There’s a Carry On pun in which Kenneth Williams’s highly strung character’s excuse that he was “once a weak man” is interpreted as though “weak” were an adjective of time. For some reason it sprang to mind when I heard the news that the Catholic Herald was going to become a monthly magazine.
I have been a once-a-week man since I started writing for the Herald almost 20 years ago. The column began as the diary of a (relatively) young, newly ordained priest; the impressions of a (relatively) weak man trying to reflect on the awesome new experiences he was having. It was a diary because it was my own musings on these experiences and not a definitive interpretation. The first years I found it relatively easy to write, but after a few years of producing something every week it feels as if you have said everything you have got to say. So you inevitably start saying some of them again, hopefully with a few new angles. The late Cormac Rigby said that priests were a little like newsreaders, and if we were to proclaim the faith as being exciting and relevant, we had constantly to be engaged in developing fresh understandings of it ourselves.
The diary began when I was an ‘‘ordinary’’ pastor ministering in parish, school and hospital. For some years now my responsibilities have been different and I have concentrated particularly on working to bring spiritual and psychological healing to those affected by child abuse through the international ministry of Grief to Grace. I combine this work with spiritual direction, till recently through a rewarding school chaplaincy, and work with those who have spiritual afflictions. Most of this is, of necessity, confidential, so there has been less straw for making journalistic bricks in recent years, though plenty of powerful experiences. Many of these bear testimony to the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction; in many weeks the column could have written itself if sensation rather than discretion were directing the reportage.