I am privileged to have met great people
The daughter of friends of mine is doing her Leaving Cert in June. Over the years I have given her some little help in German so we know one another reasonably well.
She is a fine young woman, intelligent, affable and articulate. Over the last few months we have chatted about what she intends doing after her Leaving Cert. She has filled out her CAO form and stated her options. I have suggested to her that she think again about what she is planning to do. But it's not my call and really none of my business.
It set me thinking how things have changed in the area of career guidance over my lifetime. I'm sure the term did not exist when I did my Leaving Cert. My thoughts went on to think about vocation to the priesthood and what is it at all that 'calls' people to priesthood.
In many ways it is a real mystery to me. When people ask me why I joined the Dominicans I never really have the answer. I'm inclined to explain why I have stayed. And even there I'm on flimsy ground.
But there is one thing I know for sure. I have been so privileged to have had some remarkable experiences and met great people.
And here's such an experience. On Shrove Tuesday before 7.30 Mass a man came into the sacristy and asked could someone come and anoint his mother. I said I would call to the house after Mass. Sometime around 8am I knocked at the door, the man answered and I went up to his mother's bedroom. She was frail and weak.
We said our prayers and then the man and I had a chat. It turned out that the woman's husband and the man's father had died in the 1960s. He had been a GP on the Kilkenny Tipperary border. It so happens close to there I had spent all my summer holidays as a child on my granduncle's farm. We had a great chat.
The next day, Ash Wednesday, on a whim, I called to the house again. As I arrived the man was at the hall door with his mobile to his ear. He was looking for help to lift his mother. Perfect timing on my part.
As we went up the stairs a neighbour arrived. We helped the man lift his mother unto the bed and as we placed her gently on the bed she died.
She died while we were holding her. What a privilege for that man, for his mother to die in his arms. I have heard from many people how he had cared for her over the years.
And for me too. What a privilege that I was asked to do what I did and then that this lady should die while we were lifting her. It's not something that I'll easily forget.
The woman was born in 1912. I saw her four medals from two Irish presidents. A medal for making the century and one for every year thereafter.
It makes little or no sense to look back in the past and wonder did we make the right or wrong choices. The past is done. It's over. All we have is the now. And it's up to us to make the best of it.
If I were not a priest, it is most unlikely that I would have been with that man to help him lift his mother to her bed on Ash Wednesday. I was glad I was there.
Good luck to my young friend doing the Leaving Cert.