Care and self-care of Priests
Clogher Priests Forum
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
My dear friends,
I feel at something of a disadvantage coming in a bit cold this morning after missing day one. However, let me put a few reflections before you on the area of care and self-care of priests, ourselves. Let me start with a recent example from my own life.
On Bank Holiday Monday of last week my alarm went off at 6.00am. I find I need more time now to do all the things that have to be seen to when I go away for a few days. I had everything done at 8.30am when Paul arrived. He dropped me at the airport in Dublin at about 10.15am. I cleared check in and security by 11.15am and I met two fellow travellers to the Holy Land – Bishop Ray Field and Fr. John Murray PP, Downpatrick. The flight left more or less on time at 12.15pm and touched down in Heathrow about 1.45pm.
We had to pick up our luggage and we walked purposefully for about an hour before finding El Al security. In the meantime we heard an announcement that our flight to Tel Aviv had been delayed from 3.30pm to 5.00pm. This turned out to be a blessing because the security procedure was substantial, if courteous. We were interview individually and at some length and the search on our hand luggage was meticulous. All formalities had been completed and we had checked in for a second time by 4.00pm.
The El Al Jumbo took off for Tel Aviv before 5.30pm and allowing for two hours of time difference we arrived there just before midnight. Our hosts, the new Catechumenate, were there to greet us and they asked us to wait for the arrival of a small delegation from Chile due in less than an hour. It would save them using a second bus. After the bus journey of over two hours we pulled up at the Domus Galilei on the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee at about 3.00am. This was to be our residence for the next week. We were told that breakfast would be served next morning between 7.00-8.30am and the bus would be there at 8.30am to take us to our first meeting. By the end of that gathering at mid-day we had reached a level of zombieism that we had just about enough alertness to request the transport to bring us back to our residence. Welcome to the world of 2015, good morning self-care. When he advised me not to fly transatlantic a few months ago my G.P. said by way of explanation “airports are very tiring places and travel is stressful”.
It’s difficult to know where to begin and what signposts to take when exploring the area of self-care. If we take our cue from our professional medical doctors they set great importance on knowledge, particularly knowledge of heredity. It’s there we will find a map of all manner of strengths and weaknesses which can guide us along the right path. As in so many instances, the simple and obvious things are held up as of most importance. Time and again it is emphasised that weight is bad and the right kind of exercise very good. There is general agreement on what constitutes healthy and wholesome food and drink. We have pretty near the best in technology and medical expertise to keep our organs working in harmony and efficiently. We are living fuller lives and longer too.
Our bodies we could study for a lifetime or more and we still have not mentioned the spirit with all its mystery. How is it that some people have the sweetest of temperaments? How is it that others are control freaks? Why are some people so possessive and smothering? Isn’t it real fresh air to be in the company of people who are sunny and positive in their outlook on life? What ingredients make up a respectful self-confidence and what darnel can bloat that into arrogance? What honey leaves some people generally self-accepting and happy in themselves and what poison causes all varieties of feelings of insecurity and inferiority? I won’t attempt to analyse these but if you found the answers in the meantime I suspect you could have quite a turnout next year.
Is it a sign of the times that we have not mentioned the word sin in any of its forms? What makes a peacemaker? Does a permanent cloud of anger bring some people a lonely existence because no one wants to live for any length of time in that atmosphere? Do peacemakers receive their own reward in all the invitations they receive on account of the calm nonthreatening atmosphere they build around themselves? Is the capacity to forgive the most liberating power on earth? If I am hung up on myself how do I get unhooked? How do I learn to make a little space for others at the centre of my unloved universe? Why do so few want to buy, lease, rent or even accept the gift of a little space at the centre of my universe?
The big question is who’s to blame for this mess. Surely God is the source of life for us and Jesus Christ is our model of humanity. Of course we owe our blessings to many – parents, ancestors, family, our teachers, doctors, priests, neighbours, our faith community and our society. If we fall short, can we blame them or is that cowardly? Enrichment or impoverishment of our own lives or our spirit – are these primarily our own responsibility? God directed us to love him, to love our neighbour and to love ourselves. The love he taught and witnessed to us was a selfless love which would enable us to care for others and for ourselves in a balanced love. The Eucharist is our nourishment and is one of the main instruments of God’s healing love for his people. Let us accept God’s gift and place as few obstacles as possible in its way.
+Liam S. MacDaid
Bishop of Clogher