Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ENFOLDED IN CHRIST: The Inner Life of a Priest


On May 31st Canterbury Press will be publishing the book* I’ve written concerning priestly spirituality.  From my background as a Franciscan friar for twenty-five years, an interest in Ignatian and Benedictine spirituality and ten years as Rector of an urban parish, this book seeks to explore the heart of priestly spirituality.  It is not about ministry, mission, preaching, evangelisation, pastoral care etc.  but how, through our ‘abiding in the heart of Jesus’, we realise our vocation.

I've also addressed concerns that have emerged in my ministry of spiritual direction and pastoral supervision over many years and drawn on my experience as Vocations Adviser and Novice Guardian for the Franciscans.

It's different from some other books on this subject in exploring matters such as:. the place of confession in the life and ministry of the priest; life as a deacon; praying the Daily Office; Eucharistic living; spiritual direction and supervision; sexuality; letting go of our roles, detachment etc...  It also makes wide use of the Principles of the Society of St. Francis and the dynamic of the Ignatian Exercises and keeps in mind that not all priests will exercise their ministry in a parish context.  It might be summed up as an extended reflection on words of St. John Vianney said, “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

It’s aimed at those considering and preparing for ordination as well as those who are ordained. It should also be of interest and help to spiritual directors, pastoral supervisors, clergy mentors, those concerned with the well-bring of the clergy – and any Christian interested in developing their spirituality.

Others have written about the ministry of the priest and some have sought to look at how ‘being’ can help ‘doing’ and I trust what I have written will complement some of these.  Apart from what one might expect in a book like this – chapters on Prayer, the Divine Office etc. it also includes material about:

            v Being rooted on God’s love for us;
            v Realising the need for constant ‘conversion of the heart’ and confession;
            v Issues concerning formation and formators;
            v Eucharistic living;
            v Looking at ‘being beneath the role’;
            v Issues of sexuality, celibacy and the single life;
            v Letting go.

For inspiration I take one of the motto’s of the Benedictines: Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus:
That in all things God may be glorified

From the Foreword by Christopher, Bishop of Southwark: 'The tradition he inherits, distils and passes on is a broadly based one, in which writers and thinkers as various as George Herbert, Maya Angelou and Paul Tillich all have a part to play. But at its heart is the deep hope of humanity this side of eternity, to take the shape which God purposes for each of us, to grow into our true selves, to become the people it is good for us to be.’ 

This is a very welcome and insightful addition to the corpus of books on vocation and priesthood, bringing John-Francis’ depth of wisdom and experience for reflection for those preparing for ordained ministry and in their early years. Further, though, I was personally delighted and challenged by his insights after many years of ordained ministry. Thank you, J-F.
                                             - The Rev. Canon Neil Evans (Director of Ordinands, Diocese of London)

Although John-Francis Friendship’s book is written specifically with priests and ordinands in mind it is also a book for every Christian person called, in John-Francis’s words, to 'live out their Baptismal promises; to deepen the conversion of their heart to Christ’. This book reflects hard won and faithful experience and offers itself as a valuable companion to all who choose to walk that narrow and blessed way.
- Dr. Meg Warner (Author of Abraham: A journey through Lent, London: SPCK, 2015)

John-Francis Friendship’s deep thinking and reflection in these pages will help those who seek to journey and grow in their relationship with God.
            -  Bishop Ric Thorpe  (Bishop of Islington; previously Bishop of London’s Adviser for Church Planting)                                            

Father John-Francis has given us a gift as he speaks from the heart and with gentle wisdom about the joys and challenges facing those who consecrate their lives to Jesus as his priests.
- Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS (Vicar of Christ Church, Melbourne and member of the Council of Bishop’s for The Society)

As someone who doesn't go to church, I found it a fascinating insight into the life and journey of a priest/vicar. I also found it an 'accessible' read!
                                                                                 - Chris Marlowe (TV and Film Costume Designer)

*  ISBN-13: 9781786220462,  RRP £12.99 ($21)

UK: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220462/enfolded-in-christ
USA: https://www.amazon.com/Enfolded-Christ-Inner-Life-Priest/dp/1786220466

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