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June 2016


Fr Roy Pannell, a retired parish priest living in Chesterfield, helps us to consider this question and how we can find the right answer for ourselves.


We have all been asked what we want to be when we grow up. I always wanted to answer to be rich and happy. But I didn’t. I could have added (and meant it), and make other people happy and rich too. But I didn’t. In a TV advert shown in the 1980s children were asked what they were going to be when they grew up. There were the usual replies: a doctor, an airline pilot, a nurse, a pop star. Then a little girl aged about seven piped up. “When I grow up my mummy says that I’m going to be a proper little madam!!!” I wonder where she is now.


God wants us to be happy. Of course He does. He made us to be happy, both in this life and in the life eternal. I have a very strong feeling that the seeds of our future happiness are being sown now. In other words the preparations have begun. So, the ways in which we pass our time here, in this funny old world, are not just for now. The roads we take now have a bearing on what is to be in the future. I hope you understand that. I think I do.


I also have a strong feeling that, as Jesus teaches us, how we spend our time here, is not just for our own benefit. The Lord Jesus was and is a man for others. That is how He lived his life and He wants us to be people for others too. He wants us to climb out of the horrible hole of selfishness and self-pity, and experience the happiness of being and living for others.


Now, of course, we shall all do that in different ways, depending on the gifts we have been given. If one friend of mine decided to sing for others, he would only bring them more grief! If I decided to dance with others to make them happy, they would have to hobble to the doctors with bruised feet! We may be equal, but we are not identical. How boring life would be if we were. How, when and what we do for others will also depend on our opportunities and our circumstances.


Do you remember Malala? She was very seriously wounded in her home village for insisting that she and other girls should have access to proper education. Eventually, she recovered and has become a world ambassador for young people. She was even invited to speak at the United Nations Assembly in New York. What she will go on to do, we don’t know, but Malala is Malala, I am me and you are you. How will I, how will you, use your gifts and opportunities to make a difference for good? One thing is sure. Our loving God will give us the strength so that our lives will glorify him.


When I was much younger, I was aware that God would, from time to time, give me little nudges, showing me what He wanted me to do. In the end, all the nudges came together like the picture on a jig-saw puzzle, and the message was very clear. In fact it is still very clear, fifty years later. Yes, he wanted me to be a priest. I am still surprised at that every morning and I am still discovering why, and how to be a priest. The church will always need priests, pastors, monks and nuns and every young Christian, male or female, should consider these paths. It may be for you. He may be nudging you.


Of course there are hundreds and thousands of other paths. Now to the big question, how does God do His nudging? The answer is through other people, friends or strangers, or through something seen, read or heard. One time I remember compassion being stirred up in me when I saw an elderly, disabled lady, in a cafe struggling with a tray that held a cup and a plate, whilst trying to manage a walking stick. How else does God nudge you? It could be through your heart, your mind and your imagination. Your imagination helps you to picture what might be so that you say, “Can I see myself doing that?” It may even be the reason why as young kids, we dressed up and played doctors and nurses, batman and spider woman or space men. I had a cowboy hat and a gun. I didn’t have a horse so my bicycle became my trusty steed! Pope St John 23rd dressed up as a priest when he was very young, so did St John Vianney and so did my dad!


So, listen to your heart, listen to your mind, and use your imagination. God’s one desire is that you should be happy and fulfilled in whatever you choose to do and that happiness will come to perfection in our life with him for ever. Do you remember Samuel from the Old Testament? He was in the care of Eli, the priest of God. During the night he heard a voice calling him, so dutifully he went to Eli and said, “What do you want?” Eli said that he wanted nothing and sent Samuel back to bed. This happened a number of times. Eventually Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling Samuel. He told Samuel what to say if the call came again. When it did, Samuel spoke the words he had been given, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening!” Finally here are some words of encouragement from St Paul, “Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord, and not for men. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23)