Wednesday 20 April 2016

Health and Ministry

I apologise for the dearth of posts recently but I developed yet another infective exacerbation of my COPD for which my General Practitioner referred me to the local Consultant Respiratory Physician. Due to the frequent exacerbations and clubbing of the fingers (you can look that one up!) a CT of the chest was arranged. Thankfully no malignancy was detected but there is evidence of Bronchiectasis (look that one up too!). Culture & Sensitivity tests of sputum revealed two bacteria colonising the lungs, so I am to begin Azithromycin three times a week if my sputum is negative for AFB’s.

All in all, due to increasing breathlessness and coughing bouts during Holy Mass (and nothing to do with my coronary vents last years), being a vector for disease to the housebound who are already health-compromised, it was clear I was not well enough to continue in parish ministry and I have had to retire on health grounds. The hope is that being relieved of parish pressures will preserve what health I have (COPD is not a disease where recovery is possible; it follows a downward trend that at best can be slowed, but not reversed).

Leaving parish ministry has been a very hard decision to make; not being in direct parish ministry is not an easy thing with which to live. I became a priest to support the people of God in their crisis moments; provide them with a liturgy that was God-centred, and teaching that was faithful to the Magisterium.  To have left this work for the people of God behind is a real bereavement for me. I struggled with the idea of a younger priest retiring from parish work as I have the belief that we should ‘die with our boots on’, but when you one is carrying in one’s respiratory system more than one bug which can be passed to the housebound and vulnerable, one becomes a threat to the health and welfare of those one is attempting to support, so my own desire to struggle on took second place.

While my Bishop is probably pleased to be relieved of a priest who became a maverick simply by holding to the red of the Missal and the letter of the catechism, I have to say that he has been most supportive, and I have no doubt about his genuine desire to seek the good of his priests and the people of the Diocese. I continue to say Mass privately where my cough bothers no one but me and any server, so Masses to which I have committed myself are still being offered; what I cannot do is say on which days I will be offering Holy Mass, since some days the breathlessness is worse than on other days.


  1. I am very sorry to learn this Father and assure you of my prayers.

  2. Some of the people of God that you wish to serve will include the priests of the diocese to whom you can offer support and assistance.

    "do not let your heart be troubled"

    The path is not always very clear and this is probably not much consolation but I've often found acknowledging the 'change' we first perceive - when we make a decision like the one you've taken - is erroneous helps you to discover what the change really is! In this case you still serve the people of God through your ministry and prayers but never forget the brother priests and deacons are people of God too and even being on the end of the phone or hearing confessions when you can is of great benefit to them!

    Wrap yourself in humility to be servants of each other. (1Peter)

  3. I hope your health improves. You can still do much work for the Lord by praying and writing even if you can't have contact with your vulnerable charges. I pray for you.
    Be strong.
    God bless.

  4. God bless you Father to carry your cross.


  5. Fr. Dickson, I will ask Raphael to help you too.

  6. Father you are going to a very big miss at church. We all thought very highly of you.

    I understand your anguish father but you have planted the seeds at sacred heart and english matyers. Its now down to the faith of the people and the grace of God for those seeds to Grow.

    What is more you leave us in the hands of another fine priest in father paul. Your mission continues, God is calling you in another direction and i know it must be a very important mission if he has chosen you. Although it was a short time i got to listen and learn from from you. You have effected my life so much in such a short space of time. You gave me the latin mass You have strenghend my faith and restored my hope.

    But thanks be to God for the Internet that we can continue to read your blog and ask you questions.


  7. Father, I have been wondering what had happened to you. ...sorry to hear that you are not in parish ministry. My prayers are with you. I recently had a Mass said for all orthodox priests, in these times, which will be especially trying for them. As such, you were included in that Mass.

    I would like to bring to your attention a blog post by Father George David Byers, on his blog "Arise, let us be going" . He has been given permission by Ignatius Press to post the essay by Cardinal Ejit, entitled "Can divorced and Civilly remarried persons receive Communion?" This was published in the book for the second Synod on Family.

    Father Byers has permission for other priest-bloggers to repost the essay. If the link to his blog does not appear, please google 'Arise, let us be going'.

    Here's the link:

  8. I am sad Father, you are having to retire. We so desperately need orthodox Catholic priests like you in these days of widespread heterodoxy.

    And I sympathise with your medical problem having a bit of lung decease myself, as does the Holy Father by the way, so we are in good company.

    But now for the good news. Sitting at a computer and tapping away does not require much physical effort and your coughing does not upset the computer, so we look forward to more articles from you in future. You can in that sense keep your boots on, as indeed you should!

    One tip got of a Russian site, and that is that CO2 is a very effective cough suppressant. By holding your breath that is, pinch nose and compress lungs, you are building up co2 in the bloodstream, believe you me, it works!

    So, keep those boots on!

  9. God bless you, Father. I will remember you in my daily prayers, and I thank you for your leadership on this blog and the unfailing charity in your responses. I wish more priests had your courage and fidelity to Our Lord's teaching. May this time of trial wash away any time in Purgatory for you.

  10. You helped me a few weeks ago, and I would not have bothered you if I had known of your troubles. Still, we of the same surname must stick together :) You know where I am.

  11. God bless you, Father. I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

  12. My prayers for you, dear Father, at the altar.

  13. Oh Father, I will pray for you. I know what this is like & offer my suffering for priests (got your back!!) The azithromycin could help, I've found it really useful. There's a good Bronchiectasis support group on Facebook. The most important thing you can do is daily chest clearance (ask for a physiotherapist if you haven't been taught it) Keep as fit as you can, I find (light) weights helpful as It's not aerobic and I just do a bit to keep myself strong. God bless you, Angela.

  14. You are certainly suffering greatly to help save souls in this time of increasing apostasy, especially as Amoris Laetitia is released. Most faithful folks that I know all have major medical problems at the moment (myself included), all for the same reason. Keep offering it up Father! I pray for you.

  15. May God bless you Father Dickson you are a true priest and many graces will surely come from your accepting the will of God and not following your own - it is a privilege for us laity to know of such priests as you in these difficult times. I will pray for you and thank God for your sacrifice.

  16. I was very sad to hear that your health has enforced retirement on you Father. You have supported me on a number of occasions and I will miss confession and your sermons. I hope you will continue to offer your thoughts and advice via this blog. I totally understand the struggle you will be having with COPD as my husband and I nursed his Mam until she died in February 2015 having lived until she was 85. I wish you relief from the cough and I keep you as always in my prayers. K.

  17. God bless you, Father. You are such a luminous example of what a priest should be. I was very pleased to hear you will able to continue to say Mass (Vivaldi actually could not, I am told). I hope you will, as health allows, continue to write the blog.

  18. Sorry to hear about this Father! Don't forget your prayers and suffering will help the Kingdom of God in countless ways! Every cough, every difficult breath is not wasted! Perhaps now you can be more active here! We certainly need it!

    God bless you!


  19. May Pope Saint John Paul II obtain from Jesus for you great holiness in suffering, and also return to good health if that is the will of God.

  20. Dear Father, God called you in one way and now He calls you in another. You have been a good and faithful servant and I am so grateful for your online ministry. May you find solace in God's love and in our love and prayers for you.

  21. God bless you father, you are in my prayers

  22. Father,
    Please see a breathing specialist known as a Pulmonologist. They are the best specialists in this area. I worked with one for some time. They see everything from lung transplants to weird COPD CAT scans and everything in-between. God bless you.

  23. I thank you all for your prayers and support. I do hope to continue blogging but I have repeated exacerbations (infections) so I have will do what I can when I can.
    I am to have pulmonary rehabilitation soon and this promises some improvement, which might enable me to do supplies at weekends, but I doubt many Pastors will feel comfortable asking me since I have a reputation for being 'hard' (I call it clear, and if the teaching is hard, the delivery is always charitable and encouraging).
    Can I say however, that I am not and never was what I would consider to be 'a good priest': my strengths were in being faithful to the doctrine; to the rubrics of the liturgy (in both forms), and to supporting those in crisis situations. I continue to have the same struggle against personal sin that we all face!

  24. Very sorry to hear about your illness Father. Your blog has been greatly missed. It has been an anchor for me and I'm sure for many others during these troubling times. I hope your treatment is successful and improves your quality of life. You are in the daily prayers.

    Mary Patricia


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