I could have been a Contender
I reckon I could have made a good priest. I was certainly up for it. I was keen to help Africans by letting them into the ‘God’ secret. I think the Verona Fathers were quite keen to have me too. I had been top of my class in Primary School and got the Dux Prize (as they called it) for being the top boy in the top class in the school.
As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t realise that only about 1-in-20 boys made it through to the priesthood. I thought that once you had volunteered and been accepted that all you had to do was the training.
I think they thought of me as a ‘good catch’. I was keen on them too.
Keeping the Rules
But it was so difficult to keep the rules. They were so strict. And they judged you not on your sensitivity or how good your heart was or how good you were with people but on how well you kept the strict rules.
For instance, you were not allowed to whistle at all. That was completely banned. You were also not allowed to talk in the corridor or run in the corridor. Those in the Junior School were not allowed to talk to those in the senior school on most occasions and especially if you met them in the corridor.
You were not allowed to talk in Study. It seemed all designed to crush your spirit.
I’m sure that you are all working out here that these weren’t rules created for your own good or to help you towards God or to become people who were suitable priesthood material.
These were simply rules that adults created to suit themselves. They didn’t like noisy, unruly children who shouted and talked and whistled and they were in a position to prevent this – and they did.
Crushing the Spirit
It was all about control. I’m afraid they simply try to crush the spirits of those who, like Maria in the Sound of Music, had a bit of spirit in the first place. Wouldn’t Maria have made a good nun? I bet she would have. She wouldn’t have been dull. She would have attracted far more people to the Catholic Church than all those drudges who get through to become nuns.
At the Verona Fathers reunions I meet people who I think would have made great priests but too many of them couldn’t allow their spirits to be crushed to get where they wanted to be.
Those of you who are Catholic (and I would think it applies to other religions too) when you hear the dreary sermons from your local priests you should pause to reflect that the reason that you are bored out of your skull at most of the sermons is that these are the people who managed to survive the spirit crushing because they simply obeyed the rules without question. They are the ones who managed to survive the system.
I’m sorry to sound so negative but these are the people who had little spirit in the first place.
Choosing Between Candidates
I remember reading once what Tom Peters, the workplace quality guru said. He asked some Human Resource people who they would pick between two candidates. The first had a First Class Honours degree and had come straight from University.
The second candidate had a 2:1 degree and had not come straight from University but had taken a Gap Year out and had gone to help people in Africa or South America.
Of course the Human Resources people all plumped for the first candidate who was better qualified and was not a bit of a maverick like the second candidate.
Tom Peters told them that they should grab the 2nd candidate every time. That person will come into your organisation and will try to be innovative. He will try new things. As he said, either they will make a difference to your organisation or they will go. You won’t have to sack them. They won’t cling on.
Again I am reminded of a company, who had a high turnover rate of staff, that got in an outside firm to construct a psychometric test so that they could find out which candidates were more likely to leave them and which ones were more likely to stay.
They adopted the programme but abandoned it after two years. The lesson they learned was that the people most likely to leave are the ones that you most want to keep at the company. The ones that are not likely to leave were the ones that you didn’t want in the first place. The first lot were reliable but stodgy. The second lot were innovative and would leave anyway if they were not successful.
I’m sure if Tom Peters, or somebody else, was brought in to do a consultant’s job to let them know why the Catholic Church (or other Churches) were losing ‘market share’, he might well say to them “See those guys that you think are great who never whistle in the corridor, who at the age of eleven always walk and don’t run, who never get into trouble with the teachers, and who always have their homework done on time?”
Dump the Lot
“Dump the lot of them. They won’t be able to relate to your ‘customers’. What you really want are some of the guys who ‘bend the rules’ a little, who at the age of eleven sometimes have to run, to whistle, to shout with excitement. They’ll understand your customers and your customers will relate to them.
“They’ll give exciting sermons and they’ll enthuse people about God and your religion. Instead of your churches being full of old people and sullen youngsters who have been forced to attend, you might just get yourself a vibrant religion which related to young people rather than just those who feel it is time to book their slot in Heaven”.
Of course they won’t and they can’t do that – and as a result they have lost ‘market share’ to the Evangelicals.
A Bad Boy
I really did want to become a priest at the time but I really couldn’t keep all those rules. I tried to keep them and I did keep them for 98% of the time. But I couldn’t keep it up for every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month of the year.
I really tried – but I couldn’t.
So they told me I was a Bad Boy.