the joy of priesthood

It is impossible to communicate to someone who was not present, the joy among priests at this morning’s gathering of priests with the pope. It was an extraordinary gathering of more than ten thousand extraordinarily ordinary men.

Soon after 8am I joined the queue’s of priests waiting to pass through security into the Paul VI auditorium for vesting. Then for an more than an hour we waited and prepared for this Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart to close the Year of the Priest.

The time of waiting was a time of conversation and prayer. Everyone was waiting to meet everyone else. Unlike last night, this morning I was surrounded by priests who did not speak English, but still there was a strong fraternity and clear common purpose and goal in life.

The diversity of priests was most visible. I suspect I was in the older half. There were priests in cassocks and priests in Jeans. Priests with beards and priests with earrings. Priests showing the effects of years in missionary fields and priests fresh faced and young. As we vested the alb covered much of the initial difference, but a word or two of conversation with those around revealed that this group was as representative of the human population as any group in any society…

…with one notable exception: once the Mass began we were all focussed on one action. Clearly for all of us who filled the square this morning, the Mass is the most important thing.

In the moments before Mass there was conversation, photos and phone calls. Once the Mass started there was something of ultimate importance happening. In the midst of our diversity we were united.

Tomorrow I leave Rome and head to Chicago. On Sunday morning the six week liturgy programme begins at Mundelein University. You can see details of the course here. Please keep me in your prayer as I move to this new phase of my sabbatical weeks.

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