Wilfrid McGreal



A brother's story: Ministry as a Carmelite helps me discover God in my life

As a Carmelite, prayer is at the heart of my life, as I try to live following Jesus. I am part of a praying community that lives among the people, so if I say I love God it will only be real if I love the people around me.

I believe that I have been called into being by God, a God who leads me into an ever deeper relationship. My life is a gift, a gift that has unlimited possibilities as I allow God freedom in my life. If that is how and who I am, I realize that all human beings are precious and like me have this amazing potential to relate to their creator God and flourish. Also scripture tells me that all human beings are created in the image of God and that is the source of our dignity.

So as I work with people, as I minister as a friar, I am constantly encountering the face of God in each and every person I meet. For many years I was involved in work with young people either in retreats, university chaplaincy or teaching. Being alongside young people was a challenge, as you encountered honesty, openness and a desire to make the most of their lives. However the business of life and the competing messages the young receive made it important to have something to say that touched their hearts, something they could accept as real. This meant I had to relate to God more deeply and find a way of sharing my relationship with God and recognizing the divine in the life of that student or the young person searching for meaning.

Other people can be so obviously the face of God in the way they are and what they do. A mother caring for children with a strong nurturing presence; someone who is terminally ill and yet is ready to share care and love with you when you come to minister to them. Those encounters with people who have let God shape their lives and who even in old age are fresh, new, humorous and still creative - these are life enhancing, life giving people. At other times I have encountered folk who have suffered domestic violence or other forms of cruelty and injustice, yet they can forgive and forget. If there is anyone I have met who stands for the forgiveness of God it's Gordon Wilson who came to preach reconciliation at Aylesford. Gordon lost his daughter in the IRA bombing at Enniskillen, his response in honouring his daughter's memory was to give his life and energy in the work for peace. He wanted to preach the Gospel by living the spirit of healing.

Finally perhaps what is important is to trust that nobody and no situation is "godless", everyone and all human situations bear God's imprint. By faith and prayer I know as a Carmelite I am called to work with the loving God and to let everyone, wherever, be a showing of God. The surface of violence, hatred or indifference needs breaking open to let the spirit have freedom to enter and to create something new. I believe as a Carmelite I am part of that new freedom enabling the loving God to be at the centre of life.