an interview with
Msgr Cn Nicholas France
What were your misconceptions about Priesthood before discerning it?
I wanted to be a priest from when I was 10 years old, a little before my First Communion when aged nine and a half. I arrived that year at my Boarding school. Any worries? I was probably worried that I was still too naughty and bad tempered, at least at home, if less so at my boarding school.
Who inspired you on your journey?
Although I was surrounded by priest monks at school and was fond of my uncle Walter, my mother’s brother, who was a priest, I don’t remember thinking that these priests influenced me. I believe that from that early age of 10 I was in love with the Eucharist. It was that which drew me to the priesthood. Even earlier than 10, I had an altar in my room at which I pretended to say Mass. Even at my day school, before my First Communion, I used to go into the church to say a prayer on my way back home in the afternoon.
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
That I wasn’t good enough or clever enough. I was concerned about how to persuade my parents of my vocation. My mother didn’t want me be a priest out of concern for my father, who was an agnostic. However, when I wrote to him aged 15 to say that I wanted to be a priest, as I had kept it secret to myself and my friends until then, he replied that he thought I would be very suitable and he would put nothing on my way. However, the opposite was also important, that I wasn’t pushed into the priesthood by an over pious mother. Another thing my father added was that he hoped I wouldn’t disappear into a monastery. However, by that time I had already decided I wanted to be a diocesan priest and not join the monastery where I was at school, as had some of my friends.
'You realise how fortunate you are that your day is filled with the unexpected.'
How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you had perceived it?
I haven’t yet found after 52 years as a priest that the reality has been very different from what I perceived or guessed it would be, despite challenges during that time.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
My vocation has been fulfilling in countless ways, from celebrating the Holy Eucharist, to ministering the sacraments and providing God’s people with his pastoral care in occasions of their need. Although there has been much laughter and the love of friends, I am not expecting the fullness of joy or happiness until I’m called home by God. I await the company of the saints and our Blessed Lady when I shall see the face of Christ, as I’m enfolded in the love and mystery of God. That will be joy!
'I believe that from that early age of 10 I was in love with the Eucharist!'
What have been the highlights of living out your vocation?
My highlights have been many a wedding, as I’m a romantic. Some funerals moving occasions. Holy Week liturgies and a quiet evening Mass on a winters evening have provided me with beautiful highlights for 50 years. I could say a special moment would be when I was walking down a street in Jersey, when some child from our First Holy Communion group would call out across the road “hello, Father Nicholas”. I could also say that taking part in World Youth Days in Germany attended by Pope Benedict in 2008 and sleeping out under the stars aged 62. Or I could say my meeting with Pope St Paul VI or Pope St John Paul II in the Vatican Palace.
What would you say to someone else considering Priesthood?
Go for it! It’s a most fulfilling life. When you cooperate with Jesus Christ in being his priest for others, you realise how fortunate you are that your day is filled with the unexpected, unlike the poor men and women you see walking down the road with hunched shoulders every morning at 8:30 AM on their way to the office. It is the hundredfold reward promised by Jesus in the Gospels, in this life, as well as in the next.