A growing phenomenon among the faithful clergy is a potential pandemic of spiritual APATHY. Many of us who had to fight long and hard for many years just to get ordained, who suffered and were persecuted for our orthodoxy and our loyalty to the Roman Pontiff and the Magisterium, have now hit middle age. In our youth, we fought the heretical professors, we did battle with the dens of iniquity which tried to indoctrinate us into the false religion. As newly ordained junior clergy, we stood up to the old liberal guard who ran the parishes and chancery offices. We declared our loyalty to Pope John Paul II, the 1983 Code of Canon Law and to the actual rubrics of GIRM. We then had the Catechism to defeat the status quo of the catechetical elite who proliferated the church as DRE's and who deified existentialism as the savior of catechetics while they simultaneously pooh-poohed doctrinal formation and memorization.
During seminary days (which many of us referred to as the Russian Siberian Gulag or Nazi German Stalag 13) we had a common enemy, heterodoxy. Like Christians in third century Rome or Catholics in Elizabethan England, we strategically remained undercover while clandestinely studying the truth from outside sources like Opus Dei. After being ordained and surviving the first parish assignment, usually with one of the most liberal pastors of the diocese, many of us longed for the day we would be pastor ourselves and finally could do what had to be done and do it the proper way according to canon and liturgical laws.
After ten, fifteen or more years for many of us, they could no longer delay the inevitable and we were made pastors and could now call the shots so to speak. When we were younger and more idealistic and less cynical, we went to our annual Opus Dei priest retreats at Arnold Hall. We subscribed and read orthodox periodicals like 30 Days, Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register and of course, the bedrock Wanderer. We cheered when Mother Angelica dumped the modified habit after the Miss Youth Day impersonated Christ at a living Stations of the Cross performed in Denver for the late Pope John Paul the Great. We watched attentively as the Poor Clares in Irondale donned the wimples and full veils and sang like angels as they chanted the familiar Latin parts of the Mass as Vatican II had originally envisioned.
Middle age does something to men. Laymen, especially married men, often experience a crisis and need to act out some stupid immature fantasy, whether it is buying a flashy red sportscar he cannot afford, or getting married on the spur of the moment at a Chapel of Love in Las Vegas or in the extreme of abandoning a wife and children for some bimbo he met on a chatline via the internet. Mid-life crisis they call it. Priests are not immune to it. Some, run off an marry a divorcee with children, a few sadly run off with the church organist (and it ain't a she if you now what I mean). Others take an indefinite sabbattical and no one hears from them again.
A majority of middle-aged clerics just get into a slump. Their zeal and fervor have been tempered over the decades by diocesan policies and parish soap opera antics. Increasing fundraising, tedious and incessant meetings, enormous budget concerns, personnell problems, psychotic parishioners, incompetent volunteers, unrealistic and severe assessments, et al. rob your priestly soul of the original dream you had when you decided to enter the seminary and began dreaming of BEING a priest. We still DO priestly things like celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick, hatch-match-and-dispatch (baptize, marry and bury), etc., which we love to do, but our days get more and more infected with managerial tasks which are governed by corporate principles and techniques. Increase prodcutivity is what is demaned from us, not saving souls, not dispensing God's grace via His sacraments or teaching the truths of revelation.
Worse of all, I can see in many of my colleagues the slow, slow death of their enthusiasm for the priesthood. When the bishop and diocese see and treat you as lower management and when you see incompetent sycophants rewarded with promotions, good assignments, ecclesiastical honors, and so forth, while orthodox preachers and reverent celebrants are ignored at best and are socially ostracized by the rest of presbyterate at worst, then many question is it worth it? Faith is not lost but the zeal has evaporated.
When attempts are made to network orthodox priests in the same geographical region by having monthly days or just afternnoons of recollection, the novelty wears off quickly and after six months.
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