On a recent tour we went down the rabbit hole of the differences in clergy between those up North and those here in Mexico and the differences are striking.
In an effort of full disclosure I attended Catholic school with the Brides of Christ through graduate school. In my experience nuns always had at least an undergraduate degree and often a graduate’s.
If anyone had asked me then (and who would?) how that worked I assumed being a nun was a gal’s calling in life. Then whatever subject she taught was her passion.
Imagine my surprise years after high school graduation when I’d take my former Spanish nun to dinner and champagne learning she only taught Spanish as the diocese needed a high school Spanish teacher. She was told to get an MA in Spanish ASAP and I doubt, in terms of knowledge, she was ever more than a chapter ahead of her students.
Spanish was of no interest to her and she was lucky that back then all language education was memorizing scripts. To this day I get confused when asked for directions to the library and it is not on my left.
Here many older nuns you meet stopped school at 5th grade as that was when free education ended. Well, and when was the last time you met a young nun?
Mexican priests have to graduate from seminary school where the focus is on theology. The real focus should be on public speaking since that is what they do the most of.
The Oratorios, an order based on the notion that joy, laughter and music bring one closer to God, learn how to read music, sing, play an instrument and paint making them the most aesthetically pleasing clergy in town. Bygone seminarians’ paintings line the order’s churches around town.
Monks are a different breed. Not priests (they don’t say mass) so like nuns here they don’t require a higher education. Here they are cloistered meaning they are, literally, dead to the world.
Millennials flock to notion of being a cloistered monk imagining their days immersed in meditation and prayer. Our local monastery has expanded to up to 24 young men. The monks follow the rules of St. Benedict where from 4:30 AM until bedtime one is either working or praying.
It is that working part that causes new recruits to frequently leave. Each monastery must support themselves resulting in them raising a breed of dog, baking fruitcake or creating wine. Something. Honestly, I’m baffled how the getting up at 4:30 AM part didn’t clue the young men in.
As tour guests have noted when I deliver cakes and pies on each tour, the monks get gelatin or some other low calorie treat. Monks tend to be Catrina thin with incredible self-discipline to spend their lives at the same weight they were at 15.
The nuns of Atotonilco, on the other hand, get candy laden cakes, fruit baring cheesecake and virtually anything that looks enlarging. Unlike the silent monks these gals gush over their treats and the more Cool Whip the better!
A problem for both genders is if you join at a young age you tend to emotionally top out at that age. They simply don’t experience what you and I have – troublesome in-laws, being laid-off, making a dinner of toast spread across 4 hungry kids, and such.
Aside: My brother joined the seminary at 12 but quit his last year to marry a Jewess and become a circus clown with the act ‘Farmer Toone His Wife and Their Kid (a goat)’.
Another commonality between genders and cultures is that same-sex clergy rarely get along between each other. Nuns, monks or priests, it doesn’t matter, they don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company.
For example, each August all the churches in town close for a week as the priests go on retreat to the monastery in Atotonilco. Once I had a tour that week so instead of bringing one pie or cake for the monks living there I brought four to feed all their company.
The first monk that witnessed my drop off commented “Is that for all the fat priests from town?”
Clergy, like company and fish, start rotting by the third day!