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Given at the Mass for Patrons of the Sick and Retired Priests Fund, at Westminster Cathedral on 17th June 2022

The Lord’s Prayer. 'Truly the summary of the whole Gospel,'[1] said Tertullian. 'The most perfect of prayers,'[2] declared Aquinas. No wonder we never tire of it!

Part of the reason is captured by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which chooses to say, 'The Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time as it reveals the Father to us.'[3] The way we hear this Prayer recorded by Saint Matthew indeed reveals much about our Father; not least that he is a merciful Father; but at the same time it reveals us to be, potentially, short on mercy.

Jesus seeks to drive home the point when he says, after teaching us to pray Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us: 'Yes, if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.'[4]

'Mercy.' A word used probably more frequently than any other by Pope Francis; because, as far as he is concerned, mercy is key. When speaking of mercy, he likes often to quote St John of the Cross, who said, 'At the end of our lives, we shall be judged on the basis of love.' Pope Francis goes on to explain that St John means by love our attention to the Works of Mercy.

Dear Patrons of the Sick and Retire Priests’ Fund, I wish to encourage you tonight that what you are about is nothing less than living the Corporal Works of Mercy; nothing less than love. Because, through your generosity, you ensure that the Sick and Retired Priests of our Diocese will never go without, never need have fear for their material provision. After thirty-six years of priesthood, I can confirm that priesthood is the most wonderful of vocations.

'Vocation is the answer to the question, "Who am I",' said Pope St John Paul II; and I would heartily concur. But Pope John Paul would also remind priests that, if joyful, it is a vocation which should also be marked by sacrifice. For many priests this entails the sacrifice of home and financial security.

Yet, by the same token, we are all agreed, I am sure, no priest should be worried, as retirement approaches, that he might lack for basic subsistence.

Dear Patrons, you are here because you are convinced of this; you know this; you believe this. And I hope it warms your heart to think, that, when your own time comes to approach heaven’s gate, priests will be among the first to seek you out and say to you, 'You gave for me to eat and to drink; to find a home. Thank you. Now let me take you to meet the Lord.'

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church #2761
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid. #2783
[4] Mt. 6, 15