Ochlophobist on the dilemma of being “young, male, and Orthodox”

Owen made the following comment on a recent post:

There is a certain type of young man who generally pursues the priesthood. We dance around it, but in my mind it is unequivocally true. In Orthodoxy there are certain forms and postures that are, aesthetically speaking, humble, but which are easily practiced and replicated, and do not necessarily reveal the inner heart – soft, slightly effete voice, a way of walking in the cassock, a way of mentioning the contrary opinions of others and pleading one’s ignorance on matters even as it is quite clear you’ve got a strong opinion and you want it to be deemed the right one, a slightly affected, sentimentalish manner of being around icons, prayer ropes, the altar &nave, and so forth, a slightly affected manner of quoting sayings or hagiographic tidbits of the saints, etc. But beyond all that, you spend some time with the fellow and you realize that he loves and is naturally given to didacticism – here is a man who likes to be in a position of teaching others. It is also clear that he has a hunger to be in a position of spiritual authority over others. In my opinion, keeping in mind that opinions in Orthodoxy are worth as much as wax stains on nave carpets, a desire to teach in the Church and have spiritual authority over others is usually, but not always, instigated by demons.

Okay. We’re adults here; let’s not be coy and play dumb. We all know what he’s talking about, and we all know people who are more or less like this — assuming we ourselves don’t fit this description! I’m going to let Owen’s words speak for themselves, and I assume that he is savvy enough to know that he has just profiled a chunk of his readership (although I would be hard-pressed to say whether or not he would particularly care if he offended any of them).

So, neither adding nor subtracting nor commenting directly on the particulars Owen discusses, my question is, why are young men who tend to have these characteristics the ones who seem to be drawn to the priesthood like moths to flame? (Perhaps people can weigh in on whether or not the ordination-bound in other confessions/communions also behave this way.)

In the interest of full disclosure, the priesthood is something I feel reasonably certain to not be in God’s plan for me. This is not a conclusion I have reached lightly; in one form or another, the question of pastoral ministry was one that really troubled me, at least off and on, from my teenage years up to late twenties. During my time in Anglican circles, there were a couple of people who were really pushing me to consider seminary, and I think it was only the fact that I did not yet have an undergraduate degree that kept these individuals from forcibly sending me off to someplace like Trinity or Seabury (Nashotah House is not a place one hears about in the Pacific Northwest). Being an excitable young man, of course the question resurfaced for me as an Orthodox Christian, and immediately following my chrismation in February 2005 it seemed (as it does for so many of us) that surely seminary would be the logical next step for Somebody Like Me (particularly since that would make the matter of grad school much simpler). In the fall of 2005, I visited the St. Vladimir’s campus, fell in love… and then the whole issue just seemed to dissipate as a compelling force. It hasn’t resurfaced since. I sometimes wonder if the point was simply to bring me to a place where I would finally be willing to go that route, and then to redirect me elsewhere. At this stage of the game, I am no longer afraid of the priesthood (and haven’t been for awhile), but it seems more likely that, if I were to wind up at a place like St. Vlad’s, it would be as a member of the faculty (or potentially as a visiting student while I’m writing my dissertation) rather than as a candidate for priestly formation. As it is, I have a desire to teach, but not in the Church — at least not as a catechist. No, thank you. That’s not responsibility I care to have. Maybe I could help illuminate a couple of things here and there within my own area of expertise, maybe I could teach a chant lesson or two, but I’m not the person to entrust with forming the holiness of others.

Extending maximum charity to the type of gentleman Owen describes (particularly given that, for all I know, there could be people who read those words and think, “Yep, that’s Richard Barrett!”), what pushes this person onto the path of the priesthood and gives them such a desire for spiritual authority? I am not totally unwilling to discount the explanation of demons, but let us say I feel more at ease discussing what might be the concrete instruments of said demons than the demons themselves.

My favorite ’80s teenage rom-com is Say Anything… In a lot of ways, it’s really more properly considered a ’90s movie than an ’80s movie (it was released in 1989) — rather than somewhere in California, it takes place in a rather idealized and curiously rearranged Seattle four years before Meg Ryan would get from the 520 floating bridge to Sand Point in a matter of seconds (it takes twenty minutes to half an hour assuming no traffic, folks), it’s got Soundgarden and Joe Satriani on the soundtrack, it’s got John Mahoney as the problematic Seattleite father (prefiguring Frasier by about half a decade), and it’s got John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler, in what amounts to his first adult role. Young adult (the script goes out of its way to explain that Lloyd is graduating high school a year older than his classmates because of various familial matters), but he’s not fantasizing about dancing hamburgers at his fast food job anymore. One perhaps could argue that he starts the movie as a kid and finishes as an adult (cf. Lili Taylor telling him, “Don’t be a guy. The world is full of guys. Be a man“). More to the point, you can see Lloyd as potentially growing up to become Martin Blank (and I have occasionally wondered if Say Anything… wasn’t discussed, even if only in jest, as sort of a murky back story for Grosse Point Blank).

Anyway, Lloyd is a nice, if slightly off-center, guy. He wears a Fishbone t-shirt and a trenchoat. He’s a bit disconnected from his family, since his parents are in the military and stationed elsewhere, and he lives with his single-mom sister and her kid while he figures some things out. He’s not intelligent or obviously talented in conventional ways, he’s graduating high school a year late, he has no college plans, but what he does have are some very definite principles (“I don’t want to buy anything, sell anything, or process anything as a career”), and when he’s dedicated to something — like kickboxing, for example — he gives it his all. His guidance counselor buttonholes him at a party to try to persuade him to make some conventional decisions about his future, and he dismisses her advice, saying, “I’m looking for something bigger, you know? I’m looking for a dare-to-be-great situation.”

Let’s just imagine for a moment that Lloyd one day wandered into St. Nicholas Cathedral (ROCOR) in Seattle and found his dare-to-be-great situation there, giving it his all just like he did with kickboxing. I think he’d wind up a lot like the kind of young man Owen describes.

My point is this. I think there are a lot of smart guys with a genuine faith in and love for God, who want to give something the whole of their effort, who maybe just haven’t had the right — or at least the obvious — opportunity come their way and who at least know that there are some specific things they don’t want to do. Maybe they’ve had an interest in various aspects of the humanities and social sciences, enough to be broadly informed about a wide range of topics, but they’ve never had the discipline or the right setting to rise above being a dilettante, or at least an undergrad who shows some promise. Maybe they’ve had something of a taste of church service in another setting, enough so that they put on a cassock or some other kind of vestment and realize that they’re visibly part of something bigger when they do that. Maybe there are other circumstances in their life that make them determined to never do anything halfway, so that they never have to apologize for their own presence or participation.

And when these guys discover Orthodox Christianity, with all of history and all of its richness of faith and practice and all of its demands, with all of the ways it can order one’s life in the service of Christ, the various facets of their person which otherwise make it hard for them to fit in suddenly have a place, a context. They’ve discovered their dare-to-be-great situation. This is their life’s work, they just didn’t know it before. How can the priesthood, if not monasticism, not become a draw, the call that surely was always there if it could only have been perceived?

(By the way, unlike what I suppose about Owen, I care very much about offending people, so I really hope nobody thinks I’m saying this to mock or be critical. I have observed much of the above, yes, but much of it I have observed in myself. I cannot mock without mocking my own person first of all.)

I think what it often (perhaps not always) boils down to is that, for the young, male, zealous convert, it is not difficult to develop the desire to spend as much time in church as possible. Eventually, and naturally, this turns into the question — perhaps unconsciously — “If what I want to do is be in church all day, then wouldn’t a vocation just make sense?” Since there’s really only one way somebody can work for Orthodox Christianity in this country as one’s day-job, the direction becomes pretty clear from there.

Does it have to be this way? Maybe not, and I would hope that a seeming one-to-one ratio of zealot to cassock could be a reasonably short-lived phenomenon. (I say that as a cantor who wears a cassock.) The truth is, there is something that drives young men who behave as Owen outlines. If it might be healthier that not all of them get tonsured as readers the day after their chrismation and start teaching catechism after their second Divine Liturgy as a communicant, then there needs to be some active spiritual guidance about what to do with whatever it is that drives them. I have no doubt that for priests and bishops who have long lists of things to get done, young men with a lot of energy and desire to serve are hard to tell, “You need to sit back and chill for a while.” Still, it raises the question of whether or not the desire specifically to be the one serving in a visible, set-apart fashion can’t itself turn into a passion.

Ultimately, I think Owen is absolutely right from a descriptive standpoint. I’ve remarked before that there’s a certain self-consciousness of the American convert that we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with, and what Owen talks about is part and parcel of this self-consciousness. If there is a sort of contrived and constructed manner of holiness that has been assumed, then the answer is that we need more models of holiness that haven’t been contrived or constructed. Still, I think there are deeper reasons for why this occurs that we’re also going to have to figure out how to understand and deal with, and we will need to do so compassionately and productively.


18 Responses to “Ochlophobist on the dilemma of being “young, male, and Orthodox””

  1. 1 David Dickens 19 November 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I think you start to get into a good chew on this topic, but you, like Owen seem unwilling to rest the consideration where I believe it belongs.

    Most of your post leans toward speculation as to “why” this happens, but you come to rest at the end in the same place Owen is. There’s something “wrong” with these guys and we need to be compassionate towards their malformation.

    I was a PK (preacher’s kid) and there was no small pressure as soon as people realized that I could and would speak in front of a group of people to launch me into my father’s footsteps. I resisted, even habitually, until recently all such external enticements. I had people in college calling me a prophet (whatever the heck that means,… I didn’t grow up charismatic so those terms weird me out). Of course my ego liked the stroke, but I put my foot down over and over.

    When I converted to Orthodoxy my spiritual father said our small parish “needed me”. And he has indicated that he has work for me from time to time. I get the sense when he talks that he wishes he could put more on my shoulders faster, but isn’t willing to jeopardize my spiritual development for it. (Luckily we have a deacon, a monk, a reader, a Sunday school teacher, and a matuska perfectly capable of managing the choir so there’s no compelling immediate upset to this more natural process.)

    But I am sure my priest has something in mind at some point. There is some utilitarian urge, some natural desire to put some gift of mine “to work for the Kingdom”.

    Personally, I want none of it. I want to sit quietly and pray (this isn’t a preference of a hobby but something that addresses real spiritual struggles I have). In all this I match up with some of Owen’s and your considerations. Don’t worry, I am not offended by either of you.

    So, clearly I’m young, unformed in some important fashions (particularly in the area of self-discipline and controlling my tongue… since I’m posting on your blog and others regularly).

    I’ve wasted enough time personalizing this. Let’s get back to my original charge. There’s something systematic that’s wrong.

    It probably starts with the parishioners themselves. Clericalism doesn’t start with the clergy. This clericalism leads to the equally damaging situations of idolization and disillusionment. These are strong forces in the life of the individual communities and effect even unfortunately-distant “local” Bishops in their oversight of those communities.

    I’m not bringing the canonical problems of the diaspora in here, but I am pointing out that the independence of the local parish council and priest exasperate this problem.

    You see, the immediate problem is that the priest is no longer a servant. He is a leader; in fact, THE leader. If the Bishop were there with one or more other priests and a pile of deacons to boot (and perhaps a monastery a short drive away), an individual priest wouldn’t have to be (nor would anyone even consider the folly of consideration) a staretz.

    I think this is the root of much of the problem, because it leads to so much else that is dysfunctional. There is a necessary compromise in all manner of parish life to deal with all the weaknesses which result from this one single thing: That a priest must be something other that what a priest should be.

    It would not be hard from this to talk about how a certain personality type could get dragged into such a dysfunctional situation.

    It is also not hard to see how the formation of a priest could then become corrupted as an academic, rather than spiritual, matter. In fact much of the “professional” problems of the priesthood arise directly from this.

    There are simply too few shepherds. Too few priests, far too few deacons. They are too dislocated. There is too much pressure on them to be too many things to too many people. Even if these young men might still have such consideration for the priesthood (I doubt they would in such numbers, but still) they would be off-set by the greater numbers of more suitable candidates and parish (and intra-parish) life could manage them better.

    I fuss about on blogs and the like, but have no interest in taking any of this “opinionated” personality and applying it to parish life. Do I think inquiring about the priesthood has a certain reasonableness for me? I suppose. Like your caricature, I like being in Church. And my family would benefit from a greater involvement in Church life. If work was not a competition for my time, my family and the Church would be a more pleasing enterprise.

    I don’t deny that I would gain something. I suppose it’s easy to see how someone would want to be a priest to “save others” and that desire for didacticism is in those people. But I have only the desire to save myself. I mean by that, I have no designs on anyone. I have strong opinions but I genuinely desire to keep them to myself (blogs excepted).

    Who knows, perhaps parishes get the priests they deserve. Perhaps America is getting the result of clericalism it deserves. I can’t say. Perhaps many of these young men like myself would make fantastic assistant priests, or deacons held under the authority of a more mature figure CLOSE AT HAND. Perhaps it’s even possible that those more mature figures themselves were this type at an earlier age. But now I’m speculating on whether this is not a type of person, but a stage in spiritual development. There is something to chew on!

    For me none of this is relevant (except to bother you on your blog). All of this is impossible as I am divorced. But I did notice some parallels in my own experience worth chatting about.

    • 2 Richard Barrett 19 November 2009 at 2:38 pm

      On the whole, David, I agree with you. The one place where I might quibble is that the bit about liking being in church isn’t a caricature — or rather, if it is, it’s a caricature of myself. I’m a choir director and cantor, and my academic interests tend to get at the nuts and bolts of how liturgy is used by the worshiping body to form and reinforce its identity as a Christian community. This isn’t by accident, I assure you.

      I agree with you that there are far too few real shepherds — but I would go further and say that there are also too few people willing to acknowledge the other side of that problem, which is that there are also too few who realize they don’t have to be a shepherd in order to be worth something, and that it’s okay to be a sheep — in fact, it’s necessary that there be sheep. “Function” and “status” isn’t something we distinguish between terribly well, because to our modern American ears any attempt to do so sounds like “separate but equal”.

      Parish congregationalism, in which the priest and the congregation hold each other in check to a certain degree with the bishop being the theoretical authority under which they abide, is indeed the compromise that has allowed Orthodox Christianity to function in America. Our parish is lucky enough to have a priest and a deacon, but the deacon takes so much weight off of the priest’s shoulders in certain capacities that when he retires (which I expect will happen soon), it’s probably going to take five people to replace his non-liturgical service, and since nobody in our parish meets the Archdiocesan requirements for the diaconate, we will be out of luck liturgically. One subdeacon started St. Stephen’s but opted out after the first term for a number of reasons, and another subdeacon is divorced. At least one other person has started St. Stephen’s but probably won’t finish any time soon. Truly, we could use either two priests and a deacon or one priest and three or four deacons. We will have one priest, and nothing else, reasonably soon. I am not persuaded that he will be able to perform all of his pastoral and liturgical duties and serve as “leader” of the parish and still have time for his family or keep his sanity, but there we are.

      In Greece the situation is a little different. Almost none of the parishes I saw had deacons (I think I saw a deacon once, on All Saints’ Day), but there are many bishops in Greece, and they all have rather small jurisdictions, so they are able to function as real shepherds more readily. The other side of that is that parishes tend to function less as communities the way we would understand it here, but because of the relationship between Greece and the Church, the idea of what the community is and needs to be is going to be different in the first place.

      Anyway — I appreciate your comments, David. Keep ’em coming.

      • 3 David Dickens 19 November 2009 at 3:20 pm

        The problem of “function” and “status”, reactions to cassocks and all such things are endemically cultural. It’s possible that there are cultural solutions to these problems; in fact, there must be and in fact, that will eventually be how they are resolved (if ‘resolved’ is any possible descriptive meaning). I mean to say they must and will be solved culturally and in the Spirit’s time, not mine.

        Perhaps some of this is the necessary and therefore ‘good’ process of indwelling in the local culture. These processes (no matter how messy) are ultimately salvific, in His hands.

        I both like and dislike the personality type Och is talking about (as I like and dislike aspects of myself). It really depends on how that type is applied in the community. For all I know that is precisely the right type to be priests for purposes I don’t fully understand, or as a transition to a more spiritually healthy state for the community and the individual.

        I say this particularly because of how Orthodox parishes must continue to exist (probably in perpetuity) in America. It makes an interesting point that some of my natural inclination to (as other American converts) dislike the “meddling of foreign ecclesial authorities” is blunted by the knowledge that in America, Orthodoxy will always be foreign. Not in the cultural sense it is now, but still potently other-worldly in a kingdom-not-of-this-world sense.

        It may be then that regardless of ecclesial structures, we will always be dependent, in a living way, on the cultures of the old countries. They will always have something we lack, except through their influence. This seems not a repulsive thing, but a design choice the Spirit makes for the adequate and good functioning of the body.

        What does that have to do with why “earnest” young men (is 37 young?) like me inquire to the priesthood? It is simply this, that there is no “ideal” Church or priest, there is what is, and what is, is intended, or at least is redeemable and actively being redeemed by the indwelling of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to give thanks to the Father.

        We can be, are becoming and will always have been becoming more like Christ. That is the life of the Church.

        I might proscribe all sorts of medicines for what ails. But I’m not in the position to proscribe (and that’s a good thing).

        As a side note, I’m not anti-academic, but more anti-academy. I appreciate all the learned people I’ve had the opportunity to read (even the one’s I thought were codswallop). But I don’t like the proscription of the academy as it encourages the clericalism which infects American Orthodoxy (including myself).

        Thank you for a fine blog post.

  2. 4 CNI 19 November 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Even the custom of having so many ‘tonsured readers” wearing “riassas” in regular parish churches I find quite amusing. There is nothing comparable in the Orthodox countries. There, one becomes a reader either as a formal step towards the diaconate, or functions as a chanter in a CATHEDRAL, but not in just every parish church.
    Then the most laughable thing I’ve seen is people introducing themselves as “Reader X”, either online, or in real life. I don’t know, do they think they have some sort of authority over us regular laity?
    I’ve never seen this phenomenon in the country I come from.

    The unworthy banner-bearer etc etc….

    • 5 Richard Barrett 19 November 2009 at 2:15 pm

      Well — for my part, I was tonsured as a reader to serve as a cantor (which I was already doing anyway). I won’t be going any further. I don’t wear the cassock except when I am serving the liturgical function in my own parish; I don’t travel with it, and I leave it at the church. It’s a tonsuring, not an ordination, so as far as I know it’s a blessing and not an ontological change, so I consider “reader” a function and not a title and don’t introduce myself or sign letters or answer the phone or whatnot using it. My priest communes me as “Reader Richard” and refers to me as such in church, but it’s not a moniker I use myself. I am acutely aware that while the intent of the cassock is in fact to diffuse any sense of power for the wearer, any vestment carries a different meaning for most Americans, which is why I don’t wear it when I’m not actively carrying out the function. I don’t have and don’t want any authority of that kind. Along similar lines, I know a woman who covers her head in church when she’s traveling in Asia Minor and the Middle East, but not here — “It has a different meaning here,” she says. That’s a specific case where I’m not certain I follow the argument, but I very much understand the sentiment.

      I will say that when I was in Athens, I saw cantors wearing cassocks at parish churches.

  3. 6 sevpr 20 November 2009 at 12:25 am

    Richard (and David), I got here from Byzantine Texas. Boy Howdy, there’s a mouthful here. I’m a subdeacon now but read services for 8 years before being tonsured a reader. I’m also divorced but over the 11 years I’ve been Orthodox I’ve had monks, nuns, abbotts, abbesses, bishops and priests try to get me ordained but it hasn’t happened. That said, I have to say I’ve done the stuff Och talks about and see all of it in spades in new converts. The reality is the bishops, monks, abbesses etc etc who went to bat for me didn’t KNOW me…they knew my public Orthodox persona, which was a facade, bottom line. Three years ago I came to the sober conclusion that, in spite of almost 50 years of aspirations to the priesthood (raised RC, I was), I would make a lousy priest and I do a better ministry as a layman.

    Delusion runs deep and my take on men who aspire to the priesthood is most of them aspire more out of psychological dysfunction than spiritual groundedness and it is more a role playing than a calling. Unfortunately those who recommend them for ordination and those who ordain them don’t know them well enough to discern that.

    Speaking to the issue of deacons…in my mind if one needs a collar to do the work of a deacon or to serve the Church then it is a disqualification. (Not to boast) I do the work of a deacon except for the liturgical functions in our mission because that’s what I do, not because I have a garment that designates me as one. I’m not a fan of clericalism. Anyone can serve the Church, only a few can serve at the altar.

    An excellent post. Thank you.


  4. 7 Fr. Andrew 23 November 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I have been, in some respects, the phenomenon being mentioned, and probably still am, to some extent. I also see this fairly regularly—nearly every 20- or 30-something male convert gets the priesthood into his head at some point. Most also get it out eventually, too, thanks be to God. I think it’s mainly a sign of immaturity.

    On the other hand, sometimes that immaturity is a prelude to something else, and it’s worth noting that. It seems to me that the passage quoted above could be used to describe the Apostle Peter before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

    Not every young man given to such off-balance spiritual life need remain there. Most actually don’t, anyway.

    • 8 David Dickens 23 November 2009 at 10:38 pm

      Perhaps every serious-minded young man should be considering the priesthood; especially, if he doesn’t become a priest. The process of wrestling with that might help considerably in working out how he does fit within the body. It sounds like from some of what I’ve read on this topic it’s a learning process for those who would like to prematurely ordinate those young men as well. Does that say something about those who would hastily lay on hands?

      Perhaps there is also a problem with the priesthood meaning “too much, too far” from the altar as well. This only serves as a temptation to young men and old priests.

      Not really coherent thinking on my part. Just wrestling through this.

      • 9 Fr. Andrew 24 November 2009 at 1:59 pm

        This is one of the reasons why I think it’s a fine idea that my archdiocese just increased from 3 to 5 years the time required before a new convert will even be considered for seminary.

      • 10 David 24 November 2009 at 2:16 pm

        For some reason I can’t reply to Fr. Andrew so I’m replying to my post.

        Who said anything about seminary? Seminary is neither necessary nor sufficient, though it may be prudent.

      • 11 Fr. Andrew 24 November 2009 at 2:31 pm

        Who said anything about seminary?

        I did.

        I didn’t suggest you or anyone else did, though.

      • 12 David 24 November 2009 at 2:40 pm

        Father forgive me for my rhetorical snark.

  5. 13 youngmaleandorthodox 23 November 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Brothers and friends, Hi! Let me introduce myself. I read the above post and your comments and must say that I can, like many of you, identify with the ‘condition’ described (in varying degrees). I must say that in the little more than a year that I’ve “been Orthodox” that whole rush of thoughts and angst-driven zeal has surfaced from time to time. If anything else, the whole matter as it has so far fleshed itself out above, has reassured me that nothing is at all new under the sun and that I’m not the only young man to feel these tugs. Thank you all for your candor. It has inspired me to start blogging myself.

    I’ll not pretend that my content will be as strong or deep as this and other blogs. I just want to express what it feels like being a young, male, Orthodox Christian convert in America. I’m not certain where to start, but that is covered by the blog’s name. I would welcome any suggestions for what I could write about to get the ball rolling.

    It is always helpful to sit as a fly on the wall and read along as you all ask, confront and answer so many of my questions and concerns. I apologize if it seems like I’m trying to self-promote. I just wanted to chime in and say thanks and please keep it up.

  6. 14 rjhargrav 2 June 2011 at 4:42 am

    It’s an old post, but you’ve just linked back and brought it to my attention.

    I’ve been young, male and Orthodox for the bulk of a decade, and many of these things apply. Owen snipes about “Lord, it’s hard to be humble.” Cute, but seriously- humility is difficult work. Pretending to be humble may be a posture, but Vonnegut says we become what we pretend to be (so be careful what you pretend to be). Yes: there are worse things than trying to be modest, even (especially?) when one is embarrassingly bad at it.

    I did experience, at a specific point in my life, something like a calling- OK, I call it a calling- to full-time Christian service. Thankfully I was working for Catholic Charities at the time and so it was obvious from the get-go that there are more possibilities than only parish administration.

    But even so, on three continents and in five jurisdictions I’ve had clergy try to rope me into the priesthood. For a young and rather impressionable Christian who’s trying to be serious about his faith and would rather trust in direction than in his own shaky knowledge, learning not to treat the local priest as a staretz does take some doing.

    Convincing priests that there are ways to serve God other than parish administration was much harder than becoming convinced of this myself. Given that clergy tend to be overworked, underpaid, unsupported and underappreciated, it’s not awfully surprising that they would encourage any young serious Christian with a beard towards their own career.

    • 15 Richard Barrett 2 June 2011 at 10:34 am

      A more positive wording than Vonnegut’s is what my former Episcopal priest used to say — “Your heart will follow your feet.”

      “…learning not to treat the local priest as a staretz does take some doing.” Isn’t that a mouthful! Yes, that’s very true.

      The reality is that most priests have to pastor and administer in their parishes. Generally, this means that one or the other function suffers. Either they’re great administrators who aren’t able to be pastoral to their congregations, or they’re great pastors who are barely able to get a pencil sharpened. There are a very rare few who are able to do both. So yeah, they tend to take miles off of given inches from well-meaning, energetic people. They may not want to, but it also may be the only way they can get things done. (Hm — seems to me there’s an analogy here to be made with choir directors… nah.)

  1. 1 A nod to the name « A Callow Youth Trackback on 22 November 2009 at 4:26 pm
  2. 2 Awesome. « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 1 June 2011 at 10:27 am
  3. 3 Not another one of those: on ignoring the babushki « Trackback on 18 July 2011 at 8:19 pm

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