Monday, 21 November 2011

The Joy of the Priesthood: Fr Paul Swarbrick

Fr Paul Swarbrick
Ordained: 10 July 1982
Currently: Parish Priest in Workington

Because I am a priest I found myself in sub-Saharan Africa. There I was, one balmy evening, in a classroom bulging with young Zambian schoolgirls aged 13-20 years, all eyes glued to the TV set at the front of the class. Africa Cup. Zambia behind with little time left. They equalise. Injury-time. They score. Full-time. I’m still not sure what happened next, but it must be akin to being hit by lightning… and enjoying it. Here was a joy that cannot be described, nor can in be sustained. An out-standing moment in time, great while it lasted. Where do I find joy? Here and there, now and then.

29 years on, I look back on a priesthood peppered with moments of what might be mistaken for joy, broken by gaps where I thought joy was absent.

But it wasn’t. They joy I know now isn’t dependant on mood or the right circumstance or an imprisoned experience or chance. It is a faithful joy, proving its loyalty over time, and only over time. It reveals its pedigree simply by staying with you, refusing to fade in spite of my changing circumstances and the roller-coaster life I lead. In revealing its character it goes on to reveal its source, the God I serve and preach and love. There I persevere, the better I know the source of that constant joy.

My way to discover this has been through the priesthood. It will be the same for others.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A blog from Oscott

The staff and students of Oscott College, a seminary just outside Birmingham, started a new blog at the beginning of term. It gives some reflections on our faith and insights into life at seminary, and is well worth a look. You can find the blog here. Lancaster Diocese has one student, John-Paul Evans, at Oscott. Please keep all our seminarians in your prayers.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Priest and Saint: Charles Borromeo

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St Charles Borromeo, a sixteenth-century cardinal and Archbishop of Milan. A gifted man, he soon rose to prominence and was a leading figure at the Council of Trent, convened in response to the challenges of the Reformation. The images here are from the St Charles Borromeo chapel in our Cathedral. Above, the saint is seen with a copy of the decrees of the Council of Trent.

As well as being a leader in the Church, he was also a priest of great humility, who never locked himself away but engaged with his people in their need. Here he is seen administering the sacraments to the sick and dying on the streets of Milan during a plague, thereby risking his own life to serve the people of his diocese.

St Charles was also a man of great holiness, who told his priests: "Is your task the care of souls? Then do not neglect your own!" The image depicts him praying and doing penance before a crucifix. Among his many concerns, Charles promoted the holiness and education of the clergy, and was a leading figure in the establishment of seminaries for the training of priests. He is, therefore, patron saint of seminarians, and we ask his prayers for all our seminarians today.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Communion of Saints

Today and tomorrow we are reminded of the unity of the whole Church: on earth, in heaven and on the way to heaven. Today's feast of All Saints celebrates all those who have entered the eternal life of heaven, and tomorrow, All Soul's Day, we commemorate and pray for all those who have died but are still on the way to their eternal reward. So we are reminded that all of us belong to the one 'communion of the saints', a communion which is bound together on earth by the Church's sacraments. In baptism we enter the communion of saints; in the Eucharist we receive the pledge of eternal life. Once again, then, we are reminded of the importance of the sacraments, and therefore of the ministry of priests. Please continue to pray for vocations.