My mentor, friend and late bishop Joe Grech told me that once I was ordained, 'the world' would be my parish. Never could I have understood what he meant until now. My ministry takes me around the world and I get to serve the Catholic Church well beyond my local parish. As glamorous as this travel may sound to some it does take its toll on me.
I sit here in my little mountain-top hermitage at the end of my 7 day silent retreat. I try to spend 5 or so days each year in prayerful silence, and God knows how much I need it. I can't believe how busy I let my life get. (Don't we all!) So much travel, so many wonderful people, so much opportunity. It is in moments of silence like this that I realise I need to be reminded that I am God's beloved.
Over the last three years I have had the honour of ministering regularly to thousands of teens across the U.S.A. and Canada. This year I preached and sang at L.A. congress (the worlds largest Catholic Conference, with 45,000 in attendance) and am now returning from attending N.C.Y.C. in Indianapolis (the worlds largest youth conference, with 25,000 in attendance).
“While I am so grateful for the opportunity to have auditioned, got through to boot camp and worked with a wonderful team of contestants and judges, I have decided, out of my own will, to leave the Australian X Factor competition,” he announced.
“I have looked at my pastoral, Church, music and touring commitments for the rest of the year and found that I cannot reasonably honour both the competition and these. Even though some may argue that this is an evangelisation opportunity missed, my first commitment is to my relationship with God and to the Church to whom I am already committed.
Here I am at the airport, waiting for my flight for a meeting out of town. I have been blessed with these opportunities to travel; to meet people and make Jesus known to them. I have been saying this so many times, but I will say it again anyway, I am here to make Jesus famous, as the Psalm says, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory.” (Ps 115:1)
The problem is that I need to die first, which means I have to leave all the physical things I've got used to. All the feelings, sounds, tastes, friendships, family, holiday plans, etc... are stripped away from me. I'm a body, not only a soul. And although I want heaven eventually, it's still hard to let go.
The doubts that people have about their faith when they are approaching death are sometimes the result of their age and illness and their medication.
When stuff like imagining that “there’s a ‘nothingness’ after death” flashes into my mind , I treat it like unwanted email on my PC or iPhone. I just send it off to the Trash or Delete icon located inside my head.
When people tell me that I seem to be coping well with my condition, I’ve got on doubt that a big part of it is that, having been a priest for many years, I have put - like all priests - a lot of faith, thought and emotional energy into helping the dying to prepare for death by words and sacraments, and into comforting their families, and into preparing and conducting the funerals.
I just wanted to share a few words in the light of all the media attention I have been getting in Australia. There has been a lot of good that has come out of it, no doubt, and with that emails and tweets about ‘praying for my bad soul’. In spite of all of this I want to clarify where my heart stands.