10 Years

I was ordained a priest 10 years ago today.

It hasn’t been the ten years I imagined it would be — marked more by failure than success, more by sickness than health — but, I realise reflecting on it, still good, very good.

I chose a phrase from St Ignatius and a fragment of a poem for my ordination card. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius writes:

Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words

To be honest my ministry for the last ten years has been more words than deeds, more silence than words, but I do hope the words and silence have been an expression of love — at least sometimes! Ignatius has a second thing to say about love:

Love consists in a mutual communication between two persons. That is, the one who loves gives and communicates to the beloved what he or she has … and the beloved in return does the same for the lover. Thus, if one has knowledge, one gives it to the other who does not; and similarly in regard to honours or riches. Each shares with the other.

I give what I have — words, silence.

The poem is by Adrienne Rich. By a happy coincidence, she was on BBC radio yesterday morning talking about poetry and politics, and I dug out my ordination card. Ten years ago I chose the lines:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power
re-constitute the world.

Somewhere in there — in that casting of lots — I know that Jesus has cast his lot in with me too. Ten years has seen me painfully learning about love, about limits, about life. And though I have known loss upon loss in these years one thing has been constant, the ready presence of Jesus. I have fought him, ignored him, cherished him, blamed him, loved him — been all over the place — but he has been nothing but here.

Even when I cannot pray I have met him in words and silence — in preaching and presiding at Mass; in giving, receiving, and teaching spiritual direction. He turns up. Sometimes it feels like he performs for me, shows off his creative ingenuity, to catch my eye and hold it like a juggler moved to ever wilder, fiercer antics to wow his watcher. I haven’t been the best audience.

With hindsight, Rich’s words seem more apt than I ever hoped they would be. My heart has been moved by all I cannot save. You give what you have. You do what you can. Perversely and with no extraordinary power. And pray that God can outdo you.

10 replies on “10 Years”

  1. You don’t know me from Adam’s tomcat, as my Scottish mother would say, but I wanted to congratulate you and say thanks!!! I’m a blog pal of Steve Bogner.

    (I would tell my mother that no one who has St. Ignatius in common with me could be a stranger.)

  2. This left me feeling so sad. I know few people who touch people as you do. Thank you for sharing at a level I wouldn’t dare to do

  3. My deepest congratulations on your 10th year as a priest of the High Priest. From all I hear (and all I’ve seen), it’s a very hard row to hoe. One always has to remember that at our weakest, God is strongest.

    I love Jesuits. Or perhaps since some insist there are distinctions, I love those who follow the Ignatian way. No, the heck with distinctions: I love Jesuits!

    There was a priest here for a short while whom no one cared much for. He was pushy, bossy, overbearing.. but.. I will love him forever, because while renewing my wedding vows along with other couples in a special Mass, he somehow intuited that mine weren’t happy tears, and he held my hand through the whole thing. There’s no way for me to be able to adequately tell people what he did for me that evening.. but God knows of it, and so do I. So, whether in words or silence, loved or merely respectfully endured — or anywhere in between — priests should know they give something priceless always. Always.

    May God bless your next 10 years..

  4. Rob

    I have your blog bookmarked since I stumbled upon it a year ago during a pretty tough time at work and now check it each week for a little spiritual sustenance – it’s a real gem. Your words are very valuable because no matter what’s going on in the rush around me, time stops for a few moments while I wonder over your latest posts. Sometimes they can change my perspective on the day/the next client/the grumpy judge I’ve had to deal with, and it’s a little marvel. Please don’t underestimate the power of your words.

    So thank you for the last year – congratulations on all of them and here’s to many more so fruitful.

  5. Congratulations Father. Your blog is quite a blessing. May God Bless and keep you always.

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