The Priest

Central to the life and worship of the Catholic Church is the priest. To some a useless middleman between God and His people, to others the very channel of God’s grace and a visible sign of God’s active loving care.

Dedicated to Fr Sean Wales C.Ss.R. who has always been the model of a priest for me.



What manner of man is a priest?

What peculiarity of human nature

Allows someone to build a life on

A Being who could be an imposter?


What did he see in the man Jesus,

Just like those first fishermen who

Dropped their nets and their plans

To follow someone they barely knew?


And if a priest has lost his faith-spark,

Then surely he is the saddest thing,

Acting out a failed pantomine part,

Preaching words that have a hollow ring?


A man apart? Sacred by separation?

Taken from the community, yet returned.

Called forth, anointed and appointed.

Chosen? If so, by whom discerned?


A long time spent in formation, or

Is that deformation, though not any

Reformation, as once ordained,

He’s beyond censure – if he’s canny.


Right or wrong, pedestalled by some,

And pilloried by others: faithful to

Eternal values, or reactionary

Buffoon, antagonistic to the new?


What could he be, in Christ-like vein?

A prayer flag, hoisted high in place,

Fluttering in the wind, torn by sin’s

Squall, yet restored again by grace?


A man apart, yet one of the people,

Celibately available for one and all;

His family, limitless, with intimacy

Sealed by the veil of the confessional.


A woman, even? ‘Never yet’ is no

Obstacle, except to that cliquish crew

Who well know there is no problem

Apart from their balking at the new.


A channel of God’s smile, in and out

The holy place, to break in simple chunks,

The bread of life, regurgitating grace,

To a lay brood never called to be monks.


The gateway to the heavenly fold?

Well oiled, not by alcohol’s percent,

But by chrism’s balm, to gather and

To protect, by ministering sacrament.


Forfeiting another’s warm caress but

Never a loveless consecrated fridge.

A true martyr by surrendering his will:

Faithful, selfless service, his privilege.


Pray for priests! And challenge them! To

Gird themselves with the Master’s towel,

To wash our blistered, bloody pilgrim feet,

And hear ‘beloved’ – their Father’s avowal.