The Voice

John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is probably my all-time favorite book. Owen is an odd little hero, but he's amazing. He writes a prep-school column titled "The Voice," and while it's not popular it is exceptionally perceptive.

I thought of this today because I think I'm starting to put words to an impulse I've had for a while.

I sat in a meeting this morning listening to my co-workers discuss how they were going to meet our County Commissioners' desire for measurable outcomes from the Drug and Alcohol programs that we fund. Because there's simply not funding to track clients after they've received treatment, this is no small obstacle. Also, it's hard to say what "success" is when you're dealing with human programs. If Client A loses his sobriety, but is still seeking treatment, I think that's a partial success. Other people might think it was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

I left the meeting thinking about how the Commissioners make budget and contract decisions based on politics-- which decisions are going to get them re-elected. I can respect the fact that, to an extent, that's how a democratic system is meant to work: I'll let you make the decisions as long as I approve of them. So it seems to me that we need to make it clear that spending money on social programs WILL get people re-elected. In this county, right now, I don't think it would. So we need to start by better educating the public about what addiction is, and how it is most effectively addressed.

So what's all this have to do with the price of tea?

Well, I've been thinking a lot (that whole postulancy application, remember?) about what priesthood means to me, and why I'm pursuing it. One thought is that I really want to be listening to people. I've heard ministers preach about how before Jeus healed a man with leprosy, he touched him, and in that act affirmed a man who had been ostracized even before he was made clean. I think deep listening is the same kind of loving and accepting act. But I think that is incomplete if one doesn't, through that listening, speak for those who are not being heard.

I'm feeling more all the time that real ministry is prophetic. Not Left Behind prophetic, not dwelling on the Mark of the Beast and the "end times," but carefully observing where God's light can fall to heal and strengthen, and revealing that to others.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:12 PM

    This is wonderful. This is what I used to get from Van Broekhoven. I don't know if that was what he was intentionally communicating, but that's what I would understand. love, lola


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins