It’s unintended, but very appropriate, that I’m writing this post from Merri Street in Warrnambool, overlooking Lake Pertobe. My view at present is the very pleasant vista which was this blog’s original background:
That coincidence makes this is a very good place to reboot my blog! In recent months I haven’t blogged much at all. It seems all my time is spent in prayer and pastoral work and driving. I’m rarely at my desk. But for the next month, that changes.
Four weeks ago, on the afternoon of Palm Sunday, I was booked for excessive speed. I was travelling 28 kph over the speed limit – unintentionally I hasten to add – which in Victoria warrants automatic suspension of one’s driver’s license for a month. Fortunately, the suspension comes into force 28 days after the offence, so I was still able to drive during Holy Week!
But now I am grounded. When I informed my parish priest and my bishop, they both remarked that I’d better find some good friends who can act as drivers. A good suggestion. I’ve organised all that, and I’ll be able to get to Sunday Masses, and funerals, and sick calls, as normal. But all other movement is restricted, which means the time I previously spent in my three far flung parishes, and the hours I spent driving to those far flung parishes, will instead be spent in Casterton.
There are many benefits to this arrangement. I will actually live in Casterton for a while – as opposed to sleeping in Casterton at nights. I can walk from the church to the town each morning, and buy a few things at the supermarket. Stop for a coffee in one of the cafes. Chat with the locals. Maybe even drop into the bottom pub for a beer every evening. (The trading hours of the top pub and the middle pub are more haphazard; fortunately for me the bottom pub is closer to home.)
There’s a big advantage to a priest living among his people. You can connect much more; the ministry of presence has a surprising impact. But unfortunately, the tyranny of distance and the shortage of priests have conspired to make it nigh impossible for country priests to live this out. To my surprise, the life of a country priest is more hectic and disconnected than the life of a city priest.
Another benefit is that I will spend much more time at my desk. That’s good for the administration of my parishes, and for planning, and for my blog. I can write again!
I am hopeful that my month of limited movement will help me to permanently foster more order. I think I’ve been running around too much, expending my energy inefficiently. After all, who drives at 128 kph accidentally, when they’re not even in a hurry? Only someone who isn’t living an ordered life.
Here is the right order of priorities, I think, for any disciple of Jesus, lay or ordained:
3. Family and friends.
I suspect many people put work first, or maybe second after God. Then comes family and friends, and self-care is the lowest priority. That might seem like noble unselfishness, and sometimes it may well be, but it isn’t very smart. Prioritising self-care isn’t selfish when it optimises a person’s ability to serve others.
Maybe my own order has been a bit skewed. By physically slowing down, I think I can work smarter, not harder, and my prayer and work will be more fruitful. This blog will be a good measure of that. Stay tuned!