Fr Vincent Sherlock
The Redemptorist Fr Peter Burns directed our priests’ diocesan retreat this year.
In some of his talks he spoke to us of Faith and the absolute need for it to be personal. He drew the vital distinction that though it need be ‘personal’, if truly lived it can never be private. By its nature Faith draws us into community, relationship and a shared journey. He spoke of the reality and risk of ‘assuming’ we have faith. A challenging thought for sure! There is an ongoing need to work at Faith, spend meaningful time in prayer, to enter into a deep and personal relationship with Christ.
Fr Burns used a powerful image about hands of faith stretching back to the hands of Christ. It is then – quite literally – the handing on of faith. We do well to recall the hands of our parents, and their parents before them, all the way back to the ‘hands of Christ’.
He’s clear that, if as God’s people, we have not had something approaching that personal encounter, if we are not ‘in Faith’, the task in hand, the task depending on that chain of hands, is quite likely too much for us. If we are to bring people into a relationship with Jesus, we must know this relationship ourselves.
What of those who have ‘lost their Faith’ and who might speak of wanting to reconnect with Christ? This is where personal Faith, parish, community and shared vision come into play. This is where we, as ‘Church’, have a mission and a calling to mentor or allow ourselves be mentored that Christ’s word might be heard a-fresh.
There was talk about the need to become ‘fascinated’ by Christ and to enter something by way of ‘apprenticeship’ where people are willing to uncover what faith means by learning – truly learning – who Christ really is. Sharing the road with like-minded others in ‘community’, parish and the Church is crucial.
This leads to a growing in love of Christ, having come to know him through careful reading of the Gospel which is the starting point, the meeting place, where Christ is encountered.
If we are truly friends with another there can be little room for counting costs or keeping a balance sheet. It is ultimately about commitment to another and willingness to be there for another in and out of season.
My mind wandered to the Astro pitch beside the parish church and to a group of committed players immersed in a training session as I walked back from Mass.
I thought how vital it was that they train together, be together irrespective of how much personal time they might have given during the week.
The place on the team is only guaranteed through training as a team. The team training was, of course, equally strengthened by the work done alone.
Faith, friendship with Christ, is something like that too. Personal, not private and alone but with the eyes fixed on being part of the team.
Faith at its purest
It was my second and final ‘three day’ pilgrimage to Lough Derg and I met two men from Co. Cavan as we shared a cup of ‘Lough Derg soup’ (no seasoning required!) Feeling sorry for myself, I shared how difficult I was finding the experience. They were having none of it. “It’s a powerful place”, said one, “this is my third time doing it this year”, the other added.
“What in the name of God brings you here three times?” I asked. The reply was as sincere as it was swift: “pure faith”. I wonder is it time to give it another go, and I wonder has the soup improved?
Leonard cohen’s Diamond(s) on the soul
Neil Diamond’s Leave a little room for God is worth a listen. He says it well, I think…
Leave a little room for God
As you’re goin’ through the day
Leave a little room for God
You know he won’t get in your way
Save a little place inside
Somewhere you can call your own
Then leave a little room for God
And you won’t ever be alone
What in the name of God brings you here?