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Friday, 28 October 2011

Encouragement to love and live the Catholic priesthood

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Sixty priests gathered over the past two damp autumnal days for the inaugural Colloquium of the British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at the Oratory School at Reading. Secular clergy from all over the country were joined by two bishops, and brother priests from the Dominicans, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the Fraternity of St Peter, the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity, and (with a profound bow to their greater antiquity) the Order of St Benedict.

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Without prejudice to the other excellent elements of the Colloquium, I think that many of the clergy would agree with me that the highlight was the address given by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury on Loving and Living the Catholic Priesthood Today. He spoke simply, warmly, lucidly and with great humour about the priestly vocation and life. I wondered whether I was being over-emotional but afterwards found that several other wizened old footsloggers like me also felt that there was a speck of dust in their eye or something.

Everyone I spoke to agreed that it was simply the best talk that they had ever heard from a Bishop on the priesthood. To say as much is not to make a point about other bishops: to do so would cheapen Bishop Davies’ sincere and moving meditation. I doubt whether any of us went away without a genuine resolution to change our own lives for the better in response to the witness of this holy priest among priests.

Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, the Executive Director of ICEL, spoke this morning about the new translation of the Missal which was, of course, used at the Masses at the Colloquium. Again we were encouraged by the perspective that he brought to bear upon the heart of the priestly ministry in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, and we were given food for thought on the development of that celebration through the proper place given to genuinely sacred music.

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The last address was given by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of the Diocese of Lismore, whom I count as an old friend from years ago when he spoke at the London Faith Forum. He talked to us about the way in which the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in Australia has worked over the years and gave us some useful practical advice. Among many gems from his experience, he told us of Fr Rod Bray who died not long ago. While in hospital he had a constant stream of visitors: in itself that might not be unusual for a priest. The remarkable thing about Fr Bray was that his visitors came not to bring him grapes or gossip but because they wanted to make their confession to him while he was still able to hear them.

For the record, the Sacred Liturgy was celebrated in the new rite, ad orientem, with provision made for priests to concelebrate or attend in choro, and facilities for priests to celebrate private masses if they wished. On both days there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the opportunity for confession. (Thanks to the Oratory School the food was pretty good, too.)

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Warmest congratulations are due to Fr Edwards, Fr Holden, Fr Whinder, and all the other priests who have organised the foundation of the Confraternity and its successful launch at such a fine Colloquium.

There are some more photos from the Colloquium at Fr Sam Medley's Flickr set.
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