I don’t know if this is true of all careers and professions. It turns out that post-retirement from parish ministry becomes a time of soul-searching, an attempt to answer such questions as, What was it all about? What did we achieve? Was it worth it, anyway?
I find myself today picking up and re-reading Roger Scruton’s Our Church, admittedly a very personal and perhaps unfashionable take on the Church of England. Which contains such nuggets as this:
Trollope’s unforgettable portrait of Dr Proudie, the time-serving, hen-pecked Bishop of Barchester, reminds us too that those clergymen who fall short of the full spiritual involvement of a Wyclif, a Herbert or a Donne have found, within the Church of England, sufficient reward to apply their very necessary talents and ambitions to keeping the show on the road.
Certainly a) is true - about falling short of Wyclif, Herbert and Donne. But I’m less sure about b) - whether just ‘keeping the show on the road’ was really enough. I had hoped for more, perhaps? But then, too, there’s something admirable about the Benedictine ideal of serving God in small things, faithfulness in prayer and work, keeping on keeping on, day after day and year after year. I wasn’t ever going to be a John Wesley; but an anonymous brother working away at the chalkface in Benedict’s ‘school for the Lord’s service’: that I could be.