“A vocation is a call to the person’s destiny in life. It is a call to be who God intended us to be”. Fr. Liam Finnerty, Carmelite Friar
For many of us from the Sacred Heart Parish, we fondly remember Fr. Liam. Accompanied by Fr Yamai, a fellow Friar, they had come to join Fr Paul in celebrating the special Mass for the 2019 National Prayer Weekend.
You can watch the video of this Mass here including Fr Liam and Fr Yamai’s wonderful homilies.
A vocation is a call to the person’s destiny in life. It is a call to be who God intended us to be. This identity is discovered most fully when we meet Christ in a personal encounter and from this deep place in our nature, we find all the rest falls into place. Every human being is called to this fulness of life. This is the vocation of humanity: to know and be loved by God and in return to know and to love God.
“Every time I was in the monastery, I experienced a deep peace which had a ‘presence’ that I did not recognise at the time, but which I later realised was Christ.”
Fr. Liam Finnerty.
Listening to the stories of those who are older and longer on the road of life have in every culture provided ways for the next generation to find their way and to learn how to listen and respond to what they are called to be in life. The stories of mothers and fathers to their children, the stories of friends and extended family, all provide the network of wisdom that leads the way for a new generation to learn from the success and failures of those who have gone ahead.
And so it is with a Carmelite vocation to the community life and service that I have followed. A poem I read in a school magazine when I was 12 years old impressed me greatly and I still know it by heart over 40 years after I first read it;
It is no crock of gold on the mountain,
That beckons me from the plains,
Or the garish fame of the nations,
That bids me rend my chains.
It is the call of a road in springtime,
The open road of youth,
That bids me turn my laughing footsteps,
In the noble quest of truth.
Some pity the lad to follows,
The Master’s noble call,
Some scorn the one who swallows
The foolishness of it all.
But the road winds steadily uphill,
Excelsior night and day,
And the One who travels beside me
Has called Himself the Way.
Conrad Minogue, 1968
But it began earlier for me. I served mass at the local monastery of the Discalced Carmelites in my hometown in the west of Ireland. As servers we were trained on the liturgy of the Mass and we were given spiritual talks at various times to develop our understanding of Christ and the Church. We also had socials and outings which created a small gospel community and we were led by an inspiring young priest who was committed to Christ. It was a community of over 20 men who created an atmosphere of silence and deep peace. Every time I was in the monastery, I experienced a deep peace which had a ‘presence’ that I did not recognise at the time, but which I later realised was Christ.
I quietly determined within myself, ‘One day I will be part of this community. This is what I want to be. The tennis player Novak Djokovic describes watching the finals at Wimbledon, when he was a child in his home country of Serbia, and he saying to himself, I will win Wimbledon one day! And he has done this several times.
When I was a teenager and the other options in life began to offer glittering possibilities, I began to question my choice. A few people I confided in said that the Abbey was very severe. They never eat meat and they must get up to pray during the night! It is strange, this never bothered me. It was the atmosphere and the sense of peace that this produced convinced me that there was some inner gentle force that kept this together and the only way you could know it was by walking in the door to ‘follow Him.’ This prevailed over the obvious temptations that all young people struggle with. And so I began one year of training in the silence of what is called Noviciate. With four other young men we began a challenging training in living a life of prayer and solitude removed from all distractions. After this year we were free to accept Profession. We had the invitation to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Two of the guys left before Profession as they did not think they wanted this life. We progressed on to the house of studies where we studied philosophy for two years and then theology for four years. And this led to final Profession and Ordination to the priesthood.
I spent my first eight years after ordination as Dean of the Carmelite School which was a rewarding experience. After this I was sent to work in a retreat community teaching spirituality courses and talks on the scriptures and the Carmelite doctrine on prayer. The years rolled on and I worked in a prison setting for a time, worked with the homeless and did some spiritual educational work with our communities of brothers in Nigeria. I was part of the formation team for a number of years which involved training men who were now preparing to be Carmelite brothers and priests.
So as I reflect on my life I give thanks mightily to God whose mercy has guided me and lead me down the years and I pray that this story will help you to find where your vocation is and where Christ would like you to live it out.
Every choice is valuable if we give our hearts to Christ unreservedly and trust him to teach us the greatest secret of love and loving, It is like Christ, to give yourself completely and with conviction to the people and situations your life places you in.
Fr. Liam Finnerty.
More from the Carmelites
Fr.Liam and his brother Carmelites offer everybody a new perspective on spirituality, peace and prayer. They also provide a number of spiritual retreats, courses and breaks either online or at their residence in the beautiful Boars Hill setting in Oxford.
You can find out more on their new website and by following their new facebook page which also has a number of video reflections which provide a deeper insight into the Carmelite way of life.
Thank you and God Bless – Grania Egan