Communicating with God: One Person at a Time (Chapter 4, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 4

Some candidates became nervous wrecks after spending weeks and months preparing as if for a wedding. Chalices were inspected and bought, even specially commissioned. Visitors were invited and plans made for the first Mass back in the parish followed by ordination breakfast and general and wide celebration and rejoicing. Sacristans seemed to be traditionally hard-boiled and inured to such distractions and I especially simply looked forward to the event as being the end of six years of seminary life. We were allowed 40 visitors each to occupy special places in tiers in various parts of the chapel. Some needed far more than that so my popularity rating soared for the event since I was only having two visitors and was willing to sell my allotted seats at one ounce of pipe tobacco each. I arranged to say one of the normal Sunday Masses in the church in Aylesbury with the old Canon to assist me and simply to go back home afterwards for a normal breakfast. The princely sum of £32 sterling was collected by the parish before the ordination and with this I bought a chalice and a pyx which I still have and use (some bought a chalice for over £500, hand made and incorporating their mother's engagement ring or other precious jewel. From my years of cleaning chalices I knew that anything with a jewel or a carving presents constant problems; and avoided that trap).

The ceremony was not a test of nerves. I knew what I was doing and even noticed promising obedience to the wrong Bishop and his successors but judged it to be a mere blip and not worth making a fuss about. I did smash my pocket watch at the prostration for the litany of the Saints [which was a most uncomfortable and dangerous exercise. It is very hard to know one's length when having to lie face down from a standing start. This meant that, before the ceremony, you had to practise just where your head would be, on a cushion, from that standing start. A judicious line drawn on the carpet ensured that as you prostrated you not only hit the cushion but also avoided smashing into the boots of the bloke in front of you.] I got the length right but forgot that the watch was in my waistcoat pocket and some twelve stone of dead weight would land on it - with the predictable result. It has never been the same since. My first blessing to my mother and sister was performed impeccably and gratefully for the years they had sacrificed so much to make the day possible. The greatest shock - even though expected - was the professors (aloof and distant for six years) suddenly calling me 'Father' or, even more traumatically, not 'Mister' but by one's Christian name!

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