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Posts Tagged ‘Vocation’

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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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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As I wrote last time, this weekend was the season of the selection conference. After several hours of train travel, I rolled up to the seminary where the whole affair was to be conducted. There were quite a few others ‘selectees’, from across the southern part of the country. I was the only one from my diocese.

I had just arrived to lunch – being Friday, I was treated to fish and chips (no mayonnaise unfortunately, which is one of the few things which continuously irritate me about England). However, my haddock had only settled a few moments before the whole process began. I was packed off up some stairs to see the psychiatrist: talk about jumping in the deep end. This was all very clinical. Asked some questions. Answered said questions. Thanks, bye!

Next up was a discussion group. About half the group were put around a table and given eight questions to answer collectively. The discussion was observed. After half an hour of feeling like we were in a zoo, the situation became vaguely normal as we chatted about Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, condoms and Latin. All the normal things really.

The sunlight finished with a gathering in small group to chat and celebrate Vespers. In the evening, I had a ‘spiritual interview’, which was the only one which lasted the whole allotted time period (and the only one with a priest). It was quite nice to talk about my faith without talking about my ‘feelings’. The interview did turn into a discussion about architecture and a tour of the (fine) library, as this is the pet topic of both myself and the selector.

Afterwards was sung English Compline followed by the Angelus (and a magnum silencium). I slept well that night in my attic room. Funnily enough, my first selector stayed in the same room when he was being selected. As seems to be the case in most seminaries, they put the heating on for guests, so I was roasting under all the sheets and blankets.

The next day opened with Mass, and the Rosary. Another meeting mid-morning talked about my work experience, education, academic interests and my views of Church. I think this essentially revolved around my interpretation of Vatican One. Interesting though: I think this interview was my most challenging. I had a siesta afterwards.

My sleep was interrupted by lunch and another interview – this one about my relationships, family life, and personality. From this, and my other interviews, I have come to the conclusion that many people think too much and as a result, don’t buy one-word answers. I think this is a shame, as dragging up irrelevant points and focusing on my choice of vocabulary is not necessarily the best way to create a well-rounded (and well-founded) image of an individual in an hour-long meeting. It has to be done I suppose. After this, I had a medical examination, and then it was all over. Another siesta was called for.

After dinner, there was a little celebratory drinks session in the bar, as like-minded groups seemed to cluster together as is the case at such things. Lemonade. Bed.

Sunday began with sung Lauds. The psalm tones were new to me, but easy to pick up, and gentle on the ear. Around mid-morning was sung Mass. Surprisingly for a seminary, there was only a single celebrant. It was Laetare Sunday, and he wore a very dusty red looking rose chasuble, which makes a nice change from the  normal Barbie pink. This was a very good Mass, and a very good homily about ‘lifting up’. I enjoy loaded homilies.

Sat next to another blogger at lunch (roast lamb and banoffie pie). During this period, all the candidates were being voted on. A lift to the station and a trip back to university via home to fulfil my Mothers’ Day obligations.

Now there is nothing more left to do but wait for the interviews with our Bishops. Most candidates have already had their psychological assessments. I have mine in next month.

It is the Bishop who makes the decision. The vote of the selection conference is only advisory, and it is non-binding. The Bishop can (and does) make up his mind with or without their advice.

The first of the candidates has his interview with his Bishop tomorrow, and the last have theirs in June. I have my interview in May. Though it is a long time away (and much has to happen in between) I’m very pleased it will happen in Mary’s Month, as I’m sure I’ll need her tender loving help either way.

Please keep all the candidates in your prayers.

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Soon, I shall be off to something called a selection conference.

‘What is this?’ I hear you cry.

For several years now, I have been discerning a possible vocation to the secular priesthood. In fact, neither me nor my pastor can belive it’s been three years since I first approached him about it.

About five months ago (crikey, that’s nearly half a year!) I handed my application form into my diocese. It contained all sorts of things: the application form itself, my references, some very handsome passport photographs, my qualification certificates, my baptism and confirmation certificates, and finally a three-page essay about my journey in faith thus far. This pack took about four months to assemble last summer.

After this, I was booked into the selection conference. I’m still not sure entirely what it is, but essentialy it’s like a weekend-long interview with lots of people about various different things. They then write a report and make a suggestion to my bishop. So it’s quite important.

This is a interview I’ve kind of been waiting for for a long time, and now it is just around the corner. To be frank, realising this feels a bit like being whacked round the head with a big, wet fish; it has woken me up a little bit. This is not a bad thing for sure: I’d much rather I was alert than sleepy!

I shall not know what happens for about two months. I still have to have a psychological interview, which is another weekend away next month in the Easter holidays.

Oh, and in the mean time, I have a degree to finish. I’m sure that’s what I went to university for!

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