There have, of course, been many ordinations over the last few weeks; and tomorrow the lives of three young Dominicans at Blackfriars, Oxford, will be changed, as they are ordained – two to the Sacred Priesthood, one to the Diaconate (and your prayers are asked, of course, for all of them) : and then they will go off in various directions to start their ministry.
At the same time, I am engaged in moving : in my case only my office, but even that is proving to be more exciting (in the Chinese sense) than I had expected . . . and it has led me to think a little about the whole business of development, and movement, and to recognize what I suspect is some sort of paradox.
T. S. Eliot said in ‘Little Gidding’ :
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
Rudyard Kipling also said something which seems not irrelevant :
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
The two new Priests will go to their new assignments; the new Deacon will spend the summer in pastoral work before returning to his studies in September . . . but they will all take with them the formation process of the last few years : the time in Cambridge, and Oxford (and Rome, in fr Thomas’ case) . . . the friends they have made, the good times they have enjoyed and the bad they have gone through . . . and if I know anything, the meals they have cooked for others, and those of others’ cooking which they have eaten (and not all Dominicans can cook well straight away !).
The more I look at it, the more I think that Eliot and Kipling were wise. Knowing who and what you are is fine : but knowing all the things about you – all the things you aren’t – is also important, because by recognizing and acknowledging those things you bring yourself into a definition which strengthens you and makes you more rounded, and thus more of the person God created you to be.
The Greeks used to say ‘gnōthi seauton’ – ‘Know Thyself’ : and I believe that this is incredibly valuable advice; but it also seems to me important to recognize that the only way to do that is to go out, wander hither and yon, and find out where you started from by coming back again . . . and if on the way you get lost for a while, then you probably find out even more.
I pray that these young friars will learn still more about themselves tomorrow, and in the days, months, and years ahead; and I pray, also, that you (and I) will do the same.
(The post has been updated thanks to Fr PF - see Comments - who made good my forgetfulness about the works of T. S. Eliot !)