This month I find myself on placement with Father David Potter at the parish of St Albert the Great, Stockbridge Village. As you might remember me having said previously, the distance that naturally exists between life in the seminary and the reality of life within the Archdiocese, and in turn the parish, has been for me, at times, a struggle.
Seminary, I know, is a real gift; and I am very thankful to have this opportunity to come away in order to grow closer to the Lord through prayer, reflection and study. However, it is sharing in Christ’s sacrificial love of his Church that first motivated me to discern a possible priestly vocation.
Placements are a great opportunity for seminarians to be able to roll up their sleeves and get on with something which looks a little bit more like the priesthood that they were, in one way or another, first attracted to. And I am glad to Fr David and the parishioners of St Albert the Great for allowing me to come and be with them, and experience something of this love at this time.
Towards the end of the month I will return to the seminary for two weeks. During these weeks we enter into a five-day period of retreat. In the few days before term finishes, five men will receive the ministry of acolyte; and one man, reader. With the other members of my year group, I will be admitted as a candidate for Holy Orders.
While the ministries of those instituted as readers and acolytes are reasonably understood, the same is not as true for candidates. I think that the additional prayer which is added at Wonersh helps to explain this. At the end of the service the Bishop will bless a cross and present it to the new candidate, with the following words:
‘May the Lord Jesus, who was raised on high by God and given the name which is above all others, grant you the grace which flows from His Cross, that you may persevere in preparing yourself for Holy Orders. Take this Cross and be faithful to the call you have received to prepare for Sacred Orders.’
Seminarians at Wonersh are admitted to candidacy slightly later than at the other English-speaking seminaries. This often means that seminarians here tend to remain candidates for only a matter of months, rather than years, before ordination to the diaconate. This is an exciting but also sobering thought!
Please continue to pray for me, and all of my brother seminarians. Also pray that more men will be courageous in offering themselves to the Lord in this most exciting way. Most of all, please pray for Deacon Thomas Clark who will be ordained a priest in just a few weeks’ time.