Bishop's invitation to priesthood talks

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In the ordinary everyday unfolding of our lives, there is the providence of God shaping us, leading us and sometimes pulling us along, or even shoving us in different directions. God is at work there. We are not always receptive, but I think for us as Catholics, as people of faith, whatever our faith might be at the moment, we have some understanding of that.

During this month, I will be ordaining Reverend Ashley Caldow to the Priesthood on the 14th September. Over these past years, particularly in the seminary, God has been at work in Ashley’s life, as he has been preparing for the priesthood. Along with the other young men, he has undertaken a program of solid formation, so that as seminarians they are balanced men, effectively mature, capable of relating well to others, of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities, and of living celibacy in a healthy manner.

Leading up to Ordination, important spiritual formation is provided so that seminarians learn to live in intimate communion with God, to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the word of God and in active participation in the sacred mysteries of the Church, especially the Eucharist and  Reconciliation;  in prayer and in love and reverence of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So that seminarians might grasp the Catholic intellectual tradition, solid intellectual formation is given along with pastoral education and formation.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. Christ was sent by the Father and He in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of teacher, priest, and shepherd.

As a priest, Ashley will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Reconciliation. He will offer the holy Eucharist, and comfort the sick and the elderly with holy anointing. He will carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to his own concerns but more importantly to those of Jesus Christ.

The good that a priest does, often quite unconsciously, by his life, his work, his witness, can never be quantified. The joy of the priesthood lies in recognising that, unworthy though we are,

our lives bear great fruit and the Catholic people recognise that, and have great love and appreciation for their priests. That love and support of our people provides a source of great strength and confidence. The other source is our personal and intimate relationship with Christ who has loved us and called us. It is a relationship that must be fostered and nurtured throughout our lives. We pray over these days leading to his ordination, that Ashley’s priesthood will bring him great joy.

About seven years ago or more, the inspiration came to Ashley that he was being chosen, by Christ, to be a priest.  Thankfully, he decided that he had better give serious consideration to that thought, and he has happily said yes to the call of Christ and accepted his vocation to the Priesthood. The happiness of priesthood lies in recognising that we are called personally by Christ and it means recognising that the people for whom we have pastoral responsibility have been entrusted to us by Jesus Christ.

On September 7th, I am having a prayer and reflection day as an invitation to young men to reflect on whether they are being called to priesthood.

I am convinced that the Lord of the Harvest is calling adequate numbers of candidates to priesthood and religious life in all our dioceses to meet our needs. We together, bishop, priests, religious, and lay people in the Diocese of Sandhurst, must work together to surface these vocations, nurture them and support them. This day of discernment reflects well the words of Pope Francis at World Youth Day:

It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people!

How do I know if I have a vocation? It is difficult to describe a vocation because, in a sense, a vocation is a mystery. It does not come dramatically like Paul being knocked from his horse on the road to Damascus. God usually works in very ordinary ways. A vocation may begin with a sort of niggling desire to be a priest or religious or at least a curiosity about the life. So, I invite any young man interested in knowing more about the priestly vocation to contact me and maybe join us on September 7th. Maybe there are some pondering questions such as, What if I listen for God’s call? What if I don’t? Listen to the invitation of Jesus: Come and see!

God wants the best for us. If we do what he calls us to do, we will be ourselves; we will be what he created us to be. We will feel, and we will know, that we are in the right place. Our lives will fit who we are. When we follow our calls, we will be happy; have a deep down satisfaction, in spite of challenges. However, sometimes people know what they are supposed to do in life, but they don’t do it because they are scared of its demands, scared of what other people will think, scared of failure or scared of disappointing their parents, peers and friends.

Therefore, I would conclude with Christ’s own words, which we know so well:

     "Be not afraid, I am with you. I have called you by name and you are mine."

  - Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, September 2013