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September 7, 2013 by lucieromarin

So, you’re building a new life. What to aspire to? It’s not only the secular world that can define ‘success’ or ‘meaning’ too narrowly; we can, too. You’ll undoubtedly have heard that we need more Catholics in the media, in the arts, in the universities, or in legal professions. Well, I don’t deny this, but what I do want to suggest is that sometimes this is said for the wrong reasons. See, we’re supposed to aspire to these things in the sense that we’re not called to segregation from the world (think Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to vote because the government is controlled by Satan) and we are encouraged to do well in professions that suit our talents and interests.

However, we’re not supposed to aspire to wealth, celebrity or power. If it comes our way as a result of doing our work well, that’s fine, but we’re not supposed to go seeking it…and it’s possible to think ‘we need more Catholics in the media etc’ in precisely those terms. This means that if you’re tired, or changing career, or in any way growing yourself a new life – one in which both your faith and your income grow, but your exhaustion doesn’t – it’s important not to be sidetracked by this kind of thinking.

So! I’d like to offer some different suggestions for new identities and careers.

1) The Wise Bookseller. My stint in bookselling showed me just how much the world needed a Wise Bookseller; one who could not only answer such questions as “What should I get for my grandfather who is in hospital with cancer?” (true story) but who could respond adequately to confidences about secret pregnancies and elopements (also true stories.) You’d never be rich, but you would be valuable.

2) The Constant Gardener. Gardening is not easy. Some people say that it is, but they lie. Gardening takes physical effort, cunning, patience, and the kind of fortitude that endures drought, flood, possums, birds, rats, the neighbour’s cats, aphids, whitefly, unidentified silver scaly things full of legs that have to be bashed to death with the back of your trowel, spiking acids/alkali in your soil, and horrible dreams in which your tomato plant grows two storeys tall and climbs into your bedroom window to kill you. This is why true gardeners are amazing people. Also, they grow things: edible things, drinkable things, medicinal things, beautiful things, scented things, things that make a lovely rustling sound in the breeze, things that cast shade in the summer and block out harsh winds in the winter, things that make you feel better when you sit in silence and watch them, things that attract butterflies and lizards and ladybirds and bees. God didn’t make television; He made plants. So – fewer celebrities, more gardeners!

3) The Friendly Butcher. Don’t laugh – I’m serious! Have you ever known a nasty butcher? I don’t know if it’s because of the blue-and-white striped aprons (surely it’s not cutting meat all day that gives them that placid and peaceable glow?) but if you want to watch a man building local community life, go hang out in your local butcher’s shop for a while. My local butchers listen patiently while customers ask, “What should I feed seven people?” and they don’t resent repeating the advice when the customer says “So, what temperature do I roast this on again? And what was I supposed to put in the seasoning?” One of them recognises me when he passes me in the street, and greets me with a nod and a smile. Where I grew up, the local butchers knew not only what each family ate, but their names, schools, holiday destinations, and recent illnesses. They were better than wealth, fame and power. Men – aspire to that!

(N.B I’m putting my foot down here. I might have to accept the presence of women at the lectern, but stay out of my local butcher’s shop! [unless you’re married to the butcher. That’s different.])

4. Founder/Foundress of a Religious Order Dedicated to the Conversion of Traffickers. This one’s for the choleric who takes my point about celebrity, but still hankers after a Big Project. All kinds of people are doing all kinds of valuable work in this field, but…the only way it will end is if the criminals themselves repent, and someone has to pay the price for the conversion of the buyers and sellers of women and children.

Perhaps it will be you!

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