When I was growing up in Glasgow, I lived in a parish which had 4 priests, in my time there, some of them changed, but there was always 4 priests. All of them good men, who had listened to the voice of the Good Shepherd and followed that voice to become shepherds of God’s people. Being an Altar server, I spent lots of time at Church and got to know some of the priests quite well. After Christmas they would take all of the Altar Servers to the Christmas Carnival in Glasgow as a reward for the year’s serving. In the summer I would see two of them play lawn bowls at the local bowling green, and in those days the priests would often visit the house; there were more of them in those days.

When my family moved to another town, we quickly became involved in the new Parish; this time it was a smaller Parish and only had two priests; my mum eventually becoming the Parish Priest’s Housekeeper. It was there that I first heard about deacons as we had a transitory deacon [a man in his final year before being ordained a priest]. I was asked to show him around the villages; him on his moped and me on my pushbike.

In both of these parishes and in the parishes I have been in since I married Pam, there have been lots of different priests, with different characters; some more outgoing than others. Men who have heard and followed the call to live out their lives for Jesus. There may be some people within our Parish today who think they are being called, and if that is you, I would urge you not to shut the call away, don’t think that God would not call you. Don’t allow the negative thoughts in your head to shout down the call of the Good Shepherd. If those thoughts are suggesting you are not good enough then remember what St John Henry Newman said, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”1 We only need to look at the Bible to see that God calls some of the most least likely people to be leaders within the Church.

In today’s first reading we hear one of them, Peter, a fisherman, preach so eloquently that 3000 people joined the Church that first ‘post Resurrection’ Pentecost. We also hear Psalm 22, which was written by a shepherd who was chosen by God to lead the Jewish people as their king; these words thousands of years later still bring comfort to people when they hit difficult times. In the second reading, which is from a letter written by St Peter, we hear Christ described as a sacrificial lamb bearing the faults of others, being tortured and not retaliating to the curses and insults placed upon him.

The Gospel, from another fisherman, John, reports on Jesus as the Good Shepherd and warning us all of those who would steal us from our green pastures. Their mission is to cause pain and suffering; while the Good Shepherd wants us to have life to the full.

Every priest comes from an ordinary family, a family just like ours. Every family should pray for the priests we have and for God to call more priests to serve the Church.

While today has a great focus on the Priesthood, The Church also needs other vocations such as the Diaconate and Holy Orders to continue bearing fruit; these too come from ordinary families and require committed people who answer the call from God.

Other vocations like Marriage and the single life are not to be forgotten either. Marriage is the giving of ones-self exclusively to one’s spouse, it remains a Sacrament between one man and one woman who are open to new life and building a domestic Church together, within their household.

People who are called to the single life, can dedicate more of their time to serving God through prayer and acts of mercy, single people are open to where God may call them in the future.2

My primary vocation is my marriage to Pam, it is only through the love and support Pam gives me that I can actively serve in my other vocation of the Diaconate. I find both of these vocations rewarding. The love, companionship, challenges and growth I have experienced in my Marriage have helped to form me in my faith and as a man. Becoming a father and then a grandfather have taught me how to put my family’s needs before my own needs. This is a model of service which helps me in my Diaconal service.

St John Henry Newman once said “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.3” My understanding of this is that we all have a mission, which is part of the Divine plan, my mission may be to be a deacon, it may well be something else. I may have already fulfilled my mission, or my purpose may be some time in the future. Whatever it is, if I stay close to God, in prayer and partaking of the Sacraments, then please God I will fulfil my mission.

You too, have a mission. With prayerful discernment, you may hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, leading you towards whatever your mission is. I pray to God that you fulfil your mission and when God calls you from this life, you can hear the Good Shepherd say to you, ‘well done good and faithful servant, come and share in your Master’s happiness’ [Matt 25:23].

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Fourth Sunday of Easter

CCC 754, 764, 2665: Christ the Shepherd and Gate
CCC 553, 857, 861, 881, 896, 1558, 1561, 1568, 1574: Pope and bishops as shepherds
CCC 874, 1120, 1465, 1536, 1548-1551, 1564, 2179, 2686: priests as shepherds
CCC 14, 189, 1064, 1226, 1236, 1253-1255, 1427-1429: conversion, faith, and baptism
CCC 618, 2447: Christ an example in bearing wrongs

Canon John Cooke, our Vocations Promoter, invites those discerning a Vocation to Sacred Heart Parish, Fareham for the Monthly Seeker Nights, usually held on the first Friday of each month

Are you wondering what God is calling you to? Why not join our monthly discernment group to share your journey with others in a similar situation. The group meets, usually on the First Friday of the month at Sacred Heart Church, 41-43 Portland Street, Fareham PO16 0NF for food, prayer, reflection and fellowship. Please contact Canon John Cooke if you wish to attend: vocations@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or telephone 01329 318869.

The dates for forthcoming sessions are: Friday 5th May, Friday 2nd June and Friday 7th July, 7-9pm. 

If you are interested in the Diaconate email diaconate@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk and register your interest. There is a Come and See event on Saturday 27th May in Didcot for you to hear students and deacons speak about their experience. Please use the email address for more information.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The success of the pastoral area formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • All who are preparing to receive Sacraments for the first time.
  • Those attending the RCIA programme at St Bede’s on Wednesday evenings.
  • Those studying for the priesthood and the diaconate.
  • The priests, deacons and religious who have served us in our life.
  • Those discerning a vocation.
  • Aiden, Rowan and Zuri who will be baptised at St Bede’s this Sunday.

1 John Henry Newman Quotes (Author of Apologia Pro Vita Sua) (goodreads.com)

2 Vocation: A Calling From God – About Catholics

3 John Henry Newman Quotes (Author of Apologia Pro Vita Sua) (goodreads.com)