June 28 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Searching for the path laid out by the Lord

As Scotland welcomes the first of ten men to become priests this year, Fr Jamie McMorrin reflects on his own journey to the priesthood

A few days ago, I celebrated the third anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. At risk of being accused of having a ‘Messiah complex,’ I note with some trepidation that our Lord, at aged 33 and after three years of ministry, had already ‘accomplished all that the Father had given him to do.’ I can’t help but feel that, by comparison, I’ve been rather wasting my time.

Indeed, an elderly priest, celebrating his own anniversary of ordination, said that the best way to mark such a milestone was with a good act of contrition. Helpful advice! But also, surely, with prayers of thanksgiving for all the blessings received during the past year, and for all the blessings bestowed by God to others through the priesthood which is his undeserved gift to me.

By happy coincidence, I also usually celebrate my anniversary by attending other ordinations, which often take place around this time of year.

Hearing others, some of them very dear friends, make the promises of the priesthood is a further opportunity to renew my own commitment, and the joy of welcoming them into the great priestly brotherhood raises our friendship to a new and more intimate bond of connection.

The day of my own ordination passed in a bit of a blur, to be honest. That morning, I remember taking the dog for a walk along the beach in Kinghorn, where I had grown up, and looking across the water to Edinburgh, where the ordination was to take place. I remember reflecting, that morning, on the various Gospel scenes that took place on a different seashore: the calling of the fishermen apostles, the miraculous catch of fish and the protestations of unworthiness, and the question that gets to the heart of discipleship and which covers over a multitude of sins: ‘Do you love me?’

When the time came, I vested for the ordination in the dining room of the cathedral house: by strange coincidence the same room where now, three years later, I usually hold most of my meetings with parishioners.

The chancellor stopped by to deliver some pieces of official paperwork: a pagella of priestly faculties giving me permission, among other things, to preach and celebrate the Sacraments, my official appointment as curate in Falkirk and, to my surprise, a blank form on which I was to give details of my funeral arrangements. If I had needed a reminder that I was getting ready to lay down my life for the Lord, this was surely it.

By this time, my phone was frantically buzzing with calls and texts from family members and friends stuck in a traffic jam in the suburbs of Edinburgh, after one of the roads had flooded. My mum was in tears, my dad was shouting instructions (of varying degrees of helpfulness) to my sister who was driving, while my brother-in-law (only recently engaged) was beginning to wonder what he was getting himself into.

Thankfully, the ordination was only slightly delayed and the coaches from Fife emerged from the flood, and unloaded the slightly bedraggled guests into the cathedral, two-by-two (hurrah!).

The ordination itself was beautiful, peaceful and joyful. A Franciscan bishop who had been my professor in seminary, had told me that everything I needed to understand about my priesthood would be contained, at least in nucleus, in the ordination Mass.

The love and support not only of my friends and family, but of my archbishop, my brother priests and all God’s holy, faithful people; the priestly promises which give a definitive and yet liberating structure to my life and my ministry; the climactic, silent outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of Apostolic hands and, above all, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the mystical celebration of the great act of Christ’s own priesthood.

It’s not been an easy three years, but I’m tremendously grateful to God for calling me to serve him in this way. I give thanks for the blessings his kindness has bestowed upon me, I ask his forgiveness for the mistakes I’ve made, and I look forward to whatever his providence has in store for me in the years (hopefully many!) that still lie ahead.

So, best wishes and congratulations to all of those who have just been ordained and to all those who will be ordained in the coming weeks. To all of those who celebrate anniversaries of ordination around this time, ad multos annos! Here’s to many more years!

And may anyone reading these words and wondering if God might be calling him to the priesthood be given the light to see the path the Lord has marked out for him and the courage to step out boldly, so as one day to stand before the altar and say his own joyful, generous ‘yes’ to serve the Lord and his Church as a priest.

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