This last week, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, myself, and twenty priests ordained under ten years from around Queensland
gathered at Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo, for a time of prayer, formation and sharing. An event like this has been in the works for several years but this was the first time it had actually happened. While the majority of priests were from the Archdiocese of Brisbane, there were also attendees from the dioceses of Rockhampton and Townsville. The aims of this gathering was to address some of the challenges priests face as they grow into their ministry and also provide a mutually supportive environment in which to share difficulties and learn from each other.
The schedule consisted of a balance of input and sharing based upon a three-fold framework of the spiritual life, the human life and the pastoral life. While we heard from Sr. Geraldine, Shayne Bennett and Fr. Frank Jones on these three topics respectively, what was even more powerful and indeed helpful, was listening to other under-ten priests share about not just their joys and learnings but also the trials and tribulations in their life and ministry.
Upon returning to Caloundra, I spent some time reflecting upon these three days of under-tens gathering and began to really grasp, perhaps for the first time, the dynamic way in which we, as humans, are able to identify with, empathise with and even experience the joys, trials and learnings of others. The reflection even became a tangible experience of St Paul’s doctrine of the Body of Christ; ie. when one suffers, all suffer; when one celebrates, all celebrate (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). This sense of dynamism, power and potential, in the sharing of the ups and downs of our lives with each other is also a wonderful way to approach Scripture.
When we read and spend time with Scripture, it’s never as a passive recipient but as an active participant. In my reflection, for example, I was further struck by how closely the things we young priests shared with each other from our lives – our love for God, the different ways we recognise God’s closeness, the difficulties we experience, and the manifold ways we experience prayer/grace/relationship with God – are reflected in the rhythm and sentiment of this Sundays’ psalm (116: 1-6, 8-9). Psalm 116 is, in essence, a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. Like all 150 psalms, it expresses something of the writer’s thoughts, emotions and experience of God’s presence in the world. The writer of Ps. 116 – most scholars attribute authorship to King David – is experiencing some serious consolation in his spiritual life and has written a song about the ways that God has helped him out of a difficult situation.
I wonder what our song, our psalm, both as individuals and as a community would look like if we were to write about our contemporary experiences of God. The Book of Psalms contains every human emotion – both positive and negative – and these emotions are intimately connected to the psalmist’s encounter with God. This is something worth pondering in our own prayer life this week because in doing so, in realising where we’re at in our relationship with God and then, just as importantly, in sharing that with others, we participate in Jesus’ perpetual incarnation – his taking flesh – both in and through each other. May your week be abundantly blessed and may the God who loves us unconditionally, be intimately present in your prayer.