Fr Vincent Sherlock
It’s good, I suppose, to be on the back page of a newspaper without being in the obituary or ‘items for sale’ sections!
There’s a lot of talk about ‘low morale’ these days. It may well be across the board, but quite often this crops up at diocesan gatherings of priests or maybe in some quieter conversations.
I’ve been a priest for almost 30 years now and, for most of those years, the ‘good times’, if ever there were good times, seem to have been on the decline. Yet through these same years people have been great. Support at parish level remains relatively high and goodwill, on the local map, seems real and present.
There is a reality to be addressed nonetheless; that priests cannot take for granted this support and need to earn people’s trust, perhaps even regain it.
A priest friend told me a few years ago that he was verbally attacked in a restaurant. He was with some others following a meeting. Someone approached the table he was sitting at and launched into a verbal tirade. “I wish the ground could have opened and swallowed me,” my friend recalls. As he spoke, it was clear he remained shaken and I thanked God that I’d not had this experience.
Within days I found myself in a shopping centre, paying for some items I’d just purchased. As the shop assistant handed me my change, she spotted the collar and said: “I hadn’t noticed that until now.” I braced myself, feeling my moment had arrived. “Yeah,” I said, “it’s a dangerous piece of equipment to have these days” (I don’t know where that line came from but thought it might soften the blow!). “Not at all,” she replied: “we never needed you more.” I was amazed and humbled. She meant it. This girl, maybe in her mid- to late-20s, was serious and convinced. Then she added: “It all depends what you do with it.”
Leaving the shop, I carried more than a few bags. I carried a challenge alongside a sincere word of encouragement. The girl was right. I am needed – priests are needed. She was right about the collar too. It has its place and something of a story to share but it should never, must never be used to seek control of people or situations.
The bottom line is service – being there with and for people. It’s not always easy and it won’t always be recognised but it is important. “We never needed you more,” she said and there’s something in it. A challenge too for maybe “we never needed to be more”.
So priesthood and ministry should not slip into the obituary section. There’s living to be done, work to be done and a Gospel to be preached. The pulpit isn’t a vantage point but an opportunity, so too the shopping centre’s counter and maybe even the crowded restaurant.
Room for a smile? Someone recently shared these with me…
When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.
A thief who stole a calendar got 12 months.
When the smog lifts in Los Angeles UCLA.
A boiled egg is hard to beat.
A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
Don’t forget the music
‘The day the music died!’ Don McLean’s powerful song reflects the emptiness felt following the death of musical legends. Into the reflection comes “trinity”, whatever form it took for him; “The three men I admire most, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died”.
He wasn’t wrong! Music is at the heart of our faith life. Miss no opportunity to include it in our liturgy. Maybe you, dear reader, have a tune in your head right now. Share it!