Thank you both, but looking through this information, I’m left with more questions than answers.
So I guess then that I’ll rephrase my question and provide a little more context. First of all, the question: what are desirable qualities, characteristics, and personality traits in a brother that are NOT desirable qualities, characteristics, and personality traits in a priest? Likewise, what are desirable qualities, characteristics, and personality traits in a priest that are NOT desirable qualities, characteristics, and personality traits in a brother? In short, what are the determinative factors between these two types of men? It’s a blunt question to which I doubt that there is a universally correct answer, but it’s surely grist for thought. As much of my thinking results from my bouncing ideas off of others and then seeing how I react to their responses, I’d be happy to have any opinions.
Now, in the above, I understand that the differences between consecrated men in the same institute or type of institute, whether clerics or not, would likely be more modest than the differences between consecrated men in different types of institutes, e.g., a missionary brother would likely be more similar to a missionary priest than he would to a Trappist monk. But I think it best to leave these categories aside. So let’s presume that that we’re drawing our contrast between a priest and a brother in the same institute.
The society that I’m looking at is very devoted to the traditional liturgy and accordingly is mostly a society of priests who serve parishes. The letter I received from their vice-provincial states that the role of an oblate is “service of the Liturgy at the altar and in the Divine Office, basic studies in Latin and Chant, as well as… the necessary work of the apostolate such as teaching catechism, caring for the sacristy and priory, office administration, etc.”
This in mind, I’m going to change tone a little. We’ve all read of Christ’s visit to the house of Mary and Martha and of their two contrasting personalities. The one has always been seen as a symbol of the contemplative life, the other as a symbol of the active life. Certainly, when reading this, we all want to be more like Mary than like Martha. Whenever I meditate on this scene, I always find myself thinking of Velázquez’s great canvas on the subject (here, if you don’t know what I’m talking about: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Christ_in_the_house_of_Marthe_and_Marry_V%C3%A9lazquez.jpg). Like any great work of art, this can be read on a number of different levels. The biblical figures are relegated to the background; whether through a window, reflected in a mirror, or in a painting within a painting, we don’t know. Our attention is drawn to the distraught young cook and the elderly servant whispering in her ear. Her eye catches ours, and we see ourselves now in her; we are the cook here. But is she looking at the scene with Christ and the two sisters, reflected in the mirror, longing for a more contemplative life, with the elderly woman counseling her to accept her place in life and resume her laborious work? Or is she distraught with the drudgery of her work, and thus the elderly woman gestures to the painting on the wall, reminding her to think about the Lord?
I don’t have an answer to this, but I can only say that whatever is supposedly going through that young woman’s mind has gone through mine a lot, and I’m sure it shall continually throughout my life, no matter where I find myself. Life after the Fall is laborious by its very nature, yet we are called to be thoughtful. I’ve ordered my secular life deliberately that I might have a lot of opportunity to be alone, think, read, write, pray, and so forth. I’ve left better-paying jobs in order to be better able to do that–and to share the fruits of that as a teacher and tutor.
When I am active, thus, it tends to be in sharing the fruits of my contemplation. Without contemplation, it’s just mere busy-ness to me. So many priests I know are, unfortunately, merely busy. I’ve had parish priests tell me that they rarely have a chance to meditate or to read, and end up ad-libbing their homilies. I’ve seen zealous young priests turn into jaded functionaries over time, affecting all of those over whose souls they have cure. Aside from liturgical considerations, that’s one of the reasons that I considered that working with an institute or society would be more appropriate; working with other priests would allow the work to be shared and thus allow more time for the intellectual and spiritual development that must animate their apostolate.
I know that I need more information from this society to answer this question appropriately, but where would the oblate or brother fit into this? Free from the obligations of administrating the sacraments, does he then have the opportunity, perhaps even more opportunity than the priests, to sit at the feet of Our Lord and to learn from Him, like Mary, in order better to be a blessing to those he instructs, those he befriends, those who come to him for counsel? Or is his life one of humdrum labour and worry about temporal things, like Martha, in order that only the priests might have that opportunity?
As I truly feel a strong draw to this institute’s objective, those last questions are important as to whether I should continue to consider it or not. I’m writing them asking for more information, but I’m also writing at the same time to other similar institutions that might offer the priesthood. I’m open, though, to whichever direction the Lord might lead me.
Anyhow, as always, your comments are greatly appreciated. The responses that you give to my questions do much more good than perhaps you realize. Thank you to all who care.
Le Barde Gaulois