Archive for May, 2009

Woops…it looks like I’ve forgotten to post anything on this blog again! Well, as they say, better late than never.

Where did I leave you last?

It looks like I had finished my exams and waiting for my interview with the Bishop. Well, I have happy news for you: he asked me to start seminary formation this September.

My interview was a bit scary. I couldn’t really sleep very well the night before. I knew it was just a formality, but still, one shouldn’t jump the gun. I had this ill-thought out plan that I could be a Dominican, which soon sent me to sleep.

The next day, I was pacing. My meeting was in the afternoon. I was a bit too anxious to have any lunch, and a good friend of mine offered to pick me up to drive me to the episcopal residence at two. I was very grateful, not only because the buses were all messed up, but I was very tense, and needed some friendship to relax me.

When we got there, it just happened to be the same date at the parish priests’ annual synodal gathering on the diocesan complex. We were early, and so took a walk around the garden, and all the priests were looking at us through the windows, wondering what we were doing and who we were. On the way back round, we bumped into the Vocations Director, Vicar General and Bishop’s Secretary (which sounds like the preface to a bad joke), and myself and the Vocations Director were summoned into the house; I asked my friend to pray hard for me!

The meeting was relaxed and congenial, which calmed me down somewhat. Then we proceeded to discuss the psychological report (which excited my nerves again) and the report from the selection conferece. I was told what mark I had been given, but not understanding what it all meant, I was told I got a good grade and that they had suggested I be accepted. They had noted that the only concern was my age, but at 21, that was summarily dismissed there and then.

In fact, one moment in the meeting has remained with me. After being asked whether I played priest as a child, I said I did, I enjoyed doing so, and that I used a white dressing gown, to which I was asked, “so you thought you were the Pope?!” “Maybe,” I said, “I had ideas above my station back then.” I was struck down imediately: “not necessarily!”

So, here came the question: “I’d like you to begin seminary formation this September, if you are willing?”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t worded in a way I could answer by saying something grand like: “I accept”, so instead, I smiled and gave my answer, “yes…yes, I’d like that very much.”

After congratulations by those present, I felt like I had been absorbed into the system. I was very relieved, obviously, and very happy, and not only because I had just been told the finance office will contact me. We went outside, the bishop told my friend the news who appeared more ecstatic that I had, although apparently, according to the psychologists, that’s upsurprising!

We travelled back home, and I slowly descended from the clouds, and thus began the task of ringing round everyone to tell them my good news.


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Having finished my finals already, I am no longer a real student.

Even though I have known this moment has been coming since I started, these three years of my life have been geared up for learning, writing and examinations and now that I have completed my degree (praise God I will not have to do any resits), I don’t know what to do. It feels like I have lost my raison d’être, like I have had the floor taken from underneath me, cut off from my lifeblood. In the same way, after my psychological interview, I was asked to drag up all the things which had affected me in my short few years on earth, and having talked about it, and given opinions on it, I was told to go home. I had to deal with it myself. Similarly, right now, I feel by myself. Technically, I am by myself at this moment, but even when I am with people – which hasn’t happened very much in the past couple of weeks – I still feel a bit lonely and lost on the inside. But I don’t mean to be melancholic.

Let’s look on the bright side. I have my interview with the bishop on Thursday. I don’t think I can really make any plans as to what to do until I have got that over with. I was fortunate and grateful the other day, for a friend of mine offered to give me a lift to the residence, so I don’t need to worry about getting the bus times right!

And, until then at least, I am a free agent, a gentleman of leisure. I can read what I want, I can get up when I want to. I may rise at 7am, say matins and lauds, go to Mass if I can and say ‘terce’ in the Church; back home and have some breakfast, read some literature for the rest of the morning, cuddled up in the armchair with a cup of strong tea. I’ll finish my reading with ‘sext’. At lunchtime, I eat my small meal, listening to the radio, followed by a little siesta, or maybe go for a walk and say the Rosary. After this, I go outside and do some gardening, or some washing and cleaning: maintaining the household, performing my chores.

Then at tea time (surely a cup of darjeeling with some toast or cakes), but after ‘none’, I can get to work on writing my novel for a couple of hours, listening to some Mozart in the background. At about this time of day, I start to get a bit peckish as the winds begin to calm and the sun starts to think about setting: it is time for vespers. After this evening prayer, I get down to eating my dinner; all home-made of course. This week I have some very specific plans: chicken and leek pie, sausage casserole with rosemary dumplings and shepherd’s pie are on the menu. I’ll eat my supper in front of the television, reviewing the news. Maybe there will be a film or a documentary on. Then it is back to the bedroom-chapel for some meditation, or perhaps reading some devotional work – I’m working on St Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle at the moment. Then there will be enough time to catch some more radio, or have one last cup of hot chocolate before saying compline, after which I retire.

Eight hours later, I will get up: ‘venite exultemus Domino…’ and the day starts again.

I’m sure most people could not think of anything more boring. However, I will only be living this life for a couple of week, and after three years of university study, I’m quite ready to shut the door and be silent.

From time to time, I enjoy imposing a rule on myself. I don’t get pleasure from it – that is not the point. Rather, it regulates me: something which is difficult to appreciate without work or study, reconstructs my scaffolding which I have spent such a long time pulling down by my (relatively sombre) student lifestyle. Occasionally, I get a slight twinge inside my chest – no, it’s not heart problems – it’s a feeling that I’d quite like to spend some time in a monastery. I haven’t booked a retreat this year, I should get on with it. I would like to go to Pluscarden, or somewhere else which is strict and welcoming, but I shall leave it until after Thursday. Depending on the answer I get, it could shape my will rather a lot!

My brain is telling my body to do three things at the moment: Relax. Breathe. Pray.

I’ll reintegrate into the real world soon…I promise!

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It has been far too long since I have posted anything here. I have not forgotten about you all, so here goes:

Maybe it is fitting that I should return to writing on the world day of prayer for vocations. I don’t know about you, but the last one of these was rather recent. Wasn’t there a local conference vocations day a few months back? Apparently, the fourth Sunday of Easter has held this title since 1964.

I felt encouraged by Pope Benedict’s prayer intention for this month, which is something like lay people orientate their prayer and actions to support and foster vocational discernment to the priesthood, relgious and consecrated life. At the end of this year’s message for the world day of vocations, Pope Benedict encouraged:

Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed, commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does great things, for Holy is his name.

Please read the whole message; it is full of great depth, and can be of interest to you all as ever with the Holy Father’s writings.

This last week saw the penultimate set of interviews concerning my application for priestly training for my diocese. This time, I was visiting a relatively well-known Catholic-based ‘place of wellness’, for which one can read a psychological institution. As a result, they were the most draining. I felt alright while there, though the interviews themselves were a bit unnerving. It is not natural to go to a large house for a couple of days and be asked by the psychologists everything – and I mean everything – about me since before I was conceived. The results showed I was guarded; am I the the only one who thinks that this is bound to be the case in that situation? They kept pointing out that it is difficult to lay yourself out before strangers (in my view, it is difficult enough before friends), but went ahead all the same.

I expected all the questions, as I had been given a booklet to fill in a while before I arrived. It was all very straight forward and simple. However, I was very quiet on the journey back, and didn’t get much sleep that night. I am only in my twenties, but apparently, a selection of psychologists trawling selectively through my experiences – which, for some reason, all seemed trauma-inducing to them – left me feeling very uneasy, as if I had re-lived all those experiences in a matter of three days. It was thoroughly exhausting, and I wouldn’t recommend it lightly!

However, there was some entertainment while there. This came in the form of computerised personality tests. It involved answering true or false or strongly agree etc to various statements – I think something around a thousand in total! – ranging from “I like flower arranging” to “God hates me” and “Sometimes, I secretly get the urge to hurt my loved ones”. Well, I do like flower arranging, and God doesn’t hate me, and I very rarely get the urge to inflict pain on anyone!

The results from these various tests were a bit confusing, seemingy suggesting that I am both ‘A’ and ‘B’, or everything all at once: angry and calm, happy and said, anxious and relaxed. Basically, I am human.

So these results are being sent off to the vocations director, who will pass them onto the bishop. He will then read the report (hopefully in not too much depth!), along with anything the selection conference suggested (I’m thinking it can’t be that bad, if I have made it this far already), and his own views about me from the times we have met and talked, my references and, importantly, through prayer and prayerful deliberation. In about a week and a half, I shall sit before the bishop, and he shall tell me what he thinks. As I am frequently told, ‘it is just a formality’. That is quite right. But this formality is quite important. It formally tells me something which I don’t know yet: yes or no (or possibly, yes, but not right now). This is quite important information for me to have really! At the moment, I feel remarkably relaxed about it (as my psychological report predicts), but that may all change as the appointment time approaches. I have to get the bus to the episcopal residence, but I’m promised a lift back with the vocations director. I’m sure when my anxiety becomes more pronounced, I shall write a bit more on ‘how I’m feeling’.

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