November 9, 2010

Some Things I Miss

I've been here in Boston for three months now, and I'm starting to feel adjusted into the assignment. Term papers are starting to take shape and I'm thinking about what to do next semester. Off in the distance of imagination are the first thoughts about my reading list for comprehensive exams, and--dare I say it--dreams for a dissertation proposal.

Settling down into this new kind of student life reminds me of some of the things I miss from parish life. I was just thinking about some of them this morning:

A regular and stable liturgical matrix. At the parish, liturgy had an intense regularity; every day the same chapel, the same church, the same altar. Liturgical time cycled through days, weeks, seasons, and years. The linear time imposed by the steps, grades, and goals of something like school or religious formation starts to fade away. Cycles replace time-lines. In the cycles of prayer, the Now of eternity starts to peek through. I miss that. Here in the student house, liturgical life is very different. I offer Mass at four or five different altars in the course of a week. Not that this isn't without its gifts; I'm really enjoying my weekly visit to the Poor Clare monastery, for example. But it can feel scattering. Here in the house, in the morning we sometimes have Morning Prayer in common and sometimes have Mass, a practice which feels choppy and scattering to me. I like to have a regular early-morning routine, but I can't really because sometimes I have to pray Morning Prayer in private and sometimes I don't. So I miss the regularity and stability of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours in the parish.

Days off. The parish is always going. It's active seven days a week from early morning until the middle of the evening. For a priest, the only way to get a break is to leave, so that's what they do. They 'go on their day off.' I look over my posts labeled 'Day Off Adventures' and I see a certain lightheartedness and freedom from care that I no longer have. When you are a student the books are always there, and the papers always need to get composed. This isn't to say that I never take any time with friends or a day just to relax, but somehow there just isn't the same ability to leave the whole business behind and get away for a little while.

People. The parish priesthood is a personal service kind of job. From the parlor to the confessional, from running meetings to praying with folks at the funeral home, you are always with the people. It's one of the greatest blessings of the parish ministry; the people keep you sane and are very encouraging for the most part. The job is so social that you have to be careful about getting the solitude that you need; it becomes a treasure, really. Here I think of some of my 'Sunday Afternoon' posts. In the doctoral student life, the situation is quite different. It's a solitary life for the most part. Yes, I have new friends at school and I spend time with the brothers here at home, but most of my days are just me and text. I read text, I struggle over text, I try to make text about text. So here I must take the opposite care, of making sure I find some social time. Such is far harder for me than making sure I find time for solitude, so I miss being in the opposite situation in the parish.


ben in denver said...

Be assured of my continued prayers as you adjust to your new assignment.

My daughter Maria has wanted to be a Clare for as long as she can remember. If you would, please recommend her to the prayers of the Clares you are ministering to.

Brother Charles said...

I shall!

Padre Paulus said...

This is a very good insight, and you offer a good summation of my experience in the last three years since I've been out of the parish and back in school doing JCL studies. Having been a pastor, I was amazed at how the routine you mention made time pass so quickly. Years went by like months, months like days, and days like minutes. Back in school time has really slowed down. A real blessing for me has been in being able to keep in touch with so many great people from the parish. The biggest pleasure for me now is being able to celebrate Mass with people, as opposed to celebrating by myself. Celebrating the Mass has always been the most fruitful part of my priestly life. I have the opportunity on occasion to help in parishes here and there, and I know that spiritually the Mass in private is identical to Mass celebrated publicly, but I do miss the human interaction (or at least to have someone assist with the cruets and make the responses!). I'm glad that you have that opportunity on a regular basis.

4narnia said...

we miss you, too, Fr. C, at SH parish. we heard that you were possibly going to come for the Whalen & Ball memorial Mass. it was a beautiful Mass. i read all the wnames of the deceased at the Mass (third year in a row that i've read the names.) sorry you couldn't make it - we were really looking forward to seeing
you. maybe another time.
know that my prayers area always with you have made a difference at SH parish that we will always be greatful for. PAX! ~tara t~