VI, a DESMOND
TN my odd moments of megalomania. I sometimes visualise myself as a Continental cardinal and not, I might add, a post-conciliar one but gloriously pre-conciliar—triumphalist, proud. self-confident, majestic. In other sless introverted moments I have often wondered what some of our bishops and priests would like to be had they not had vocations to the priesthood and knowing what they know now.
It was this question then that I put to some members of the Hierarchy and the clergy, asking them to answer in about 100 words and assuring them that the symposium would appear in my column
for this Christmas number. This is the time when I wear a party hat so no hostages have been given to fortune.
Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham cleverly turned the question back on myself and gained an ally in my wife. He said : "I am afraid your request is rather as though I were to ask you to write me 100 words on which woman you would like to marry if you had not already been married to your wife.
"As I have never considered for a moment being anything but a priest, an attempt to answer your question would be an artificial exercise. As long as I remember I have always had it in mind to be a priest."
Touché. Yet others were more explicit. Amidst the Hierarchy of England and Wales there lurks a jockey, a journalist, a possible doctor or teacher. in an emergency, and an editor (part-time) for the
The jockey? Let Bishop Cashman of Arundel and Brighton speak for himself : — "Your request to write 100 words I'm sure is not intended to be serious. It could be a catch-question — Gladstone, when asked if he were not an Englishman what would he like to be, replied: 'An Englishman, of course!'
"I am making an unwarranted assumption that were I not a priest I would be suc cessful in my chosen career so here it is: I would love to have been a successful jockey. The reason — my love of horses."
Bishop Grasar of Shrewsbury in his early years toyed with the idea of being a medic or a teacher: "I have been asked what I would have been had I not become a priest. I find this rather difficult to answer of course. I never gave the matter much thought. I do remember that in my earliest years, in common with most other small boys, I wanted to become a train-driver.
"Later on, when I began to think more seriously of the future, I thought I might try to become a doctor. I can't remember why, but I thought highly of the doctor's work and felt that doctors were able to do so much good for other people.
– "This desire -was superseded those who might have been my patients — when, later still, I had visions of becoming a teacher, "At the age of 14 or 15 I thought I would like to become a student for the priesthood. I cannot give any one particular reason for this: it was more an accumulation of reasons. For instance, the example of my parents, my admiration for the priests I had known, my experience as an altar server and so forth.
"Since then, although naturally I did have to think seriously whether I had a vocation or not, I have never really seriously considered what I would be if I were not a priest."
And the journalists? Obviously Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff but not so obviously Bishop Worlock of Portsmouth who said : — "If for any reason I could not obtain from my Bishop acceptance as a candidate for the priestly ministry. I should probably devote most of my time to the pursuit of other Bishops with a similar request.
"In my spare time I should like to be the Editor of the CATHOLIC HERALD to proclaim the Good News — and perhaps encourage others to offer themselves for the priesthood." ' I am not at all sure that I like that reference to part-time editing of this newspaper. After all, I have never visualised myself as a part-time Cardinal. But Bishop Worlock would be lucky because he would have Archbishop Murphy to do all the writing for him once he had
decided editorial policy. Archbishop Murphy has no dreams of editorship. He wants to be told what to do. He says: —
"I have never really thought about what I should have liked to be, if I had not been a priest, but like most people, I should not have wished for a radical change. I should have wished, as the lawyers say, something cy-pres and it strikes me that a good priest and a good journalist have something in common.
"The first heresy for both of them is to bore people. Hence, preachers and journalists must be serious but, must not take themselves too seriously. There must be a delicate mixture of teach-in, pray-in and laugh-in if they really want to be
"Another thing that attracts me : one of the agonies of preaching is pot knowing what to preach about. One of the joys I should hope to find in Journalism is being told what to write about. The blank sheet in my typewriter would be less crimsoned with my sweat of blood if I knew where my starting block was."
If Archbishop Murphy landed Bishop Worlock in a libel suit who would defend him? None other than Archbishop Roberts, Si., who would be an obvious success at the bar. He replied characteristically and succinctly to my question : — "Reduced by the Editor to the lowly lay state, but still knowing what I know now, I would wish for myself the talent and resources of a Civil lawyer: so to further the radical reform of canon law now beginning to be taken seriously by the laity of America and Britain.
"My reward for such virtue would be, as a judge with inquisitorial powers, to hang those accused first, with trial later."
Father Thomas Corbishley, SL, would not find the academic life uncongenial and being a Jesuit he naturally seeks the best — a fellowship of All Souls : — "For me the academic life has always held considerable attraction. If then I must answer the question set by you I should have found great satisfaction in being elected to a Fellowship of All Souls and in settling down to the peaceful life of the scholar. (Had the wishes of the Founder of All Souls still been effective, one might have combined the two vocations ... )
"Or am I simply saying that I might have become a different sort of Jesuit? Or a Benedictine?"
At a time when it is trendy to denigrate all politics and politicians it was heartening to hear that Fr. Peter de Rosa, Vice: Principal of Corpus Christi College, London, would be prepared to enter the political arena.
"A priest is ordained, like St. Paul, not primarily to baptise but to preach the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ. He undertakes to testify explicitly to eternal life, to the life which is within and yet beyond life, hence beyond this task I would like to have witnessed to Christ in the world of politics.
"It seems to me that many people who have tried to help others locally and on the level of charity find out soon enough that their efforts meet with little success. This is because broader political and social issues have still to be tackled.
"None of these problems can be solved by political action alone. None can be solved without it. If I were not a priest, I think my conscience may well have directed me to political life."
I naturally expected Fr. Peter Hebblethwaite, Si., editor of The Month, to plump for Grub Street but score-reading triumphs over proof-reading and he has visions of conducting the Halle : —
"All baptised Christians are priests. All baptised Christians have a vocation. In whatever I might have done. I hope I would have looked for some way of reconciling people (to building up communities, and of mediating Christ.
"Since my vocation has now brought me to the edge of Fleet Street and publishing, it might well have done so in another existence. A reporter can tell the truth, promote understanding, fight causes, remove prejudice. Speculative fastasies about might-havebeens are bad for the soul and the psyche.
"But so as not to spoil the Christmas spirit, I will disclose mine : I would have liked to do something at once necessary and useless like conducting the Halle orchestra. I did once buy a baton with that in mind. But I would, of course, have had to change my name to Himmelweit."
After all that it would be churlish not to accept Archbishop Dwyer's challenge: so here goes. If I had not married my wife I would have liked to marry my wife. And thank you, Mr. Gladstone, for the