As a Bi-Vocational Priest…

I live in two, or sometimes three worlds. The weekends, especially Sunday, belong to Church. The weekdays, at least four of them, belong to work, Monday is a day off to write, think, sleep, all the Sabbath kind of stuff. Sometimes I get a chance to play music at night.

Would that it could be so neat, of course, with clean lines and no blurring or juggling of the jobs. More usually all the roles find a way of mixing themselves in any given moment. The guys in the band know I’m a Priest. My fellow Priests know I have a “day job”. At work they know both and sometimes ask me questions about God or when I’m going out at a gig. It gets a little cluttered sometimes.

Some day, perhaps a parish or some other ministry will open up and the bi-vocational tab will close. Don’t know when. Don’t know where. All that is in larger hands. So the question seems to be about what I am learning in all of this. Patience. Seeing the larger picture. Serving where I can and being content with limits. One thing is most certain, though, is how my respect for those I serve has continued to grow.

Everyone is in their work, or at least should be, because they have a passion for it. Because of this it can be hard to understand people who don’t have the same passion. “Why don’t they like cars as much as I do? If the only understood…” When you’re a Priest you have a passion for the life and work of the Church. The people you serve, though, might not have that same passion. They have busy lives. They have their own interests. The inner workings of theology, liturgy, and faith, are not always on their front burner. Like they take care of your plumbing or run the local store you need to see after their souls. Its your passion, your work, your calling, and a potential danger is that you forget they why behind what you do and more important the people who you serve. In your own little world you can become isolated, tucked into your parish office, thinking thoughts unsullied by the larger world but also irrelevant to the daily lives of those in your care.

Bi-vocational life takes that all away. You work in the world. You must work in the world outside the parish walls to earn your bread. You must feel and experience all the things the people you are called for feel and experience. They’ve got traffic jams. You’ve got them too. They have bosses. So do you. They come home tired from a long day at the office. You do too. The whole thing tends to be grounding. It keeps you sensible and sane. It gives you a sense of perspective and mercy for those who listen to you on Sunday. Now I’m not saying that those who tend to parishes and people full time don’t have any of these things. But when you pack your lunch bag its a lesson you get over and over, every day, and it makes a difference.

because of this,  have become, over the years, more and more impressed with the courage, the strength, and the dedication shown by those I serve who every day work out their faith in the offices, factories, schools, and homes of this world. It’s never been easy. It may be more difficult now. It’s hard work to face the traffic, the cranky and capricious bosses, customers who sometimes seem on the edge of insanity or a baby who won’t stop crying and do it all in some sort of Christian spirit, following the way of Christ not from the veneer of safety brought on by a collar but from the every day grind of trying to do business in a fallen world without losing your soul. Even doing a little bit of it makes one a kind of champion. Its easy, in some ways, to be a Christian in a monastery. Try being one in a law office. Or a factory. Or any of a hundred places where you constantly have to live, move, and work within systems that can only be described as broken in one way or another or downright hostile to Christian ideals.

Knowing that changes everything. It just does. If and when I get back into my own parish office I pray to God that I will remember this and figure out how to be part of the solution and not the problem.

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