Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Friday, 29 March 2013

Moved only by zeal for souls

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor celebrated our Chrism Mass in the absence of a bishop. "Look after yourselves; look after each other," he told the priests towards the end of his homily. We brothers looked at each other, some in the north transept, some in the south, with very little dark hair on anybody's head, and our responsibility for one another became newly clear. Just before we had repeated our priestly promises: we had undertaken to follow Christ, our Head and Shepherd "not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls." Our vocation really is extraordinary: our sole raison d'etre is to draw people towards Christ.
It occurred to me reflecting afterwards that the big temptation for us priests is to find some other objective to which to devote ourselves. I've recently been asked how many students at Leeds Trinity are to be received into the Catholic Church this year: none; and how many new students for the priesthood the diocese will have: precious few. We lack measureables to shore up our sense of self-worth.
Fortunately, zeal does not depend on manifest pastoral success. Nor need it degenerate into desperation when faced with rejection. It is an interior disposition, something that can be constantly renewed in prayer, something that is fostered by the fellowship of the presbyterate. Really nothing can rob us of our capacity to intervene in people's lives. Our strength as priests became apparent to me as never before on Wednesday evening. Pastoral "failure" humbles us, purifies our motivation, gives us a particular access to the cross and renders that quiet assurance that one glimpses in a really good priest all the more astonishing - the source of his self-confidence can only be divine.
Another highlight of recent days was this morning's ecumenical walk of witness in Horsforth. The Revd Richard Dimmery, Vicar of St James's Church in the town and the Chairman of Horsforth Churches Together, preached beautifully in the open-air to a good-sized group of people at the bottom of Town Street. He said more than that the cross reveals God's love; he described that love precisely and rhetorically: "eternal love, personal love; unconditional love," plus other adjectives. As I listened it was as if the fullness of God's salvific plan was unfolding before me.
When I got home after the Liturgy of the Passion at St Mary's, Horsforth - excellent choir and fourteen altar servers! - some students and recent graduates invited me to watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion" in the Chaplaincy Lounge. I had never seen this before; it is incredibly moving. A beautiful motif running through it is the relationship between Jesus and Mary: she is there throughout, supporting him with her gaze. There was complete silence in the room when the film ended. Everybody was emotionally exhausted! Then one of the students said, "Let's say Evening Prayer." After fish and chips some of us rounded the day off by watching the Pope's Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.
Here is a picture of the Rev'd Dimmery and two Leeds Trinity men just before our outdoors service.

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