The challenge of the Priesthood
posted on 06 May 2008
Jay, from Harpenden Parish, was one of a group of Catholic men who took part in a weekend discernment event, held at Allen Hall seminary from May 3rd - 4th 2008, to find out more about Priesthood. He writes about his experience.
To be a Priest, you have to be prepared for sacrifice. The question you should ask yourself is, “Are you prepared to sacrifice your life to God?”
This past weekend I attended a residential event held at the Allen Hall seminary in Chelsea, London. The event was for Catholic men who felt they may have a calling to the Priesthood, or who wanted to find out more about this special vocation. At the moment I would put myself in the second category, I feel pulled towards service to God, but I am not sure if it is to the Priesthood. When I found out about this weekend it seemed the ideal opportunity to go along and find out more about the Priesthood, and what it would mean to be a Priest.
Allen Hall seminary is located on the site that used to be the home of St Thomas More in London. The seminary doesn’t feel stately, in fact it reminded me more of a school than anything else, but very quickly you start to feel the history around you, and the unique feel of the seminary. This is helped in no small way by the very warm and friendly welcome which was extended to us, by the Priests in residence, the organisers and the seminarians.
In all there were 13 of us attending the weekend, all from different backgrounds but with one very important thing in common, the Catholic faith. Because of this common ground it was very easy to feel relaxed and be able to talk freely, together. Our first meeting as a group after we had arrived was with Bishop Longley. Sometimes, these types of first meetings when people are formally introducing themselves can be very awkward, but the Bishop made us feel very relaxed and it set the tone for the whole weekend. One by one we introduced ourselves, a little bit about our background and how we came to be at the seminary that weekend. In all, these introductions took almost an hour and a half, for 13 men just to talk about their faith and why they felt called to the Priesthood. As Father Chris Vipers mentioned, that could so easily have been over in ten minutes, but the atmosphere in the group was so relaxed, and some really interesting stories were told. There was a definite feel of the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives, pulling them in at the right moment, allowing us all to be together and to share our faith.
In the afternoon we had the pleasure of spending some time with Father Dermot, who is a spiritual director at the seminary. I doubt there is one of us in our group who did not enjoy the talk Father Dermot gave. He was open and candid, whilst at the same time making all of us feel that he was talking to us individually. As one of our group said “He made everything we think is so complicated sound so easy” and that is a great gift to have.
During the first day we had time with the seminarians, at meals and in a social setting, to ask questions about their own call to the Priesthood, living in the seminary, their studies, pretty much anything we wanted. Any question I asked was answered. Every single person I spoke to was very accommodating and helpful. It really did make a difference and helped towards the relaxed atmosphere of the weekend.
On the Sunday morning after Morning Prayer, we again got together in our group to watch a video about the calling to being a Priest. Afterwards we broke out into smaller groups and discussed points that had been raised by the film clip, and we came back together to share these with each other and discussed them with Father Chris. At no point in the weekend did I feel at all awkward about discussing the possibility of Priesthood, there was no pressure to say or do anything. The morning was rounded off perfectly with time spent before the Blessed Sacrament, allowing us all to enter into prayer before our Lord.
The idea of being a Priest is very daunting; it is not just a job, something you do during the day, 9 to 5. It is a complete way of life, a big responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. Many people are going to look to you at so many times in their life, from birth through to death. As overwhelming as this can seem, one of the most important messages we were given this weekend was “do not be afraid.” I still feel inadequate to even consider being a Priest, but after this weekend I know that whatever path I follow in service to God, I won’t be afraid.