I remember attending an ordination a few years before I began at seminary and being captivated by all that was happening. The richness of the signs and symbols used in the ordination rite left me feeling excited that one day, in a distant future, I might also find myself kneeling before a bishop to be ordained as priest.
This sense of excitement has stuck with me while attending ordinations ever since. However, the experience of witnessing the recent ordination of Father Thomas Clarke was quite different for me. The distant future is no longer so distant; actually, given that I might be a priest by this time next year, the once-distant future is rather imminent.
This means that over the last few days and weeks, the reality of my own sense of a call to the priesthood has become much more vivid. As well as the exciting prospect of ordination becoming more vivid, so too the realisation of the magnitude of a priest's responsibilities. Thankfully I have a supportive year group at seminary who are very open in talking about the excitements, as well as the concerns, associated with offering yourself for priestly ordination.
Recently one of my year group mentioned a homily we had been given in our early days at seminary, and which we all to some extent remembered. We hadn't even been here for a month when a priest came back to mark his 25th anniversary of ordination. In the homily he preached that morning he shared some advice using a Latin slogan that he had been given as a seminarian himself: ‘Respice finem’ (or 'Remember the end’). The priest was trying to encourage us to remember that everything we would do at seminary was geared towards firstly the priesthood, a life of self-sacrifice and service; and finally heaven, a life of awesome love in the unveiled presence of God.
In this, my final letter from Wonersh, may I – inspired by Our Lady’s Assumption – offer this same phrase which has supported me and my brother seminarians over the past five years: ‘Respice finem’. Let us all strive for holiness; let us strive for our eternal home in heaven.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and experiences with you over the past 12 months. Please continue pray for us seminarians and also for an increase in vocations. Be assured of my prayers, too, both for you and for our Archdiocese as we approach Synod 2020.