Friday, June 22, 2012

Professional Drunks. . .

On June 13, the front page of the Kansas City Star, there was the following:  "Professional drunks, is what Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe calls drivers who habitually consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel." What got my attention was the attribution of  professional to qualify driving drunks!  “Sir, you are now a certified professional drunk.” Congratulations?-reminding me about the devolution of that word professional as to be applied to any specialized and skilled job. However now the devolution is to a habitual activity. Wow, I suppose defecation is professional!! Of course, I have known some professional sh**s. . . but, as they say, that is a whole other story.

In its origin, professional as in profession, comes from monastic life: to profess to a spiritual life and its discipline in a specific religious community way. The word profession has as its necessary precedent, vocation. To have a vocation or calling assumes the sacrament of baptism as the gift of entry into the general community of Christ’s Church from which lay and ordained vocations are realized in a personal lifetime discovery of who we are as God’s children maturing in body, mind and spirit. Vocation is to the word inspiration as expression is to profession. We are inspired as we receive the Holy Spirit as to breath in or ingest the fullness of the gift of eternal life. We profess existentially as we come to express our spiritual gifts in a life style and ordered discipline of those gifts into communities needing our well honed and disciplined categories of educated and trained abilities. So hence we have the classic professions of teacher, lawyer and pastor, etc. The baptismally derived vocations of lay, deacon, priest and bishop come alive as they are expressed professionally. The indelibility of vocations gets expressed in what can be multiple and consecutive professions so that a priest can also be a lawyer and doctor and as Jesuits, for example, do frequently even before they are ordained as priests.

But, alas, now in the Church and society, ordination is  about having a job, a set of skills to learn effectively to be a parish pastor, mission executive, canon to the very ordinaries, etc. So for about thirty years in my hearing, new assistants may ask the rector/CEO about “comp time,” as if they punch a clock so many times weekly. Then there is  the necessary negotiation of a benefit package well ahead of paternity or maternity leave, sabbatical, continuing education and so on. Not that these are not good and necessary things; yet they are not for us “job benefits” but necessary attributes of how professionally we maintain and grow our well being and spiritual gifts for the community.

Is this just all wordplay?  I beg to state, “Not,” as real and true professionals know. We are paid and compensated not to work but to set aside our whole lives, our time and talent, our personhood to be able to see, discern, lead and act authoritatively for the good of the community.  We use the set of ordered gifts we have so assiduously developed and practiced with a savoir faire born of full focused devotion. Being rector of a church is to be able to take excellent actions according to the required commitments made at the time the parochial call is accepted and licensed. It is not about putting in  the time and getting compensation to use some set of job skills and certainly not about doing something  out of rote, necessary habit or  emotional or financial dependency.
Can a car mechanic, ditch digger or plumber be a professional?  Has that computer programmer, grocery clerk or hotel maid given over their time, talent and treasure to express their sainthood in a life of perfecting service for the good of Christ’s Body?  Has the CEO of a major corporation? Has the deacon, priest or bishop?  Have you?


  1. Ron, this post is a reminder to all who call themselves professionals to recall that we are dedicated to a calling outside of ourselves, a calling so indelibly marked in our spiritual psyche that it is impossible to call it a job. In my parish ministry, I worked until I got the job done and never thought I was "owed" anything. It was a privilege to serve God and the Church to the best of the abilities that God gave me.

  2. "We are paid and compensated not to work but to set aside our whole lives, our time and talent, our personhood . . . for the good of the community." Well said!! Pity the congregation where the leadership makes faith a hobby and not a profession.