Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Uphill Battle: A Prophet is never accepted in his own country

Being a young man living in Canada, who happens to have chosen the path of priesthood, I sometimes find my vocation very frustrating. I am not referring to the common troubles of being looked down upon by most nominal Christians, or my life being under the magnifying glass most of the time; the expectations placed on me or the difficulties I encounter with my own spirituality. What I am referring to is the problem of never being taken seriously by those who are closest to me.

There is a wise policy in the church which states that a new priest should never be placed in the community where he grew up. This is done because the unfortunate reality is that those who are closest to us have difficulty seeing us as anything other than a brother, son, friend, fiance, etc. They have trouble accepting what we have to say even though they may trust us more than most people.

I find it an upward battle trying to convince, not the masses on Sundays, but my own family members, that the faith is more than their long-held village traditions that in many ways even contradict the truth that is Christ. It is these people who would rather listen to the uneducated priest at their parish, who will admonish them to perform so-called spiritual acts they he can neither explain nor substantiate, while rejecting sound theological explanations that have been proven to be correct. Furthermore, if the priest told them the same thing as I, they would probably listen. It is the power of the almighty collar and our society's blatant enforcement of unhealthy clericalism. The priest is the holy one and the seminarian doesn't know anything until he is ordained and then is somehow "fully enlightened."

And for us young guys, who have paid our dues, studied for years (as opposed to many of our priests who have never stepped into a theological institution), we are deemed no better than a distraction, or worse, good entertainment. We are seen as children who are attempting to corrupt our "holy" traditions with our radical ideas that have been poisoned by western academia. We are the ones who are "inexperienced" and do not know as much as the older generation, while it is our theology that is more rooted in Holy Tradition and the Fathers than most of the incoherent babble that is being spewed at people in most parishes every Sunday.

Now, I can understand this mindset for the older generation who associates themselves with the older clergy, but the real kicker is that their children follow suit. They side with their parents' infantile theological conceptions and fight against the ministry of the younger generation. Regardless if the younger generation will benefit the youth much more than the older. It is a matter of enculturation and mistrust of those close to us.

Tuly, "A Prophet is never accepted in his own country." The words of Christ were never more true. IT is an upside down world we live in when the average youth is willing to listen to the younger generation, but the seminarian's own family will fight him on every issue. They cannot see their son, brother, fiance, as a spiritual leader because they have seen all his other sides; his faults, weaknesses, shortcomings, and mistakes that he may make. They see these things and their priestly ideal is shattered. And so they refuse to take anything he says at face value and would rather listen to anyone with a collar. This psychosis makes people freely reject sound theology for madness and spiritual incoherence. As long as the madness comes from a position of authority and not from the person who takes you out for dinner and tells you he loves you.

And indeed, this is a symptom of a sickness within our church. The sickness is the idolization of a position and the inability for the laity to accept a priest who is human with human flaws. People do not want a flawed man teaching theology because they do not want to associate church with home. That would mean that they would have to practice acceptance and trust that that person, flawed as he may be, is still in charge of their spiritual direction. This is a step many are not capable of taking. In the meantime, we the young feel a little like the prophet who said, "Lord, who has listened to our words.?"

It is becoming abundantly clear that the road is a lonely one when is comes to family and priesthood. Perhaps this is why Christ said that whoever wants to follow Him must abandon Mother and Father. Although we usually interpret this passage in a metaphorical way, maybe Christ forsaw a more literal reality for those who have attempted to follow Him, becoming sheppherds of His flock.