When working at the Marriage Tribunal, I find regular prayer times almost impossible. I never know whether somebody is going to ring me up to discuss annulment or an aspect of Canon Law. I spend time gently talking and listening to our clients. I speak to them as respectfully as I would to God. It’s important to be consistent with others.
Formal and spontaneous prayers are very important. You need to be able to step back from the rush of life and make time for them. When I celebrate two to three Masses on a Sunday morning it energises me. To preside at the Mass is a privilege. Alternatively, I can sit down and read my prayers from the Office. I also love reading the Bible. It’s a real source of power and spiritual nourishment. There is a lot of clerical work to do here but I always keep in mind that it’s people we’re dealing with and their lives. That’s the most precious aspect of this job. It’s essentially pastoral work.
I am a different priest from who I was when I was first ordained. For a lot of my life I was a very nervy person. I preferred to be in the shadows rather than thrust out into the spotlight. Later on I discovered that I was prone to anxiety and depression. By the time I had been ordained for 13 years, I was suffering quite serious episodes of depression and anxiety attacks.
I went to my doctor and he put me onto a specialist. I started receiving cognitive therapy as well as taking psychiatric medication. Within weeks that changed my life.
Now I am the person I should have been from the start. This is the real me. I am the calmest person you can imagine and bring that sense of calm into my work.
I have a Doctorate in Canon Law and do projects as well as answering calls regarding this. Sister Gabrielle Burns and I interview petitioners, respondents or witnesses for marriage annulment. We take a lot of time with those interviews because they are very important in establishing the evidence for a case.
I write observations as a Defender of the Bond. I get the evidence at the end of a case and write a report for the judges to show that the bond of marriage should be upheld. I write strongly because what is at stake is the truth and God’s saving justice. I do that at the local and national level of the Tribunal.
I bring who I am as a priest to all those things. Right at the foundation of that is my relationship with the Lord. I get on with Jesus very well. Even when I was going through that really difficult time with depression and anxiety I never lost that relationship with Christ. Following Him I pray to do the Father’s will. If someone comes into my life I see him or her as Jesus Himself.
Before Mass I pray, “Lord, whatever you want me to say, let me say that.” As the Gospel preaches I believe the words will be given to you when you need them. I also like silences in the Mass. I like to pause at times, just to savor that moment. By the time we get to Communion we should be hungering for the Bread of Life. It’s our spiritual food, the Body and Blood of Christ.
Debbie Warrier: Finding God in daily work
29 Oct 2008