The seven Catholic priests who walked into a bar and were initially turned away by staff, who thought they were members of a stag party, have done more for the image of the Church than a hundred popes.
Here were seven perfectly normal blokes, fond of beer, celebrating the beginning of a life of dirt-poor pay, chastity, obedience, and probably also a fair amount of loneliness. Not for them families, mortgages and exciting careers. So naturally people ask why anybody in the 21st century would embrace such a life, never mind celebrate it.
If the answer to that were given from a pulpit, few would bother listening. But when a chap is sitting on a bar stool, swigging Rev James ale and checking his mobile, you listen because you cannot equate the normality of the man with the seeming abnormality of his choice of life. You listen and you learn.
One enterprising journalist from a tabloid newspaper decided to do just that and interviewed some of them about their lives and what had led them to the priesthood. One was an aerospace engineer who had taken a 95 per cent pay cut. Their ages ranging from late twenties to nearly forty, all had undergone seven years of training.
The seminarians in the original story are enjoying a brief spell of fame, the episode being reported around the world, and requests for selfies abound. The chances are that the people who met them and for whom it is their first encounter with the cloth will talk about it and remember it and in later years may draw upon it in their own journeys.
I am glad there are seven seminarians about to be sent off into parishes, because yet again my local church is losing its priest. I wrote about this in June last year and wondered then how long Father James would last, as by then we had clocked up five priests in seven years.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection