I found a quote from Monsignor Alfred Gilbey (1901-1998). It follows on very nicely from my reflection about ecclesiastical bureaucracy and middle management. Many of us find ourselves in a situation of conflict, namely believing in an ideal (Catholic tradition) and finding that the reality does not correspond. We either adjust to correspond with the reality or we venture out into “eccentric-dom” and live with our cognitive dissonance. Alternatively we can give up and adopt Gnosticism or Materialism as our philosophy of life. Perhaps these are things for the generality of Lent and not just for Holy Week, where the focus is the battle between death and life, between human wickedness and the Redemption.
I wrote a comment on a blog:
I think we can make a difference by quiet study and getting on with life and the things we do liturgically in chapel. Everything positive we do makes a difference, especially by “escaping the Matrix” and being ourselves. We can write, compose music, promote dinghy cruising (as I do), whatever floats your boat – everything we dedicate ourselves to.
We won’t feel that we have made any difference, and most of us will die in obscurity, and most of us will be forgotten within 50 years of our deaths. Something will remain if we meant it for the common good or some little contribution to our world. Vivaldi was forgotten and his music was only discovered in Venice in the 20th century. We don’t matter. The little we can leave to posterity does, and it won’t matter very much to us.
I can only suggest that degree of detachment, and you will better be able to focus the positive you have in you. I think the old priests you mentioned would have said as much.
Detachment is something age brings us. My own life as a priest is laden with compromises, and they can be difficult to live with. There are few options, and they become narrower as time goes by. Monsignor Gilbey’s quote was written in response to the fashionable attitudes in the RC Church and the Church of England consisting of believing that we are called to put the world right without first attending to the Kingdom within. It can equally apply to traditionalists and those who bewail the conflicts they experience.
“………. so much of our modern Christianity gives the impression that what we are here for is to put the world right. To make a true contribution to putting the world right, we must first establish the kingdom of God in our own hearts. This primary duty is ours all the time and any effect we have outside ourselves will be either an overflow, a consequence or an instrument of that. The primary province for each of us is not the Third World but our own hearts…… Each of us has a combination of gifts and handicaps and tasks to perform which is true of no one else at all. Each man’s vocation is unique and peculiar to himself and he achieves sanctity by trying to fulfil it. It is something solely between himself and Almighty God……. One analogy—not often seen nowadays—is that of people making a tapestry sitting on a row of stools, working on the canvas from behind, each of them trying to carry out perfectly the bit of design that is in the space allotted to him. Only confusion ensues if any of them think that the man five stools down is not getting on very fast and goes to help him, to the neglect of his own work. If he has done his own patch, well and good. For that is what he is there to do. If each man does his piece perfectly, when they all go round to the other side the whole design comes to life. But if any of them thinks he can improve or change the pattern he has been given, or thinks he should neglect it to help someone else, he causes nothing but confusion”.
We each have our own job to do.