Our seminary community was reminded quite a number of times of the Church’s wisdom during the Affective Maturity & Healthy Celibate Chastity in Seminary Formation and Priestly Life & Ministry seminar led by Rev. Dr Gerard Fieldhouse-Byrne, from St Luke’s Centre in Manchester. The seminar was held at the Seminary, between 9 and 11 February.
Fr Fieldhouse-Byrne emphasised upon the reality that the priest is, first of all, a fully fleshed-out human being. Our life story, therefore, is not really different from that of Jesus. In other words, the priest is an example of the Incarnation. Just as Jesus, God who became man, passed through Galilee doing good 2,000 years ago, so is the priest called to love and to build bridges between human beings in the here and now.
How? We can do so by learning from Jesus. Fr Fieldhouse-Byrne described Jesus, amongst other, as the greatest psychologist who ever lived. Jesus matured in his understanding of himself and of others through long moments in prayer. His thorough relationship with the Father opened him to others and to their needs and enabled him to live out what he had preached; he invites us to do the same. This is the hope which sparks us to move on and which we should bear witness to.
The road ahead is simple, yet it remains difficult nonetheless. Though he insisted that everyone is weak enough to falter along the road, Fr Fieldhouse-Byrne encouraged us not to let ourselves be marked by our failures. Like Peter, who was still trusted with feeding His sheep despite denying Him three times, the priest never journeys alone. Here, grace builds on nature, says the Church, in her wisdom.
What does this mean? The priest does not choose the roads to take out of his own will but he himself is called. This call is the gift of meeting Christ and the choice of freely living out His choices.