Communicating with God: One Person at a Time (Chapter 7, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 7

February 1965 brought a memorable day. I reached the age of 30.

"So what" you might well say. "It happens to lots of people". However, during my undistinguished career at the boarding school in Buckingham a holy Franciscan priest, for reasons known only to himself, had formally and publicly told me that I would be dead before the age of 30. This prophecy did not really loom over my youth, but I did remember it and had mentioned it to my fellow clergy - who touchingly opened a celebratory bottle at lunch to mark the fallibility of prophets.

The time was, however, approaching when my curacy in Corby ought to come to an end. If a man was moved too often and regularly then it augured badly for his future since the inherited wisdom was that a bad curate would make a bad parish priest. If he stayed for too long then the suspicion was that nobody else wanted him. Five or six years seemed to be the norm and it so happened that just at this time a diocesan priest was retiring as chaplain to the forces after a 20 year stint. The unwritten law was that the diocese would have to replace him and there happened to be a vacancy in the RAF.

I volunteered. It seemed a good idea at the time and I did have links to the Air Force through my father. With the knowledge of my parish priest and the blessing of the Vicar General - Mgr Charles Grant, soon to become auxiliary bishop - I went for an interview at Adastral House in London. The senior Catholic Chaplain - a Mgr. Roche towering over me at some six foot six - went through my short sacerdotal history, treated me to a good lunch and declared himself willing to have me appointed - subject to a medical and the written permission of my bishop. The medical for a chaplain, it seems, was just to confirm officially that he was breathing. Permission from the Bishop, it was presumed, was there since the Vicar General knew all about it.

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