All of you are one in Christ Jesus

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Caz Pinder is studying for an MA in Biblical and Pastoral Theology at Liverpool Hope University and hopes to become an Anglican priest.  She began her vocation journey with an Ignatian week of guided prayer.

I have been searching for years to find where I fit in this world

I am a fully qualified social worker and I previously worked as an agency Independent Reviewing Officer for Children's Services. But, as you can imagine given all the controversy surrounding this type of work it is a very stressful job these days. For quite some time I felt very unfulfilled in my work and in life.

God has spoken to me several times over the last forty years but I have not always listened or I have thought, ‘no he can’t be talking to me, I’m not good enough to do that’. Over the years, I have dipped in and out of my faith, continuously pushing it to one side and not really listening to what God was asking of me, not because I did not want to listen, but what God was asking seemed impossible. I thought it would never happen because I was not good enough and society would not allow it.

If I am totally honest I have been searching for years to find where I fit in this world, don’t get me wrong I have a brilliant husband, a great family who almost fulfil me, the nice home, modern gadgets and earning good money are all fine but they don’t fulfil my spirit. There has always been something packed away deep inside which is really me, God has been calling me but I have ignored him. I felt, I was on a continuous search for fulfillment and yet, the answer was inside of me, packed away and I could not unpack it because of how I viewed me.

I knew what that deepest gladness was, but it filled me with dread

Fortunately, and I don't know why, but God has a strong hold on me and for some reason or other he just won't let go! He has just waited patiently at my side.

Then in May 2016, I enrolled on a guided daily prayer retreat run by Ignatian Outreach at the Catholic parish church. The five-day course was brilliant especially the daily one to one sessions with a spiritual advisor. My spiritual advisor tore away that initial wrapping, then encouraged me to start removing the rest, it was as if they just knew.

Over the week various situations were discussed and we talked about discernment, coincidences which occur in life which lead you towards the deepest ‘gladness in your heart’. Those few words, for me, were massive because I one hundred percent knew what that deepest gladness was, but it filled me with dread.

I was 53 years of age and had reached a stage in my life where I needed to deal with it and test it out.

The sessions made me realise how much I did not know and understand about this God who loved me.

Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13: 11Why would God choose me?

In my third session with the spiritual advisor the question about what the deepest gladness in my heart was arose. I feared discussing it because it was the package which I had kept ignoring. So, I said it, ‘I want to be a priest, but the Catholic church is not going to allow women in.’ But it was not dismissed like I expected it to be, it was explored further. I was able to open up and say there is this thing in every part of my body, in everything around me, in the whole of my life that just wants more of what God is offering, to understand God more and to do more of his work to fulfill this deepest gladness in my heart.

But, then came the negatives, I’m not good enough, I lack knowledge of the scriptures, why would God choose me, how will I ever preach the word of God to others. There was all the controversy which encompassed the ordination of women.

God really speaks to me when I play the trumpet for him

Suggestions were made which inspired me to move forward, and we prayed. There were no definite answers or solutions at this stage, but what I did begin to accept was God loved me. Finding space each day to pray enabled more wrappings to be removed. By the way, prayer works best for me, by blasting a few hymns on the trumpet, God really speaks to me when I play the trumpet for him, I feel like I am flying and he is speaking directly to me. Something else which I learned from the retreat and works well for me is, to stand and let God look at me, just as I am. It makes me very emotional, the only description I can offer is God is present with me.

The week came to an end and although I had opened the package, it still felt like there were hundreds of wrappings which needed to be removed and they were never ending, I have to remember I have spent forty years wrapping the package so it won’t unwrap overnight, it is going to take time. I definitely finished the retreat armed with an enormous pair of scissors and Gods love, together they were going to help me cut through those wrappings.

God has already accepted me and I needed to accept myself

Over the next few days, I found myself looking at me, God has already accepted me and I needed to accept myself. I needed to love me just as God does. I also accepted I needed to pursue the deepest gladness in my heart. If I was going to move forward and take the rest of those wrappings of the package, then I need some theological background, knowledge of the scriptures and preaching and a better prayer life. The passion and love I had for God were a starting point but they were not enough.

I applied and was accepted on an MA in Biblical and Pastoral Theology at Liverpool Hope University. This was God at work because, despite the fact I applied for the course, I really believed I had no chance. I started the course last October and what a rocky road it has been and wow what I have learned about God. The bible has taught so much and strengthened my faith even more.

I know the deepest gladness in my heart is to serve God and I am sure he wants me to do this through the ordained ministry. The journey so far has not been easy but with God’s help it is happening. I have had to accept the Catholic church in my lifetime is not going to accept women priests. So, unfortunately, to pursue the ordained ministry, I had to move to an Anglican church, this has not been easy for all kinds of reasons.

One of the biggest battles we face in life is ourselves

I attend an Anglican church which has a woman priest. She is brilliant and very supportive. The denomination might have changed from Catholic to Anglican but I assure you God has not changed at all. He is one hundred percent behind me.

I have recently secured a new job as a chaplain looking after the spiritual well-being of the elderly and people with dementia. In six months, the church I now attend will hopefully put me forward for the ordained ministry and I will be accepted. Only God knows the answer but I will wait patiently and continue serving him.

One of the biggest battles we face in life is ourselves, we must accept who we are, we must love ourselves and accept God really loves us and let him affirm this on a daily basis.

What we must remember is God does not always answer our prayers or provide an obvious answer straight away. But if we keep praying he will show us the way. I was not the best at quiet prayer although now 12 months on it is a part of my daily routine. Prayer is about your personal relationship with God and if that means blasting a few hymns on the trumpet, or listening to some worship music or a conversation whilst you are cleaning, this is all fine.

I am Ignatian

For me God is God; it does not matter what denomination you are. I am Ignatian, just as Paul said in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV) ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’. God wants unity between all his people, we are all equal if we are baptized in the lord. And finally:

‘brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (Cor 13:11-13 NRSV)

Go Deeper

What is the essence of being a Jesuit priest? The late Derrick Maitland SJ puts it simply.

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