My dear friends, it is not for me to write here in too much of a capacity if ever at all, but in recent times here, many comments have been sent whereby you have often wondered how I spend my time.
I am also aware that there is constant focus on the lack of clergy going through the seminary and being ordained.
In the last few days, I have done some deep thinking and reflecting on my life and my vocation which I always do when life is being somewhat more difficult than usual.
Since last weekend, I have had to officiate at the funerals of 2 family members and in between all of that, I have had to try and comfort their families which is in essence my own family but in their eyes, you are a priest...not a brother, son, nephew etc...
And this is why I sometimes find it so difficult because when one becomes ordained, a bond of family is lessened as the priest now stands to serve all and favour none. This can involve making sacrifices such as not being available at Christmas or Easter, missing on a birthday and other such family events.
Despite becoming the religious / spiritual father to so many, we are never meant to become paternal fathers which lessens our ability to engage with families in the community or to understand the intricate workings of family life.
I personally believe that over the last 9 years of my priesthood, I have never so strongly felt the sense of loneliness and aloneness of the last few days and yes I have indeed questioned my vocation...
It can be very challenging to be on one's own and reflect on life and the role we are asked to consider playing in it with sometimes more serious issues being raised and needing to be addressed.
Sometimes, as a human being which is what I am first and foremost, I think of the bodies of those who I have anointed as they are taken from terrible tragic scenes - newlyborns, young people, midlife and the elderly - bringing to the fore my own sense of being a human being who will also need anointing by someone also wearing the collar.
Lest I forget, I am in a position / vocation which has that special dimension to it which calls me to be a Christian / Catholic in the service of God and the community at all times. This can be quiet daunting and this week was no less but certainly moreso as I was conscious that I had to be stronger for everyone else this week but when I reached my own abode, I was weary from it all and needed to be consoled myself.
On a very personal level, when I go through the front door of the house, I sense the lack of another person in the house, in my life and in my arms. My vow of celibacy asks me to refrain from being emotionally involved (and indeed sexually involved) which is not easy by any means, and certainly I can understand why some of my colleagues would seek solace in the end of a bottle.
This week, I found myself in the arms of those friends who care a lot for me, and indeed I care as much in return. I would certainly wish that I could be with their company on a more constant basis, but distance prevents this from being a reality. We hugged as they came in my door, sat down for dinner and talked, then went to the local pub for a few drinks and walked home. When we got there, we sat down for a drink or two before another hug and adjourned to our separate beds.
As I got to bed, I went on my knees and offered up a prayer through my tears to God - a prayer of thanks - for bringing people such as these into my life and making me feel so human again. It was the first night in a long time that I can say I slept soundly.
I wish that I could have people like that in my life everyday and I know many would say well be it so but go and become a different religion or leave the priesthood, and I would have agreed perhaps before but I have no right to turn my back on God and leave after having received His call, and as for changing faith, it resolves nothing.
Many will no doubt say that when I was being ordained, I should have known what I was letting myself in for, and I cannot deny that, but it would be a reason why I would say to anyone out there who is considering becoming a priest, reflect carefully and honestly.
I know that I did, and I do not regret my life one bit, but I cannot forget that I am only human as well, and indeed I would ask you all to look at your local priest and remind yourself that he is human also - even with that special gift from God.
I ask you all to pray for me and indeed my colleagues as we endure such times in our lives, as we pray for you when you endure yours.