I recently visited St Anthony of Padua church in Rye, East Sussex. This was one of my first parishes when I was part of the OFM Conventual Order. back in the early 70's. The church has not really changed much since those days and it brought back many memories. I rang the bell of the presbytery and a Canadian Franciscan brother opened and chatted for a while. The saddest part of our conversation was the realization that most (if not all) the Conventual friars I once knew, were now either dead or very old and in care. The Order now had a custodian from Romania, overseeing it.
The meeting raised many questions in my head and heart.
I have noticed now in my 68th year that so many of the priests and brothers I once knew as, bright, funny, thoughtful and progressive, somehow have become lifeless, dour, backward and spiritless! It seems to me that they all had lost something. Lost that original vibrant calling that drew them to the priesthood or religious life. I know that getting older with failing health can cause us to slow down and may add to our demise....but there is something more! I believe the Church has added to the demise of these brothers. It has slowly stripped away their humanity and replaced that with a facade of religious (exclusive) superiority. The priests I once knew as friendly, interesting and human, somehow have become lifeless, robotic individuals who can still seemingly, talk the talk, but have lost the ability to walk the walk! I wish this wasn't so but I have seen it time and time again. Of course not all priests and religious fall into this category and many remain vibrant channels of the Good News! But...too many have had the light in them extinguished!