Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I always come home from church with a plethora of ideas floating around in my head….and my intellect seems to think it is my job to somehow paste them together into a meaningful whole. Today I heard “energy” differentiated from the Holy Spirit, the scripture’s description of the Road to Amadeus scenario once again, and, finally, and perhaps most importantly,  a satisfactory explanation of my church’s policy regarding retired priests—-a policy, that quite frankly  has been a “burr under my saddle” for quite some time.

I think I shall call this blog entry “launching through the Holy Spirit.” Sunday school was full of talk about the Holy Spirit. The sermon following Sunday School added an explanation of the importance of imposing professional boundaries when a priest retires in a way that finally made sense to this psychiatric nurse without triggering my automatic response to resist and distrust authority.  It was suggested that Christ “fasted” from spending time with his  disciples after his resurrection so that there was time for them to digest and internalize the ideas and concepts Jesus had exposed them to and that this period of fasting was a means of allowing the disciples time to understand and to begin to apply the ideals they had been taught.

In the mental health nursing course I teach, we talk about  a similar process that occurs when a young adult leaves home. This stage,  “launching, ” occurs when young adults leave their family of origin and begin establishing their own lives and identities. If this stage proceeds correctly, the young adult is “emancipated” and “individuated” from his or her parents and siblings. This means the individual develops an identity independent of the family that raised him or her yet still maintains  ties with that  family. If  young adults are successfully “launched”  beliefs and values “planted” in them by their family provide a foundation from which they develop  principles that guide their newly found independence.

Of course, many of us, including myself, did not automatically “buy into” our families’ beliefs, and we had to rebel, resist, and develop our own version of  what was originally planted in our minds.  We discarded some “seeds” or ideas,  altered some so that they fit our own emerging value system, and created some new and independent ideas/values of our own.

You may be asking yourself what on earth this has to do with the Road to Amadeus, the Holy Spirit, and the church’s take on retiring priests. Here’s where I am going to share my own, and somewhat, original idea about how all of this is related. I apologize to those it offends, and I remind my readers it is only my opinion.

I think my church views parishioners as a family or children who need “family rules and mores” to ensure that the transition from letting go of a retired priest to accepting a new priest goes smoothly. I have found that concept somewhat disconcerting because I think it discredits the fact that many of us have enough values, mores, and inherent common sense in our repertoire of personal values to support and nurture a healthy transition without having to have rules mandating our behavior. However,  this morning’s sermon explained  to me another reason for having such a strict policy——it lets the parishioners have enough space and time during the transition for them to incorporate and  manifest what they learned from their previous priest into their own value system and behaviors.  This “growing space” does not offer any threat to the new priest that is coming; instead it sets the stage for independent, “launched adults” to welcome and support the person who will be their new priest. Much like the disciples had to have time to digest and internalize what Jesus had taught them, so, too, do parishioners need time to digest and internalize ideas and concepts taught to them by thier retired priest.

I’ll admit that when our previous priest retired  it did feel a bit like we were being abandoned. However, I realized that the best way to deal with his departure was to develop my own spiritual independence. That is one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I realized I am responsible for my own spiritual growth, and writing this blog has supported the growth of my own spirituality. Hence, “launching through the Holy Spirit” is my way of describing how losing a valued priest  helped emancipate me as a “spiritually young adult” onto the pathway of my own spiritual journey.

I hope all are enjoying this beautiful Spring day. May God bless and keep you.