Exactly one month since I last wrote here, I thought it was a good time to update people on where I am and how things are. I completely reject any notion that this might be seen as a Round Robin Christmas Letter, the dismantling of which was handled so amusingly by Lynne Truss on Radio 4 this week.
I am now comfortably ensconced in St Mary’s, Cadogan Street, where with Canon Stuart Wilson and Fr Innocent Opogah I do my best to help the faithful to deepen their faith and commitment to the Lord, not least in the celebration of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession. This is now my third parish as a priest, and whilst there are certain differences the fundamental building blocks of my life are the same: adoration, the Holy Mass, hearing confessions, and for that I am so grateful to this parish, and to God, whose gift of priesthood just keeps giving!
What I am more and more aware of is my need of that gift: my need to be a priest. This is something that I’ve been reflecting on – not least in the midst of my slightly peripatetic life in the parish and with the Ordinariate. I am convinced that without the gift of the Sacred Priesthood, a priest is unable to live a life which is in any way worthy of the one who has given life to all things. The call to serve God as a priest is so specific, that if we fail to respond to that call then we cannot expect to share in the union that God offers us in eternity.
When the priest celebrates the Holy Mass, he is really and fervently called back to God – converted, each and every time he ascends the altar – and called to a closer examination of his life and his sins. In the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we can’t help but feel small and lowly, but we also feel the call to greatness – a call indelibly printed in our hearts at baptism – and see the way to achieve that greatness, that holiness, which will bring us one day (we pray) to heaven.
Perhaps even more than this, though, God brings about the priest’s own salvation through his ministry as a confessor. It is the most privileged act to sit in the confessional, and it is in the beauty of seeing others realigned to the life of Jesus Christ, which itself calls the priest to desire a closer union with him. For the sake of the salvation of your priest – who needs it more than you can know – go to confession! Help him to love the Lord more!
This simple daily round sustains the priest whether in a parish or in other roles – or both! The feast of the Lord’s nativity, then, is a real moment of sanctification for the whole Church, but for the priest in a special way. The numerous celebrations of Mass and extended time for confessions are such a gift, and I pray that my first Christmas as a Priest of Jesus Christ will enable me to embrace that gift, that the Lord may find a dwelling-place fit for his presence.
If you haven’t made time to make your confession yet this Advent, then for your sake and the sake of your priest, do so. And may God bless you all this Christmas – when it comes – and grant you a very blessed and happy time with your families, friends and loved ones.