Dr. Liccione: “My prayer…is to be shown a way out of the box I’m in”

Dr. Liccione at Sacramentum Vitae writes several things which resonate strongly in an essay entitled “Redeeming secularity.” Putting some pieces together with other things he has posted recently, I am tempted to speculate that he has received some news that wasn’t that for which he was hoping, and that perhaps is not dissimilar to the news I received last month (although, one would suppose, regarding faculty placement), leaving him with the same question with which I’m wrestling: what now?

Speculation (a four-syllable euphemism for “guessing”) aside, one way or the other, I can’t help but empathize with the following:

Ever since I made a more-or-less adult commitment of faith, I haven’t wanted in my heart to be a layman at all… The question for me then became: how could I do some sort of “ministry,” my chief and indeed only abiding occupational interest, as a married Catholic man? […] And I have yet to resolve that question. I still don’t want a secular “career” any more than I ever did. I want a vocation focused on the only matters in which I have an abiding interest for their own sake: those having directly and explicitly to do with the truths about God derivable from both natural reason and his own self-revelation. Indeed, I’m such a Catholic nerd that I have a very hard time understanding why most intelligent, orthodox Catholics don’t want the same for themselves. […] [M]y heart does not change; my real interests and aspirations remain as they are, which is what they have always been. I pursue my real interests in my spare time; this blog is a part of that. I look on my unfulfilled aspirations as a sign from God that his work-in-progress known as Mike Liccione needs a lot more work in order to be credible again in something called “ministry.”

I still don’t want a secular “career” any more than I ever did. Isn’t that the truth. My interests, situation, and ecclesiastical alignment are not precisely coterminous with those of  Dr. Liccione, but his tone nonetheless makes this something with which I can unreservedly identify, words which, with minor adjustments for my own situation, I could have written myself.

But, the voices ask, what if I’m just still not “getting it?” […] There is no “neutral zone” for a Christian. For those who stay the course of sanctification, all is holy, all is redeemed. So, the challenge I confront is to encounter the “priesthood of Christ,” and join myself to it, without being able to spend the bulk of my time dealing explicitly with the things that priests and theologians, as such, deal with. I really don’t experience that encounter subjectively, but I acknowledge it happens whenever I offer myself, my actions, and my sufferings to the Lord in complete detachment from everything but him and his commandments of love. Perhaps that’s all there is to becoming his priestlings once we leave the church building with the Body of Christ in our bellies. I suppose there isn’t much alternative anyhow, if I am to be immersed in our world’s secularity, spending the bulk of my time and energy pretty much as most people do.

All well and good — but:

But that’s still not my heart. I still have to force myself to thank him for being put on such a path. Which means I’m not really grateful.

Sigh. Yes, indeed.  And then the kicker:

And what does that do to my own priesthood as a believer? I’d rather not think about that.

No, nor would I. That’s the hard truth, isn’t it?

Of course the solution is simple: “Say yes, joyfully.” Alas, easier said than done.

That’s only so painful because it is so true.

My prayer this Triduum is to be shown a way out of the box I’m in. I can only hope that’s the right prayer.

For you and me both, Dr. Liccione.

3 Responses to “Dr. Liccione: “My prayer…is to be shown a way out of the box I’m in””

  1. 1 Mike L 18 March 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for that! It’s good to know one is not alone.

    One thing I didn’t mention is that most people don’t know what to do with somebody like me. Given my natural endowments, they assume I’m interested in things that I’m not really interested in; when they finally realize what I actually do care about, they think there’s something very wrong with me. That includes priests, by the way. Perhaps you’ve had the same experience. It used to frustrate me immensely. Now I just offer it up.

    I don’t know your name, or even whether you’re male or female. But I feel like we’re spiritual brothers.


  2. 2 Mike L 18 March 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for that! I knew I wasn’t alone. I don’t know your name or even your sex. But I feel like we are spiritual brothers.


  3. 3 Richard Barrett 18 March 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Dr. Liccione — hopefully the heading on this post answers both of those questions. 🙂

    I’m very well aware of what it’s like to have people not know what to do with me. My dad was bewildered at how somebody my height and build growing up could have had the total disinterest in sports that I did; being a first-generation college graduate and having to fight tooth and nail to achieve that, my own pursuits definitely bewilder people. And so on. (Thankfully, my wife is not one of the people who is sans clue about what to do with me.)

    Drop by here or e-mail any time — richard_barrett (AT) mac.com.


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