Tired of all the bad news

While we can't deny the difficulites for so many people at home and overseas, it's important to take account of the positives, and to spread the Good News. I don't know who said this but; "No-one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side." Blessings..

Thursday, 8 June 2017

'It was twenty years ago today...'

‘It was twenty years ago today…’ These are the iconic opening lines to an iconic song and album by the Fab Four which celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of release on June 1st 1967. On this day, June 8th in 1997, I was ordained to the priesthood in St. Kevin’s Church, Kilnamanagh, in south west Dublin, the parish I grew up in having left there in September 1987 as an eighteen-year-old.

Dublin Auxiliary Bishop, Jim Moriarty who ordained me said in his homily that I was becoming ‘a priest for the third millennium…’ I was nervous and excited at the same time. It was a surreal experience on the morning of the ordination as it was something I had dreamed of and imagined from a long way back. To become a priest in my home parish with friends and neighbours who knew me was something I had longed for and prayed for.

I remember wondering would the day ever come? I was afraid something would go wrong or that the alarm would go off and I would wake up to disappointment like waking up in the morning from a dream. Ten years before when I returned from novitiate, green and na├»ve, following my first profession of vows, I wore the Capuchin Franciscan habit for the first time in public and my old friends saw me dressed like a ‘monk.’ Then in 1994, I took my solemn vows for life as a Capuchin brother and while this was the end of my initial training, for me it was always about the continuation of a journey which I am still on.

I didn’t get there on my own. So many people, family, friars, teachers, and friends, have been part of the journey. I have always felt great good will from so many people when they speak to me about the choice I’ve made. People have commented to my family; ‘you must be very proud…’ And the truth is yes, they are; but for who I am and not what I’ve become. All families love us for who we are, and we love our families because they are part of our family.

In a world where the majority of people find a life-partner and start a family, most of us are accustomed to seeing relationships in terms of marriage, partnership, children, etc. The whole idea of lifelong celibacy is very unusual when we’re geared to finding that soul mate. I mean what do I tell Facebook? ‘Bryan is in a relationship? I’m not. And yet I am. Bryan is in a relationship and it’s complicated? Sometimes. Bryan is single? Depends what you mean by single; I’ve perpetual vows in religious life so I’m not exactly single, and I’m an ordained priest; ‘In persona Christi.’ Mind you, I don’t lie awake at night worrying about my status, yet I know people do but perhaps that’s for another blog.

Over the years I’ve experienced the highs and lows of being a priest-friar in religious life. I’ve worked in school ministry, hospital ministry, and now at the moment parish ministry.  It hasn’t been easy in terms of the revelations of clerical sexual abuse and the cover up by some in leadership. Our struggles as clergy and religious are nothing to the hurt of those who are still living with the abuse. While we all remember tough nuns and brothers in our past (I certainly do) it’s hard when media and social media attempt to airbrush out the great good many religious orders have done, for example in education and healthcare in Ireland when no one else would. In my life, I’ve known men and women in religious life who were the personification of kindness to me personally and today I know religious women and men who are at the vanguard of the outreach to the homeless and addiction services.

So, what about the future? I’ve no idea. At some point in the future, I know I’ll be changed and be asked to move to something else somewhere else and I’ll have to say good-bye and so will the people. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. This is hard and the older one gets the more difficult change gets. I was nearly twenty-eight years old on my ordination day when Bishop Jim reminded me that I was being ordained as priest for the third millennium. Twenty years later, and my prayer for the future is that when I die, whenever that is, I will have tried to be a holy Capuchin Friar, and a holy priest. Everything else is tied in to this hope.