Wednesday, 28 March 2012 09:24

REFLECTION: DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY

Fr Alan Neville MSC is from Cork and a member of the Irish Province who was ordained in 2009.  His formation and pastoral experience took him to areas served by the Irish MSCs, South Africa and Venezuela.  This reflection was posted on the Irish MSC website.

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Photo:  Alan Neville at his first Mass in the Church on Western Road in Cork, familiar to many visitors.

 

BHA's Atheist Bus Campaign

I remember living in our parish in St. Albans when the British Humanist Association’s bus advertising campaign came out. Eight hundred buses ran throughout the UK for a number of weeks with the slogan, ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ As usual the ensuing debate, stirred up by the media, generated more heat than light. What struck me though was not BHA’s claim that there was no God, but that I should stop worrying and start to enjoy my life. This bit of hyperbole caused me some concern. It implied those of us who believed in God were a worrisome, scrupulous, miserable bunch. It was a fascinating observation, staggering in the extent of its arrogance. Perhaps as a priest I would have to be particularly overwhelmed with the burdens of faith, incapable of wringing the smallest atom of enjoyment out of life. Many people today believe that the life of a priest is too challenging and difficult. Traditionally parents would have encouraged their son to explore a vocation to priesthood and religious life. These days it seems they actively discourage it because they fear their child would be unhappy.

 

To be honest though, while there have been days ( and we all have them ), my life as a priest with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart has been nothing short of amazing. Over the past decade I’ve had the opportunity to live and minister in Africa, Europe and South America. I’ve worked with people from a variety of backgrounds in parishes, schools, hospital, prisons and youth projects. I’ve had my mind opened, my beliefs challenged and my vocation affirmed. It’s all been part of a roundabout faith journey that has lead me to where I am today – a place of real happiness.

 

This is echoed by recent studies into satisfaction levels and the vocation to priesthood. In a survey carried out last year 90% of priests said they were happy with their vocation and it was found that priesthood had the highest level of job satisfaction of any profession in America. Close friendships with community members, other priests and lay people, along with an awareness of God’s personal love were all identified as key factors. Secular thinking often tries to equate religion with unhappiness and a denial of one’s humanity. Compassionate faith and an authentic living out of your vocation are not barriers to real fulfilment and happiness, they are the means. So don’t worry – be happy!

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