Paul O'Reilly SJ
Paul became a Jesuit in 1987. Alongside his Jesuit training he trained as a medical doctor. Paul spent 3 years in Guyana but after his tertianship he returned to the UK. Paul now works as a GP at the Mary Hickey clinic for street homeless within the Cardinal Hume Centre. He is Director of the Mount Street Jesuit Centre.
Paul is also a regular contributor to the province blog "Ignatian Insight" where you can read some of his homilies and stories of the way he has been called to serve God, being that most unusual of things, Priest/Doctor. Our blog >>
Read this post of one of his earliest community life experiences.
My Way of Serving Jesus
‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
The year I was ordained, they put me into a parish in North London. I was young, keen and enthusiastic, so they thought they had better put me somewhere safe, where I couldn’t do too much damage.
And when I arrived, I unpacked and the first thing I did was to wash my clothes. One of the others remarked to me – “you don’t have to bother doing your own washing. Here, we have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us.”
I met Mrs. Jones. She was 82, very bent and stiff with arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a young fit boy should make her wash his clothes made my blood boil with the sense of injustice. I would rather have a millstone hung round my neck than add to her burdens in life. So, for several weeks I washed my own clothes and felt very righteous about it indeed. That should have been my warning. Generally, it is only when I’m feeling righteous that I do really stupid things.
Then, one day, my superior took me to one side. He was a very wise and gentle man. And he said to me: “Paul, I need to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash.”
And I asked, “But why?” And I went on to tell him why I thought that this was the most terrible clericalist imposition on a poor old sick woman. I fear I may even have got in a paragraph or two of Vatican II on the vocation of the laity and one or two quotations from Paolo Freire. And, as I talked, I could see that, in a very quiet way, my superior was getting very angry indeed. And when I had finished talking, he simply said: “Look, I want you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash. OK? Just do it!”
So, with my tail firmly between my legs, I just did it. I brought all my dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs Jones. She seemed delighted. So I asked her how she felt about having to wash the Fathers’ clothes. She said, very simply, “I love it – it’s my way of serving Jesus.”
I realised that, in my arrogance, I had thought of her as my servant, rather than the Lord’s. So I left her presence feeling very humble and thinking of these words of Jesus. “they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on."