Today I'm considering something hard: the possibility of quitting this blog. I doubt I will, but here's what I'm thinking:
Over Christmas an old friend reminded me that this is a ministry. As I've thought about it anew, I've noticed that some of my best and most fruitful writing here has been in the form of direct answers to questions or indirect responses to conversations from younger religious or those considering a religious or priestly vocation.
So I'm wondering if my incidental writing energies might be better spent in a more sustained and directed--and perhaps more anonymous--project toward a spiritual book on how deal with, and benefit most fruitfully from religious or seminary formation.
It seems to me that such a spiritual book is badly needed to make up for two lacks.
First, the generational differences in religious life and the priesthood can be debilitating for a new religious or seminarian. Formation programs are generally operated and controlled by older religious, so-called 'liberals' for whom the liberation of dismantling a previous, more constricting style of religious life has become a controlling norm and interpretive key. Younger religious, many of whom are converts or reverts to the faith, often emerge from a very different place: they are children of the relativistic vertigo and moral chaos of our age, seeking refuge in something solid to stand on. Form and structure are things they are liberated to, whereas their parents in religion found their freedom in liberation from them. Such is the impasse at the most basic level of spiritual attitude and vocation.
These differences have been rehearsed many times, and by those better at it than me. Each side has its virtues and dangers. My point here is that this can be very difficult world to navigate without being driven to distraction or losing one's mind, much less survive with faith, charity, and sense of humor intact (and all of these are critical to religious life.) As someone who has survived it, and continues to do so as finally professed and ordained, though not without sins and near-catastrophic falls along the way, I think I might be in a good position to share some wisdom about how one might succeed in the funny and conflicted world of religious life.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, entering religious life and trying daily to consent to the grace to be formed in religion requires many ordinary and expected spiritual trials. They aren't the interior struggles you imagine for yourself (in vanity) before you enter. But they are normal and are documented in the spiritual tradition. The trouble is, I don't think many formation programs say much about the interior life, and still less the temptations and trials required to grow in it. In religious life there is just as much--if not more--opportunity to medicate oneself against or distract oneself from these salutary struggles and trials. Unless you have a really good spiritual director--or someone else to help God dig you out from under your defenses--it's possible to miss all of this, especially if your own temperament and that of your community tends to an activist mentality that concentrates on 'doing.' The more I think about it, I think this is a serious deficit and, at the risk of being grandiose, I wonder if I am being called to do something about it.
So, should I quit the blog and try to write this book?