THEME: the lifelong influence of the WF 'experience '
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An observation - a poor thing, but mine own! and I was only briefly a seminarian - 11 - 17, taking in St Columbas's and The Priory with all those establishments entailed , all very formative, and I've never regretted that 'formation'
I am firmly of the opinion that it all set me off very well on the path of life. So much so, that when i had my open and frank career discussion with 'Fitz' having just completed 1 'A' level. And we agreed our ways should part, in the interests of both! I went off and after kicking my heels briefly in that Northern Centre of civilisation - Buxton - in the Peak District, until overtaken by ennui, I followed the instructions on an alluring poster, and joined the Royal Marines. Recruit life there - after my seminary time, was delightful! Hot water always available, excellent food, a straightforward routine. And lots of physical and other demands. And generally - good living conditions (no walls running with poverty here!!) Though we had little money (?9 a week to start, with lots of compulsory purchasing - cleaning materials etc). But then, that is how it had ever been.
Initial training went on for a long time (18 months overall) and after diversions to the West country, and to Norway, I found myself despatched to Aden. From there in January 1964, I actually managed to get to Africa for the first time, arriving, not quite as i had always envisaged 'Ad salvandos afros' - stepping off a helicopte, armed to the teeth, in Tanganyika to put down a mutiny by the Tanganyika rifles. and so on and so on. I loved it, and I stayed on (in the Marines but not in Africa) for the next 10 years (14 in all). Further great development time again following on from the Seminary. indeed there is some similarity. And my final 'Paid ' work was back in Africa, back in South Africa, but with a wide remit. During this time I visited Tan(zania) again - for the first time since the initial incursion, though I ( being unimpressed by the economic transformation achieved by Nyrere's great initiatives.....
Then to Whitehall, and further afield (the UN, Central America, and Russia and Central Europe), and never ending challenge and stimulus. WF and RM had so well prepared me for everything I encountered. And married now with 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren
No experience is wasted. And I still remember well much of what was dinned into me as a young lad. Education continued - slowly, 'auto-didact is I think the correct description, but it is the variety of WF fathers who encouraged me in that vein I must thanks for all that. AS I type I am listening to R4 and some of the typical wise vox pop on there, and was reflecting on how we managed to become good sports players with none of the facilities so apparently essential to today's youth. you too can remember when piles of clothes were as near to goalposts we could get, and the strip was either shirts or skins. And the disappointment to find the only football in the school had a puncture in the bladder, and the ingenuity with which we would set off to deal with that.And so on.......
And now, I think it would be good to have retained something of my Irish Catholic mother's faith and consequent stoicism, as i deal with physical decline and daily contemplation of ones' own evident mortality.
I drop in occasionally to the pelican's site and remember with warmth and humour, the times we had. Similarly with RM and other reminiscing, though I do not go near the dreadful farce book or similar non-discriminatory bodies.....!
Anyway, I look forward to the musings of others, and will check here again
What a wonderful email!
It brings to the fore many of the more positive aspects of our early training and experiences.
The synergy that you identify between your WF training and the military seems to be a common theme among the many ex-WF students who experienced military service. I ?issed?compulsory service, being born on the 1st day of January 1940. However, I?e always had enormous respect for the services: my father, grandfather, uncles and cousins were all professional soldiers; my father served in the Royal Artillery for 35 years. I know that I am a product of this background?nd the better for it!
After leaving the novitiate in 1960, my path took me at breakneck speed on an academic track. By 1969, I found myself having graduated with a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University (California), on the Psychology faculty at Western University (London, Ontario), and with two kids (one born in Manchester, the other adopted in San Francisco). I am sometimes left breathless at how rapidly all this happened.
I was married (so soon, in 1964!), I have four children: two biological, and two adopted; two boys and two girls; I have 7 grand-children.
My career has been in the health research field, largely associated with addictions, and the prevention of alcohol/drug related problems. In the past 15 years, things have been coming full circle as a result of my involvement with post-graduate students in public health at Toronto University, many of whom are heading to/from Africa?esterday, one of my favourite graduates (from Uganda) visited with his wife and new baby; he is a product of a very strong Catholic upbringing and education (thanks to the WFs!). At the same time, my life-trajectory has included a parallel development in my involvement in my faith community which, I know, has very deep roots in my WF preparation.
Question: how will this completing of the circle continue to evolve in my life?
Thanks again. Take good care.
62 Wheeler Avenue, TORONTO, Ontario, Canada. M4L 3V2
First lesson, purely personal to me: I? have been out of one of those seminaries (if they? ever have let me in) a good deal faster than I was out of St Edward?. Would ?hey?have moved first or me?
Second Lesson: who are the guys in these seminaries training to serve, and how will they go about doing it? They would, of course, say they are training to serve God, but Jesus says the final judgement will be centred not on who said ?omine, Domine? or even ?ord, Lord? but upon ?hatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.? ?nd why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.?Matthew 6:28).
Cutting yourself off ?by dress, by language, by where you live ?from the people you are supposedly learning to serve seems a strange way of learning to serve them. A South African sister was telling us that the most difficult part of living her vocation was the way her community was to a degree estranged by their comparative wealth under the vow of poverty, compared to the people around them, from whom most of the sisters came. Yet her vocation and her contribution to the well-being of her people, were real.
And Three, another lesson underlined by Pope Francis: you don? suddenly start preaching the Gospel when the bishop lays hands on you. From Priory days onward we were encouraged to spend time in pastoral work, beginning with joining Our Lady? Catechists, cycling out to Betty Mundy? or Upham to prepare Harry Moreton? young parishioners for First Communion. It was heart-warming to realise how much this still meant to some of those people many years on, when we returned for the Centenary.
Fourth Lesson: beware of clericalism! While we who have spent so much time with priests are likely to be relatively easy in their company, that black outfit is a barrier to many people. It is more than a school uniform, it sets the men apart as experts in religion, a status reinforced when they use a language not readily accessible to the rest of the world: this is true both of Catholics and non-Catholics. If the men in black are the experts, the rest of us can sit back and let them take all the decisions, let them be the professionals and do the different ministries because ?ather knows best? Surely part of the reason for what looks like a lack of vocations is that there are plenty of them, but that they are qualitatively different to what we expected to see fifty years ago.
To avoid problems, in some houses of formation, young people grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told: ?ood. You have finished formation.?This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils. ?I summarise by some advice that I once received as a young man: ?f you want to advance, think clearly and speak obscurely.?That was a clear invitation to hypocrisy. We need to avoid that at all costs.
You see why I acknowledge that I would not have survived? I witnessed a fair amount of this behaviour when in formation and certainly the temptation was always there to adopt such a strategy to ?et through? I have no grounds to condemn the young men entering ?raditionalist?Tridentine rite seminaries; indeed I can sing Missa de Angelis, badly, with the best of them. But is that going to touch the lives and hearts of the people my local SVP conferences work with, or Pat Shanahan? street workers?charges?
Read Gerry Rathe? ?a href="../publications/publications3.htm#mud">Mud and Mosaics?and see what the White Fathers and others were saying some fifty years ago about the need for change, for vernacular, for inculturation. Inculturation in Europe today may well mean a different, more humble priesthood. The clerical sort has run its course.
*Jim Connelly's observation on Page 1 to which Maurice refers:
Further to the first article in the new OBSERVATIONS section, is it not significant that in the USA the two or three senior seminaries that are full and thriving belong to the priestly societies (in union with the Catholic Church) who espouse both the pre-Vatican 2 Latin Mass and seminary training ,where the seminarians wear the black cassock and clerical collar from the start of their training through to ordination (six to seven years)?
I was so pleased to read Maurice Billingsley? sensible, down-to-earth, sane and very restrained response.
|4th July 2014 : Jim's response to Maurice (email above)
Maurice, with regard to your "lessons" I believe you have missed my point. I cited the American Seminary because of the way it was run with the emphasis on the priestly spirituality. I am quite open to Mass being celebrated either in the vernacular or in Latin. I enjoyed my seminary days and did not feel constricted by the daily meditation, Mass, recitation of the rosary and evening services nor indeed by the wearing of the cassock or white habit. I left because the priestly vocation was not for me and for no other reason.
As for the wearing of the black being a barrier - really!!!! It's a means of identity and is universal. they are Christ's Ministers and should be visibly recognised for who they are and in no way does it or should it impede their sacramental ministry. Are the Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals creating barriers by wearing black or the Pope by wearing white, I don't think so.
I am pleased to see that Pope Francis has chosen a less elaborate white outfit and presumably less expensive one than Pope Benedict.
Priests and religious can still wear the black or habit and live the life of Christ as is clearly demonstrated by our present Pope.
| From Mauricce Billingsley : Osservattore Cantauro
16th July 2014
What disturbs me about so-called ?raditional?seminaries is not the priestly formation but the clerical (de)formation that aims to set a man apart. I agree with Pope Francis that clericalism can all too easily breed hypocrisy. I was more than aware that, as he put it, students could ?ry not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told: ?ood. You have finished formation.?
We have had some interesting comments following Michael Goodstadt? observations. I guess we are all at an age now where we look back more than we look forward. I had the Irish mother syndrome too which caused me to go to St Columba's/The Priory - and hormones that caused me to leave. I don't regret going there nor do I regret leaving. There was a very good post on the message board by Patrick Southall some time ago, essentially saying how well the White Fathers did in educating some of us to grammar school level when we probably would not have made it to grammar school outside.
After I left I started and gave up a couple of apprenticeships and joined the Royal Navy. Having had a few strappings in my time with the WF, I had no trouble with the discipline. (Anyway, the rope's end had been banned in the Navy by the time I joined). In fact I needed the disciplined environment; I needed parameters to live by. I soon discovered that I could work the system and found that the 'more you sucked, the more you got.' Being a Royal Navy Commando (attached to Royal Marines) hardened my body and my head and later having joined the Submarine Service, the Navy continued my education up to Master of Science degree level. If I had not had the foundation, none of that would have been possible.
The question posed is whether I would I recommend the religious life, or the junior seminary system? Probably not, especially not to someone who has hormones as strong as mine were, unless it changed. Would I abolish forced celibacy for the priesthood? Certainly, I see no virtue in it at all. We have had two vicars in our CofE parish recently who have formerly been Catholic priests but became Anglicans in order to be married and continue in ministry, one a former Jesuit. These two both wear the Roman collar consistently so that they look like priests and are recognisable as such and, no doubt, would have continued in the Catholic priesthood if their personal circumstances had allowed them.
I go to Italy probably two or three times a year and have done so for many, many years. I teach Italian and take groups there to attend school. Yes, in Rome, in Vatican Square, every second person wears a suit and a clerical collar but outside there it is almost impossible to distinguish a priest (or nun) from any other person in the street. The same goes for France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Austria (and I presume any number of other so-called Catholic countries. Does it matter ?of course it does. In the past, the laity related to the pastor. He stood out as someone different; someone with recognisable values and someone to look up to.
Commander WJ Nimmo-Scott OBE