A Jubilarian reflects on St Ignatius the pilgrim

POST BY ANye

Fr Tony Nye cuts his Jubilee cake with Pauline Merceica of the Farm Street parish council
Fr Tony Nye cuts his Jubilee cake with Pauline Merceica of the Farm Street parish council

“ What  are you looking for?....Come and see” Those words of invitation of Our Lord to the first disciples in John’s Gospel have helped many people on Retreat. St. Ignatius also has his “Come and see.” Approaching the end of his life he was prevailed upon to tell the story of his vocation, somewhat reluctantly. Though a strong and firm leader, Ignatius was a humble man.  He spoke of himself in the third person as the Pilgrim and in that account of his pilgrimage a  favourite phrase of his appears again and again: To help souls. By that he learned not just to help spiritually, but to serve and respond to the needs of the whole person, whoever they were, rich or poor. It was because of the desire to help souls that he studied for the priesthood at the best training ground of the time, the University of Paris, as a somewhat older man. It was because of that desire that he later responded in his headquarters in Rome to the needs of the Church of his day, often innovative and prepared to take risks, like sending St. Francis Xavier to India, founding a refuge for converted prostitutes in Rome (as we still help women who have been trafficked in our Bakhita Project here at Farm  Street  ), and  responding to requests to start schools in many places. That educational apostolate has been one of the hallmarks of Jesuits down the ages. It is the reason why so many of you are celebrating with us today from so many Jesuit schools and universities throughout the world.

‘To help souls’: that simple and succinct programme has been mine too, through the inspiration of St. Ignatius, as I look back over 50 years of priesthood. In my vocation, as in that of our great founder, that call has led me to many different places and works: St. Francis Xavier’s  College , Liverpool, as a Scholastic and Mount St. Mary’s College ,Spinkhill, where I was headmaster not long after my ordination in 1966 when England won the World Cup in extra time. There have been places since to journey with people on retreat and in spiritual direction and, like my time at Loyola Hall, Campion House, Osterley and as Spiritual Director at the Westminster Seminary, Allen Hall, there has been the privilege of helping to form priests and religious in their vocation and discernment. There has been ministry for young people as University Chaplain in Cardiff and at Atlantic College, South Glamorgan. There have been years of much travelling as National Chaplain of the Christian Life Community of England and Wales. There have  been the fulfilling years here at Farm Street, as parish priest and now as part-time assistant: so many weddings, christenings, funerals, Masses and confessions and getting funds to repair and refurbish the roof of the church. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice, as it says on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s. Or rather, here at Farm Street, Look up! I am grateful for all those who gave such generous support that we cleared the half a million debt in three years.

All these tasks were never chosen by me, but chosen for me, as with so many Jesuits. That is Jesuit obedience. It is for mission. It has led to wide and broad adventures, along with some headaches, beyond anything one would have expected. It has led to so many friendships with individuals and with families. Because I have come to realise more and more that our vocations are shared. As St. Augustine, the great favourite of Fr. Anthony Meredith, once said in a sermon: ‘ For  you I am a bishop; with you I am a Christian. ’To be a bishop is to have the fullness of priesthood, so those words can also apply  to priestly ministry, that being for the people of God and with the people of God must go together. That is true of  sacramental ministry, especially the Eucharist offered for and with .It is true, I think, of the preaching ministry, not just telling in the pulpit, but exploring together ( at least before the priest gets up there)  Scripture ,the experience of faith and doubt, the Church’s wisdom and teaching. It should be akin to retreat guiding and spiritual direction. When I made my retreat last week with the monks of Douai Abbey it struck me, as I was getting ready for this celebration: a priest’s vocation is for the sake of other vocations, many other vocations. My vocation is for your vocation.

Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, St. Ignatius. Thank you,  friends.

Fr Nye has asked any donations to go to Jesuit Missions, based in Wimbledon, where he was Superior for a number of years. Donate here >>