As it was the last day of my holiday, we went to St Mary Magdalen's in Oxford (see picture). Plonked right in the centre of the city it is my 'church of choice' when I am free to visit somewhere else on a Sunday. It is my 'sending parish', that is to say - I went there before I was ordained. It was like returning to the bosom of the family, and Jo me and kids were recieved warmly as anyone is there. The music was, as ever, out of this world. They have long paid a professional choir to lead the music of this exemplary High Mass, and yesterday saw them in fine voice (even if the funky organ was sounding more like Ivor the Engine). The girls were on their bestist behaviour, and Jessica (who loves to sing above most other pursuits) was hypnotised by the angelic beauty of the music. She was in my arms for most of the Mass, and she was transfixed by them - not even a chocolate coin broke her gaze at one point. It is also the church in which they were Baptised, so it is to us a profoundly important place.
It was also the day that 'the Ordinand on Placement' offered a sermon as part of his training. This is normally a mixed affair, with some good and some bloody awful sermons. The geezer who preached yesterday did very well, in fact - and it is a tough gig for even the most seasoned preacher. I am pants when I preach there, trust me! He praught on the Beatitudes (Mary Mags follows the Roman lectionary, traditional language if you please), and gave much for us to ponder upon. In essence, he invited us to be as poor people, not fixed on the material things of our world etc etc - and he is right, mate!
There is always a question that lingers in my mind after hearing such noble sentiments about giving up the things that I have - how do I do it? In truth, in very truth I say unto thee, I would find it nigh on impossible to give up a lot of what I have - not because I need that stuff, but because I like my stuff. I like my car, I like having a few shekels in the bank, and I have worked hard to get that. I want to be a good Christian (and I think that largely, I am), but I can't just give it all up to be even better! This quandary has never been resolved in my mind. Do I want my cake and to eat it too? The other things that weighs heavily on my heart as a priest, is how I can have the audacity to preach such a message when I fail to heed it myself - or at the very least, fail to understand how best to meet that expectation. Answers on a postcard, please.