My Catholic education didn't prepare me for...

S and I both went to public schools until College and then joined the Catholic colleges crowd.  I didn't know it at the time but I am one of the rare breeds who went to a non-Jesuit Catholic college (go Franciscans!).

Nonetheless, we were both deeply influenced by Catholic Social Teaching.  Through Campus ministry experiences, theology courses, and our community of friends we both encountered and bought into the idea of living lives commited to awareness and action for the poor.

Side note: I use the word poor but mean it in a larger sense meaning a lack of wholeness. Each of us then is poor in different ways. Poverty can take on many forms. Sure there is economic poverty but there are also a poverties in our limited abilities, or poverties found in small moments of brokenenss.  If I have an interaction with someone who clearly doesn't know themselves I might describe them as having a poverty of some sorts.  Someone who is closeted is "impoverished" or on the other hand homophobia is also a poverty...Make sense at all?

Okay, so what I was saying, is that S and I both bought into this idea. We went on trips, we accompanied people, we heard their stories, we made choices that altered our lives because of our experiences.  Now, in our middle years and looking a bit back on how the choices we made to live simply have altered our lives we think about ways that we might have been better informed of the losses of such decisions.  Like many things we feel that ministers who helped shape our lives in these ways didn't share about other side of the coin that can go with these choices...

1. Simple living- and choosing jobs that don't make much money- make family life really hard.

I think we both bought, and to some degree still do, into the romantic ideal of the simple life.  We thought that life paired down with few things would afford some sort of radical freedom. We plunged into simple living and persuing careers in ministry with a romantic notion that we don't need much.  We still believe that.  Except now, two children later we can barefly afford childcare, the deductables on our healthcare are a real bitch by only  random luck can we afford a preschool, and the fear of having another child sends both of us off a cliff of terror...and we are the lucky ones with two jobs with benefits!  We wouldn't undo our decisions at all but the failure to talk about the implications that these decisions can have on family and stress levels is at least worth noting

(There is whole other topic here about religious life and simple living since S and I both spent some time in college discerning religous life- it doesn't have the same risks as simple living with family.)

2. Being aware of Justice means making peace with the tension.

I think that Catholic colleges are working so hard to get people to wake up and try to notice the injustices around the world that they fail to prepare those who notice the injustices to live within them. 

We have both learned that the tension of noticing injustice does not go away.  Dealing with homelessness in your morning commute or on the bus, seeing the poor and elderly ignored in our political sphere watching civil rights be denied to people and a myriad of other things all bring up feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness and tension.  Our persistent lens for noticing these things hasn't made life easier. It has made it more vibrant and more alive perhaps less selfish but not easy.

We recognize now that doing service is sometimes an act of keeping guilt at bay instead of moving towards loving your neighbors.  We have learned that there are even times in our lives when service doesn't fit in very well...but even if we are living just lives making every decision perfectly and doing service in every free minute there is still going to be the tension in the world that doesn't go away. Poverty is around.  It isn't going to be resolved quickly. We can do what we can do (and should!) but living with awareness is living with tension (akwardness).

All in all, I'm not saying that we would make different choices. I believe that we are living deeply in the wonderful and difficult tension of being aware.  I believe that our headaches about finances or concerns for the welfare of our children are just the tip of the iceberg that others face on a daily basis.    Our privelege is still very apparent and I do not deny that.

I think ultimately I am landing on a critique of the clerical nature of the church.  So many of the conversations around living these things out assume singleness. They assume that people aren't familied in the way that people with marriages and children are.  And, lets be honest, are people in their lives are going to be married and possibly with children than are going to be in a religious order (Nuns and most priests).  As ministers, we begin this shift...


  1. You always have such great thought-provoking thoughts. :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing and for being real and for posting things that make me think.

    I love you and hope you had a happy birthday and that we can talk soon.

  3. I remember you having a conversation with me once about how being low-paid gave a sort of legitimacy to thinking of a profession as a "calling." That's the same sort of thing you're tapping into here.


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