Yesterday a group of us got together to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Fr John Hartley, a Southwark priest who was ordained in 1958 on the Feast of the Visitation. Fr John also has two brothers who are priests in the diocese.
The celebration began with a glass of champagne followed by a festal lunch. It was good to see priests of all ages join together to celebrate with one of their brothers. After lunch we had a bit of a get-together when Fr John told us about the various parishes he had been in as a curate and spoke of the wonderful example he had received from his parish priests. We then had a period of prayer with one of the priests preaching a meditation on the dignity of the priesthood and on priestly fidelity. He began with the words "Today we thank our Lord for the wonderful way he has wanted to continue the work of our salvation and the great dignty of the priestood". He also spoke of the joy of being a priest even though it was a vocation that involved sacrifice: "We are his priests and we are called to accompany Jesus in his Passion. We are called to offer our lives with him".
After Benediction we had tea with a rich celebratory cake that Fr John is picture cutting here:
Knowing Fr John, he would have been very pleased with a celebration that focused on priesthood rather than just on himself. He would also have been pleased that those present ranged from well over fifty years down to just a couple of years of priestly ministry. Sometimes young men worry that priesthood could be a lonely life but yesterday's celebration reminds us that a priest is never alone. He is always accompanied by Christ and his brothers in the presbyterate.