I hope to be indulged this week in mentioning a few major landmarks in my personal and family life over the last few days.
On Tuesday, Jackie and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary. We were married on 29th June 1991 in the Parish Church of St Ouen, Jersey. At the time we had no idea that we were marrying on one of the major feast days of the Church, the Festival of St Peter and St Paul. Still less did we foresee that this would lead to some scheduling difficulties in the future, difficulties that arose because it is now customary for people to be ordained on or around this time.
My own ordination began it. I was made Deacon on 4th July 2010, and ordained Priest a year later on 3rd July 2011, so this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of my entering Priest’s orders. These were, of course, joyful and life-changing moments, but they had the unfortunate consequence that I was on pre-ordination retreat on our Wedding Anniversary. In later years, other ordination services would present further clashes.
I am not complaining! There is a positive point in all this, but I’ll get to it after mentioning another landmark that we passed this week when our older son, Ollie, graduated on Thursday. Although we weren’t able to attend in person as a result of Covid restrictions, watching our ‘little boy’ take his degree was a proud moment in the best possible sense.
Anyway, I promised you a point to all this familial meandering. The point, I think, is that the structures and disciplines of church life can often seem in tension with the demands of family life. For us, that’s often been the experience, but is it really what God wants? Marriage, too, is a sacrament, a means of God’s grace, and we were called to be married long before I was called to ordination. Being a husband and a parent isn’t, or shouldn’t be, something that is in conflict with being a priest. We are called to fullness of life, in every aspect of our lives.
The mischief comes, I think, when we succumb to a culture that over-values work. Yes, I really did say that. St Benedict said that to work is to pray and to pray is to work – I agree with that. My point is not that work is bad, only that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. And what is that end? Simply this – to share in the eternal life of God who is perfect love. Marriage and family life, in all of their rainbow varieties, are some of the most important ways in which we come to experience this. They should be celebrated without guilt, and if that means one or two emails have to wait until Monday, well then, let them wait.
May God bless you all,