On Thursday 21st September, I attended a conference in London.

After the close of the conference, I had an hour to myself before I needed to head for my train.

As I was in the vicinity of Victoria Station, I decided to go to Westminster Cathedral, and pay my respects at the tomb of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who had been laid to rest under the tenth station of the cross a week earlier.

As I knelt at his place of rest, and quietly recited the rosary, I felt a strong sense of fatigue and a need for rest.

I have fallen into this habit of saying “only seven years to go and then I can retire”

I resolved, as I knelt at the grave of this very good and humble man to refrain from thinking that my problems will be solved when I finally stop working – I know they won’t be, so why do I keep pretending that they will.

As I walked around the cathedral, a choir started to sing solemn vespers, and I felt a very deep sense of calm and peacefulness which has been absent from my life in recent months.

I was surprised to see that there was an opportunity for me to go to confession – that is what is known in the Catholic Church as The Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I tend to keep up my ritual attendance to Christmas and Easter, but not much in addition to those great feasts, particularly as I have felt in recent years a disappointment and a frustration at the limited value I have been able to attach to its outcome.

On Thursday 21st September, my visit to confession at Westminster Cathedral was transforming.

The priest, on hearing that I struggle to manage a deep and wounding inner-conflict within my marriage,because I am gay was remarkable in his willingness to listen, to guide and counsel in words which resonated with my own secular practices which I have developed through integral coaching.

His words were a soothing balm to my restless soul, because they were empathetic, they were reasoned, they were lacking in judgement or specifying direction in line with teaching etc etc.

He wanted to make sure that I knew that he had heard my pain, and my confession was not for being gay (of course not) it was the impact that my frustration has on others, particularly my wife.

I am proud that my church has priests within it, like the priest who listened and spoke with me at confession, who want the church to be where we are, prepared to meet us in the midst of our suffering and to soothe and counsel not from a position of dogma but from a place of love.

My next blog will be: Why I Think Looking Ahead is Good Practice

William Defoe


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