Monday, September 22, 2008

Less is More

If they'd just get rid of the vows of chastity and silence I think I would be getting ready to sign up for monastic life. Amid ever increasing worries that our economy could crumble at our feet, and the near trillion dollars some are prepared to throw at the problem, I can't help but be fed up with the world today. Although most who read this blog know me, others who don't, might not know that as a young man I enrolled in the seminary. There was so much I liked about the Vincentian Fathers, not the least of which was the life they offered. But, in the end, it was my attraction to the ends of the opposite sex that proved to be my undoing.

Yes, good people, it was that simple. I couldn't forsee a life were I would never be allowed to clumsily try and get a girl's bra off, let alone the whole girl. That was just the first crack in the damn, however. What ultimitly prevented me from continuing on in my studies toward a priestly vocation was not just the whole no sex thing. I also suffer from a pesky, but well developed, loathing of hypocrisy, arbitrary rules and blind unquestioning faith. These are all traits that don't make for a good man of god, which, coincidentally, are also the traits that kept me from enlisting in the Navy at 18. My Father was right there to bring these items to my attention in both cases, and ultimately it's a good thing he did. I would have made a lousy Priest and I'm sure I would have been court marshaled the first time I told my commanding officer that I worked best under last minute pressure, and so I still hadn't gotten around to following his orders.

All that said, I still think longingly about the best parts of the lives of the Vincentian Fathers, also know as St. Vincent dePaul's Congregation of the Mission. Their charge was to serve the poor, while also focusing on education both at the secondary and University levels. Some of my classmates have gone on to become Professors at Niagara University or at St. John's in Queens while others serve in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Cities like Philadelphia and New York. The work they do everyday matters, and while I'm sure they are saddled with many very serious concerns one thing they don't have to think about is the stock market.

That is because in addition to their vow of chastity they have all taken a true vow of poverty, which your average Catholic priest doesn't actually take. Franciscans, Vincentians and Redemptorists all live true communal lives, where they don't own anything, even the clothes they wear. Parish Priests don't draw a paycheck as such, but they are allotted money for spending and can own their possessions as illustrated to me by the beautiful Mustang one of my childhood priests owned. One of the amazing things I noticed in the priests that taught us at the seminary was, with few exceptions, they lived very long lives, during the latter stages of which, the would stop teaching or serving and move to a beautiful home on the Jersey shore.

I always attributed their long lives to the fact that they woke up every day with thought of doing good in the world, absent of the worry of where the next paycheck would come from. They didn't have to worry about most of the things on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, save the sexual intimacy part. In fact, with most of the base level needs all but guaranteed (eg security of body, employment, resources etc) they were much more likely to achieve esteem and then, self-actualization, which these days is a bit of a dream for us work-a-day folk.

I guess what I'm really saying, is that I'm pretty fed up by the perpetual motion that is modern life. I don't know if I'm to the point where I could think about "going off the grid" but I will say that I understand more and more the people who strive for that. Life has gotten so complicated, and those complications have in turn begun to shorten the lives of so many of us. Sadly, I have no real solutions to this quandary, only more questions and desperation to send hurdling out into the void. What I do have is a dream. A dream that involves doing work that sets my soul alite, and makes me a better person to be around. And that in doing so, I help to make the lives of those around me a little better, happier, and more worth wild. Now where did I put that brown robe?

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