Cats, Clergy and Dinosaurs’ Future
When dancing at the Hacienda Guadalupe I’m constantly visually reminded how it use to be a convent until not that long ago. The office was the chapel, the storage rooms lining the side walls behind the walk in wine cooler were nun cells and the dance floor was the garden. If my age and having grown up here, you likely were taught by nuns once living in this convent.
It reminds me of when touring monasteries that closed in 1680 or 1980 it must be odd to be one of last ones there. The clergy living there as the place is about to close, you must know well in advance the world you dedicated your life to is ending. What does that feel like? Who wants to be the last of the Mohicans?
My young pal is joining the Oratorios and he’s having some difficulties getting along with older priests. Of course he is. Those priests are my age or older and joined the clergy with certain lifelong expectations.
A priest could be assured he’d never cook a meal or make a bed. Do laundry or home repair. In theory, they gave up sex, but the reality is sometimes different. Plus they had a seemingly endless source of income.
Toss on that respect. My parents were thrilled to have Fr. Briday (whom I was named after) eat at our house every Saturday morning. Summers spent with having nuns play badminton before chowing down like truckers on a cross-country haul were common. The only time in her life my mother broke loose the china was when a priest was at the table. So nervous around clergy I heard my mother lie for the first and only time. Her signature cake was called dump cake. Unable to say “dump” to a priest my mother, when asked, called the desert Baked Alaska. I don’t which I was more stunned by, her lie or choosing a well know desert dump cake obviously wasn’t!
When my kids were teens we often volunteered at the Santa Julia orphanage and I recall catching the Mother Superior on what was obviously not one of her better days. Out of curiosity I asked why there weren’t any young nuns there. She sighed heavily and commented “Today’s young women don’t see the appeal to spending their lives working non-stop in exchange for a vow of poverty.”
Recently I was chatting up a local cloistered monk (and, yes, chatting up cloistered that live in silence is every bit as hard as it sounds) and asked about recruitment. He stated they had no problem getting new recruits, the hard part was keeping them. When probed he replied “Because it is hard work and most don’t like that.” I would have thought the getting up at 4:30 AM each day would have been a big clue.
Add to that is when clergy are sick or simply too old to keep working that priest or nun is “given” back to their family to physically and financially care for them until they die. My parents spent over two decades carrying for my grandmother’s blind sister while I was growing up. If I became bedridden tomorrow I’d be loathe to count on my children for my care. They are cute and I love them but they are so oblivious I’d sooner be placed in the dog’s paws. If I was counting on a niece or nephew I’d trust a roomful of cats more knowing they’d be nibbling off my ears within 20 minutes of when I stop breathing. (Dogs, classy things, allegedly will actually starve to death before eating an owner’s corpse.)
Those older priests in the Oratorio order my young pal is experiencing problems with are like the nuns that once roamed the Hacienda Guadalupe’s bar and dance floor. They must know they are dinosaurs facing extinction on some level.
No one in my generation is having clergy over for breakfast or a picnic. With today’s priest scandals who is donating knowing that money is going towards a legal fund for lads that should be rotting in jail for decades? Respect is replaced with, at best, a toleration normally reserved for dim-witted cats.
What is the future for clergy? I’ve no clue. I had an inkling my field was approaching the end with the start of Obama administration but even I underestimated how fast an entire profession can become obsolete. I am pretty sure the clock won’t go backwards and my young pal won’t experience what his older contemporaries did. He’ll have to forge his own path much like my High School Spanish nun did when she started her own order to do administrative work at a parish church. Working for God is just like working in general, you have to be ready to adapt and change or go the way of the dinosaurs.