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I know a lot of priests and Catholics in the blogosphere will agree with the notion that it is important to have male altar servers, rather than females, however this is only something that dawned on me in any real certainty the other morning at the Easter Sunday Mass.

Whenever priests have, in the past, shared their opinions with me on why there should only be males serving the altar my general opinion went along the lines of “Yeah, I suppose – but it’s not that big a deal!”

When I searched for “male only altar servers” on Google the following article by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf came up: Cathedral in Phoenix to have male only altar service.

I feel the information given about the opinion and desires of the Rector of Phoenix Cathedral, Fr. John Lankeit, are the same as those opinions and desires voiced by the priests who I have spoken to here in England.  By restricting the ministry of altar server to males, priests hope to promote the vocation of Priesthood to young males. Fr. Lankeit also points out that he hope to encourage girls to consider more fully the vocation to religious life as a nun.

As I say, until Easter morning this issue had not really bothered me all that much. However, as I sat on the sanctuary during the Mass which I was serving, I realised that I felt much more compfortable on the Sanctuary than sitting in a pew. Whilst on it’s own this not enough to make me start their seminary application process tomorrow; I do feel that for some boys, if they were to get the same sense of comfort, it may be enough for them to start questioning in a positive way the possibility of Priesthood!

So let’s ensure that our altars are packed with boys – and lets pray that some of them will feel the same comfort and homeliness that I was lucky enough to feel.

Over the past few days people have been reliving their Papal Visit memories, recalling how they marked the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI coming to the United Kingdom.

Now other than attending a Mass celebrated by His Grace Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, at the shrine of Blessed Dominic Barberi – the Passionist Priest who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the Roman Catholic Church – I have not really participated in the reflection up on the first anniversary of the Papal Visit. However, I would like to reflect back to this day last year.

20th September 2010 was one of the most important days for English Catholics. It was the day when the Pope had been and gone. It was the day that there was no more listening to do – it was time for reflective action! On this day last year I moved in to my new house at University, on my way down in the car I had a telephone interview with the local newspaper about how I had enjoyed Hyde Park. In the article I was quoted as saying: “There was a lot of excitement in Hyde Park. The Pope has a remarkable presence. You could feel his presence, even though from where I was stood, he was a speck in the distance.”

For anyone discerning Priesthood, the office of Pope and the incumbent of the Seat of Peter are a great example – purely due to the special ministry that the Pope performs. However, Pope Benedict XVI, as an individual – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – is just a wonderful example of what it is to be a Priest. To come to a country that threatens to arrest you and where the majority of its media proclaim to dislike – if not, hate – you. And not only come, but come in such a humble and loving way is remarkable.

We, as English Catholics, have had the most wonderful year since the end of the Papal Visit. From the “Benedict Bounce” to the beginning of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. As we start the second year since the Papal Visit, let us continue to be inspired by the loving courage of Pope Benedict XVI as he continues to share the Gospel message with the world. Let us also draw strength from taking part, once again, in the Friday Penance of abstaining from eating Meat.

A new Facebook group has been set up this weekend in order to encourage people to pray for the intentions of their fellow Christians around the world.

The group is called “Pray for Us…” please search for the group, join and also encourage others to join…

During the week I met with my Vocations Director for a brief chat before I get ready to move away to University again for the next academic year. I am just about to start my third year out at the University, however academically I will be resitting second year modules, which I failed to pass last year. This means that I am going to have to do four years, rather than the typical three.

As you can imagine, the idea of having to spend an extra year doing something which you should have already done is very irritating. During the meeting with the Vocations Director, I explained that I felt a bit annoyed at the prospect of still being (at least) 2 years away from entering Seminary and 8 years away from Ordination.

In response, the Vocations Director told me that I should stop looking at what I want (or what God wants me) to do in the future and concentrate on what God wants of me now. When reflecting upon this advice, I remembered this hymn which I quite like, and thought it was quite apt for me  to pray.

Lord for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray;
keep me, my God, from stain of sin
just for today.

Let me both diligently work
and duly pray;
Let me be kind in word and deed,
just for today.

Let me be slow to do my will,
prompt to obey;
help me to sacrifice myself,
just for today.

Let me no wrong or idle word
unthinking say;
set thou a seal upon my lips
just for today.

Let me in season, Lord, be grave,
in season gay;
let me be faithful to Thy grace,
just for today.

Lord, for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray;
but keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
just for today.

The group that I was with from my University Chaplaincy arrived to mid-afternoon ahead of the Via Crucis on the Friday in order to secure a good spot in order to see the Holy Father as he drove past on his way to preside over the liturgy, which was due to start at 19:30.

However, at 18:30 myself and another lad from the group needed to go to the toilet. So set off to find them pushing ourselves against the tide of people  trying to get closer to where everything would be taking place. Get through the crowd, finding, queuing and doing left us only 10 mins to get back to our group before the liturgy started. Miracles happen – but apparently God had a different plan (as per usual).

Whilst we tried to attempt to push ourselves as far forward as we could – in order to get back to the group. We admitted defeat when we got to a group from East Anglia, who were reading the prayers for each of the stations from the Magnificat.

Towards the end of the Via Crucis, and even more so afterwards, the group – made up mainly of girls – began being pushed and shoved around by the crowd who seemed to be coming at us from all sides. Now, I’m not exactly Mr. Muscle, but I’m not Louis Spence either, and my friend is certainly built like a wall so we proved quite useful at protecting the group from the majority of those pushing and shoving.

In return for our heroics we were invited by the group to dinner at a Mexican near their hotel. Over dinner we chatted about what we were doing. The group, made up mainly of people who had just finished their GCSEs (and therefore will have got their results today*) seemed well-informed as to what they planned to do at college and even some afterwards.

One young man whom I was speaking to already knew that he wanted to go to University, and what he wanted to study etc. So I asked, him about what he wanted to do after he finished his degree. To which he replied: “Well, I don’t know yet, we’ll see…”

The reason that I have recalled this here is because that is the very answer that I used to give people when I knew full well that I wanted, God-willing, to be a Priest. And on occasion I still give people this answer, when I am not quite confident enough to tell them.

Now, I have absolutely no idea as to whether this lad is thinking of the Priesthood. I didn’t ask him. But why didn’t I ask him? I knew he was Catholic. I knew he was conscientious enough to have provisionally planned the next five years of his life. What is so wrong with asking: “Have you thought about Priesthood?” or “Have you thought of becoming a Religious?”

There is nothing wrong with this! So come on, let’s get people thinking (at least) about their true Christian Vocation.

*From what I have heard so far, all of their results have gone well – Thanks be to God!

On Monday evening, when I was waiting for my coach from London Stansted airport with two other World Youth Day pilgrims, we were discussing what had been the moment from World Youth Day that had moved us the most.

For me, it was simply seeing the number of fellow young people at Cuatros Vientos airbase for the Saturday evening Vigil and Sunday morning Mass with the Holy Father. As Catholics we believe that the Church, and its members, is the Body of Christ. However, never have I seen that in such an amazing way. Looking at the crowd of fellow Catholics that day was, for me, exactly the same as looking lovingly at the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar.

The sacrifices that come with any Vocation, are things that cannot be taken lightly during the discernment process. This is surely a positive way of figuring out what vocation God has given you the gifts to carry out. For someone discerning Priesthood, such as myself, the sacrifices come in the shape of wife and children etc.

The thing that I realised last Saturday night, was that if (/when) I become a Priest then the people who I will be serving will be the people who were around me. And if the people around are just as much the Body of Christ as is the Blessed Sacrament, then as serving them is surely the most amazing privilege one man can have.