Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Multiple Vocations

I find myself working alongside two Roman Catholic priests for an upcoming funeral and it's very interesting. Though we're very congenial and collegial, I feel keenly aware of the differences between us. I feel it mostly in the background of our conversations. I can't make that meeting because I have to pick up my child. I need you to repeat what you said because my kid was yelling in the background. I'd like to go home so I can see my husband.

Regardless of the historical reasons for unmarried priests, there's a chasm of understanding that can't be breeched except through experience. There are host of things that I'd never thought about, no matter how open-minded I thought I was, until I had a baby, who then came to church. There are nuances to being married that you don't know until you ARE married and then for 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 60 years. There are heartbreaking losses that happen in miscarriage, divorce, the death of children, widow/widowerhood that you only understand once you've been there. That's not to say that you can't be compassionate to someone whose experience is different than yours. I'm not saying that my reactions and emotions are the same as another person's who has the same experience set as I do.

The Roman Catholic Church treats priesthood as a special vocation, one that requires utter devotion. I feel, and I struggle with, the fact that I've been gifted with several vocations. My role as pastor is my vocation coming out of God's gifts to me to help my neighbors. My vocation as a wife or spouse comes from my love for my husband, my desire to have a life with him and our work together in the world. My vocation as a mother comes from my love for my son and my amazed gratitude at his presence in my life (most of the time).

Do these vocations make me a better pastor? Not necessarily, but they make me a different pastor with awareness I wouldn't have had otherwise. And, of course, I have blind spots that remain.

What's my point? I guess as I work with these priests I hope that their vocation has been as fulfilling as they'd hoped and prayed. I admit my worries that I occasionally shortchange my congregation and, occasionally, my kid or my husband and, sometimes, myself. (Not usually all at the same time.) But in the end, I couldn't pick one to give up without feeling as though I was tearing a part of my heart out. The fierceness of those simultaneous pulls helps me to believe in things that are beyond me, to believe in God's work in the world, through the world, for the world. And I feel very grateful to be in a time and a place where I can respond to that pull in many and various ways.

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