For this reason I bow my knees before the Father. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints…the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3: 14, 18-19)
From Monday 2nd July until Thursday 5th July 2018 the deacons and priests of the RC Bishopric of the Forces, who were able, gathered together at the Armed Forces’ Chaplaincy Centre, Amport House, for a time of prayer, reflection, study and fraternal enrichment – such a unique and blessed time! Our aim was to pause and to consciously thank God for all we are and have as the RC clergy of the British Forces and, crucially, to discern prayerfully what we termed ‘next steps’.
We were truly gifted by the presence of Redemptorist priest, Father Tim Buckley, who accompanied us in all our work and prayer both as facilitator and spiritual guide. Indeed, throughout, Fr Tim rooted our minds and hearts in a passage from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and I wish to direct you there now, and I invite you to prayerfully ponder these words – Ephesians 3:14-21.
Fr Tim returned to this passage time and again and in doing so, and by sharing his own personal life stories, helped us to grow in mutual love and missionary zeal, as members of the one Catholic mission to the Forces. Our time together ended, most fittingly, with the celebration of the Eucharist – a Mass to remember and commend to our merciful Father our forebears, those priests who made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives during the First World War.
As I drove away from Amport House with a clearer sense of our collective identity and task I contemplated all we had shared – our sorrows and joys of the past and present; our fears and hopes for the unknown future. My overarching feeling was, and is, that of a renewed trust in Jesus Christ, in the present, and therefore of joyful hope, for the future. Fr Tim had reminded us, by word and witness, that beyond all our activity, no matter how valid, we are to be humbly about God’s work within the vineyard of the Forces community for it is his Kingdom that we are building. In this we can be confident, for our Lord has promised to be with us always (cf. Matt 28:20) through the Spirit of the Lord whom the Father has sent (cf. Jn. 14:16-17; Acts 2:1-4) and who is indeed upon us (cf. Is. 61:1).
I end this piece, as I began it, with words – a prayer – from St Paul:
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you [we] may be strengthened in your [our] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your [our] hearts through faith, as you [we] are being rooted and grounded in love.
Deacon Dave Skillen RAF
6th July 2018