On Tuesday, 2nd June, the college celebrated a marvelous end of the exam schedule in one of those "moments of life that make it worth living", said one of my friends, in talking about the blessing of Louis' Diner, here at the seminary. Let me explain.
Mgr Louis McRaye, a saint in the making, was the Spiritual Director at Oscott for 11 years through the 1980s and into the 1990s. In his time he always encouraged the students to gather around a table and share a meal. As he said, on Tuesday, you can really get to know someone around the table. Such was his hospitality and draw to encourage socialising amongst the student body of 103 guys that he gave up the ground floor to his bailiwick whilst on the staff. Henceforth, this diner/kitchen has been known as Louis' Diner and is an amazing facility for student use.
It has, I'm sure, been blessed many times over during the years, but the current students wanted to have the good old monsignor come by and bless it for good measure. Fr Louis is now 94 and celebrating a mere 47 years as a priest. Though this has been a desire for as long as I've been in seminary, which is six years, it was high time we did it. So it was organised. We have his picture on the wall, and now have the great honour that he has blessed us and the room. Fr Dave Cain was up to Oscott to visit one of the Nottingham students, Neil, since he is the Vocations Director now. Fr Dave told us that he was one of the students who had decorated it during the late 1990s when it came into being as a Diner. What wonderful fortuitous coincidence that we should have the entire history of the Diner present at the same time.
We enjoyed a wonderful, informal High Tea for the occassion, thanks to Craig, Michael and Craig for their expert guidance in such matters. Though the great Anne did bake for the occasion, it was a Tea to remember, including two options of tea, with leaves of course. The Fortnum and Mason smoked earl grey didn't do it for me in the event.
Mgr McRaye regaled the students with tales of his life and priesthood and had them, quite literally, sitting at his feet; though this picture shows them kneeling almost in a state of reverence. It was interesting to observe the dynamics of the staff and students in the room. Now this is not a criticism of the students, but we can be a little reticent with visitors to college, of whom there are a great many, and the staff are left to do most the hospitality. On this occasion the worm had turned. The students appeared to be mesmerised by the presence on the man. Do you know why? I think it is because from Fr McRaye shone out the joy of priesthood. He has a wonderful twinkle in his eye and you can just tell he's enjoyed every moment of the last 47 years. Golden jubilees are, one supposes, always a time of joy and excitement, but I think Fr Louis is very much looking forward to his. He told us he'd spent one summer marrying many of his students from his chaplaincy days at Warwick university. 30,000 miles he clocked pootling around the country to keep his promises. What a witness!
Thank you to all who helped organise the event, those who baked, and cooked (there were 72 vol au vents), and brewed and drove and blessed and proclaimed the gospel and came along. You have all contributed to the coming Kingdom. One of those moments, and you really had to be there, was when he spoke to Roger. Now Roger knew Fr Louis from his time at Warwick university and was in his early years of seminary when Father was on the staff. After Fr Louis left Roger took some time away from seminary an d has returned, due to be ordained on 27th of this month. As Roger introduced himself again, Fr Louis was heard to ask "are you still here" suggesting poor Roger had never been away and spent. A hoot, but like I say, you had to be there.
As we drove the monsignor back to his presbytery we couldn't help but seek his pearl of wisdom for a long and joyous priesthood. Simple, he says, pray and visit. Be faithful to the Lord and visit families whenever you can. Advice that has been repeated time and again and one I plan to follow.