not in gear for thinking ‘as Gaeilge’ and I stumbled through my self-deprecatory reply to his question, ‘beaganín’ ‘a little bit’. ‘Beaganín’ was enough for him and he continued to speak to me in Irish, making the usual small talk that oils such formalities and introductions. I was finding the going ‘trom’ or heavy, resurrecting my school-book Irish from the recesses of my memory.

Eventually, he switched back to ‘eatrom’ and we continued in English. ‘So what did you want to see me about?’ he asked. I then drew a blank. The spiel that I had repeated to the bushes so many times and which I had polished and practised simply deserted me. I could think neither in English or in Irish for a few moments. I composed myself however, and stumbled through some sort of unrehearsed explanation.

Some weeks later, I was in Armagh to meet another avid Gaeilegeoir, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich who was to interview me for acceptance to the diocese as a trainee priest. He asked me my name and address and immediately lit up when he heard that I was from ‘Cross’. He remembered my late granduncle, Luke Murtagh, the founding father, sitting outside the family pub in North Street. I had attended primary school in Anamar, his home townland. Interview over immediately. I found myself, some months later, in September 1980, heading for that mysterious place so associated with Irish Priesthood, Maynooth.



by armaghpriest.com on March 3rd, 2022


by armaghpriest.com on February 25th, 2022

If we went into a school classroom in the Archdiocese of Armagh and asked the question, “Who would like to fill the boots of their county football captain?” almost every lad in the room would put up their hand.

If we went into the same classroom and asked, “Who would like to fill the boots of their parish priest?” we would unlikely get the same number of hands.  If every county needs a captain to lead them, even more so every parish needs a good, holy priest to lead them in faith.

People know very simply why a football team needs a captain; someone of exceptional standard, expectations and who makes the others in the team strive to be better.  People don’t often reflect on why we need our priest, but who can fill his shoes?

Who else on this earth can give us the body and blood of Christ?  Who else can take away all our sins through Confession?  Who else can anoint us as we exit this earth?  We are all called to be saints, and there are those among us called to be priests and saints.  Just like we need visible leaders in sport, we need visible, holy men who have the courage to become priests.  

God, when He spoke to St Catherine of Sienna said there were the same number of boys being born with the seed of faith to become priests but this seed was not being watered or nourished.  Ask yourself as a parishioner, teacher, parent or grandparent, “when was the last time I mentioned priesthood as a vocation to a young lad or man?” “When did I last pray for vocations or speak of it with my children or pupils?”

Vocations are made in the family.  Just like football players are introduced to the game and took to training to develop, so too our future priests need to be introduced to the faith, taken to the training i.e. Holy Mass, learn the rules (the teachings of our faith) and be encouraged to participate.  Can you imagine any more rewarding vocation in life than to give people Jesus, to lead them to Jesus and to help them and yourself strive to be saints in Heaven?  

Having worked alongside many priests across Ireland, I see the role of a priest as much more than offering Sunday mass.  It is daily giving people the body and blood of Christ.  It is weekly cleaning the souls of your parishioners through Confession.  It is being with people as they die and preparing their soul to meet God to ensure heaven is their destination.  It is sharing in the highest highs of life, like baptising a child into the family of God or joining man and woman in Holy Matrimony; and the lowest of lows when people are grieving, sick or lost in this world.  It is the daily challenge of being courageous enough to let people know of the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to us.  Being a priest is the greatest privilege God can bestow on any man on this earth, so the question remains, “Who will fill these shoes?” Are you courageous enough to?  

St John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, pray for us.

Bosco McShane


by armaghpriest.com on February 19th, 2022

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PRIESTHOOD

Paul VI Audience Hall
17 February 2022


"Dear brothers, good day!

I am grateful to have the opportunity to share with you this reflection on some things that the Lord has gradually helped me to realize over the more than fifty years of my priesthood. In this grateful remembrance, I wish to include all those priests who, by their life and witness, showed me from my earliest years what it means to reflect the face of the Good Shepherd. In thinking about what to share concerning the life of the priest today, I concluded that the best thing is to speak of the witness I have received from so many priests over the years. What I now offer is the fruit of my thoughts about them, and my recognition and appreciation of what it was that distinguished them and gave them singular strength, joy and hope in their pastoral mission.

At the same time, I should also speak of those brother priests whom I have had to accompany because they had lost the flame of their first love and their ministry had become barren, repetitive and almost meaningless. There are different times and situations in the life of every priest. I personally have passed through a variety of times and situations and, in “ruminating” on the movements of the Spirit, I have come to realize that in some of those situations, which included moments of trial, difficulty and desolation, somehow there always remained a sense of peace in my life. I realize we can talk and speculate endlessly on the priesthood, but today I want to share with you this “little album”, so that today’s priests, wherever they find themselves, can experience the peace and fruitfulness that the Spirit desires to bestow. It may be that these reflections are the “swan song” of my own priestly life, but I can assure you that they are the fruit of my own experience. I am speaking about what I have experienced, not any theory.

The times we are living in require us not only to experience change, but to accept it in the realization that ours is a time of epochal change – I have said this many times. If we had any doubts about this, Covid has made it amply evident: indeed, the outbreak of the virus cannot be restricted to a question of medicine and health care; it is much more than a cold.

We can respond in many different ways to the challenge of change. The problem is that while many actions and attitudes can be helpful and good, not all of them have the flavour of the Gospel. Here is the crux of the matter: discerning whether changes and actions have the flavor of the Gospel or not. For example, seeking established ways of doing things, very often anchored in the past, that “guarantee” a sort of protection from risks, sheltering us in the world or a society that no longer exists (if it ever did), as if this determined order could quell the conflicts that history sets before us. That is the crisis of going backwards in order to find shelter.

Another attitude might be that of exaggerated optimism – “Everything will be all right” – moving too far forward without discernment and without taking necessary decisions. This optimism ends up ignoring the pain involved in this transformation and failing to accept the tensions, complexities and ambiguities of the present time, “consecrating” the latest novelty as the ultimate reality and thereby dismissing the wisdom of the years. 

Both are a kind of flight. They are the response of the mercenary who sees the wolf coming and runs away: either towards the past or towards the future. Neither can lead to mature solutions. The concrete reality of the present time is where we must stay, there in today’s concrete reality.

I prefer the response born of a trusting acceptance of reality, anchored in the wise and living Tradition of the Church, which enables us to put out into the deep without fear. At this moment of history, I feel that Jesus is once more inviting us to “put out into the deep” (cf. Lk 5:4) trusting that he is the Lord of history and that, with his guidance, we will discern the direction to take. Our salvation is not “aseptic”, the product of a laboratory or a disembodied spiritualism: this is always the temptation of gnosticism, one that is contemporary, that is current. Discerning the will of Godmeans learning to view realities with the Lord’s own eyes. It means not evading the realities that our people are experiencing, or anxiously seeking a quick and quiet exit provided by the ideology of the moment or prefabricated answers. Neither of these is capable of dealing with the more difficult and even dark moments of our history. These two paths would lead us to deny “our history as a Church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work” (Evangelii Gaudium, 96).

These challenges are also affecting the lives of priests; a symptom of this is the vocations crisis experienced by our communities in a number of places. Often, however, this is due to the absence within communities of a contagious apostolic zeal, with the result that they lack enthusiasm and attractiveness: communities, for example, that function and are well-organized yet without enthusiasm, where everything is in place yet without the fire of the Spirit. Where there is life and fervour, and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations spring up. Even in parishes whose priests are not particularly engaged and joyful, the active and fraternal life of the community can awaken a desire to consecrate one’s life entirely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is especially the case if that community prays insistently for vocations and has the courage to propose to its young people a path of special consecration. When we fall into functionalism or pastoral organization – if this becomes the only thing – that does not attract at all. Instead, when the priest or the community has a Christian baptismal fervor, this attracts new vocations.

The life of a priest is above all the salvation history of one baptized person. Cardinal Ouellet has spoken of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the baptismal priesthood. At times we forget about baptism, and the priest then becomes a functionary, and the danger of functionalism sets in. We should never forget that each particular vocation, including that of Holy Orders, is a completion of baptism. It is always a great temptation to live a priesthood without baptism – and there are some priests “without baptism” – in other words, forgetting that our primary vocation is to holiness. To be holy means to conform ourselves to Jesus, letting our hearts thrill with his same sentiments (cf. Phil 2:15). Only when we strive to love others as Jesus does, do we make God visible and fulfil our vocation to holiness. Quite rightly, Saint John Paul II reminded us that, “the priest, like every other member of the Church, ought to grow in the awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, [25 March 1992], 26). And when you say to some Bishops or priests that they need to be evangelized, they don’t understand. This happens, this is a tragedy nowadays.

Each specific vocation must be submitted to this kind of discernment. Our vocation is before all else a response to the One who loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19). This is the source of our hope, for even amid crises, the Lord never ceases to love us and to call us. Each of us can testify to this: one day the Lord found us, where we were and as we were, in uncertain circumstances or complex family situations. I like to re-read Ezekiel 16 and at times see myself: the Lord found me there, he found me in that state, and he led me forward. Yet this did not discourage him from using each of us to write the history of salvation. So it was from the beginning – we can think of Peter, Paul and Matthew, just to name a few. Jesus did not choose them because they were perfect, but because he was concretely committed to each of them. In looking at his own humanity, his own history, his own personality, each of us should ask, not if responding to a vocation is agreeable or not, but whether, in conscience, that vocation brings to light within us the potential for Love that we received on the day of our baptism.

In these changing times, many questions have to be faced and many temptations will arise. In these remarks, I will simply speak about what I consider decisive for the life of a priest today. Saint Paul tells us that, “in Christ, the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21). Growing in a well-ordered way means growing in harmony, and growth in harmony is something only the Holy Spirit can bring about, for as Saint Basil says so beautifully, “He himself is harmony” (“Ipse harmonia est”) [Treatise on the Holy Spirit, No. 38]. Every structure, to keep standing, needs solid foundations. For this reason, I would like to speak of the attitudes that sustain us as priests. You have heard of these attitudes already, but I will repeat them once more. I will refer to those four pillars of our priestly life as “four forms of closeness”, since they imitate God’s own “style”, which is essentially that of closeness (cf. Deut 4:7). God defines himself this way to his people: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as I am to you?”. God’s style is closeness, a special, compassionate and tender closeness. These are three words that define the life of a priest, and of a Christian as well, because they are taken precisely from God’s style: closeness, compassion and tenderness.

I have mentioned these in the past, but today I would like to discuss them more fully because, more than recipes or theories, priests need concrete tools for exercising their ministry, their mission and their daily activity. Saint Paul exhorted Timothy to rekindle the gift of God that he had received through the laying on of his hands: a spirit not of fear, but of strength, love and self-discipline (cf. 2 Tim 1:6-7). I am convinced that these four pillars, these four “forms of closeness” that I will speak of now can help us in a practical, concrete and hope-filled way to rekindle the gift and the fruitfulness that were once promised to us, to keep that gift alive.

First of all, closeness to God. Four forms of closeness, the first of which is closeness to God.

Closeness to God

First closeness to God, that is, to the Lord of closeness. “I am the vine, you are the branches.” These words occur when John’s Gospel speaks about “remaining”. “Those who abide in me, and I in them, bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:5-7).

A priest is called above all to cultivate this closeness, this intimacy with God, and from this relationship, he will be able to draw all the strength needed for his ministry. Our relationship with God is, so to speak, what “grafts” us to him and makes us fruitful. Without a meaningful relationship with the Lord, our ministry will prove fruitless. Closeness to Jesus and daily contact with his word, enables us to measure our life against his, learning not to be scandalized by whatever befalls us and protecting ourselves from “stumbling blocks”. Like the Master, you will experience joy, wedding feasts, miracles and healings, multiplications of loaves and repose, moments of praise. But you will also experience ingratitude, rejection, doubt and solitude, to the point of crying out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).

Closeness to Jesus makes us unafraid of those times – not because we rely on our own strength but because we look to him, cling to him and cry out: “Lord, keep me from falling into temptation! Make me realize that I am experiencing a critical moment in my life and that you are with me, to test my faith and my love” (C.M. MARTINI, Perseverance in Trials. Reflections on Job, Collegeville, 1996). This closeness to God can sometimes take the form of a struggle: a struggle with the Lord, especially in those moments when his absence is most felt in our own lives and in the lives of the persons entrusted to us. A struggle that lasts through the night, and in the midst of which we ask his blessing (cf. Gen 32:25-7), which will be a source of life for many. At times this is a struggle. A priest who works here in the Curia – he is young and has a difficult job, keeping track of things, said to me that he returned home tired, but he took a little rest in front of Our Lady with his rosary in hand before going to bed. This Curial official, this Vatican employee, needed that closeness. To be sure, sometimes people in the Curia are much criticized, but I can also say and bear witness that there truly are saints in the Curia.

Many crises in the priesthood originate precisely in a poor life of prayer, a lack of intimacy with the Lord, the reduction of the spiritual life to mere religious practice. I want to point this out even in formation: the spiritual life is one thing, religious practice is another. “How is your spiritual life going?” “Good, good. I make my meditation in the morning, I pray the rosary, I pray the breviary and all the rest. I’m doing everything. No, this is religious practice. But how is your spiritual life going? I can think of important moments of my own life, where closeness to the Lord proved decisive in sustaining me, sustaining me in dark moments. The intimacy born of prayer, the spiritual life, concrete closeness to God through listening to his word, the celebration of the Eucharist, the silence of adoration, entrustment to Mary, the wise accompaniment of a guide and the sacrament of Reconciliation… Without these concrete “forms of closeness”, a priest is merely a weary hireling who has none of the benefits of the Lord’s friends. In my former diocese, I liked to ask priests: “Tell me,” – they told me about all their work – “Tell me, how do you go to bed?” They did not understand. “Yes, yes, at night, how do you go to bed?” “I come home tired, I have a bite to eat and I go to bed, but before bed, a little television.” “Ah, good! But you don’t stop before the Lord, at least to tell him good night?” This is the problem. A lack of closeness. Being tired from work is normal, going to rest and watching television are legitimate, but without the Lord, without this closeness? Praying the rosary, praying the breviary, but without intimacy with the Lord. Feeling no need to say to the Lord, “Goodbye, until tomorrow, many thanks!” These are little acts that reveal the attitude of a priestly soul.

All too often, for example, in the life of priests, prayer is practiced only as a duty; we forget that friendship and love do not come from following rules, but are a fundamental choice of the heart. The priest who prays remains, ultimately, a Christian who has come to appreciate fully the gift received at baptism. A priest who prays is a son who constantly remembers that he is such, and that he has a Father who loves him deeply. A priest who prays is a son who keeps close to the Lord.

None of this is easy, however, unless we are accustomed to find moments of silence throughout our day and to set aside the activism of Martha in order to learn the quiet contemplation of Mary. We find it hard to give up that activism – and very often activism can be an escape – because once we stop running around, what we immediately feel is not peace but a kind of emptiness; and in order to keep from feeling that, we are unwilling to slow down. Work is a distraction, in order not to enter into desolation. Yet desolation is a little point of encounter with God. Once we accept the desolation that is born of silence, fast from our activities and words, and find the courage to take a sincere look at ourselves, everything takes on a light and peace no longer based on our own strengths and abilities. We need to learn to let the Lord bring his work to fulfilment in each of us and to “prune” all that is unfruitful, barren or unworthy of our calling. Perseverance in prayer is more than simply remaining faithful to its practice: it means not running away in those times when prayer draws us into the desert. The way of the desert is the way that leads to intimacy with God, provided we do not run away or find ways to avoid this encounter. In the desert “I will speak tenderly to her”, says the Lord to his people through the words of the prophet Hosea (Hos 2:14). This is something that a priest must ask himself: if he is able to let himself be led into the desert. Spiritual guides who accompany priests have to understand and help them and pose this question: are you able to let yourself be drawn into the desert? Or do you go right away to the oasis of television or something else?

Closeness with God enables the priest to touch the hurt in our hearts, which, if embraced, disarms us even to the point of making possible an encounter. The prayer that, like fire, stirs up our priestly life is the plea of a contrite and humble heart, which, as the Scripture tells us, the Lord does not disdain (cf. Ps 51:17). “They call and the Lord hears and rescues them from their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save” (Ps 34:17-18).

A priest needs to have a heart sufficiently “enlarged” to expand and embrace the pain of the people entrusted to his care while, at the same time, like a sentinel, being able to proclaim the dawning of God’s grace revealed in that very pain. Embracing, accepting and showing his own impoverishment in closeness to the Lord is the best means to learn gradually how to embrace the neediness and pain that he encounters daily in his ministry, and thus to be conformed ever more closely to the heart of Christ. That, in turn, will prepare the priest for another kind of closeness: closeness to the people of God. In closeness to God, the priest grows in closeness to his people; and conversely, in closeness to his people, he experiences closeness to his Lord. And this closeness to God – this gets my attention – is the first task of Bishops, for when the Apostles “invented” deacons, Peter explained their role and said: “But we” – the Bishops – “will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (cf. Acts 6:4). In other words, the first task of a Bishop is to pray; and a priest must take this up as well: to pray.

In the words of Saint John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Intimacy with God makes all this possible, for in prayer we realize that we are great in his eyes, and so, for priests close to the Lord, it is easy to become small in the eyes of the world. There, in that closeness, we no longer fear to be configured to the crucified Jesus, as is demanded of us in the Rite of Priestly Ordination. This is very beautiful yet we often forget it.

Let us turn now to the second form of closeness, which will be briefer than the first.

Closeness to the Bishop

This second form of closeness has long been interpreted in a one-sided way. As Church, all too often, even today, our view of obedience is far from the sense of the Gospel. Obedience is not a disciplinary attribute but the deepest sign of the bonds uniting us in communion. To obey, in this case obeying the Bishop, means to learn how to listen, to remember that no one “owns” God’s will, which must be understood only through discernment. Obedience is thus attentive listening to the will of God, which is discerned precisely in a bond, a relationship with others. Such an attitude of attentive listening makes us come to realize that none of us is the beginning and the end of life, but that each of us must necessarily interact with others. The “internal logic” of closeness – in this case with the Bishop, but with others too – enables us to conquer all temptations to closedmindedness, self-justification and living our lives as “bachelors”. When priests close themselves off, they end up as “bachelors”, with all the quirks of “bachelors” and this is not good. Instead, this closeness invites us to listen to others, in order to find the way that leads to truth and life.

The Bishop is not a school superintendent or supervisor; he is a father and must show this closeness. The Bishop must try to behave this way because otherwise he pushes his priests away, or he comes near only to the ambitious ones. The Bishop, whoever he may be, remains for each priest and for every particular Church a bond that helps discern the will of God. Yet we should not forget that the Bishop himself can be a means for this discernment only if he is himself attentive to the lives of his priests and of the holy people of God entrusted to his care. As I wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “we need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart that makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal: the desire to respond fully to God’s love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives” (No. 171).

Not by chance does evil, in order to destroy the fruitfulness of the Church’s work, seek to undermine the bonds that establish and preserve us in unity. To defend the bonds of a priest with his particular Church, with the Institute to which he belongs, and with his Bishop, makes priestly life trustworthy and sure. To defend the bonds. Obedience is the fundamental decision to accept what is asked of us, and to do so as a concrete sign of that universal sacrament of salvation which is the Church. Obedience can also be discussion, attentive listening, and in some cases tension, but not a rupture. This necessarily demands that priests pray for their bishops and feel free to express their opinions with respect, courage and sincerity. It likewise demands that bishops demonstrate humility, an ability to listen, to be self-critical, and to let themselves be helped. If we can preserve this bond, we will advance securely on our way.

I think this is enough about closeness to the Bishop.

Closeness to other priests

The third form of closeness. Closeness to God, closeness to the Bishop and closeness to other priests. It is precisely on the basis of communion with the Bishop that a third form of closeness emerges, the closeness of fraternity. Jesus is present wherever there are brothers and sisters who love one another: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20). Fraternity, like obedience, cannot be a moral imposition from without. Fraternity means choosing deliberately to pursue holiness together with others, and not by oneself. As an African proverb, which you know well, says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others”. Sometimes it seems that the Church is slow, and that is true. Yet I like to think of it as the slowness of those who have chosen to walk in fraternity. Also accompanying those who are least, but always in fraternity.

The signs of fraternity are those of love. Saint Paul, in the First Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 13), has left us a clear “roadmap” of love and, in a certain sense, has pointed out the goal of fraternity. Before all else, to learn patience, the ability to feel responsible for others, to bear their burdens, to suffer in some way with them. The opposite of patience is indifference, the distance we create with others, so as not to get involved in their lives. Many priests experience the drama of solitude, of loneliness. We can feel undeserving of patience or consideration. Indeed, it can appear that from others we can expect only judgment, not goodness or kindness. Others seem unable to rejoice in the good things happening in our lives, or we ourselves seem unable to rejoice when we see good things happening in the lives of others. This inability to rejoice in the good of others – and I want to emphasize this – is envy which is very present in our circles; it is an obstacle to the pedagogy of love, not merely a sin to be confessed. Sin is the end result, it comes from an attitude of envy. Envy is very present in priestly communities. God’s word tells us that it is a destructive attitude: through the envy of the devil, sin entered the world (cf. Wis 2:24). Envy is the door for destruction. We have to speak clearly about this: envy exists in our presbyterates. It is not that everyone is envious, no, but the temptation to envy is there at hand. We need to be attentive, for from envy comes gossip. 

In order to feel part of the community or “group”, there is no need to put on masks to make ourselves more attractive to others. We have no need, in other words, to be boastful, much less tobe inflated or, worse yet, to be arrogant or rude, lacking respect for our neighbor. There are also clerical forms of bullying. If there is one thing a priest can boast about, it is the Lord’s mercy. For conscious of his own sinfulness, weakness and limitations, he knows from experience that where sin abounds, love abounds all the more (cf. Rom 5:20). This is the first and most reassuring message that he brings. A priest who keeps this in mind is not, and cannot be, envious.

Fraternal love does not insist on its own way, or yield to anger or resentment, as if my brother or neighbour had somehow cheated me of something. When I encounter the meanness of others, I choose not to harbour a grudge, to make that my sole basis of judgment, even perhaps to the point of rejoicing over evil in the case of those who have caused me suffering. True love rejoices in the truthand considers it a grave sin to offend truth and the dignity of our brothers and sisters through slander, detraction and gossip. These originate in envy, to the point even of slander in order to get a position. And this is very sad. When we ask for information in order to appoint someone a Bishop, many times we receive information poisoned by envy. This is a sickness of our presbyterates. Many of you are formators in seminaries; you should bear this in mind.

We should never, on the other hand, allow fraternal love to be considered utopian, much less a trite phrase useful for awakening warm feelings or stilling disagreements. No! All of us know how difficult it can be to live in community, or in a presbyterate – a saint once said that community life was his penance – yet how difficult it is to live alongside those we have chosen to call our brothers and sisters. Fraternal love, provided we do not make it saccharine, redefine it or diminish it, is the “great prophecy” that we are called to embody in today’s throwaway society. I like to think of fraternal love as a “gymnasium of the spirit”, where we daily take stock of our progress and check the temperature of our spiritual life. Today the prophecy of fraternity has not faded, but it does need heralds, men and women who, while conscious of their own limitations and challenges, let themselves be touched, challenged and moved by the words of the Lord: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

Fraternal love, for priests, cannot be restricted to a small group, but finds expression in pastoral charity (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 23), which inspires us to live that love concretely as mission. We can say that we love only if we learn to express love in the way that Saint Paul describes. Only the one who seeks to love remains secure. Those who live with the syndrome of Cain, convinced that they are incapable of loving others because they themselves feel unloved and unappreciated, end up living always as restless wanderers, never feeling quite at home, and precisely for this reason all the more exposed to evil: hurting themselves and hurting others. This is why love among priests has the role of safeguarding, of safeguarding each other mutually.

I would also add that when priestly fraternity, closeness among priests, thrives and bonds of true friendship exist, it likewise becomes possible to experience with greater serenity the life of celibacy. Celibacy is a gift that the Latin Church preserves, yet it is a gift that, to be lived as a means of sanctification, calls for healthy relationships, relationships of true esteem and true goodness that are deeply rooted in Christ. Without friends and without prayer, celibacy can become an unbearable burden and a counter-witness to the very beauty of the priesthood.

We come now to the fourth and last form of closeness, closeness to the holy People of God. We would do well to read Lumen Gentium, number 8 and number 12.

Closeness to people

I have often emphasized how our relationship with the holy People of God is for each of us not a duty but a grace: “Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God” (Evangelii Gaudium, 272). For this reason, the proper place of every priest is in the midst of people, in close relationship to others. In Evangelii Gaudium, I stressed that “to be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy. Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people. When we stand before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all his faithful people. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people. Jesus wants to make use of priests to draw closer to the holy faithful People of God. He takes us from the midst of his people and he sends us to his people; without the sense of belonging we cannot understand our deepest identity” (No. 268). Priestly identity cannot be understood without this belonging to the holy faithful People of God.

I am convinced that, for a renewed understanding of the identity of the priesthood, it is important nowadays to be closely involved in people’s real lives, to live alongside them, without escape routes. “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (ibid., 270). “A people” is not a logical category, no; it is a mythic category. To understand this we must approach it as we approach a mythic category.

Closeness to the People of God, a closeness that, enriched by those three other forms of closeness, invites and indeed demands that we imitate the Lord’s own “style”. That style is one of closeness, compassion and tenderness, in which we act not as judges, but as Good Samaritans who acknowledge the wounds of our people, their silent sufferings, the self-denial and sacrifices made by so many fathers and mothers to support their families. Who acknowledge, too, the effects of violence, corruption and indifference that, in their wake, seek to stifle all hope. A style of closeness that allows us to pour balm upon wounds and to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord (cf. Is 61:2). It is imperative to remember that the People of God are hoping to find shepherds in the style of Jesus. Not “clerical functionaries” or “professionals of the sacred” – let’s recall that period in France, the time of the Curé of Ars: he was a curate, but there was also “monsieur l’abbé”, a clerical functionary. Today, too, people are asking us to be shepherds of the people and not “professionals of the sacred”, shepherds filled with compassion and concern. Men of courage, ready to draw near to those in pain and lend a helping hand. Contemplative men, whose closeness to people enables them to proclaim before the wounds of our world the power of the Resurrection even now at work.

One of the distinctive marks of this, our society of “networks”, is people’s growing sense of being “orphaned”, a current phenomenon. Though connected to everybody and everything, we lack the feeling of belonging, which is something more than mere connectivity. The closeness of a pastor makes it possible to gather a community and foster the growth of that sense of belonging. For we belong to God’s holy and faithful people, which is called to be a sign of the breaking of the kingdom of heaven into the here and now of history. If their shepherd strays or withdraws, the sheep will scatter and be at the mercy of any and every wolf.

This sense of belonging will in turn prove an antidote to the distortion of vocation that happens whenever we forget that the priestly life is owed to others – to the Lord and to the persons he has entrusted to us. Forgetting this is at the root of clericalism – what Cardinal Ouellet spoke of – and its consequences. Clericalism is a distortion, as is one of its signs, rigidity. Clericalism is a distortion because it is based not on closeness but on distance. This is strange: not closeness, but the opposite. When I think of clericalism, I also think of the clericalization of the laity: the creation of a small élite around the priest who end up betraying their own essential mission (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 44), the mission of the laity. Many lay persons are clericalized: “I belong to that association, we are there in the parish…”. The lay clericalized “elect” is a great temptation. Let us remember that “my mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my priestly being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).

I would like to relate this closeness to the people of God with closeness to God, since the prayer of a shepherd is nurtured and becomes incarnate in the heart of God’s people. When he prays, a pastor bears the marks of the sorrows and joys of his people, which he presents in silence to the Lord, to be anointed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Such is the hope of every shepherd who trustingly and tirelessly works so that the Lord may bless his people.

Saint Ignatius teaches that “it is not knowing much but realizing and relishing things interiorly that contents and satisfies the soul” (Spiritual Exercises, Annotations, 2, 4). Bishops and priests would do well to ask, “How am I practicing these forms of closeness? How am I living these four aspects that intersect and shape my priestly heart, enabling me to deal with the tensions and imbalances that we experience daily?” Those four forms of closeness are good training for “playing on an open field”, where the priest is called to be present without fear or rigidity, without reducing or impoverishing his mission. 

A priestly heart knows about closeness, because his primary form of closeness is with the Lord. May Christ visit his priests in their prayer, in their Bishop, in their brother priests and in their people. May he upset our routine, disrupt our lives and disquiet us – as at the time of our first love – and lead us to employ all our talents and abilities to ensure that our people may have life and life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The forms of closeness that the Lord demands – closeness with God, closeness with the Bishop, closeness among us priests and closeness with the holy faithful People of God – are not an added burden: they are a gift that he gives to keep our vocation alive and fruitful. If we are tempted to get caught up in interminable speeches, discussions about the theology of the priesthood or theories about what the priesthood should be, the Lord for his part simply looks upon us with tenderness and compassion. He shows priests the signposts that point the way to appreciating and rekindling their missionary zeal: closeness that is compassionate and tender, closeness to God, to the Bishop, to brother priests and to the people entrusted to their care. A closeness in the “style” of God himself, who is ever close to us, with compassion and tender love.

Thank you for your closeness and patience, thank you, thank you very much! I wish all of you well in your work. I am going to the library because I have many appointments this morning. Please pray for me and I will pray for you. I wish you all good work!"

(Source: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2022/february/documents/20220217-simposio-teologia-sacerdozio.html?s=03)

by armaghpriest.com on February 19th, 2022

"I embarked on formation for the priesthood in 2015 at the age of 37 having spent over a decade in professional life. In the course of my work as a barrister I gradually discerned with the support of others that God may be calling me to serve His Church as a priest. With trust in the Lord I took up Archbishop Martin’s invitation to begin my training at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

I spent five years in the Eternal City following a programme that treated the spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human dimensions of preparation for sacred ministry. As to studies, I was able to undertake two years of a philosophy course at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas before completing a three year degree in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Rome provided a stimulating environment in which to deepen my attachment and commitment to the Catholic faith while also offering a unique insight into the universality of the Church. This phase of my formation also included successive summer placements in the Archdiocese of Armagh which afforded me the opportunity to become better acquainted with parish life. At the conclusion of my time in Rome I had been instituted into the ministries of Lector and Acolyte – necessary steps on the path to ordination.

Upon my return to Ireland in 2020 I was formally admitted as a candidate for Holy Orders. I
then commenced a ‘Pastoral Year’ experience in the Cathedral Parish, Armagh. In tandem with assisting in the parish I pursued a course in pastoral theology which included a module in Clinical Pastoral Education. After I had made a public profession of faith and taken an oath of fidelity I was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Martin in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – 16 May 2021. It was a day of profound joy as I marked the transition to the clerical state by taking on important commitments before God and His people.

Since September 2021 I have been based in the Parish of Donaghmore and have been exercising my diaconal ministry throughout The Martyrs Pastoral Area. My duties have included assisting at Holy Mass; proclaiming the Gospel; preaching; celebrating the sacrament of Baptism; as well as making school and home visitations.

My vocation journey has taken the form of a gradual awakening of conscience. In the search
to know how best to serve God I have come to appreciate ever more clearly the indispensable
role of the priest as a mediator who, by transmitting the truths revealed by God and by acting
as an instrument to confer His grace, can help lead man to his final end – the everlasting
happiness of heaven. To recognise this supernatural role is also to acknowledge the dignity
and responsibility with which the sacred priesthood is invested. The experience of such a
calling can prompt feelings of unworthiness and even trepidation. However, by abandoning
oneself to God in a spirit of humility it is possible to answer the Divine Master’s call with
serenity and prayerful trust.

In considering and then following the path to priesthood I have been blessed to benefit from
the loving support of my family and relatives. I am also immensely grateful for the ongoing
prayerful accompaniment of the priests and people of my native parish of Drumcree and
others from further afield. Having recourse to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary has
likewise been a constant source of strength for me during recent years. As I engage with this
final stage of formation I pray that in time – God willing – I will be privileged to share in the
tasks of teaching the faith, sanctifying souls and shepherding God’s people as a priest of
Jesus Christ."
Rev. Deacon Colm Hagan


by armaghpriest.com on February 10th, 2022

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life
February 2022 (Year C)



February 6th: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life)

For members of religious communities: that their witness and dedication to the Gospel may be an inspiration and source of continuing vocations within the Church.…

February 13th: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That all those being called to follow Jesus in the priesthood or consecrated life will allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen them each day in their vocation…

February 20th: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
For perseverance in sincere prayer on the part of the faithful, asking the Lord for holy vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life…

February 27th: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That the Lord will bless us with vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life to serve as teachers to his flock…